I begin with a note about the translation. You may find the version I am using unfamiliar, it was written in 1958. If you read the NASB (1971) or the NIV (1978) or the NLT (1996) or The ESV (2001) you owe a debt of gratitude to The JB Phillips. Phillips pioneered modern translations of the Scriptures, setting a high standard of linguistic scholarship, both in the original Greek and in English.
C.S. Lewis was an advocate of modernizing Bible translations to address the dynamics of the English language in the Mid- 20th century. Here is what he said about the JB Phillips New Testament: “It is like looking at a familiar picture after it has been cleaned”.
I am using this translation in the hope that some of you who have extensively read and studied this book will get a ‘clean perspective’ on this wonderful ‘Pastoral Epistle’. I also hope those not very familiar with it may be drawn into the study of this letter and that their life will reflect the Godly principals contained in it. I encourage you to let this book ‘Shepherd’ your lifestyle.
The Book of James is all about PRACTICAL BIBLICAL LIVING. Today our portion of God’s Word is going to clearly define what God considers to be ‘True Faith’. True faith acts. True faith does things. True faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior does things that God’s word commands. True faith is obedient to DO, not just think about, God’s will as revealed by the Scriptures.
James sets the standard for the new testament church. He clearly defines what Christ’s Body will recognize as ‘Faith’. It is what God has previously revealed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. True Faith always Acts!
14 Now what use is it, my brothers and sisters, for a person to say they “have faith” if their actions do not correspond with it? Could that sort of faith save anyone’s soul?
- You and I do what we believe in, what we have ‘faith in’
- We have faith in things we trust. As simple as a chair we sit in or a person
- We know belief or ‘faith’ in something moves us to act
- So what good is a faith or belief that we will not act on?
- When it come to faith for eternal life is an ‘inactive faith’ going to get you there?
- The answer to this rhetorical question is clear: No.
Why not? Why can’t we just believe? Salvation is by God’s grace, we don’t have to ‘earn it’ right? We can’t DO anything to get salvation it is by faith… So faith is HUGH!It is very important that we understand how God defines faith. This info is found in a proper reading of Scripture.
15 If a fellow man or woman has no clothes to wear and nothing to eat, and one of you say,16 “Good luck to you I hope you’ll keep warm and find enough to eat”, and yet give them nothing to meet their physical needs, what on earth is the good of that?
- This person espouses a position or belief yet does not act on it.
- Lip Service / All Talk & No Action / All Show & No Go
- Words are a poor replacement for actions
- This question points to how useless ‘Inactive Faith’ is
17Yet that is exactly what a bare faith without a corresponding life is like—useless and dead.
- ‘Bare Faith’: the literal translation: faith by itself
- It is really a misnomer to call something ‘Faith’ if you don’t act on it
- Why do you think God moves James to address this issue?
- It is the responsibility of Jesus Christ’s Church to make clear what salvation is
18 If we only “have faith” one could easily challenge us by saying, “you say that you have faith and I have merely good actions. Well, all you can do is to show me a faith without corresponding actions, but I can show you that by my actions, I have faith as well.”
- The actions of each person are a result of what they have faith in
- If there is action then there is some sort of faith behind it (a reason we act)
- But a ‘bare faith’ has no actions to join in partnership with it, so it it really faith?
- Not as the Bible teaches…
- What follows are examples from practical life and also from previous Scripture
19 To the one who thinks that faith by itself is enough I feel inclined to say, “So you believe that there is one God? That’s fine. So do all the devils in hell, and they shudder in terror!”
- Faith without action is knowing who God is and yet not acting accordingly
- Faith in God without acting like HE IS GOD puts you in the company of demons
- Demons know what their level of ‘faith’ gets them: Eternal Damnation
20 One is short-sighted if they can’t you see far enough to realize that faith without the right actions is dead and useless.
- Short sighted means you are not seeing everything that is there
- If you don’t see that ‘Saving Faith’ results in action you are missing info
- If you don’t realize ‘faith’ not acted upon is dead, you are wrong
- Please don’t forget, what we are reading is what GOD says
21 Think of Abraham, our ancestor. Was it not his action which really justified him in God’s sight when his faith led him to offer his son Isaac on the altar? 22 Can’t you see that his faith and his actions were, so to speak, partners—that his faith was implemented by his deed?
- One of many Biblical examples of how true faith IN God always acts (Heb. 11)
- It took an enormous amount of faith to act as Abram did
- But the action was the proof of what he believed about God
- Abram believed Yahweh was who HE said HE was, and acted accordingly
- Faith made him act, his actions proved he had ‘Saving Faith’ in God
23 That is what the scripture means when it says: ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God.’ 24 A person is justified before God by what they do as well as by what they believe.
- What validated Abram’s belief was his action
- The faith that made His righteous was proven by his actions
- What matters to God is both what believe and what you do about that belief
25 Rahab who was a prostitute and a foreigner has been quoted as an example of faith, yet surely it was her action that pleased God, when she welcomed Joshua’s reconnaissance party and got them safely back by a different route.
- This example show how reputation, past and position do not matter to God
- Her actions that resulted from faith pleased God, not her thoughts or words
- What she DID resulted in being part of the linage that birthed the Messiah
- A body devoid of a soul is not actually a body…
- Faith without actions is not actually faith…Not as God defines it!
- Without a soul to animate it, a body is just a corpse, devoid of life
- Is your ‘faith’ one that is active and alive or inactive and dead?
- God is telling us that if you do not act on our belief it is NOT faith in HIS eyes
God’s Word defines ‘Faith’ as belief & action working together.
Faith that results in Biblical Salvation has corresponding right actions that accompany it. This is known as ‘Saving Faith’.
A profession of care about something that is not acted on in any way, is widely recognized as not really caring. Actual caring involves doing something.
Examples of faith found in the Scriptures always communicate what God’s people believed AND what they did.
So called ‘faith’ in Christ that is without actions flowing from it, is NOT a faith that receives eternal life.
Application is meant to be our guidance for God-desired change. We have to change in order to align our thoughts, attitudes, values & actions with God’s Word. (no one is ‘Naturally Aligned’ with Scripture). So we don’t just want change, we want THE RIGHT KIND OF CHANGE. What we are shooting for is that our actions would correspond to what the Bible teaches followers of Christ are to do. Scripture gives us what to believe and what to do regarding what we believe!
Is your theology aligned with what this Scripture is teaching? Why or why not?
When you evaluate YOUR ‘faith’ in Christ, do you focus on actions or intentions?
By focusing on actions more, what could you change about how you practice your faith?
Are you clear about what Scripture says we are to DO (Not just think) in response to Jesus Christ’s call on EACH OF OUR lives?