James 2:14-26

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Introduction: Grace and I have had the privilege of traveling a little bit this past year. While it was wonderful to see God’s masterful handiwork over the whole earth, we could not help but be discouraged by the religions that took over these different regions. In India, it was Hinduism, in Turkey it was Islam, and in Georgia, it was Greek orthodox. Something that ties all of these religions together is that they all teach that if you do enough good in this life you will be saved from great harm in the next. They argue that salvation is based off of your works, and not on your faith in God. They argue that if your bad outweighs the good that you do then ultimately you will be punished for it, but if your good outweighs the bad then you will be saved.
The only religion in all of the world that does not say that your good works save you is Christianity. Would someone read Romans 3:27-31 for me?
Romans 3:27–31 ESV
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
So, we are saved by faith, not by the works of the law, not even by faith combined with works are we saved, like the Catholic Churches on our street teach.
How about Ephesians 2:5-9? Someone read that for us?
Ephesians 2:5–9 ESV
5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
See we know that we are saved by grace through faith, and it is a gift of God, not a result of our works, so that no man would boast.
This is what separates Christianity apart from any other religion in the entire world. We are not looking to ourselves for salvation, but are trusting in Christ alone for salvation. Only he can cleanse us from all of sin, because as the perfect God-man he took the penalty that we deserve, and three days later defeated sin and death in his resurrection. So all who place their faith in Jesus will be forgiven, declared righteous, and will have communion with the Triune God forever. Praise God.
However, there will be some who say that if we place our faith in Jesus, we can do, say and think whatever we want. We are saved now, so sin is no longer a big deal. We can indulge in the sinful pleasures of this life because God will forgive us. We do not really have to obey God because Jesus did that for us, so we are free to sin in whatever way.
This is what James is combatting in this text.
We know that as Christians we can not just live anyway that we want.
Yet, I am sure many of us know guys or gals who would call themselves Christians, but if they never told you, you would have never known. They do not obey God in the slightest, they live no differently than anyone else.
How can ???? ddc
Charles Spurgeon says this…
We believe that men are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith which is alone. They are saved by faith without works, but not by a faith which is without works.
So, our main point for today is…
MIM: Genuine faith is evident through good works
So, let’s jump into our text for this morning and see where I am getting that. Would someone like to read vv. 14-20 for us, and then someone read vv. 21-26?
James 2:14–26 ESV
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Let’s read through the first three verses again, would someone do that? James 2:14-20
James 2:14–20 ESV
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
Our first point is loud and clear in these three verses.
1. Faith without works is dead
In verse 14, James is making it clear that someone who says that they have faith but does not have works does not actually have genuine faith. James helpfully gives us example of what that may look like.
He gives the example of someone who has both food and clothes, saying to a believing brother or sister to get warm, and eat up without actually giving them bread or a sweater. They are literally mocking the poor believer as if they have nothing to give to them.
All throughout the Scriptures, God calls his people to love one another and oftentimes this will look like helping the poor believer when they are physically in need.
Would someone read 1 John 4:20-21?
1 John 4:20–21 ESV
20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Would someone turn to 1 John 3:17-18 and read that for me?
1 John 3:17–18 ESV
17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
John says the same thing as James. The one who says he has faith, but walks by the believer in need and does not love them by physically helping them, then God’s love does not abide in him. For whoever loves God, must also love his brother and oftentimes this love is shown in physically helping our brothers or sisters in the faith.
What other places in Scripture do you guys remember seeing this teaching?
Even John the Baptist says also says in Luke 3:11 “11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
The believer is called to be love their brother and sister and to love God, thus someone who does not love others may not be a Christian at all.
James gives an example about helping a poor brother or sister, but he is really getting at the idea of good works in general. This is primarily referring to becoming more Christlike in our character often shown through the fruits of the spirit.
If the one who says he has faith is not growing in good works, but looks nothing different from the world, they do not actually have the genuine faith that they claim to have. This-is why faith without works is dead.
This is not said to cause you to doubt whether you are a Christian or not, for we all are sinners and will be until the day that we die. We all will sin against our brother in one way or another, whether it is as blatant as not giving a poor sister food and clothing or not.
What I am saying is that if we say we are believers and continue in unrepentant sin, meaning we are sinning and do not even care, then we should ask ourselves whether or not we actually genuinely believe what we say we believe.
Spurgeon sums up this idea really well when he says
Faith and obedience are bound up in the same bundle; he that obeys God trusts God; and he that trusts God obeys God. He that is without faith is without works, and he that is without works is without faith.
