Today we’ll continue our discussion of the relationship between faith and works.
Jam. 2:18-20 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?
Shew Me Thy Faith
Talking about your faith in Christ is nice, but it doesn’t prove anything. Talk is cheap. Jesus said that we should evaluate what a person’s life produces to see if their faith is sincere:
Mat. 7:17-21 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. (18) A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (19) Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (20) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (21) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Paul also warned Timothy about people who profess to know God, but whose works tell a different story:
Tit. 1:16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
I remember one sad day when an old friend visited my home. He was part of a group that shared the gospel with me when I was a teen. He heard me pray to receive Christ as my Savior. But that night he came by with a bottle of wine in one hand and a pack of cigarettes in the other. He began to tell us about his perverted sexual adventures. I interrupted him.
“What happened to you?” I asked. “You’ve been saved longer than I have – why are you living this way?” “I still believe like I always have,” he replied. “Don’t mistake what I do for what I believe.” “You live what you believe,” I said.
Verse 18 really gets at the heart of James’ argument. “Show me your faith,” he demands, “without works.” You can’t do it. “I’ll show you what I believe,” he declares, “by my works.” Our behavior reveals our beliefs.
There Is One God
There is only one true God. That centerpiece of the Jewish faith is presented in a passage known as the shema:
Deu. 6:4-5 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: (5) And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
It’s true and you ought to believe it. Even Satan and his demons believe that, but it doesn’t save them or change them. People by the millions attend church and believe that basic truth, but they’re not saved either. Cornelius was an example of this kind of person:
Act. 10:1-2 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, (2) A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
Cornelius was a great guy: a leader, devout, a good family man, generous, even a man of prayer. You might think someone like this would be all set with God, but he wasn’t. Here’s what God’s angel told him:
Act. 10:5-6 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: (6) He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
Despite all the good things in his life, Cornelius was still lacking in God’s sight. When Peter arrived, here’s what he told Cornelius:
Act. 10:38-43 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (39) And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: (40) Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; (41) Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. (42) And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. (43) To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
The world was a better place because of the good deeds Cornelius did. Even so, he needed to trust Jesus Christ as his Savior. Nothing less would satisfy the demands of a holy God.
Faith Without Works is Dead
James said this earlier (v. 17). He repeats it here and in verse 26 for emphasis. When God repeats Himself like, we need to pay close attention. If you think faith without works is good enough, you’re a vain (empty) person.
How’s It Going?
- Do you think believing in God is enough to get you to Heaven?
- Do you have works of faith to back up your words of faith?
Read James 2:21-24 for tomorrow. When did Abraham believe God? When did Abraham’s works reveal his faith?