Category Archives: James

James – Day 14

Introduction

I ran out of time, so we’re only going to get to verses 17 and 18 of James 1 today.

Jam 1:17-18 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (18) Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Every good gift

This follows naturally after the discussion of the source of temptation. Far from enticing us to do evil, God is the source of every good gift we enjoy. While He doesn’t give most of these gifts personally and directly, He is their ultimate source.

Act. 17:25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

God is “the Father of Lights,” physically and spiritually. This One who is light would never do anything to lead His children into the darkness of sin.

1Jo. 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

His character doesn’t change. He doesn’t vary or vacillate. Unlike fickle human beings, God’s desire for us to do right and His determination to do good for us is consistent.

Of His own will begat He us

For those who thought God was tempting them, James reminds them that God was responsible for their new birth – their transfer from the kingdom on darkness to the kingdom of light.

Col. 1:12-13 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (13) Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

Why did He save them, and us? To “be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” The firstfruits were that part of the harvest set apart for God. Giving the firstfruits was a way to honor God.

Pro. 3:9 Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:

So God saved us that we should honor Him with our lives. Sin dishonors God, and He does nothing to move us toward it.

Homework

It’s getting late (OK, early), so we’ll pick up with verses 19-21 next time. Which means you don’t have any homework for today.

James – Day 15

Introduction

Today we’ll continue our study in James 1 by looking at how our actions should change because of God’s goodness to us.

Jam. 1:19-21 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: (20) For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (21) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

Wherefore

The wherefore at the beginning of this passage point back to what James has said in earlier verses:

  • God is the giver of every good gift.
  • It was God’s will to save us by His Word.
  • He saved us to honor His name.

For all these reasons, we should live differently.

Swift to Hear…

The first thing we need to do is learn to listen more and talk less. Who or what are we supposed t listen to, though? Well, the most obvious answer is “the engrafted word,” God’s Word mentioned in verse 21. I think there is also a hint of being willing to hear what others have to say, too. That’s because of the other commands to be “slow to speak, slow to wrath,” which seem to be commands about dealings between people That is, instead of getting mad at others, hear what they have to say. Paul put it this way:

Eph. 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

And Peter expressed it like this:

1Pe. 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

James comes back to this topic later in chapter 3 in verses 13 to 18.

James follows up the command to be “slow to wrath” with an explanation. Man’s wrath doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. Moses experienced this personally (Act. 7:22-29). His wrath didn’t accomplish God’s righteousness. It’s like those who hate abortion so they assassinate abortion doctors. Their anger is understandable, but their actions are indefensible.

Psa. 37:7-9 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. (8) Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. (9) For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.

Filthiness and Superfluity of Naughtiness

We defined these words on day 2 of our study as moral uncleanness and the abundance, or overflow, of wickedness. We are to lay aside anything that is unclean, anything that makes us spiritually dirty. James isn’t saying that it is OK to be a little wicked as long as we don’t allow an abundance of wickedness in our lives. Rather, he is saying that all of us have an abundance of wickedness that overflows and spills out of our lives and we need to master it.

The Engrafted Word

One important part of setting aside our sins is to submit ourselves humbly to the Scriptures. “The engrafted word,” is an interesting phrase. This word was already part of James’ audience. It was grafted into their lives and it had saved their souls. Now they just needed to obey what they already knew. Peter wrote something similar to his readers:

2Pe. 1:12 Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.

He reminded them of what they already knew – truths they were established in. Isn’t that usually what we need? Not new truth, but reminders to apply the truth we already know. As we’ll see in tomorrow’s study, knowing and doing are not the same.

How’s It Going?

  • Does “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” describe you?
  • Are you trying to use your wrath to accomplish God’s righteousness?
  • Are you living a God honoring life by obeying what you already know of the Bible?

Homework

Read James 1:22-25. You might want to review the section about “the perfect law of liberty” from day three of this study

James – Day 16

Introduction

Today’s text is probably the most famous passage in James’ letter. Here he encourages his readers to go beyond just hearing God’s Word to acting on it.

