“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claimed to have faith but he has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 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? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17).
Yesterday, in answering Dr. Michael Easley’s challenge to prove from the New Testament that the Christian needs to do something to continue in the Christian walk, we looked at the issue of putting off the things of the flesh. Today we will look at putting on good works.
In James 2 we read that faith without works is dead. Many will immediately object and will point again to Ephesians 2:8-9, which says we are saved by grace through faith. This is very true, as is every word in the Word of God. These two passages are not in conflict, but compliment each other. Ephesians 2:10 says that we were created for good works, and James talks about these works we are expect to do. The Christian is not saved by works, but they do have a responsibility to do good works as a result of their salvation. If someone claims to have faith in something, their actions will always demonstrate their faith.
The story is told of a man who tied a rope across Niagara Falls and said he was going to walk across it and back. He asked the gathering crowd, “Who believes I can walk across this rope and back?” The crowd all agreed in their belief that he could do it. He confirmed their belief by doing what he said he could and walked the rope. Then he asked them, “Who believes that I can walk across the Falls and back on this rope with a man on my back?” The crowd cheered and voiced that they believed he could do it. Then he asked for a volunteer to get on his back while he performed the feat. No one stepped up and volunteered – no one was willing to put their belief into action.
Likewise, our actions will also demonstrate what we truly believe. If we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our life will show it. We will live the crucified life of death to the sinful nature, as we studied yesterday. We cannot say that we have faith in Christ and his finished work and then not live this out. The finished work of Christ is what allows us to put to death the sinful nature and take active part in this daily.
Our faith will show itself in many other ways as well. It will be demonstrated in our acts of service and kindness to people. It will also be demonstrated in every way that we are obedient to the Word of God. Further down this passage in James, Abraham is used as that great example of faith in action: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (v. 23). Because Abraham had faith in God, he did what God commanded him, even to the point of the willingness to give up his beloved son Isaac. It was this act, this faith in action, that made Abraham righteous before God. Again, the example of Rahab is used. She was a prostitute, and even she was considered righteous for what she did in sheltering the spies God sent into Canaan before the conquest.
The passage concludes with these words: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (v. 26). The Christian has a responsibility to act, to do something, in accordance with their faith. Again let me stress that I am not implying salvation by works, but the responsibility to act in accordance with faith in order to continue in the Christian life. These words of Scripture are unignorable and inescapable. We must take heed, recognizing God’s authoritative Word, and live in accordance with it.