James 2:14-24

14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

 

 

Tonight we are going to look at the idea of faith.  You know we are in an election season right now, and you heard Linda praying about that a minute ago, and you hear this term now and then when it comes to the Republicans and the Democrats.  You hear about Rinos or Dinos. Republican in name only, or Democrat in name only. Have you ever heard of those? That is a little reference they make.  There’s someone who is a Democrat, but they might as well be a Republican.  They even call themselves a Democrat but everything they do is very conservative and Republican-like.  They are Dino – a Democrat in name only or a RINO, Republican in name only.  It seems like when it comes to the community of faith, that there are those who are Faith in name only.  They have faith in name only, or you may say faith in word only. They say they have faith.  But, it is not a real faith. It is not a saving faith. It is not a genuine faith. In is a phony kind of faith. That is what James is addressing tonight.  We are going to look at what he says is a lost faith, a profitless faith, a dead faith, a demonic faith.  He is going to say that faith can be useless.  It can justify.  It can be observed.  It can be a complete waste. Or, it can work. So let us see what he says about that and see how it applies to our life as we look at it.

Verse 14, James, Chapter 2, the Bible says: “What use is it, my brethren if a man says he has faith but has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or a sister is without clothing or in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so, faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But, someone may well say: ‘You have faith, and I have works.  Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe God is one. You do well. Demons also believe, and they shudder. Are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?  Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works when he offered up Isaac, his son, on the altar?  You see that faith was working with his works and as a result of the works, faith was perfected. And the scripture was fulfilled which says: ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ and he was called the friend of God.”  You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not Rahab, the harlot, also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so is faith without works dead.”

The first thing you see in Verse 14, is that James identifies a faith that is absolutely unable to save anyone. You see what he says there?  “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has no works? Can that faith save him?”  This is the faith of someone who is lost – a lost person.  People will claim to have faith. “I believe!” They will say. “I am a follower of Jesus!” They will say.  They will say it for many reasons.  Politicians will say it.  Those of you who were living back in the 1970’s, do you remember Richard Nixon claimed to be a Christian and then he got caught on the Nixon tapes, the Watergate tapes, using that very, filthy mouth of his.  And you remember in James, Chapter 1; it says “If anyone thinks himself to be religious and doesn’t bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”  He had a worthless faith. He claimed to follow Jesus, but when it was seen what was going on behind the scenes, it was proved that his faith was not a saving faith, or at least it certainly didn’t seem that way.  Sometimes coaches will do that.  They will go out recruiting, and if they know that a player is a believer or a Christian, they will try to use the Christian card and talk a real good Christian talk.  But, you get them on the football field, and they will cuss just as badly as everyone else too, for the same reason. They will claim to be something that they are not.  Teenagers will do it.  They will follow other teenagers; sometimes they will want to walk down the aisle so that everyone else will start coming, but they are only doing it to be seen.  Or, sometimes even senior adults will do it.  They will start coming to church as they near the end of their life, or want to appear to be  Christian.  They want to have a religious sort of atmosphere in their life.  But, it is very possible that it is a faith that does not save.  You say, how in the world can you have a faith that does not save?  Well, it is like this, and I may have used this illustration before; but, let me use it again.  Let us say; there is a man who says this: “I really love my wife!” But, he cheats on her. He beats her.  He never spends time with her.  He gets his paycheck, and he goes out and wastes it on poker machines and lottery tickets, playing cards, and drinking beer.  He doesn’t love his wife. He doesn’t spend time with her. He doesn’t talk to her. He doesn’t show affection to her. It is just words. It is not real.  If you love someone, your actions will show it. It will be more than talk.  Well, that is what James is saying here. Faith, in the same way, is more than talk. You are not going just to say something; you are going to do something about it.  So, faith without works is not a real faith.  It is a dead faith.  It is a faith that does not save. Let me keep going here, because it says more about faith.

Let us read down to Verse 16, “If a brother or a sister has no clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace. Be warmed. Be filled.’  But you do not give them what is necessary for their body. What use is that?”  You see, that is a profitless faith. In other words, there is no profit in it. It does not help anybody. The person who has a need, and you know their need, and they are a brother or sister in Christ, they belong to Jesus, they are hungry, they are cold, but you do not give them anything to eat.  You do not give them a coat for their back.  And you claim to love and follow Jesus.  That is a profitless faith.  There is no profit in it.  It doesn’t help them at all.  It does not profit them that you claim to be a Christian because all you are saying is “Well, just bless you!”  And it does not help you either because you are not doing anything.  “What use is it,” he says!