Jam. 1:22-25 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (23) For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: (24) For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. (25) But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Doers of the Word

This is the best counsel you’ll ever hear – do what God’s Word says. Do it if it’s easy or hard. Do it if it’s pleasant of painful. Do it regardless of your mood. Do it despite opposition.

Filling your head with Bible facts shouldn’t be the goal of your Bible study. You’re only fooling yourself if you think this makes you spiritual. It certainly doesn’t impress God. Living what you know is more important than knowing a lot. Remember what Jesus said:

Luk. 11:28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

The point of reading and studying Scripture is to put it into practice:

Jos. 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Reflecting on the Reason for Mirrors

Why is there a mirror in your bathroom? What’s the point? Obviously, it’s there for self-assessment and correction. What would you do if you looked in the mirror and saw that your face was dirty, your hair was a mess, and you had poppy seeds between your teeth? You wouldn’t just walk away and leave everything the way it was. Hopefully, you’d wash your face, comb your hair, and brush your teeth.

James compared hearing God’s Word to looking at yourself in the mirror (glass). What would you do if you discovered during your Bible reading that you were a gossip, a liar, a sluggard, or a thief? Would you walk away and pretend you did see what you just saw? Would you feel bad, but keep doing these things? What’s the point of reading your Bible or listening to sermons if you don’t fix the problems you discover? Honestly, I think many Christians act just like the people did in the prophet Ezekiel’s day. God warned him:

Eze. 33:32 And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.

Ezekiel’s audience acted like they were attending a concert. He was entertaining, but they had no intention of acting on his message. But let me ask you, why read you Bible if you’re not going to do what it says? Why go to church and leave unchanged week after week? What’s the point? You’re wasting your time.

This Man Shall Be Blessed

There are three keys to blessing in verse 25.

Looking into God’s perfect law, His liberating Law, is the first step to God’s blessing. You have to have God’s Word. Nothing else can bless you like the Scriptures. But having 10 Bible’s on your bookshelf isn’t the path to blessing, either. You have to look into it, to read it. If you ignore it, you’re in trouble.

Pro. 28:9 He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

Next, you need to continue in it. The key here is to stick with it – to keep on reading, studying and believing God’s Word. You need to immerse yourself in the ongoing of process of self-evaluation according to the Scriptures.

Finally, you need to act. You’re not blessed in your hearing or your continuing, but in your deed. It’s not the Bible knower, but the Bible doer God blesses. (Remember Joshua 1:8?)

Luk. 11:28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

Joh. 13:17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

How’s It Going?

  • Are you a doer of the word?
  • Name the last two specific changes you made in your life in response to a Bible passage you read or a sermon you heard.

Homework

Read James 1:26-27 and ask yourself if you are practicing true religion.

James – Day 17

Introduction

In this passage James describes the nature of true religion. Notice that it doesn’t have anything to do with how much of the Bible you can quote or how many times a week you go to church. No, true religion reveals itself in self-control and compassion for others.

Jam. 1:26-27 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. (27) Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

False Religion

James warns his readers of a vain, or empty, religion. If your religion doesn’t cause you to control your tongue, your religion is empty. One of the quickest ways to tell what is in a person’s heart is to listen to them talk. Jesus said it this way:

Mat. 12:34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

If religion doesn’t change how you talk, it hasn’t changed who you are on the inside. A controlled tongue is one indicator of a changed heart. James’ call for his readers to be swift to hear and slow to speak (1:19) would certainly apply here. Here are some other verses that talk about the kind of control we need to have over our speech:

Pro. 10:19 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.

Pro 20:19 He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.

Eph 4:25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

Eph. 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Eph. 5:4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

If a person claims to be religious, but their religion doesn’t control their speech, they are deceiving themselves. Not only that, but their so-called religion is useless.

Pure Religion

The word religion has taken on a bad meaning among many Christians. But there is a kind of religion, a true worship, which pleases God. This religion motivates its practitioners to useful compassion and holiness.

