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5-28-2017 Deadly Faith James 2:14-17

James Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:37
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Intro:
Dr. McCormick, in "The Heart of Prayer," tells of a good woman whose daughter had died after a painful illness. She came to her minister and said, "I fear I have lost my faith in prayer. I used to believe that anything I asked for in the name of Christ, I would receive. When my child was sick, I besought God in an agony of desire for her recovery. I believed that God would answer my prayer. When she died I was stunned, not merely because of my grief, but because it seemed to me that God had failed me. I pray still, but the old faith in prayer is gone." This woman was the victim of wrong placed faith. She had, in a word, been led to substitute faith in prayer for faith in God. If our faith in prayer is all the faith we have, then any disappointment or unanswered prayer will shake that faith. But if faith in God is the object of our faith in life, then no matter what may be the outcome of our petitions we will still trust.
James talks about wrong placed faith in our passage this morning:
James 2:14-
James 2:14–17 ESV
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James now moves from addressing the dispersed messianic Jews’ treatment of the rich and poor to pointedly addressing the root issue which is the core of their faith. Essentially, this passage is a series of three questions with a conclusion that is firmly based in considering these three questions.

I. Theoretical Inquiry (v. 14)

That second question in verse 14 is really a piercing one “Can that faith save him?” What faith? well this hypothetical person likely confess with his mouth, “Jesus is Lord”—does that type of faith save you? what do you think?
Roger Ellsworth, in Opening up James, Commentary says:
There is not much point in saying something if no one is listening. James wants to make sure his readers are listening! So he does not begin by saying that he has done considerable research on a matter and is now ready to present his findings. No, not at all! He rather begins by asking a couple of questions, the second of which is: ‘Can faith save him?’
Now there are certain statements that are so universally held among Christians that to deny them is to brand oneself as a non-Christian. ‘Jesus is Lord’ is one such statement. ‘Salvation is by grace through faith’ is another. And now James, the half-brother of Jesus himself, has the audacity to question whether faith saves! James has their attention!
This actually leads directly into the contemporary debate between “Easy Believism” & “Lordship Salvation” You may recall these terms back when we looked at the end of chapter one in the sermon, “Seeing Isn’t Believing”
This person who claims to have faith obviously thinks that his belief alone, without any good actions (deeds done in obedience to God), is satisfactory in God’s sight. However, faith not accompanied by deeds has no saving value. Anyone can say he has faith, but if his lifestyle remains selfish and worldly, then what good is that faith? It is merely faith that believes about Jesus, not faith that believes in him. That kind of faith can’t save anyone. Instead, the faith that saves is faith that proves itself in the actions it produces.
Two images help us remember the importance of genuine faith:
1. On one side are people who project confidence in their standing before God and yet show no evidence that their faith affects any of their actions. They may even take pride in the fact that they can believe what they want and that no one has the right to challenge their faith. After all, “only God really knows for sure,” they may say.
With “Easy Believism,” all you have to do to get to heaven is simply believe in Jesus. This actually is supported with several compelling verses.
2. On the other side are people whose lives demonstrate such a frantic flurry of activity that they literally have no time to think or talk about their faith. Those people, whose lives at first exhibit the marks of someone who believes, turn out to have real doubts. They doubt God’s acceptance and feel compelled to work very hard in hopes of gaining that acceptance. But trying hard to build merit with God becomes a substitute for faith.
James helps us see that genuine faith will always combine deep trust in God and consistent action in the world. It is not the one who claims to have faith, but the one who actually has faith who is saved.
Someone may ask, “But what if genuine belief never really gets a chance to demonstrate itself in action?” One instance of genuine faith given little time is the case of the thief on the cross who believed in Jesus (). In sight of death, this man acknowledged Jesus as the Christ. Did even this man’s short-lived, genuine faith lead to real action? Certainly it did! The dying thief said a few words of profound eloquence: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (). The thief could not possibly have known how many times his simple trusting witness during his final agony would give hope to others who felt they were beyond God’s help.
Romans 10:9 ESV
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Most of us have a great deal more time than the thief on the cross. Do our lives count for as much? Do we declare our faith and then demonstrate its vitality throughout our life?
being saved by faith alone to those who hold this view means that good works cannot be required as evidence of salvation. “Lordship salvation” (in believing in Jesus, you have to let Him Lord over your life—you show it by obedience) is a good example of how modern interpreters proof-text one passage (or category of passages) to the exclusion of others and thereby developing a dogmatic systematic theological position. However, the NT is sometimes figurative and often dualistic in the sense of presenting truth in pairs. In this context, this combination of faith and works is James’ central message, faith and works! They are both necessary!
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Being saved by faith alone to those who hold this view means essentially that good works cannot be required as evidence of salvation. Therefore, a “carnal Christian” (a Christian that lives as if there is no changed life, or perhaps no God) is as acceptable as any other Christian. A Christian not need to ever really perform “good works”. And, in extreme “Easy Believism,” repentance is, at best, a one time deal, and at worst, not even necessary. So, if James were here today, he might have given the title of this hypothetical man’s faith as “Easy Believism.”
“Lordship salvation” (in believing in Jesus, you have to let Him Lord over your life—you show it by obedience) is a good example of how modern interpreters proof-text one passage (or category of passages) to the exclusion of others and thereby developing a dogmatic systematic theological position. However, the NT is sometimes figurative and often dualistic in the sense of presenting truth in pairs. In this context, this combination of faith and works is James’ central message, faith and works! They are both necessary!
After this award-winning Christian attention grabber, he now moves on to a:

