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Thread: James on faith and works

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    James on faith and works

    James 2:14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
    15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
    16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
    17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
    18 But someone will 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.
    19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
    20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
    21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
    22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
    23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God.
    24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
    25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
    26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

    Demons know fully that Jesus has resurrected from the dead and is Lord of all. They do not act on that in a meaningful way rather they do the opposite and oppose that willfully. They believe but it is not a living faith, their faith is dead. The same way, people are some times convicted of the things of the gospel and they believe that it is true but they do not act accordingly, they do not take up the faith. Usually their conviction fades when not acted upon and they go back to doubting or disbelieving. They were never saved because they did not have a living faith.

    In terms of simple faith in Jesus as the risen Lord, the Bible mentions one specific act, a work that accompanies that faith :

    Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
    10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

    People some times follow this as a religious formula, attempting to confess into reality a faith that they do not possess to begin with. People also shipwreck their faith then continue to profess a faith that they no longer have, it has been reduced to a mere mental alignment. Both those things have to be present for faith to become alive.

    In terms of faith for other things, like healing, a different type of act may follow than simple confession. Paul saw a crippled man who had faith for healing and commanded him to stand on his feet. The man's act of attempting to stand on his feet accompanied his faith for healing and made his faith alive and he was healed and able to rise.

    James goes on to discuss faith specifically in the context of justification from verse 21. He mentions Abraham who acted on his faith in God by going ahead with sacrificing Isaac on the altar, believing that God would raise Isaac from the dead again if need be. This does not imply that similar acts are necessary for a Christian to have real, saving faith. Abraham was in a very different covenant than the one we are in but he serves as an example of acting on faith to make it real. Rahab was under no covenant whatsoever but still she believed that God was backing up the Israelites and she acted accordingly which made her general faith in God real.

    Romans 10:9-10 addresses saving faith in Jesus at the fundamental level. In general, acting on faith makes it stronger and failing to act on it makes it weaker. Again, people do all kinds of things that they claim are faith based and which are not. People attempt to serve God according to the flesh and call that acting on faith but it is not, it doesn't make faith any stronger, to the contrary it makes the flesh stronger. Always attempting to serve God in own power may actually weaken faith until it eventually is shipwrecked. Even in the absence of concrete sins committed or lived in, faith may weaken, doubt may creep in, the flesh gets stronger, a love for the world grows and in the end the bubble bursts and doubt is replaced by unbelief and acts that are completely different since the premise for making the flesh work hard to stay saved is now gone and the flesh is more happy about simply doing whatever it feels like, with no restrictions imposed.

    Matthew 11:28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
    29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
    30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

    That is not the household of someone who attempts to serve God according to the flesh. It is however the experience of someone who serves God according to the power of the Spirit, in all things. Not only is his burden light, but his actions serve to strengthen his faith rather than to strengthen his flesh.

    Now, if someone tries to gauge his "religion" by how hard his flesh is at work trying to comply to God's standards, then it will be easy to conclude that his religion is shallow or even alltogether absent. The one who is under the yoke of Jesus Christ rather than under his own yoke is however a parttaker in a different power, a power capable of enabling him to comply to God's standards.

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