A true faith is a profitable faith.  It will work.  It will do something.  It will make a difference.  It is something that if you really believe – if you really have faith – the, what you have to say is: That person is my brother or sister in Christ, which means we belong to the same family. Which means, Jesus loves that person. Which means:  I am going to spend eternity with that person in Heaven.  And Jesus would say things like this: He would say when you visit that person, it is as you visited Me.  On Judgement Day, it is going to go well for you that you have done that. When you feed that person, it is going to go well for you on Judgment Day, because you I am going to reward you for that. I will not even forget a cup of cold water that you give someone in My name. If you really believe those sorts of things- if you really believe that God is a God, who sees everything that you do and knows what you do and knows what is in your heart.  And if you believe that you will stand before Him one day, if you really believe there is a Heaven coming, and that we will have the Body of Christ together forever, You would help that person. But a faith that says “Bless You and you go your own way,” that doesn’t help anybody. Does it help them?  Does it help you? No, because it is not a real faith.  It is a profitless faith. And it is a lost faith.

Look what else, James says about faith, in Verse 17: “Even so, faith, if it does not have works, it is dead, being by itself.” He says that faith is alone.  It is dead.  He says it again ins Verse 26 if you look ahead, “Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is a dead faith.” It is an alone faith. There is nothing there. It is like a body without a spirit.

I have a dog in the house that I can talk to and communicate with, and he certainly loves to communicate with me.  He lets me know when he wants to go outside. He lets me know when he wants to eat. He will even let me know when he wants to play. But if he dies, and I leave that dead dog in my living room, and I pick up a tennis ball and say: “Peter, fetch!” He is not going to get it. He is dead. There is no life to that dog.  You can say “Fetch” all day long and throw that tennis ball, but he is not going to get it.  He is dead. It is like a car without a battery. There is nothing there to make it go. A car without gas, there’s nothing there that will make it go. It is like a television without electricity; it is not going to work. Faith without works is a dead faith.

When God speaks to us and says things to us like this: Honor the Lord with first of all, your increase. If you believe, then you will do that. If you are not going to obey, then, you are like the dead dog that I’m throwing the ball to, saying “Fetch!” When Jesus says, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. If you hear that, you will obey it if you have a real faith.  Because a real faith works. A dead faith does not work.  A dead faith hears it, and nothing happens.  Nothing changes. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.  A real faith honors that. You will obey the word of God.  You will hear from Him, and you will do what God says. There is faith that works when it is real.  If it is dead, you will not do it. If it is a dead faith, you will not quit with your sin. You will never repent. You will never change. You will make excuses. You will keep doing it. You will live in it. You will stay there. That is home for you because that is what a dead faith is like.

A real faith is like this.  Have you ever heard of a catalyst?  You take a chemical, and you add it to another chemical, and it is an agent that activates it.  It makes it do something. Think about videos you might have seen on You-Tube where there is a big bottle of Coca-Cola and some kid takes a pack of Mentos and drops them in there, and all of a sudden that thing blows up and looks like a volcano. If you have never seen it, then Google soda and Mentos, and you will see exactly what I am talking about. You can take that little bit of candy and drop it in the soda, and there is something about it that makes it explode. Listen, that Coke is going just to sit there and do nothing. It is a bottle full of a drink, but when you drop that stuff in there, there are some powers released, and stuff gets going.  It works. It does something because you added something to it. When you add faith, to your life – a real faith – it is a catalyst that comes in, and it works. It is putting gas in the car that makes it go.  Faith is the gas that makes you go if it is a real faith.  If it is a dead faith, then it is like the guy who works in the garage.  He has a can of gasoline sitting there, and he takes his cigarette out and throws it in there, but it has been sitting out there for so long, it is just like water.  There is no more power to it. It is a dead thing.  You can throw a live cigarette in there and you don’t have to be scared. Real faith, when it is added in, is going to make something go. It is going to activate. But with  a dead faith, you will never change.  You will never repent. You will never love Jesus.  Your life will never be different. You will never serve. You will never be salt and light. You will never live for the next world.  You will only live for this world. That is a dead faith.

A real faith? Well, it works. James goes on and he says this in Verse 18.  He says that we can actually see faith. He says: “Someone may say you have faith and I have works.” Okay, he says.  Show me your faith.  Let me see it! Show me your faith without your works. He said I will show you my faith by my works. He says if a person is saying: I have faith.  I believe and there is no change in their life. They aren’t doing anything.  He says, I don’t see any faith there.  And the way he describes it, you should be able to see it. Sometimes, when a person becomes a Christian, they will quit their job because their job involves them making money off of sin – a sinful lifestyle, or a sinful habit.  You do not want to live for Jesus and live in that sinful atmosphere too, so you say I will just quit my job. I can see faith there.  I can see faith when a college student raises their hand before an atheist professor and takes a stand for Jesus and the Bible in a classroom, when no other students will take that stand.  That is a real faith.