II. Theoretical Situation (vv 15–16)

I’m going to bring these verses to today: now image that a poor person comes into Grace Baptist in need of the basics in life: food & clothes. I know this never happens—especially in this area (I’m being facetious)! but then when they tell us of there needs, we say, “Yeah, that really stinks, but God is Good!” and leave it at that, then you really are fulfilling James’ hypothetical situation. Such a situation demands a response of action, and someone has to respond to prove the faith.
how is it that if we are saved by faith alone, as the apostle Paul says in just about every epistle of his, how come James is so persistant here on
Roger Ellsworth, Opening up James, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2009), 90.
Life Application New Testament Commentary points out:
This person who claims to have faith obviously thinks that his belief alone, without any good actions (deeds done in obedience to God), is satisfactory in God’s sight. However, faith not accompanied by deeds has no saving value. Anyone can say he has faith, but if his lifestyle remains selfish and worldly, then what good is that faith? It is merely faith that believes about Jesus, not faith that believes in him. That kind of faith can’t save anyone. Instead, the faith that saves is faith that proves itself in the actions it produces.
Two images help us remember the importance of genuine faith:
1. On one side are people who project confidence in their standing before God and yet show no evidence that their faith affects any of their actions. They may even take pride in the fact that they can believe what they want and that no one has the right to challenge their faith. After all, “only God really knows for sure,” they may say.
Opening Up James A Hypothetical Situation (vv. 15–16)

The individual has expressed the commendable desire to see the needs of this brother or sister met. But have any needs been met? Has anything changed? No, the brother or sister is still naked and hungry! All that has taken place is that some words have been spoken.

Mere words are worthless if they do not lead to action, and, therefore, faith is useless if it is nothing more than a matter of words

2. On the other side are people whose lives demonstrate such a frantic flurry of activity that they literally have no time to think or talk about their faith. Those people, whose lives at first exhibit the marks of someone who believes, turn out to have real doubts. They doubt God’s acceptance and feel compelled to work very hard in hopes of gaining that acceptance. But trying hard to build merit with God becomes a substitute for faith.
Opening Up James A Hypothetical Situation (vv. 15–16)

The individual has expressed the commendable desire to see the needs of this brother or sister met. But have any needs been met? Has anything changed? No, the brother or sister is still naked and hungry! All that has taken place is that some words have been spoken.

Mere words are worthless if they do not lead to action, and, therefore, faith is useless if it is nothing more than a matter of words!

Life Application New Testament Commentary points out:
Someone may ask, “But what if genuine belief never really gets a chance to demonstrate itself in action?” One instance of genuine faith given little time is the case of the thief on the cross who believed in Jesus (). In sight of death, this man acknowledged Jesus as the Christ. Did even this man’s short-lived, genuine faith lead to real action? Certainly it did! The dying thief said a few words of profound eloquence: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (). The thief could not possibly have known how many times his simple trusting witness during his final agony would give hope to others who felt they were beyond God’s help.
Most of us have a great deal more time than the thief on the cross. Do our lives count for as much? Do we declare our faith and then demonstrate its vitality throughout our life?
So where does the faith with mere words lead?

