Starting in verse 14 James will now shift his focus to the subject of faith, more specifically, the faith necessary to be counted as a Christian.
There are those in the Christian community that feel the need to take God’s mysteries and transfer them into intellectual thoughts. There is a place for this type of approach. Paul, when addressing the Corinthian Church said this… 1Co 9:19-23 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
Paul acknowledged that we are all different so varied approaches can prove beneficial when proclaiming the gospel. With this in mind taking an intellectual approach to scripture is right and helpful when giving the gospel message to those who prefer to conceptualize and debate Christianity at a philosophical level. Unfortunately some want to force fit basic concepts into intellectual discourse. What we are about to cover is the very essence of Christianity yet it can be discussed in very simple terms. James is going to tell us what role faith plays in the Christian life.
Faith & Works – v.14-18
Clearly, after reading verse 14, James had a belly full of hearing people talk about having faith but their actions prove otherwise. He gives us an example in verses 15-16 of someone in need of basic necessity being visited by a Christian who says fancy words but doesn’t help them. James says what good is that? Now James lowers the boom, verse 17, by saying faith without works is dead being alone. If our faith is not producing any results then we really don’t have faith.
For those who say they only believe in what their eyes see or their hands can touch have you ever put your faith in a rope? Yes the rope is a tangible thing but is the faith in the rope or is it in the strength of the rope?
Faith & Works – Part II
At this point we need to read another couple of verses from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Eph 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. On the surface this sounds like a contradiction: once again we must understand why the writer said what he said and the context for these passages. I brought these two verses in right here because they are often looked at together with some saying, well, which is it? Is it faith and works or is it just faith?
The quick answer is Apostle Paul was talking about the act of being saved whereas James, in our text, is referring to people who said they are saved. Paul and James are talking about two different things and these verses should not be compared together. Paul is right, we can never earn salvation; it is the gift of God and there is no way we can do anything to earn it. James is also right, when a person says they are a Christian their life should clearly show the signs of the change God made on the inside. James is revisiting the topic he mentioned in 1:26 and very plainly states that a Christian will act different.
I told you at the beginning of this post that James shifted away from playing favorites, v.1-13, and now starts talking about faith. This is true but there is one theme throughout everything we have covered thus far… Christianity is not just a bunch of rules and rituals like going to church, singing hymns, praying prayers, reading the bible and putting money in the offering plate. It is much more than that; Christianity is realizing that God made us to have fellowship with Him. We can have a relationship with our Creator. The bible tells us who God is; it helps us to understand Him so our relationship can be beautiful and rewarding. When we have a relationship with God we have a purpose, our life has meaning. In this relationship we go to church to be close to God and we do this with others who also want the same thing. We sing songs of praise because God loves us and sent Jesus to save us from our sin. We pray because we want to talk to God. We read our bible to get to know God better. And yes, we even give offerings to help spread the gospel locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. This is a far cry from rules, regulations and rituals. If we truly love God it will show, that is what James is talking about.