Introduction: Let me ask you to think about into which of the following family settings would you place yourself?
The BROWNS are professing Christians and active church members.
They teach Sunday school, attend all the services of the church, have family devotions and tithe their money.
Their home is always open to visiting evangelists, missionaries and others who need a night’s lodging.
They are a consistent witness to their neighbors and will go out of their way to help others. They live by the convictions of their faith.
The SMITHS are also professing Christians who usually take their children to Sunday school.
They have what some call the "McChurch" mentality.
They are spiritual consumers who are interested in the fulfillment church delivers rather than church doctrine.
They do not have personal and family devotions.
They seldom give to the church nor share their faith with anyone.
However, if you would ask them, "Are you saved?" they would answer in the affirmative.
Now which family has a genuine faith? Did you see yourself? Someone said that faith is like calories: you can’t see them, but you can always see their results! Remember, the book of James is the epistle of "FAITH IN ACTION." James believes that "True faith functions and produces."
While you are reflecting on what I have just said, please follow me as I read James 2:14-26.
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? (15) If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, (16) And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (17) Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (18) Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (19) Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (20) But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? (22) Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? (23) And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. (24) Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (25) Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? (26) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Apparently there were some in James' day who spoke the language of Christianity without reflecting the reality of its truth in their lives. Today we have created an entire culture of Christianity in America in which:
We have become frustrated trying to please ourselves instead of seeking to please God.
We pay "LIP-SERVICE" to Christianity, and still expect blessings from God.
We PREACH what we believe, but we do not PRACTICE what we believe.
Listen, being a Christian begins by putting our faith in the finished work of Christ as our sin bearer. That settles it! It is faith and faith alone that saves us.
Over in Ephesians 2:8-9 we find a very familiar and often-quoted passage. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Notice the emphasis; we are saved by FAITH not by WORKS.
Now please notice verse 10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Paul in Ephesians 2:10 and James in James 2:14-26 are saying once saved, "DON'T JUST STAND THERE, DO SOMETHING. DEMONSTRATE YOUR FAITH."
Unfortunately, many families like the SMITHS’ abuse their faith and make an hypocrisy of their Christianity.
They believe in the fundamental doctrines.
They know the creeds and can recite them, and
They teach the Christian faith to their children.
But they are just giving MENTAL ASSENT to their faith. There is a simple profession of faith without much action.
Did you see that FAITH and WORKS are mentioned together 10 times in the 13 verses of this passage?
In James’ words, "Faith without works is dead."
To James, “works are not just to be added to faith, but are an essential expression of faith."
Perhaps you picked up on the THREE times that the expression, "faith without works is dead," is used in verses 17, 20, and 26.
People with dead faith substitute WORDS for DEEDS.
People with dead faith know the right spiritual vocabulary for prayer and testimony.
People with dead faith can sometimes even quote the right verses from the Bible, but their "walk does not measure up to their talk."
However, listen to this powerful statement, "If our lives do not reflect the presence of God in the way we live, we have not met Jesus Christ." What a truth, what a profound statement. Lest you forget it, allow me to repeat it: "If our lives do not reflect the presence of God in the way we live, we have not met Jesus Christ."
Before we continue our study, there is one issue that needs clarification. Many see an apparent contradiction between the thrust of our passage, James 2:24, “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone…” and Paul’s great thesis in Romans 3-5, “a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.” But is there really a contradiction? Let us examine three important differences between Paul in Romans 3-5 and James in James 2:24.
Number 1: The EMPHASIS of Paul’s and James’ writings are different.
Paul stresses the ROOT of salvation, which is faith in Christ plus nothing.
James calls attention to the FRUIT which is produced after salvation.
Number 2: There is a contrast in PERSPECTIVE between the writings of Paul and James.
Paul looks at life from God’s perspective, while James looks at life from a human perspective.
Paul sees the fire in the fireplace, while James eyes the smoke coming out of the chimney.
To James, the world should be able to tell that faith in God burns in our hearts by the works they see coming out in our lives.
Number 3: Both Paul and James use the same word, JUSTIFIED, but with two different meanings.
When Paul mentions justification, he means the act of God at salvation whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous while still in a sinning state.
James, on the other hand, uses the word justification to mean “evidence.” James is saying that we justify or prove our faith by our works.
Who is RIGHT? Are you ready for this? BOTH ARE RIGHT! Now please, listen carefully.
We are JUSTIFIED in the sight of God by faith, as taught in Romans.
We are JUSTIFIED in the sight of Man by works, as taught in James.
