“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead.
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
James 2: 17 and 26
James 2: 14-26
The heating element in your oven is broken; it is a fairly simple job to replace it so you buy a new one. You have an illness that can be treated so you collect the medication that the Doctor has prescribed. You do nothing further, the heating element lies on the kitchen top and the medication in your bathroom cabinet, both untouched. Pointless purchases unless you do something with them. You see where I am going here don’t you. James is building on his point in Chapter one that our faith needs to have deeds. It’s no use reading God’s Word unless we put it into practice.
In this passage we are given examples of counterfeit faith and of real faith; firstly false and empty faith. If we see a brother or sister in need and simply offer platitudes but do nothing about it we are warned that our faith is dead (vs. 14-17). We may argue we have faith and can leave the deeds to others but as James strongly warns ‘even demons’ believe there is a God (vs. 18-19). The warning here for us is that we may genuinely think we are right with God but we could be fooling ourselves; at Christ’s return we do not want to be faced with the Lord’s rejection (Matthew 25: 31-46).
James then gives us examples of real faith citing Abraham and Rahab. Both individuals vocalized their belief and faith in God, both put it into action. We see that Abraham had his belief credited to him as righteousness. James says Rahab’s actions led to her being considered as righteous though in the account itself she clearly expresses belief first (Joshua 2: 9-11). For some this section seems to argue against justification by faith, a clear doctrine of our belief. The answer to this issue can be found in the holistic biblical viewpoint, James’ key point and vs.24. The bible is clear in many places that we are indeed justified by faith (e.g. Romans 3: 28, Ephesians 2: 8-9). James’ overarching point is that once we have faith there has to be consequential changes, an authentic new life in Christ. In vs. 24 he says ‘you see a person is justified by what he does and not faith alone.’ If a person has faith, the means of justification, the evidence for such will be visible, will be seen.
In my two vocations in life I have been with people as they have passed away and I have seen dead bodies. It is clearly evident when the ‘spirit’ of a person has gone (vs. 26). James is robustly stating that true faith by which a person is justified proves itself through Christ-like conduct towards others. If the deeds are not present then that faith is no faith at all; it will be as obvious as a corpse is dead. Challenging words to say the least!
To Ponder: Read Matthew 25: 31-46 and draw connections with the challenge James puts before us. Looking at the two passages where would you say that your faith and deeds match up, where would you say they don’t?
Pray: Holy God we praise you for calling us to be a servant people and for gathering us into the body of Christ. We ask that you enable us to grasp the depth of your love and to mirror it in our lives. May your Holy Spirit develop within us the mind of Christ and so motivate us to love one another that we give honor and glory to your Name forever. Amen.
Praise: This I believe by Hillsong Worship
Trust and Obey sung by Don Moen
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.