Faith In/Is Action – 1

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Scripture Text – James 2:14-26

Faith is not just a key doctrine in the Christian life, but an important aspect of any true Christian lifestyle. The sinner is saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8–9), and the believer must walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrew 11:6); and whatever we do apart from faith, the Bible tells us it is sin (Romans 14:23).

Someone has said that faith is not “believing in spite of evidence before us, but obeying in spite of consequence that could be.” When you read Hebrews 11, you meet men and women who acted on God’s Word, no matter what price they had to pay. Faith is not some kind of nebulous, ethereal feeling that we work up; faith is confidence that God’s Word is true, and conviction that acting on that Word will bring His blessing.

In this paragraph cited above, James discussed the relationship between faith and works. This is an important discussion, for if we are wrong in this matter, we jeopardize our eternal salvation. What kind of faith does it require for a person to truly find salvation? Is it really necessary to perform good works in order to be saved? How can a person tell whether or not he is exercising true saving faith? James answers these questions by explaining to us that there are three kinds of faith, only one of which is true saving faith.

In the next several lessons we are going to discuss these three aspects of faith; dead faith, demonic faith, and dynamic faith. The first we will tackle is dead or false faith:

Dead Faith

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 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? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. – James 2:14-17.

Even in the early church there were those who claimed they had saving faith, yet did not possess salvation. Wherever there is the true, you will find the counterfeit. Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21.

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People with dead faith substitute words for deeds. They know the correct vocabulary for prayer and testimony, and can even quote the right verses from the Bible; but their walk does not measure up to their talk. They think that their words are as good as works, and they are wrong.

James gave a simple illustration. A poor believer came into a fellowship, without proper clothing and in need of food. The person with dead faith noticed the visitor and saw his needs, but he did not do anything to meet the needs. All he did was say a few pious words!

If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? – James 2:16 (NIV).

But the visitor went away just as hungry and naked as he came in!

Food and clothing are basic needs of every human being, whether he is saved or unsaved. “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” – 1 Timothy 6:8.

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” – Matthew 6:31-32.

Jacob included these basic needs in his prayer to God:

“If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on . . .” – Genesis 28:20.

As believers, we have an obligation to help meet the needs of people, no matter who they may be (Matthew 25:40; Galatians 6:10).

et God's masterpiece

To help a person in need is an expression of love, and faith works by love (Galatians 5:6). The Apostle John emphasized this aspect of good works:

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:17-18 (NIV).

The priest and Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan each had religious training, but neither of them paused to assist the dying man at the side of the road (Luke 10:25–37). Each of them would defend his faith in words, yet neither demonstrated that faith in loving works.

The question in James 2:14 should read, “Can that kind of faith save him?” What kind, are you asking? The kind of faith that is never seen in practical works. The answer is absolutely not! Any declaration of faith that does not result in a changed life and good works is a false declaration. That kind of faith is dead faith. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” The great theologian, John Calvin, wrote, “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.” The word alone” in James 2:17 simply means “by itself.” True saving faith can never be by itself: it always brings life, and life produces good works.

The person with dead faith has only an intellectual experience. In his mind, he knows the doctrines of salvation, but he has never submitted himself to God and trusted Christ in his heart for salvation. He knows the right words, but he back up his words in practice, with actions to fit the words. Faith in Christ brings life (John 3:16), and where there is life there must be growth and fruit. Three times in this paragraph, James warns us emphatically that “faith without works is dead.”

Knowledge is great, but without understanding and wisdom it is nothing by itself; therefore beware of a mere intellectual faith. No man can come to Christ by faith and continue to remain in the same old nature as before any more than he can come into contact with a 220-volt wire and not be changed. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” – 1 John 5:12. There is no simpler way to express it. Dead faith is not saving faith. Dead faith is counterfeit faith and lulls the person into a false confidence of eternal life.

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Adaptation of excerpts from Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Volume 2.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Where noted, Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV © 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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