In addition to cleaning up our talk, real religion motivates us to do good in practical ways to those in need. The word “visit” in verse 27 means more than just dropping by for a chat. It implies inspecting to see what needs a person has and then doing what you can to fill the needs you found during your inspection. We check in on those in need to see what we can do to help. Jesus described this real religion:

Mat. 25:34-40 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (35) For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: (36) Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. (37) Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? (38) When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? (39) Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? (40) And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

How we react to the problems of the needy people around us tells us an awful lot about how spiritual we really are. Christ illustrated this in a parable:

Luk. 10:30-37 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. (31) And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. (32) And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. (33) But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (34) And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (35) And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. (36) Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? (37) And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Pure religion also changes the believer’s relationship to the world in which he lives. It helps us see that this world system around us is contrary to God and godly living. James talks about this later in his letter:

Jam. 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

True religion helps us stay pure from world’s corrupting influences:

1Jo 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (17) And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Holiness is another hallmark of pure religion. God put it plainly:

1Pe. 1:15-16 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; (16) Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

How’s It Going?

  • Has your religion changed your talk?
  • Are you practically compassionate to those in need?
  • Does your religion motivate you to be holy?

Homework

Read James 2:1-4 and assess your attitude toward rich folks and poor folks.

James – Day 18

Introduction

Today we’ll take a look at James’ rebuke to those who gave special treatment to the rich.

Jam. 2:1-4 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. (2) For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; (3) And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: (4) Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

Faith and Favoritism Don’t Mix

It’s easy to imagine the circumstances of James’ readers. They were scattered by persecution. They may have lost possessions, homes, and work. When they relocated, they began to form new local churches. When some rich person came to their church, they welcomed him warmly because of the money he could bring to the congregation – more to share with those in need. When a poor visitor dropped, they didn’t receive him as well. Why? Because he was another burden, a negative on the church’s balance sheet.

James rebukes this attitude of courting the rich and making the poor feel unwelcome at church. Giving the rich the best seat in the house reveals partiality. That partiality was the result of evil thinking on the part of James’ readers. What kind of evil thoughts might be behind this favoritism?

  • The rich person might help with some of my needs.
  • Our church could be nicer or do more with this rich person’s money.
  • This person is rich because God has blessed them, so they’re probably spiritual.
  • The poor person will probably try to drain our church’s already limited resources.
  • The poor person might ask me to help them, and use up my limited time and money.
  • The poor person probably got that way because they are lazy and wicked.

So our partiality reveals that we sit in judgment of people and that our thinking is evil. We want a church full of nice, low-maintenance Christians whose ability to contribute equals or exceeds what they expect from the church. But the gospel is for every creature and every believer who is not in open sin should receive a warm welcome from the Body of Christ.

How’s It Going?

  • How do you respond to visitors to your church?
  • Are you happier to see those who look like their well off?
  • How do you react when someone who is obviously poor drops in? Do you roll out the red carpet for them?

Weekend Workshop

Review and summarize what you’ve learned from studying James, chapter one. Double check to see if you are applying the lessons God has taught you. Also, read James 2:5-9 in preparation for Monday’s study.

James – Day 19

Introduction

As James continues his discussion of favoritism, he points out how God has blessed the poor and some of the sins of the wicked wealthy.

Jam. 2:5-9 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (6) But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? (7) Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? (8) If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: (9) But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

Hath Not God Chosen the Poor

James’ readers despised the poor. The word translated “despised” here means to dishonour, or to treat shamefully. This seems strange because some of them were certainly in this condition (1:9). They didn’t want to be around other people like them. (Apparently, they wanted better company than their own kind.)

They were not aware of the exaltation of the poor. God has given those who are poor a special opportunity to trust Him (5). Their needs give them a chance to believe God and find Him faithful to meet their needs. Because of their difficult circumstances, they are backed in to a corner – trust God or do without. Their faith grows strong because it gets lots of exercise. The wealthy don’t know much about this blessing.

Not only do the poor get to trust God uniquely in this world, but He has also promised to make them heirs of His kingdom.

Mat. 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Notice that God didn’t promise this to the poor in general, but “to them that love him.” There is no particular virtue in being poor – whether you’re lost or saved. Sharing in this kingdom is the privilege of all whole love the Lord.