James goes on to give another example to us when he says that the even the demons believe.
What do you think he means when he says the demons believe? How could demons believe, when they are of the devil literally?
Can someone read Luke 4:33-34?
Luke 4:33–34 ESV
33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”
James is saying that the demons believe in God. They even believe that Jesus is the holy one of God. But just because they may believe this, does not mean they are saved.
The person who says they have faith in Jesus, but is not actually walking in good works is no different than the demons who know God is one, and that Jesus is the Christ, but do not choose to follow him with their lives.
Application: This is why we have church membership and discipline, students. Church membership and discipline protects the purity of Christianity, so that the outsider can look in and see that those who are members of our church are not just saying that they are Christians and living however they want, but they are actually walking the talk. For genuine faith is evident through good works, not in unrepentant sin. This allows us to hold each other accountable so we can image Christ rightly for His glory.
Let’s move into the last few verses of our text, would someone read vv. 21-26.
James 2:21–26 ESV
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
This leads us to our second point.....
2. Faith with works is alive
Now, the author gives us two positive examples of those who have genuine faith shown through their works: Abraham and Rahab.
Who remembers what was promised to Abraham? Turn to Genesis 12:1-3
Genesis 12:1–3 ESV
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God is promising Abraham that through his offspring all of the families of the earth will be blessed, which is kind of confusing because Abraham currently does not have any kids, so it seems that his line might die out, but wait...
Turn to Genesis 15:2-6
Genesis 15:2–6 ESV
2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
God is promising Abraham that he will give him a son, and his line will carry on and there will be millions that come from his offspring. Guess what guys, God gives him Isaac. In chapter 21 of Genesis, Isaac is born…
In fact, in Genesis 21:12 God says
Genesis 21:12 ESV
12 But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.
God’s promised that all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham and that his offspring would be numerous like the stars, and God says this will all happen through Isaac....
Well, the very next chapter Abraham is tested by God when he is told to go and kill Isaac at the top of then mountain… could someone read Genesis 22:9-18
Genesis 22:9–18 (ESV)
9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” 15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
I am not sure about you, but I probably would have hesitated in taking my only son up a mountain to kill him. The one whom God promised to bring all of my offspring through I am now commanded to go and kill, this literally makes no sense. But, Abraham does not hesitate, not even for a second, he immediately obeys what God tells him to do.. but why?
This is beautiful… turn to Hebrews 11:17-19
Hebrews 11:17–19 ESV
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
Guys, Abraham had faith that the God who promised to provide offspring through Isaac was going to do what he had promised, even if that meant that God would raise Isaac from the dead after Abraham killed him.
Abraham had faith in God, the one who always keeps his promises. He did not waver from this even in the toughest test that God gave him, rather his faith showed itself in obedience to God’s Word.
This is what James means when he says that “faith was active along with works, his faith was completed by his works.” His faith in God was proven when he did not hesitate to obey God. He was justified not just because he said he believed God, but abandoned his faith when things got hard, no he stuck to what he knew to be true and obeyed our good God.
We can say the same thing about Rahab. The foreign prostitute who heard about the God of Israel, and believed in him. There were spies sent into her land to scout out how they were going to attack, and she hid the spies from the authorities of the town, mislead the authorities and let the spies out safely so that they could return to the Israelites with the battle plan.
Her own land was about to be invaded by the Israelites and she knew that the God of Israel was going to prevail because she believed in his almighty power. Her faith proved to be true when she hid the spies, risking her life for the sake of the safety of the spies. Who would do this?!
Once again Genuine faith was evident through her works. This is what James is trying to make plain to us. Faith with works is alive.
Conclusion: So it will be with us Christian. If you have truly trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins you have been declared righteous, and you are now a new person entirely. The Holy Spirit of God now lives inside of you and you can walk in holiness and good works. You will show yourself to have genuine faith as you grow in sanctification.
Here are some verse to encourage you in this topic:
John 15:8 ESV
8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
and Paul says that
Ephesians 2:10 ESV
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
This is your reality Christian. You will bear good fruit as you grow as a believer. So as we’re wrapping up I just want to leave you guys with a few reflection questions: Are you seeing your faith evidenced in your works? Are you striving to live by works alone and not by faith? Is there someone who you can talk to about these things who can hold you accountable as you seek to grow in this area?
Prayer Requests! How can we be praying for you as you close the year?
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