Suppose I meet two military men on the street: one has on a soldier’s uniform, and one does not. Now God knows that both are soldiers, but I don't know that. I can tell only by the fact that one is wearing a uniform. I judge that he is a soldier. The other, even though he is a soldier, has no uniform on. I have no way to judge, but by the outside. But, God sees the HEART and justifies by FAITH. Man, who does not see the heart, can only justify by the outward WORKS. This is why the Lord Jesus said that we should "let our light so shine before men that they may SEE OUR GOOD WORKS AND GLORIFY OUR FATHER which is in heaven."
My friends, the world watches and waits to see what we are made of as believers. Since they cannot see our hearts, they have to see the results of our faith; that is, our works. Someone has said, "genuine faith involves verification by the HEART, CONFESSION by the TONGUE and ACTIONS by the LIMBS." Let us observe two aspects of this passage:
First, real faith is more than VERBAL AFFIRMATION verses 14-20. The key to verse 14 is in the word "SAYS." Notice that James is not saying, "if a man has faith," but "if a man says he has faith."
Christianity is not just characterized by giving "LIP-SERVICE" to our faith.
Christianity is a faith that accepts Christ without works and then becomes a faith working OUT the IN-LIVED CHRIST.
James in verse 14 asks two rhetorical questions to make his point.
First he asks, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” In other words, what good does it do to say you have faith if you have no works to justify that claim?
Second he asks, “Can faith save him?” Now the grammatical construction to these questions presumes a negative answer. "If a man says that he has faith and it is not demonstrated through his works, can that faith save him, of course not!"
In verses 15-17, James CONDEMNS a make-believe faith, by reciting a little parable which many believe represents a common occurrence in the early Church. Notice the verses again as I read them, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, (16) And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (17) Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
The people whom James mentions are not professional beggars. They are brothers and sisters who are in deep need. How do we, as Christians, react when this type of need confronts us?
Do we say "God bless you my brother,” and go on our way?
Do we say "My brother I'll be glad to pray for your need,” and go on our way?
Do we say “Go in peace and be comfortable,” and go on our way?"
James is saying in verses 15-17 “Genuine faith is not INDIFFERENT, it gets INVOLVED.” James is saying that proof of genuine faith is REAL food, REAL clothes, and REAL shelter. No one echoes this option better than the apostle John in I John 3:17-18, "But whosoever hath this world's good, and seeth his brother (that is his brother in Christ) have need, and shutteth up his heart of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us NOT LOVE IN WORD, NEITHER IN TONGUE, but in DEED and in TRUTH."
The world WATCHES and WAITS to see if our faith is REAL to us. The following satire etched James' words into my heart.
I was hungry, and you formed a humanities club and discussed my hunger.
I was naked, and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick, and you knelt and thanked God for your health.
I was homeless, and you preached the love of God.
I was lonely, and you left me alone to pray for me.
You seem to be holy, so close to God, but I’m still very hungry, lonely and cold.
The hungry man needs bread and the homeless man needs a roof; the lonely man needs fellowship; the undisciplined need order and the slave needs freedom. To allow the hungry man to remain hungry would be blasphemy against God and one’s neighbor. It is for the love of Christ, that I share my bread with the hungry man, my clothes for the man without and my home with the homeless. Thus, providing the hungry man with bread is to prepare the way for the coming of grace.
James could have said all this in the vernacular of today with words you have often heard, "Do you want to prove your faith? “Put your money where your mouth is!" A living faith bears fruit. A faith that is nothing but talk is a cheap faith. It is a make-believe faith. Let me ask you,
If we have a faith that saves, and
If we have a faith that keeps, and
If we have a faith that is alive in Christ, then
Shouldn’t we also live that faith?
If we shared our faith in a very practical way with those who are lost without Christ, our churches would be overflowing. BUT WE ARE NOT DOING THAT! Too many of us are saying we believe, do we really believe, or are we just giving lip-service to our beliefs?
If I were to ask you if you believe in prayer, perhaps you would be insulted by that question. Yes, you might answer. But how much time do you really spend in prayer?
If I were to ask you if you believe in the value of coming to church, most of you would say that you believe it is necessary. But are you faithful to the house of God for the “weekly three” - Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening, and let’s not forget Sunday School?
If I were to ask you if you practice your faith behind the four walls of your home and in the work place, or do you leave your verbal faith in the church house. What would you say?
The single biggest problem our youth have with Christianity, and the single biggest criticism they level against the church, is the PUT-ON-FAITH that they see all around them. Their friends, teachers, parents, and leaders who PROFESS ONE THING, BUT LIVE ANOTHER Cause them to doubt. If we believe, then let our lives should show it.
May God deliver us from a HO-HUM ATTITUDE!
May those who observe our lives say "THERE GOES A REAL CHRISTIAN!"
