Statement of Faith
The Four Most Important Things We Could Ever Tell
Listen to this week's message!
Map to the Church
Enhance your daily reading of God's word. Click here for free, printable Bible Reading and Prayer Journal sheets!
AM Bible Study Archives
"The Fruit of Faith"
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.
I. THE ASSERTION: FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS USELESS (v. 14).
"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.
II. PROOFS OF THIS ASSERTION (vv. 15-26).
A. PROOF FROM SIMPLE ACTS OF LOVE (vv. 15-17).
"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.
B. PROOF FROM VISIBLE EVIDENCE (v. 18).
"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
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.
C. PROOF FROM THE BELIEF OF DEMONS (v. 19).
"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.
D. PROOF FROM THE EXAMPLE OF ABRAHAM (vv. 20-24).
"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".
E. PROOF FROM THE EXAMPLE OF RAHAB (vv. 25-26).
"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?