There is a lot of ways you can see faith. The Bible talks about things like selling land to give money to the poor, giving their possessions away.  The Bible speaks of missionary efforts where people go around the world to take the gospel of Jesus to people who have never heard it before. That is faith.  And, faith is demonstrated every day in little ways; and, sometimes, in pretty big ways, by people who have real faith. Your being here tonight, I hope is an act of real faith. You are here, because you love Jesus. And, you want to be here. You want to sit under the word of God and the preaching of the word of God.  You want to honor God  with your life. You believe it matters that you are here. Because, it matters to Jesus, and you think Jesus smiles upon you and your life, because you are where you think Jesus wants you to be. It brings you joy in your life to know that you are doing what Jesus wants you to do.  That is why you are here.  That is faith.

He says, faith, well you can see it, but, he says something else.  He also said that it is very possible that people may have a faith that is demonic. Demonic? You mean the demons have faith?  Well, yes, absolutely they do.  Look what it says in Verse 19: “You believe that God is one? You do well.  The demons also believe, and they shudder.”  Did you know that there is no such thing as an atheist demon? In fact, every demon is trinitarian. They all believe in the triune God. Demons have excellent theology. In fact, it would not surprise me if they could quote more scriptures than Christians.  The devil was even quoting God and misquoting Him in the Garden of Eden. You can know theology, you can know the Bible, you can know about God and not have a real faith. The Bible says demons have a faith and what is very interesting about what this passage says, is the faith they have, makes them shudder, makes them bristle up.

My dog, every now and then, I will goof around with him.  I will throw him a cookie, a bone or a dog biscuit, and then I will act like I am going to take it.  And he will bristle up.  Now, he has never bitten me, but I have never gone after that thing hard enough to where he might want to.  I think he would choose the dog biscuit over me. Have you ever seen a cat when a cat gets scared?  It bristles up and the fur stands up on their back and they start to shake. It is what he is talking about right here.  He says the demons, they bow up and they start shaking.  Their faith affects them. Their faith leads them to know.  They have not seen it yet, but they are convinced they are dying. Their day is over. They are on their way to hell.

Jesus is alive from the grave. The cross guaranteed their loss. Jesus is victorious. Jesus is going to return. When He comes back, it is going to go really bad for them.  Their faith affects them. They believe and they are scared, but they are not saved.  So you can believe all the right things about Jesus.  You can know that He has died. You can know that He is risen.  You can know that He is coming back.  You can know that there is a Heaven. You can know there is a hell.  The demons believe, but it scares them, because they are not saved. They don’t even have the possibility of becoming saved. They are just eternally damned without any hope.  They are going to be in a place of torment forever. And it scares them.

Let me tell you the difference between a real faith and a demonic faith. A demonic faith, if we have a faith like a demon, it won’t work. It will be just like the demons.  They don’t do what Jesus wants them to do. And if you do not have a real faith, then you will not do want Jesus wants you to do either. You will not join a church.  You will not get baptized.  You will not love Jesus.  You will not live for Jesus. You will not read His word.  You will not pray to Him. You will not witness.  You will not do what He says to do. But, if your faith is real, you will do something.  He says the demons believe and they shudder.  There is a lost faith, there is a profitless faith, there is a dead faith, there is an observable faith, and there is a demonic faith. Let me give you a few more, and we are done.

Look at Verse 20: There is a useless faith. But are you willing to recognize, in Verse 20, you foolish fellow, that faith without works, it is useless?  What does useless mean?  What good is it?  It does not do any good.  It is useless. Then, he goes on and says this: Let me give you an example.  “Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works, when he offered up Isaac, his son, on the altar?”

Real faith will justify you. Do you know what it means to be justified? It means to be vindicated. It means to be confirmed.  It means to be substantiated. It shows that what you have is just and what you have is right.  You prove that your faith is real. The faith of Abraham was justified by his works.  What happened with Abraham?  Abraham was promised by God, “I’m going to give you a son and he is going to come through Sarah, your wife.”  Sarah and Abraham were so far advanced in age that it would take a miracle from God for this to happen.  Lo and behold!  God does miracles. There is a son.  That little boy grows up and God says to Abraham, take your son, your only son, Isaac.  Go up unto the mountain and I will show you an altar on the hills, offer him as a sacrifice to Me.   Now, here is the question, If you really believe that God is Lord and has the right to tell you what to do with everything and anything in your life, what to do with it, how to do with it, if you believe that everything you have belongs to God, including your children, and God gives you a command. If you really believe there is a good God, who loves you, who loves your family, and who knows what is best,  You will do what God says.

