Saturday, May 13

Comparing a true saving faith with a false, dead faith that does not save.

From James 2:14-26 We see James explain two different kinds of faith: James asks what good is it if a man claims to have faith but has no works and then asks can such a faith save him? Here there is no doubt that he is talking about “a saving faith” verses one that does not save. He compares a faith that inspires and results in deeds verses a faith that has no deeds. He even compares a fruitless faith with the belief in God that demons have. I am quite certain that demons do not have a saving faith. He then calls them foolish and gives them more evidence of a true faith having deeds that flow from the faith. He closes in verse 26 by repeating that faith without deeds are dead. If a faith is dead, it certainly is not a saving faith and will not produce any spiritual benefit any more than a dead kidney will have any physical benefit for the body.

I would also add that there may be dead works. Deeds that are done willingly and naturally out of a grateful Christian heart due to love for Christ and appreciation for the eternal life that faith alone secures are fruitful works. However, deeds that are done in an attempt to earn merit with God are dead works. Eph. 2:8-10 sums the whole process up and James is just saying the same thing as verse 10 in Ephesians 2.

From Matthew 7:21-27: Jesus in verse 21 finishes up the Sermon on the Mount to his disciples by warning that not everyone will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven who just merely professes faith by saying Lord, Lord, but that only he who does the will of the Father will enter. Doing the will of the Father means not only talking the talk of faith, but also following that up with action and deeds. Therefore, the ones who say Lord, Lord have a false profession and Jesus tells them in verse 23 to ‘depart from me, I never knew you’ and turns them away from heaven. In verses 24-27 he says that he who hears these words and puts them into practice is like one who builds his foundation on the rock (the rock being faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ) is wise. He hears the words and puts them into practice. The phrase, ‘puts them into practice’ would not be needed if the foundation were no more that a claim of faith. He thus acts on his faith by being obedient to the Word of God. He goes on to say in verses 26-27 that everyone who hears these words (Word of God) and does not put them into practice is like a man that built his house on sand…….. These are false professors as they hear the words (i.e. claim faith) but do not put them into practice. They simply claim to have faith, but their heart has not been changed so as to live what they claim.

Jesus is telling us that our faith will not be judged by our words (rhetoric), but by our actions. Just as you would expect that someone who claimed to be a believer in and supporter of the Boy Scouts to either give of their time or money, you would also expect that someone who claims to have faith and love for Jesus Christ would produce some kind of fruit (especially with the added power of the Holy Spirit). Jesus says elsewhere, if you love me, you will obey my commands (though not perfectly of course). Jesus is speaking to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, and there is no wiggle room to claim that these false professors will enter the Kingdom of Heaven as Jesus says point blank that they will not. There is also no doubt that Jesus is also talking about people who claim to be Christians. This passage in Matthew 7:21-27 gives the same message from Jesus that James gives in Chapter 2 of his Epistle.


nathaniel adam king said...

I think the normal assumption is that James is addressing those that attempt to get saved by their works, rather than those that are already professed believers, and yet do not work.

Most think that James is saying that you only need faith to be saved, that belief is all that is required. Therefore, any legalist or nominalist who attempts to say, no you must do this or that to be saved, is wrong.

But your assumption (and I think I may agree) is that James is rather addressing all those that profess to be Christians. He is saying, 'ok, we are all 'believers' here, now prove it.'

He is saying that if you claim to have faith, and yet your faith doesn't show works, then your faith is dead.

I mean he says that quite literally doesn't he?

Jam 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can his faith save him?

He says that if someone says they have faith, yet this faith doesn't produce works, what the heck good is that faith? It is a fruitless faith. It is a pointless faith, it is a non Holy-Spiritual faith.

I don't know why I hadn't considered James before on this entire LORDship debate...I guess I had assumed as well that James was addressing those that were attempting to work for their salvation, rather than rebuking those that promote some easy believism.

Gordon Cloud said...

This is a good post on this topic. I recently preached this in my church as we studied the book of James. Faith is the root, works are the fruit.

Seeker said...

As long as we're making rhymes here... faith is the seed;
fruit of obedience, the deed.

jazzycat said...

Yes, I think you are right. James is comparing a claimed faith with a true faith. He is making the point that action will flow from a true faith. This is sanctification and is not a works salvation.

Gordon and Seeker,
Exactly, I think your points are Biblical.

bluecollar said...

"He is making the point that action will flow from a true faith."

Yes, yes, yes, yes!!!!

Thank you!

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