The Epistle of James - Godly Values
Part 17 - Faith and Works, Part 4
24th August 2018
We've been studying James's teaching on the relationship between faith and works, or "deeds". As he tells us in verse 17, faith without works is dead. We're justified by faith, and we're justified for works of obedience. Last week, we looked at the first example James uses to illustrate this idea, which is the story of Abraham sacrificing his son. Although James has been teaching that faith must result in acts of charity, the example he chooses was not an act of charity, but it was an act of obedience. Abraham's faith was made complete by what he did, and what he did was give to God the most precious thing he had - Isaac - because God told him to.
Dear Christian brother or sister, we were justified when we repented and believed and, as repentant sinners, we're required to obey God, even more than we're required to show mercy to the needy. Of course, these things are closely related but the emphasis is on obedience. The first and greatest command is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12v29-30). The second command is "Love our neighbour as yourself" (Mark 12v31). In that order. God comes first.
Having chosen our father Abraham as an example of justification which is by faith and which leads to deeds of love and obedience, James now chooses one more example. He selects Rahab, a Gentile and a prostitute:
Because Rahab put her faith in God, and because her faith resulted in her doing the right thing, serving God's purposes, she was justified - considered righteous - before God, and included in His redeemed people. She is now, too, a sheep not a goat. She will stand on the Day of Judgement, and God will say to her, "Because you let my servants stay with you that night, I receive you into glory." because her faith resulted in action.
Whatever past we may have had, wherever we come from, whatever sins we've committed, whatever mistakes we've made - and we've all made some - today we can put our faith in God, turn from our sins and try to live as God intends, and we will be saved, our past will be forgiven, we will live for eternity with Christ in heaven.
Our ethnic, social, financial or educational background isn't important. It's faith that results in acts of loving obedience to God that's important.
Summarising all he has said on the subject of faith and works in this simple sentence, James says "Faith without deeds is dead". Without kindness, gentleness, godliness, mercy and generosity, faith is not merely sick. It's dead.
May God grant that not one of us dies imagining that our belief system is enough to save us unless it also results in a godly life.