In verses 18-20, James CONDEMNS an Intellectual faith. James makes a strong statement in verse 17 by proposing a hypothetical situation. One man says he has faith without works, and another says he has faith by his works. I believe that James explodes in his reaction to such logic. Another way of saying this verse would be "YOU ALLEGE TO HAVE FAITH; I HAVE WORKS. I CAN DEMONSTRATE MY FAITH BY MY WORKS, BUT I CHALLENGE YOU TO EXHIBIT YOUR FAITH WITHOUT WORKS."
Verse 18 teaches “Genuine faith is not invisible, but on display.”
Verse 19a teaches “Genuine faith is not intellectual, but from the heart.”
To simply say "I believe" is of no special merit or value, even the demons believe in God. According to verse 19 there are no atheists among the demons. There are many people who believe the right things. They believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for our sins, that he is coming again. The devil believes all that too; that is why he "trembles." The word "tremble" means "to bristle," picture ones hair standing up on end. The devil believes in God so strongly that his hair stands up on end! But he is still the enemy of God.
There is a story about demons, which once held a conference. The purpose of the conference was to devise some effective method to do harm to the Lord's work here on earth.
One demon got up and said, "Let us go down and persuade men that there is no God." However, this recommendation was rejected.
Another demon proposed that they should go down and "tell the people that Jesus Christ never really existed and that men should not believe in fiction." This too was rejected.
Another demon suggested that they go down and "persuade men that there is no life after death." But this was also rejected.
Finally, one of the demons said, "Let us go down and tell everyone to believe in God, that there is a Jesus Christ, and that belief in Him saves, BUT YOU CAN GET BY JUST BY PROFESSING FAITH AND THEN GO ON LIVING IN SIN AS YOU USED TO." This recommendation was gladly accepted and ever since, Satan's agents have been whispering in the ears of believers, "You say it with your lips, but you don't have to live it by your life."
Notice again verse 20, “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” Remember this, “We can believe all the right words and say all the right creeds, but that does not save us.” There are a lot of Bible TOTING and Bible QUOTING folks who will go to Hell. What does one do to have real faith? I believe Paul said it in Romans 10:9, 13, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Second, real faith is more than a POSITIVE ATTITUDE, verses 21-26. Faith is more than positive mental belief, faith is an action. Here, James couldn’t have picked two more opposite people as proof that our works prove our faith.
Abraham was the father of the Jews; Rahab was a pagan prostitute.
Abraham was moral, admired, a Jewish patriarch. Rahab was a harlot, looked on with disdain, considered insignificant.
Yet, both evidenced the same kind of faith.
Abraham is “justified” (HE RISKED EVERYTHING IN ORDER TO PROVE HIS FAITH) by offering up his son Issac on the altar on Mt. Morriah in Genesis 22.
Rahab is “justified” because she demonstrated her faith when she risked her life to protect the Israelite spies in Joshua 2.
Again notice the closing words in verse 26, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.” Remember the stories of the BROWNS and the SMITHS? With which family would you identify?
Is your faith ALIVE and REAL?
Does the WATCHING and WAITING world see a faith in action?
Do you PROCLAIM faith, but fail to PRACTICE the faith, and therefore appear to be a HYPOCRITE to the WATCHING and WAITING world?
As you think about you and your family, listen to the concluding words to a message preached on September 7, 1867. That day, the Pastor reminded his congregation that "the Christian serves his Lord simply out of gratitude. The child of God works not FOR life, but FROM life; He does not work TO BE saved, he works BECAUSE he is saved."
Let me again read from Ephesians 2:8-10. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Can you say that your life is a LIVING TESTIMONY by ACTION of your FAITH?
Is it a genuine FAITH that is INVOLVED?
Is it a genuine FAITH that is DISPLAYED?
Is it a genuine FAITH from the HEART?
Can you say that because of Calvary, you have by faith confessed Jesus as Savior? If you have not, make that decision right now, “To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon “Is My Faith Showing?” then right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved...”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior let me know? Please send an e-mail to, pdmikBBM@aol.com and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
Copy write permission: Because the “Weekly SERMON” will be reproduced into other formats, PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THE FOLLOWING: The “Weekly SERMON” in its original form, without any changes, may be copied and re-transmitted by electronic mail, and copies may be printed for individual or ministry purposes, provided that such copying, re-transmission, printing, or other use is not for profit or other commercial purpose. Any copying, re-transmission, distribution, printing, or other use of the “Weekly SERMON” must set forth in full the heading that is given before each “Weekly SERMON.” Any other request for use, please contact Bible Baptist Ministries at pdmikBBM@aol.com or by phone at 570.829.5216.