About Us Services MinistriesSermon Message Bible StudyChurch Calendar Contact Us


Statement of Faith

The Four Most Important Things We Could Ever Tell You

Listen to this week's message!

Map to the Church

Prayer Requests

Enhance your daily reading of God's word. Click here for free, printable Bible Reading and Prayer Journal sheets!

Wednesday AM Bible Study Archives


"The Fruit of Faith"
James 2:14-26

Wednesday AM Bible Study
July 2, 2003

This new section of James' letter takes us to a subject that is at the heart, in practice, of our Christian experience: "faith". The Bible tells us that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). Without it, it is impossible to please God, "for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). The verse that is perhaps the most beloved in all the Bible has faith as its key-note (John 3:16). Faith is key to salvation (Phil. 16:31).

But what is the nature of saving faith? Paul pointed to the story of Abraham and said that "we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law" (Rom. 3:28; also 4:1-5). But James, in this passage, also points to Abraham and says, "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (James 2:24). Are Paul and James in conflict with one another over the nature of saving faith? Not at all.

Paul affirms that we are saved by God's grace through faith apart from the works of the law; and James gives us the other side of this same coin, affirming that though we receive God's verdict of "justified" by faith alone, it's a faith that shows itself through works. As some have said, we are not saved by our works but rather by a faith that works. This is an important point to be made today; when so many satisfy themselves that they are saved simply because they have "believed" intellectually - but yet have not experienced the life-change that should accompany true faith.

"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?"

A. Suppose you buy a tree on a plot of ground. The man who sold it to you told you that the tree is a fruit tree. You can't tell by looking; but you're assured that the roots of a fruit tree are truly in the ground. And you wait. And as the months and years roll by, and you never see any fruit, you conclude that the true nature of the roots of the tree are exhibited (or perhaps we should say "not exhibited"). In terms of what the tree was proposed to be, you find that it's useless because there is no fruit.

B. Similarly, James asks what profit it is if someone claims to have saving faith, but has none of the fruits in the form of good works that such saving faith should produce. James says that such a faith is of no value. It may be like the tree - impressive to look at; but it will be of no value in the thing it was supposed to accomplish.


"If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if i does not have works, is dead."
1. "Depart in peace" is a familiar greeting in the Middle-East. But notice that James refers to the unhelped ones in need as "brother" or "sister. How could one claim to be a believer and treat a fellow believer in such a way? (See 1 John 3:17-18). Such words of greeting may be beautiful; but they have no value in showing what was really needed - love.

2. Even so, James says, faith without works is "dead" (that is, inoperative). It's "dead" in the same way that a flashlight with worn out batteries can be dead, or a phone that is disconnected from the wall can be dead. Words of blessing without acts of love are dead; and faith that doesn't have works is also dead. It doesn't do what it is proposed to do - that is, bring about salvation.

"But someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."

1. If a man tells his kids, "I love your mother"; but never kisses her, or takes her out, or never buys her flowers, or never brings her a cup of cocoa in bed, his kids can doubt that he really loves her. But his kids can know for certain that he really loves her - even if he never says he does - if he kisses her, and takes her out, and buys her flowers, and brings her cocoa in bed. His actions prove he loves her.

2. Similarly someone who never says that they have faith can demonstrate that the really do have faith by the fact that they have works that accompany faith. If a man were to boast, "I have faith", but didn't have works, he would be at the mercy of a man who never boasted faith at all, but shows the presence of faith through his works.

"You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble!"

1. James may be quoting here from the famous "Shema" of Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Every Jewish man and woman knew those words from the time they were little. And of course, James was writing to Jewish readers (1:1).

2. But the mere claim to believe the Shema and say, "I believe that there is one God" puts you at no advantage. James says, "You do well" - but much more is needed. To believe that there is one God places you at no greater advantage than the demons. They believe too - and they have even seen the one true God, and tremble at the thought - but that doesn't save them.

"But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the alter? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only?"

1. These next two proofs are taken from the Old Testament. This one is from the greatest of all "believers" (Gal. 3:9) - Abraham. God called childless old Abraham from a pagan land to Canaan; and promised him that God would give him the land he beheld, make him into a great nation, and cause that the whole world be blessed through him (Gen. 12:1-3). Abraham - as good as dead in respect to having children (Heb. 11:12) - recognized in this that God was promising that the Seed of the woman, that is the Christ, would be born from him (Gen. 3:15; see also Gal. 3:15-18). Later, God told still-childless Abraham to look up to the night sky and count the stars if he could. God told Abraham that that's how many children he would have. Abraham believed God, and God counted to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6).

2. And Abraham proved this faith by works. Much later, when his promised son Isaac had was a young man, God commanded Abraham to take him to a certain place and sacrifice him (Gen. 22:2). Abraham obeyed; though it was a test, and God later stopped him (v. 12). Abraham trusted that God could even raise the dead (Heb. 11:19). Thus, Abraham was justified by works; and his faith was thus "perfected".

"Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

1. Rahab lived in Jerico - a very wicked city in the land God promised to Israel. The people of Jerico were fearful of the Israelites; but this one woman - Rahab - put her own life on the line and hid some Israelite spies. She sent them away secretly and sent the authorities of her own people on a "wild goose chase" after them. She did this because she believed that the God of Israel was the one true God; and that He had indeed promised the land to them. (Josh. 2:11-13).

2. Rahab had faith in the one true God; but hers was a faith that demonstrated itself in works. She is an example of how saving faith demonstrates itself in good deeds. She had faith in the God of Israel; and proved it by hiding the spies. God honored her faith, and made her a member of the linage of those from whom the Lord Jesus was to born (Matthew 1:5). She stands today as proof of the essential nature of works; that faith without works is as dead as a body without a spirit.

* * * * * * * * * *

Do you have faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior? Does that faith demonstrate itself in the fruit of good works in your life? Is there something God is calling you to do today that demonstrates that you truly do have faith in Him?

Printable Version

Bethany Bible Church, 18245 NW Germantown Road, Portland, OR 97231 / 503.645.1436

Site Map | Privacy Policy | Copyright Information