Notice, also, that it is possible to be poor materially and love God. That’s contrary to what some false teachers are peddling, but it’s true.

Rich Men Oppress You

James reminded his readers that the wealthy often oppressed them. The haves used their money, position and influence to take advantage of the have-nots. They were dragging them into court and using the system to take advantage of them. Here are two examples of the kind of persecution James was describing:

Act. 8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

Act. 13:50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.

If a rich person could successfully claim that some poor person stole from him, or owed him money, he could gain from it. Obviously, getting people put into prison was a way to take possession of their stuff. You could also extort money from family members, since there was a sort of debtor’s prison in that day.

Mat. 5:25-26 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. (26) Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

If you were locked up, the only way to pay what you supposedly owed would be for someone else to pony up the money for you. So the rich were using the legal system to take advantage of the poor. (Some things never change.)

Not only were the rich taking advantage of the poor, but they were often hostile toward the Lord. Jesus told us how hard it is for rich people to enter His kingdom:

Mat. 19:23-24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. (24) And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Oppression by the rich and their speaking out against God seem to go hand-in-hand:

Psa 73:7-9 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. (8) They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. (9) They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.

These rich oppressors might have literally been blaspheming God. They might have also been blaspheming God in the way they were treating His people. They were saying by their actions that God didn’t see, or didn’t care about what they were doing.

Love Thy Neighbor

James’ readers were not to treat rich people well and poor people badly. God didn’t want them to reverse their reactions either. That is, He didn’t want them to treat the poor well and the rich badly. He wanted them to love anyone He sent their way.

Love is called “the Royal Law” here because it is the king of laws – the one that is superior to all others. Both Christ and Paul made this point, too:

Mat. 22:36-40 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? (37) Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (40) On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Rom. 13:8-10 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. (9) For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (10) Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

This is the believer’s obligation: to love rich and poor alike. Anything less is not just personal preference – it is sin.

How’s It Going?

  • Do you love all the people God brings your way – regardless of how much or little money they have?

Homework

Read James 2:10-14 and figure out how someone who breaks one law can be considered guilty of all.

James – Day 20

Introduction

James underscores the importance of being impartial in verses 10-13 of chapter two. (Sorry for the typo in yesterday’s homework.)

Jam. 2:10-13 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (11) For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. (12) So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. (13) For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

Guilty Of All

After James telling his readers the partiality is sin, he goes on to say that breaking one law makes a person guilty of breaking the whole law. It’s a frightening thought that one sin makes you guilty of all. Where does that leave all of us in relation to a holy God? Sounds severe, doesn’t it? But when you consider the explanation, it makes perfect sense.

He That Said

Human laws represent a consensus of what some group of people think is right at a certain point in time. (People who say that you can’t legislate morality are mistaken – every law ever enacted is someone’s idea of right and wrong.)

God’s law isn’t like human laws, though. God’s law isn’t based on consensus. He doesn’t take a poll to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. Every divine law reveals something about the Law Giver.

We tend to see God’s commandments as isolated requirements. James presents them as a unified presentation of God’s character. Whether you commit adultery or kill, you have offended the God revealed in the law. That’s why you become guilty of all.

God didn’t intend for His people to embrace the laws we like and discard the laws the spoil our fun. The law was to be accepted as a whole:

Deu. 27:26 Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.

Gal. 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

Judgment

James reminded his readers to speak and act in light of God’s coming judgment. James uses the phrase “law of liberty” again, as he did in 1:25. I think this is probably synonymous with “the royal law” in 2:8.

Believers in the Church Age are not under the law (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:18). We aren’t required to keep the Jewish sacrificial and ceremonial laws, which Christ fulfilled. But we are still bound by the moral law and by the higher standard of Christ’s new commandment:

Joh. 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

That’s God’s standard for us. We don’t keep the Law so God will save us, though. We keep the law because God has saved us. Those who show no mercy give evidence that they have not grasped their own sinfulness and God’s mercy.

The person who has received God’s mercy has confidence in the day of judgment and shows mercy to others from day to day.

