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The Epistle of James - Godly Values

Part 15 - Faith and Works, Part 2

James 2v18-19

10th August 2018

James has asked us two rhetorical questions:

James 2v14
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?

His answer comes in verse 17:

James 2v17
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

That's clear enough, but James continues, taking the trouble to convince us that it's true. This week, we'll look at his first two proofs that faith without works is dead. The first of these is:

James 2v18
But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

Faith that doesn't result in action is invisible. There is no evidence for it. If all we do is go to meetings, pray the prayers and sing the songs, but we don't repent, we don't serve others, we don't show mercy to our brothers and sisters, then nobody - including ourselves - has any reason to suppose that our faith is genuine.

And James's second proof is:

James 2v19
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.

So far, James has challenged our genuineness as Christian people. He's told us that it's no good claiming to be a Christian if we don't act like a Christian, which is surely true. He now challenges our theology, our doctrine. It's no good believing the right things if that belief doesn't change our character, and so change our conduct.

When we say we believe in God, or in anything, we're being ambiguous. To believe in a person or a thing can be either to believe that person or thing exists, or to trust that person or thing. You're probably sitting in a chair as you read this. You believe in your chair in both senses. You believe that it exists, and you trust it to hold your weight. We all believe Jeremy Corbyn exists, but we don't all trust him. We all believe Teresa May exists, but we don't all trust her. You can know there's a bridge over a river but what matters is, are you willing to trust it, will you cross it?

You call yourself a Christian. You believe there's one God. You're right. And in the Roman Empire in James's time, that put you in a minority. Most people in those days believed there were many gods. But so what? Demons believe there's one God. What good does it do them?

Today you could say that you believe that Jesus is divine. So do the demons! You believe that Jesus died to save us from our sin. So do the demons! And so on. The demons believe in God in the sense that He exists, and in the sense that he has a certain character and he has done certain things. But they don't trust Him.

It's not what we believe to be true that matters. It's who we trust that matters. Intellectual awareness isn't enough. Studying theology isn't enough. Do we trust God? Do we trust him enough to do what he says? God says He loves you and has a perfect plan for your life. Do you trust Him enough to let Him bring it about? God has given us the Bible to teach us how to live. Do we trust Him enough to obey the Bible?

Here's an example. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:5
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Do we believe this? Do we trust it? If we trust it then we will meekly obey God's word, and not question it, and not re-interpret it in terms of modern worldly values. And we will act with meekness towards others, and not seek conflict with anybody.

The demons believe the Gospel is true, but they don't trust it. They know it's true intellectually, but they don't respond in faith to it. On the contrary, they shudder because they know it's true. They know the Bible is the word of God. they know they're defeated, and they still don't repent. It's not knowing the truth, it's responding to the truth that changes a person. How about you?

More on the relationship between faith and works next time.