Take your son.  Take him up on that hill.  Offer him as a sacrifice. And Abraham got to the point where he pulled the knife out, prepared to plunge it into his chest – because Abraham was going to do what God said.  But, here is the good thing about God.  He doesn’t ask you to do something that He is not willing to do Himself. In fact, God does not say you need to go offer your son.  He says I am going to offer Mine, instead of yours.  You do not have to offer your son. I will provide a substitute.  I will give One instead.  Your son does not have to die. You don’t have to die.  God sent Jesus, so that we may be saved. He is the Lamb of God that goes in our place, who dies for us. But if you believe, you will do what God says.  And the Bible says about Abraham that his faith was justified – he was justified in his faith – because his faith work.  If God said to do it.  He was going to do it.

Verse 22- You see that faith was working with his works. How interesting! Faith works. Is that what it says?  The faith was working. The Bible says that you and I were saved by grace through faith, not by works.  It is the gift of God. Faith is the way that we are saved.  It is what brings about salvation in us. The Bible says without faith it is impossible to please God, but in here, the Bible says we are saved by faith and not by works, a real faith will work. A phony faith will not. So, you see here where it says, faith was working with his works and as a result of his works, faith was perfected. Sometimes that word “perfect” means no flaws at all.  It could mean something like sinless.  But it is not what it means here. It means complete. Have you ever done one of those jigsaw puzzles where you put all the pieces in and all of sudden you get to the end and say, Oh! I can’t find a piece.  And you look around on the floor, and you hope the dog has not chewed it up, and you find that piece and put it in.  The puzzle is finished because you put the last piece in. You completed it. This is what faith does.  It completes.  It perfects.  That is what that word means.  It perfects it. It completes it. An incomplete faith means you have a faith that does not work. But if you have a faith that works, it is complete.

Adam was incomplete without Eve. God made Eve and put them together and it was right. Faith should always be married to works.  And without works, faith is just lost, it is out there, it is a dead faith, it is a lost faith.  It is a demonic faith.  It is a useless faith, as James says here.  It is the missing piece of the puzzle.

And again, it is observable.  Sometimes, you see people doing something.  Sometimes you see them not doing things that they used to do.  But, listen, if you really believe, you will do what is right. And if you do not obey – the reason you do not obey is lack of faith. It is because you do not believe.

Let me give you another illustration, look at Verse 23 again:  “The scripture was fulfilled which says this, Abraham believed God and it was reckoned, or counted to him, as righteousness.”   Abraham was reckoned to be righteous by God.  He was credited with righteouosness by God, because he responded to God in faith. It was a real faith and it worked and he was called  “the friend of God.” So, you can see in Verse 24, that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.  How many people do we have across America?  They have prayed a prayer.  They have said some words. They call themselves believers.  But you do not see it.  Faith is observable. You will look different.  You will act different. A man is justified by his works and not by faith alone.  Verse 25: “In the same way, was not Rahab, the harlot, also justified by works?”  Here is a woman who was a prostitute had a motel, an inn, in the wall of Jericho, and suddenly, Israelites show up in Canaan land.  The people start talking.  Here is a group of people who have been out in the wilderness for 40 years, and I hear that their God is about to whip us and give them our land. Word got around.  Then, two spies show up at her place. “Lady, we are just here for a room.” I know who you are.  You are Jews. I know what you are coming to do.  So what do you do?  Do you turn them over to the police? Here is what she did.  She said I want your God to be my God. Your God is the God of Victory.  Your God is better than any god we have. I have been living apart from that God and I want to know Him. I want to live for Him. “Was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works when she received the messengers, the Bible says, and sent them out by another way? She hid them from the law.  She sent them out by a way where they wouldn’t be found. And they came back with a message that God has given us the land. The first time twleve spies went in and ten of them came back an said that there is no way that we can do it. The next time, these two go in and come back.  They said God is going to do it. Praise God. And the Bible says, she was saved, for when the walls of Jericho fell, she and her family were spared, because she trusted God by faith.

Verse 26: Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.  Have you ever heard the phrase “Walk the talk?” or “Talk is cheap?” or “He is all talk?” Faith without works is faith without worth.  It is useless.  It is not worth anything. Talk it if you want to, but God says you need to show me something.  Then, I will know you are justified.

Let us pray together,  Father, in the name of Jesus, as we look at your word tonight, we thank you for telling us that you do not expect words, you expect actions.  That if it is real, we will be different. I thank you Lord for that passage that says when faith is real, saving faith means that all things are going to pass away.  All things are going to become new and we will be new creatures in Christ Jesus.  Lord, I have had a dead faith.  I know what it means. I have also been touched by the Holy Spirit and I have been changed. I know what it means for faith to come and for it to work.  God, I pray that in our church, we would see it be real in many lives and I pray that lives will be changed.  That there will be a transforming power of the Holy Spirit of God that will make it so that people are radically different and live for Jesus like they have never, ever done before, because something real happened to them. Thank you Jesus, for these words you give us tonight.  Thank you for the cross.  Thank you that we did not have to sacrifice our children.  Thank you Father, that you gave us yours.  It is in His name we pray.  Amen.