Preached at Straightway Bible Church on March 17th, 2013. Below you will find the study notes I handed out. James shows us that their is a type of faith and belief that is dead and does not save.
(Click here to see the entire series of “The Book of James – Practical Faith”)
Here are the study notes:
James 2:14-20 Faith Without Works
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says [literally, “if one keeps saying”] he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works [literally, “if it keeps on not having works”], is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
- Works can’t save but works are evidence you are saved
- Works do not save a person but a person devoid of works is clearly not saved
- James is not contradicting Paul’s teaching of “salvation by faith alone” (Eph 2:8-9). They are standing back to back fighting two different foes. Paul fought those who wanted salvation by something THEY DID; James fought those who wanted salvation without DOING ANYTHING
Faith produces something; belief is sometimes not enough:
- The Pharisee’s had “faith”; John the Baptist told them their faith was without fruit: Matthew 3:7–9; Matthew 5:16; Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:31–46; John 2:23–25; John 3:5; John 8:31
- Nowhere does Scripture indicate that every time someone “believes” it automatically is equated to salvation… many believe and are not saved; demons believe (more on that later).
- Salvation must always include belief, but belief does not always result in salvation
- James is teaching: Belief that does not transform your life is “dead faith”; a transformed life includes good works
- Ephesians 2:8–10 (NKJV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works [WORKS CANNOT SAVE], lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works [BUT WORKS ALWAYS ACCOMPANY SALVATION] , which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
- Works are some integral, so essential that God prepared “beforehand” (always an allusion to “eternity past”) good works for every elected and saved Believer
- Love and works, faith and works, belief and works, repentance and works, salvation and works… starting to see a pattern?
“Easy Believism” is the product of “belief that doesn’t save”… belief that doesn’t change a life… belief devoid of good works… ie. dead faith
- KNOWING the Truth does not equal a genuine response to the Truth, so James asks rhetorically, “can faith (the kind of dead faith, that kind of belief minus transformation) save a person?
- Can a faith of words only save you? Can a faith devoid of compassion save you? Can a faith that will not put action to words save you? NO.
- WORDS are the measure of dead faith; Good works or action is the measure of genuine living faith
- V.18 – James is saying, “You SAY you have faith, show me? I say I have faith, and I can prove it by my works. Go ahead, PROVE you have faith, go ahead…” The clear implication is that YOU CANNOT… righteous deeds and a holy life are the evidence of genuine saving faith
- Only the obedience response to belief, ie “good works” is evidence of real saving faith
- You believe in God? You believe in the one true God? You have an intellectual belief in God? James says “so what?” Even the demons believe and they even fear God
- v. 19 – James is saying that the person with intellectual belief (they believe with their logic, mind, will) is one-upped or done one better by demons who have both intellectual belief AND emotional belief (“tremble”)…
- v.20 – SIMPLE POINT: A FOOL thinks you can have true faith and not have good works.
- An Example of Dead Faith: Acts 8:9–25; Simon believed, was baptized, continued, was amazed but yet he really wasn’t saved. Simon’s WORKS betrayed the state of his salvation. Dead faith is exposed by bad works or the lack of works.
Apply this to your life:
You say you believe, you say you have faith… has the genuine saving nature of the that faith manifested itself in the righteous good works of:
- Repentance and turning away from sin
- Endurance to persecution and hardship
- Compassion towards those in need
- Never showing favoritism
- Obedience to God’s will and commands
- Love for your Christian brothers and sisters
- A life with an increasing level of holiness
- A love and longing for God’s Word
- Saying is not doing. Belief without action (good works) is not saving faith. James presents us with another “test” so that we can evaluate ourselves to determine 1) am I genuinely saved? And 2) am I living like I am saved.