III. Actual Outcome (v. 17)

The outcome from verse 17 is obvious: deadly faith! The whole build-up with the hypothetical questions leads to this: death. But wait, how is it that if we are saved truly by faith alone, through grace alone, as the apostle Paul says in just about every epistle of his, how come James is so persistent here on tying our physical actions to genuine faith? Is James really denying salvation by faith alone? Our very own church constitution, in the doctrine of salvation, affirms Paul’s view! So ought we just disregard this passage from James? Well, we really can’t do that either since our constitution also affirms that every word in the Bible has equal authority and equal inspiration.
Roger Ellsworth, Opening up James, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2009), 91. Our very own church constitution, in the doctrine of salvation, affirms Paul’s view! So ought we just disregard this passage from James? Well, we really can’t do that either since our constitution also affirms that every word in the Bible has equal authority and equal inspiration.
Let me let you in on a little secret that’s really not so much a secret. The Apostle James does not contradict Paul whatsoever! The answer then is an astounding “NO!” and lies in the purposes and the audiences of the two apostles. The Apostle Paul has the audience of mainly gentiles, who came from a life of serving and sacrificing to worthless idols; whereas, James is speaking to the saved Jews who knew very well by this point that the Mosaic law doesn’t lead to salvation.
Opening Up James A Conclusion (v. 17)

James believed firmly in salvation by faith, but he believed just as firmly that saving faith inevitably shows up in good works. Kent Hughes helpfully explains, ‘Paul’s teaching about faith and works focuses on the time before conversion, and James’s focus is after conversion’ (italics are his).1

We do not have a works faith, but we believe that faith works. We might say that good works cannot produce salvation, but salvation most certainly produces good works. John Calvin says, ‘It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.’2

James is really dealing here, then, with a very common problem, namely, thinking we have true faith without really having it. He is dealing with the matter of being deceived about salvation. Notice again his questions in verse 14: ‘What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?’

The emphasis is on a person saying that he or she has faith. But the absence of works from that person’s life proves that this faith is a matter of words only.

James is making the same point that the apostle John made: ‘My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:18). He would also have us remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven’ (Matt. 5:16).

He was not advocating salvation by works. He was not disagreeing with the apostle Paul. James believed firmly in salvation by faith, but he believed just as firmly that saving faith inevitably shows up in good works. Paul also agrees with this in his letter to a young, new Pastor, Titus:
Titus 3:3–8 ESV
3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
Titus 3:3-
Titus 3 ESV
1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. 12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. 15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.
James believed firmly in salvation by faith, but he believed just as firmly that saving faith inevitably shows up in good works. Paul at
So they do agree after all! phew! I wasn’t worried and I hope you were not too.
Scripture, then, seems to line up closer to the “Lordship salvation” (in believing in Jesus, you have to let Him Lord over your life—you show it by obedience)
; ; ; ; ; ;
John 3:36 ESV
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Romans 6:17–18 ESV
17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Galatians 5:18–24 ESV
18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Ephesians 2:1–5 ESV
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
1 John 1:5–7 ESV
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 2:3–4 ESV
3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
Still not convinced scripture tie works to faith?
Romans 1:5 ESV
5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
Hebrews 4:2 ESV
2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.
Romans 16:26 ESV
26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—
2 Corinthians 9:13 ESV
13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,
1 Peter 1:2 ESV
2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
There is even more scripture! … but we wont look at all of them.
In this context, this combination of faith and works is James’ central message, faith and works! They are both necessary!
Kent Hughes explains, ‘Paul’s teaching about faith and works [usually] focuses on the time before conversion, and James’s focus is after conversion’
We do not have a works faith, but we believe that faith works. We might say that good works cannot produce salvation, but salvation most certainly produces good works. John Calvin says, ‘It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.’
The emphasis is on a person saying that he or she has faith. But the absence of works from that person’s life proves that this faith is a matter of words only.
James is making the same point that the apostle John made: ‘My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth’ (). He would also have us remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven’ ().

So What?

James is really dealing here, then, with a very common problem, namely, thinking we have true faith without really having it—this is the deadly faith! is so deadly because you could think that you are in the faith just because you know the right things to say, but in reality you are not any better off spiritually speaking than a parrot. This is what James is really addressing, he is dealing with the matter of being deceived about salvation. Don’t be deceived, it is eternally deadly.
The emphasis is on a person saying that he or she has faith. But the absence of works from that person’s life proves that this faith is a matter of words only.
James is making the same point that the apostle John made in :
1 John 3:18 ESV
18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
He might have also remembered the words of his half-brother Jesus in :
Matthew 5:16 ESV
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
1 John 3:18 ESV
18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
So James is not only an agreement with the Apostle Paul, but also with the Apostle John and even our Lord and savior, Jesus!
Having drawn his conclusion, James proceeds to handle …
The Outline Bible Section Outline Two (James 2)

Head faith by itself is empty faith and attempts to minister to the poor by pious words not accompanied by works.

James helps us see that genuine faith will always combine deep trust in God and consistent action in the world. It is not the one who claims to have faith, but the one who actually has faith who is saved.
; ; ;
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