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Developing a Faith That Works - Part 7 of 15

James 2:14-26

                                    "Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by actions, is dead." (vs. 17)

                             I.  WHO IS RIGHT - JAMES OR PAUL? ______________________________

                                                                 Paul (Gal 2:16)     &     James (Jas. 2:24)

                                     Problem           -     "Legalism"                                      "Laxity"

                                                "WORKS"     -     Jewish laws                            Christian lifestyle

                                                  Focus            -     "Root of salvation"                 "Fruit of salvation"

                                                                                      (internal/unseen)                     (external/seen)

                                                  Purpose        -     How to know               How to show

                                                                 I'm a Christian              I'm a Christian

            "For it is BY GRACE you have been saved THROUGH FAITH ... FOR a life of GOOD WORKS

             which God has already prepared for us to do." Eph. 2:8-10 (GN)

                             II.   WHAT IS REAL FAITH?

                                    1.  REAL FAITH IS NOT JUST SOMETHING YOU _______________ .

            "What good is it, my brothers, if a man CLAIMS to have faith, but has no deeds?  Can such

            "faith" save him?                     (vs. 14)

                                                                               Matt. 7:20-23

                                    2.  REAL FAITH IS NOT JUST SOMETHING YOU _______________ .

            "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, `Go, I

            wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is

            it?" (vs. 15-16)

            "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can

            the love of God be in him?" 1 John 3:17  Also 3:14-16, 4:7-20

                                                                             (vs. 17)

                                       3.  REAL FAITH IS NOT JUST SOMETHING YOU _______________ .

               "But someone will say, `You have faith - I have deeds.' SHOW ME your faith without deeds, and I           

              will SHOW YOU my faith by what I do." (vs. 18)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                    2 Cor. 5:17

                                    4.  REAL FAITH IS NOT JUST SOMETHING YOU _______________ .

                             "You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that -- and shudder!"

                             (vs. 19)

                                    5.  REAL FAITH IS SOMETHING YOU _______________ .

                             Illustrations:  Two very different people

                                                          * Abraham (vs. 20-24)

                                           * Rahab (vs. 25)

                             2 Cor. 13:5 "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves."



Developing a Faith That Works - Part 7 of 15

                                                                         James 2:14-26                                                               2146 words


It seems if you put the word "real" in front of anything it sells more -- real coffee or real leather.  We're

interested in the genuine article.  Coca Cola of course was made famous with the slogan: It’s the "real thing".

I want to talk to you today about what James has to say about how to have a real faith.  In this passage James talks about the difference between real and counterfeit Christians, authentic believers and fake believers - people who think they are Christians and really aren't. He talks about how you have a real faith.

This is the most controversial and misunderstood passage in the book of James. 

The New Testament teaches that we are saved by faith alone, especially the teaching of  Paul, who says "It is by grace, through faith, that we are saved." Then James comes along and says, “It's not just faith but faith and works.” What is he talking about?  Is James or Paul right?  They are both right. You see, they are talking about different things.

Paul was fighting the problem of legalism -- the problem of keeping all the Jewish laws and

regulations to be a Christian.  Paul is talking to that group.

James is not fighting legalism but laxity -- those that say "It doesn't matter what you do as long as you

believe."                                                                                                                                                                                    They are fighting two different enemies.  But they both use the word "works" in different ways.  When Paul uses the word "works" he's talking about Jewish laws like circumcision and things like that.  When James uses it, he's talking about the lifestyle of a Christian -- acts of love.  It's totally different.  Paul focuses on the root of salvation -- what happens to me internally.  James focuses on the fruit of salvation -- what happens on the outside. Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them."



Paul is tackling the problem of, “How to know you're a Christian.”  James is talking about, “How to show you're a Christian.” Paul is talking about his passages on faith alone, how to become a believer.  James talks about, how to behave like a believer.  So, it is not a contradiction.

It's summed up in Ephesians 2:8-10 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, for a life of good works that God has already prepared for us to do." There are three prepositions in this passage -- "by grace", "through faith", "for good works". If you get those out of order, you're in trouble.

