Faith or Works or Both?
How are we saved?
Some say that it is by doing something - whether it be walking an aisle. Saying a prayer. Raising a hand.
The Bible shares with us that we are saved by grace through faith. That the only work that saves is the finished work of Jesus Christ. We are called to repent of our sins and place our faith in Him.
Think about that word - faith - for a moment. What do you think that faith is?
Some people think that faith is the same as knowledge or facts
Other think that faith is a good feeling
Others think that faith is blind like jumping into the darkness and hoping that there’s something to catch you
Example of faith in my golf partner to make a putt because of our history playing golf together and he had a history of making clutch putts… But in this tournament he didn’t always come through even though I had faith in his ability.
Is this how God is? Do we just hope that He is real or that He might be able to help us out? The Bible is clear that faith isn’t a question, it’s a reality!
Every person has faith in something. An atheist has faith. A muslim has faith. A Christian has faith. Our faith is not in ourselves or a dead person, our faith is in the living God who spoke and gave to us His Word.
Hebrews 11 gives us a good working definition of faith and its implications in our every day lives
1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
Faith is a reality in the life of the Christian because whenever you trust in God’s Word and Promises, it’s not a pipe dream, it’s who He is. Why is faith in God so important?
6 Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Though we may not always see God at work or see the end in sight - we can and must have faith that God is who He says He is, has saved us from our sins through His Son’s sacrifice on the cross, and will continue to provide for us in the days ahead. Faith is crucial in our lives and without it the Bible says that we cannot please God.
Faith is a big deal and there have been many questions centered on a passage in the New Testament that we’re going to study tonight from the book of James. In James 2, James shares with us that faith must lead to works. Tonight we’re going to read this passage together, talk about why it matters, and study how we can be faithful followers of Christ and be people of both faith and action. Let’s begin tonight by reading this text from James 2 as we find this:
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe—and they shudder. 20 Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? 21 Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works in offering Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works in receiving the messengers and sending them out by a different route? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
Why Do We Work?
Why Do We Work?
For those of you who work or used to work, why did you get up in the morning and go to work?
To earn money
To help others
Because you had a job!
For most of us, the reason we go to work is because we have a job in the first place. I can’t just walk into the St. Louis Cardinals training facility and tell them that I’m ready for my work shift… I don’t work there!
It’s the same way in our walk with the Lord. The reason that we get up and get to work isn’t primarily because it’s all about us and our dream, it’s because we have a job to do each day. God has saved you so that you can serve Him. He has saved you and employed you into His Kingdom service. Therefore, each day we get up and have a job to do.
As Christians sometimes we hear people talk about their works as if our works save us. What is the danger of this mindset?
If your works can save you - they can also unsave you
If your works can save you then you don’t need Jesus’ work on the cross
If your works can save you then the Gospel turns into a “do” message rather than a “done” message - there’s always pressure to do more
People can get things out of order in the Christian life and we’re going to talk a little bit about this on Sunday out of Matthew 7. There’s a temptation for us to think that our works are what make us saved. In other words, that our works are the root and salvation is the fruit. The Biblical picture is flipped. Salvation is the root and good works are the fruit. This is the picture pained in John 15 as Jesus talks about the vine and the branches.
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.
Faith in Jesus is our root and the one who remains connected to Christ through faith will produce fruit.
James shares that faith without works is dead in verse 17 and 26. Why do you think he repeats this truth two times?
Why is it so important to remember that our works matter?
Because we’re tempted to treat salvation as fire insurance and think that our works aren’t important
Because we are tempted to coast
Because works demonstrate that we are a new creation
Here in Missouri we live in what’s called the Show-Me state - many people here are a little bet skeptical. They want to see the evidence before they commit to something. As a result, we can relate a little bit with this passage of Scripture. James shares in verses 18-19 that genuine faith carries with it genuine evidence. It can’t just be knowledge or knowing the facts. James shares that even the demons know of God’s existence and we’d all agree that they’re lost. You can know all the right stuff, but until it impacts your life you don’t really “know” how important it is.
What are some “evidences” of being a Christian?
Change of heart
Change of action
Think of 1 way that Jesus has changed your life
Because our root has changed, our fruit also changes. Instead of focusing on self, we focus on Christ. Instead of living for worldly riches, we live for eternal rewards.
What Is Required? Faith and Works!
What Is Required? Faith and Works!
If someone were to come up to you and ask what does it take to be a Christian, what would you tell them?
Likely repent and place your faith in Jesus Christ
In the early church there were thousands of people who responded to the Gospel message with faith and wanted to know what to do. Peter told them this:
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Repent and be baptized. Repent of your sins, and follow Jesus Christ. Repent and join a local church. Repent and live as a new creation. Repent and be a disciple-making-disciple. The calling in the New Testament isn’t just to do a one time action and call it good - the calling is to walk in newness of life each and every day and live for Christ.
James, in the last section of this text, brings up 2 examples of people who had faith and works: Abraham and Rahab.
What stands out to you about these 2 individuals?
Abraham is the Father of the Jewish nation and well known and respected in society
He was called the Friend of God
See Romans 10/Romans 11 as we are justified and grafted into the blessing of Abraham whenever we believe as he did and trust in God
Rahab was not nearly as well known as Abraham, but she too had faith in God
She was at the bottom of society
She is in the lineage of Jesus Christ
Through her inclusion, we see a common theme that even the spiritually poor can serve God and be saved by grace through faith and live that our via works!
James 2 shares with us that our responsibility is to respond to the Gospel with faith and to live out that faith by works of righteousness as we follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives. Consider where you’re at tonight in your spiritual walk.
8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
We are saved by grace, through faith, in Christ as verses 8-9 share with us but what is the purpose? Why are we saved? Look at verse 10. For good works! We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God! How do you and I bring God glory? In the way that we live our lives! Through good works that bring Him glory. By being salt and light. By loving our neighbor as ourself. By praying for our enemy. By going the extra mile. By walking the walk and talking the talk.
Action Steps from James 2
Action Steps from James 2
As we study God’s Word, part of Biblical interpretation is asking ourselves what the main point of the text is. What is the “core truth” is you will of a passage of Scripture. If you were forced to boil down the main point of this text, what would you say that it is?
God wants His people to not only talk about their faith but a life where their faith is demonstrated through public and private works of righteousness
Christ has not only saved you from eternal separation from Him, He has saved you for a purpose: to make Him known to others! We do this by living a transformed life and by proclaiming the Gospel with our words.