How’s It Going?

  • Do you follow the commands of God that you like and ignore the ones you don’t like?
  • Are you merciful to others as God has been merciful to you?

Homework

Read James 2:14-17. How do you reconcile this passage with verses such as Eph 2:8-10 and Tit. 3:5?

James – Day 21

Introduction

James makes an important point in today’s passage – faith that doesn’t change how you live isn’t real, living faith.

Jam. 2:14-17 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.

Can That Faith Save Him?

James asks a rhetorical question, one that expects “No,” to be the answer. If you claim to believe in Jesus Christ, but what you believe doesn’t change how you behave, then it’s not saving faith. Martin Luther had a problem with this passage because it seems to put too much emphasis on works. As you probably know, salvation by faith alone with the centerpiece of his theology. On the surface there seems to be a contradiction between James’ writing and what some of the other New Testament authors wrote:

Rom. 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Tit. 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Eph. 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

That last verse touches on the idea that reconciles these verses. One of God’s goals when He saves us is that we would begin to do good works. If we claim to be saved, but fail to do good works, there is good reason to question the sincerity of our salvation. Good works are the result of saving faith. They don’t produce salvation, but they are evidence of it.

2Co. 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Warmed and Filled

James illustrates the uselessness of lazy faith in verses 15-16. Imagine coming to church next Sunday and meeting a church family whose house burned down the night before. They escaped with only the clothes on their backs. They’re cold and hungry. You shake their hands, give them your most sanctified smile and say, “I’ll be praying for you folks.” Then you glide by them to find your favorite pew. What good is that? Does that sound like compassion to you? Would it feel like compassion to your cold, hungry family?

James compares this kind of “compassion” with faith that doesn’t work. It’s no coincidence that he compares compassion that doesn’t help with faith that doesn’t work. Neither one helps others. In fact, they are both hurt our neighbors. Claiming compassion without helping adds insult to the injured. Claiming faith with works adds to the cynicism of the unbelieving.

It’s not that faith plus works leads to salvation. Rather, faith saves and leads to good works. Faith that doesn’t change what we do isn’t living faith – it’s dead.

How’s It Going?

  • Have you trusted Christ as your Savior?
  • How has your life changed since you trusted Christ as your Savior?
  • What good works are you doing because you’re saved?

Homework

Read James 2:18-20 for tomorrow. Is believing in God enough to save you?

James – Day 22

Introduction

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?

Homework

Read James 2:21-24 for tomorrow. When did Abraham believe God? When did Abraham’s works reveal his faith?

James – Day 23

Introduction

Here is the first of two biblical examples that James gives to underscore the importance of works.

Jam. 2:21-24 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.

Abraham

Let’s rearrange the content of verses 21 – 23 to put them in time order. We’ll start by figuring out when Abraham believed God.

Gen. 15:4-6 And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. (5) And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. (6) And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Abraham believed God and God declared him righteous before Isaac was born. Obviously, Abraham didn’t offer Isaac until years after he was born (Gen. 22). So Abraham’s justification in God’s sight was a result of his faith and preceded his sacrifice.

Abraham showed that his faith was real when he obeyed God and offered Isaac.

Heb. 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, (18) Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: (19) Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Perfected

Abraham’s act of faith was the fulfillment, or completion, of his faith. His faith and justification were real before that moment. If he had turned away from God’s command it would have revealed that his faith was dead.

Ye See

I think “ye see” is a key phrase in this passage. It’s really the point James is trying to make. We can only prove and show to others the faith in our hearts by what we do. If what we believe doesn’t affect what we do, then our faith is false, empty, dead. Faith must produce works, or it isn’t the kind of faith that justifies us in God’s sight.

How’s It Going?

  • Would there be enough evidence to convict you if you were on trial for being a Christian?
  • Put another way, do your works back up the faith you say you have?

Weekend Workshop

Read James 2:25-26 for Monday. When did Rahab believe God? When did her works reveal her faith? Also, review chapter two and note what you’ve learned from it. What changes do you need to make based on what you’ve discovered?