But Paul is saying we're saved by grace through faith.  We're saved just by accepting God's gift. But how do I show I am a believer?  James says there's five ways you can know you've got the real thing. 


v. 14 Real faith is not just something you say, something you talk about.  "What good is it my brothers if a man claims to have faith, but has no deeds?  Can such `faith' save him?" It doesn't say he actually has faith, he just claims to have it.  He talks about it.  He knows all the right phrases. It's more than just talk that is involved in real faith.  Jesus said, "Not everybody who says to me `Lord, Lord' is going to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”(Matt7:21)                                                                                                                                                        James is saying that real faith is not just something you say. Do you know anybody that claims to be a Christian but you don't see any evidence in their life?  That's a phoney faith. Real faith is not just something you say.


It's more than emotions.  A lot of people confuse emotions and sentiment with faith.  You can go to church and be emotionally moved and never act on it. 

If, after church, you're getting into you car and you happen to slam a few fingers in your car door, and you're standing there in agony, and I walk up and say, "I really feel for you!" -- is that any help?

Real faith is more than just sympathy and feeling and emotion. You do something about it.  You act on it. Real faith takes the initiative.  A real believer has real faith and it's practical.  It gets involved with people.  He's talking about Christians here.  (This is the only time in Scripture that Christian women are called sisters.)  When you become a part of God's family you have some family responsibilities.  A real believer will care about other believers.

1 John 3:17 "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" Real faith is generous.  It wants to give.  Who can count on you in a crisis?  How many Christians have the freedom to call you up in the middle of the night if they are in an emergency?  Not just talking the talk.  Not just feeling for people.  1 John 3:14 says that one of the proofs of salvation is that we love other Christians.  Do you have fellowship with believers? Real faith wants to be around other believers.  You love them.  It is known we are Christians by our love.

James is saying that if my faith doesn't lead me to share with others it's wrong.  Right at the top of the sheet key verse: v. 17 "In the same way, faith by itself if it's not accompanied by actions is dead." If I don't feel like helping other Christians, I don't have a sick faith, I have a dead faith.  It's more than just something you say and it's more than just something you feel.”


Real faith is visible. You can see it.  It's apparent.  If you claim to be a Christian, people will be able to see it.  It's visible.

Faith is odourless, weightless, invisible, so anybody can claim to have it.  How do you know for sure? 

James says, “Show me.”  If you claim to be a Christian I have a right to ask you to prove it by looking at your lifestyle.  You can't see faith but you can see the results.

James is saying, “You say you're a Christian?  Prove it.  Let me see your actions back up your words.”  If I say, "I believe my health is very important and then you ask me, "Do you eat right?"  No!  "Do you exercise?  No! Do you get your proper rest?   Do you ever go for a check up?"  No!

It doesn't matter what I say.  What counts are my actions.  Real faith is more than just something you think.  You can point it out and see it in people's lives. 

If you grab onto a 240 volt cable you're going to know it.  I don't see how somebody as big as God can enter your life and it not change you.  James says that if it doesn't change you there's a question whether He's really in your life.  Jimmy Carter in his book Why Not the Best? said that "one of the things that was a turning point in his life when somebody asked him the question, `If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?'"  Real faith always produces change.  Real faith is not just something you say.  It's not just something you feel.  It's not just something you think.


"You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that -- and shudder!"  (v. 19). There are a lot of people who have strong beliefs in God, the Bible, about Jesus.  They can recite creeds and talk about doctrines of the Trinity, quote bible verses.  James says, "big deal!"

Just saying I believe in God is not enough to get you to heaven.  Even the devil believes that.  But it's more than just a head knowledge.  A lot of people are going to miss heaven by 18 inches.  They've got it in their head but not in their heart.  They say "I believe in God."  James says, "Big deal.  Many people believe in God. But that's not enough.”

Real faith is not just saying "I believe".  Many people would say "Sure, I'm a Christian."  But ask them: Do you attend church? “No.”  "Do you donate your time?" “No.”  "Do you tithe?" “No.”  James would say their words don’t match the meaning.

