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.
Last time we discussed demonic faith; this third aspect of faith we will look into is dynamic faith:
Dynamic Faith – Part One
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. – James 2:20-26.
Dynamic faith is faith that is real, faith that has power, faith that results in a changed life; this type of faith is the faith of the chosen, the faith of the anointed of God.
James described dynamic faith as true saving faith. To begin with, dynamic saving faith is based on the Word of God. We receive our spiritual rebirth through God’s Word (James 1:18). We receive the Word and it is this that saves us (James 1:21). “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” – Romans 10:17. James used Abraham and Rahab as illustrations of dynamic saving faith, since both of them heard and received the message of God through His Word.
Faith is only as good as its object. The man in the jungle bows before an idol of stone and trusts it to help him, but he receives no help. No matter how much faith a person may generate, if it is not directed at the right object, it will accomplish nothing. “I believe” may be the testimony of many sincere people, but the big question is, “In whom do you believe? What do you believe?” We are not saved by faith in faith; we are saved by faith IN Christ as revealed in His Word.
Dynamic faith is based on God’s Word, and it involves the whole man. Dead faith touches only the intellect; demonic faith involves both the mind and the emotions; but dynamic faith involves a person’s will as well. The whole person plays a part in true saving faith. The mind understands the truth; the heart desires the truth; and the will acts upon the truth. The men and women of faith named in Hebrews 11 were people of action: God spoke and they obeyed. Again, “Faith is not believing in spite of evidence before us; faith is obeying in spite of consequence that could be.”
True saving faith leads to action. Dynamic faith is not intellectual contemplation or emotional consternation; it leads to obedience on the part of the will. And this obedience is not an isolated event: it continues throughout the whole life. It leads to works. As our title implies, Faith IS action IN action.
Many different kinds of works are named in the New Testament. “The works of the Law” (Galatians 2:16) relate to the sinner’s attempt to please God by obeying the Law of Moses. Of course, it is impossible for a sinner to be saved through the works of the Law. “The works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19) are done by unsaved people who live for the things of the old nature. There are also “wicked works” (Colossians 1:21) and “dead works” (Hebrews 9:14). Where there is dynamic faith—saving faith—you will always find good works.
James then illustrated his doctrine in the lives of two well-known Bible persons: Abraham and Rahab. You could not find two more different people! Abraham was a Jew; Rahab was a Gentile. Abraham was a godly man, but Rahab was a sinful woman, a prostitute. Abraham was the friend of God, while Rahab belonged to the enemies of God. What did they have in common? Both of them exercised saving faith in God.
You will want to read Genesis 15 and 22 to get the background facts for this illustration of Abraham. God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees to lead him into Canaan and to make out of him the great nation of Israel. It was through Israel that God would bring the Savior into the world. Abraham’s salvation experience is recorded in Genesis 15. At night, God showed His servant the stars and gave him a promise, “So shall your descendants be!” – verse 5. How did Abraham respond? “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” – verse 6.
The word “counted” is a legal or financial term; it means “to put to one’s account.” As a sinner, Abraham’s spiritual bankbook was empty. He was bankrupt! But he trusted God, and God put righteous on Abraham’s account. Abraham did not work for this righteousness; he received it as a gift from God. He was declared righteous by faith. He was justified by faith (read Romans 4).
Justification is an important doctrine in the Bible. Justification is the act of God whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous on the basis of Christ’s finished work on the cross. It is not a process; it is an action on God’s part. It is not something the sinner does; it is something God does for the sinner when he trusts Christ. It is a once-for-all event. It never changes.
How can you tell if a person is justified by faith if this transaction takes place between the sinner and God privately? Abraham’s example answers that important question: the justified person has a changed life and obeys God’s will. His faith is demonstrated by his works.
James used another event in Abraham’s life, an event that took place many years after Abraham’s conversion. This event is the offering up of Isaac on the altar (Genesis 22). Abraham was not saved by obeying God’s difficult command. His obedience proved that he already was saved. “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” – James 2:22 (NIV). There is a perfect relationship between faith and works. As someone once expressed it, “Abraham was not saved by faith PLUS works, but by a faith THAT works.”
How was Abraham “justified by works” (James 2:21) when he had already been “justified by faith”? (again, see Romans 4). By faith, he was justified before God and his righteousness declared; by works he was justified before men and his righteousness demonstrated. It is true that no humans actually saw Abraham put his son on the altar, but the record in Genesis 22, inspired by the Holy Spirit, enables us to see the event and witness Abraham’s faith demonstrated by his works in full confidence that it did happen.
Next: Part Two