If it's not just something you say or think or feel or believe, what is real faith?


In the next couple of verses James gives two illustrations that say real faith is something you do.  Faith is

active.  It's not passive.  It's a commitment.

Two illustrations of two very different people, Abraham and Rahab -- exact opposite extremes. Abraham is a man.  Rahab is a woman. Abraham  is Jewish.  Rahab is a Gentile.  Abraham is a patriarch. Rahab is a prostitute.  Abraham is a somebody.  Rahab is a nobody.  Abraham is a major character in the Bible.  Rahab is a minor character.  He uses these illustrations to say, it doesn't matter who you are as long as you've got the important thing. They only had one thing in common -- their faith in God.  Their faith in God led them to an action.

v. 20 "You foolish man.  Do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?  Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  His faith and his actions were working together.  His faith was made complete by what he did.  Scripture was fulfilled when it said, `Abraham believed God.'"  How do we know it?  We saw it.  He behaved in a way that his belief was visible. "Abraham believed God and it was accredited to him as righteousness and he was called God's friend." 

Abraham was prepared to do whatever God asked; God never wanted the sacrifice of his son; it was a question of obedience; it was the ultimate test of faith in action and Abraham held nothing back from God.

And he talks about Rahab in v25.  The story is in Joshua 2.  It's the story how a prostitute helped a couple of spies when they were coming into Jericho.  Rahab ends up in the family line of Jesus. She risks her life to save the spies.

Our faith is not determined by what we do, it is demonstrated by what we do.  In a very real sense God says to you.  Talk is easy. Put your money where your mouth is. "I believe in Jesus!"  Prove it.  Our faith is demonstrated by our actions.  Actions speak louder than words.  Our behaviour shows what we really believe.

2 Corinthians 13:5 "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith" Test it.  Check it out. See if you're really a believer or not.

A couple of questions: In the light of what James says, am I really a Christian?

What changes can I point to in my life?  Is my lifestyle any different at all from unbelievers?  So many people think it doesn't matter what you do as long as you believe.  James says that's not true. He's not saying you work your way to heaven. He's not saying works deliver salvation.  He's saying they demonstrate it.  He's saying, that if your faith doesn't work, what good is it?

How do I know for sure?  You settle it in your mind.  Maybe some of you have had doubts whether you're really a believer or not.  You're a good person, you've gone to church, and maybe you've known about Jesus, and you've read the Bible, and you've had religion and you've gone to classes.  But are you absolutely sure that if you died tonight you'd go to heaven?  The fact is you can be sure.  You don't have to leave here and have the shadow of a doubt.  You can settle it right here.

How do you do that?  Ephesians 2: 8-9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, for a life of good works God has already prepared for us to do."  God's grace.  God draws close and says, “I want you to know Me.  I want to have a relationship with you.”  That's grace.  And your only response can be "I want to know You, Lord.  I want to have a relationship with You."  And when God's hand of grace comes down, and your hand of faith goes up, you become a believer.  Saved by grace, through faith to do exactly what God made you to do in the first place.  He has a plan for your life.  You are not here by accident.

Let’s Pray: Lord, we have heard your Word and we want to have a real faith, not a phoney faith.  Help us to commit ourselves to you and give every area of our life to you as best as we know how.  We want to give as much of us as we understand, to as much of You as we understand and we want to learn more about You.  Lord God, we give You our past, all the things that have happened, the good and bad, the achievements, the faults, the sins, the mistakes.  We ask You to take it all.  We admit that we've gone our own way many times.  We haven't talked to you about our decisions.  But we give you our past, and  not only that; we want to give You our future.  We don't know what it holds but we know that You do.  We want to follow You as best as we know how.  Take our lives and make us the people You want us to be.  Help us to grow.  Help us to know that if we call ourselves Christian, we need to show it in our life by obeying Your word.  Thank You for loving us.  Thank You for dying for us on the cross.  Thank You that we can become new people when we come and give our lives to You in faith. Lord, we understand that real faith is not something we say or feel or believe but it is something we do.  We commit ourselves to you today.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

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