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Sermon March 14, 2010 – Faith and Works

James 2:14-26

Faith and Works

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced the Theme for 2010, Faith in Action. In that message we talked about Moses, how his parents acted in faith while under the thumb of Pharaoh. Moses then showed his Faith by the way he responded to that was going on in his life before he saw the burning bush.

He choose to be what God created him to be instead of what the world wanted.

He aligned himself with the Hebrew people instead of the Egyptians.

Then Moses choose to do what God wanted him to do.

Moses looked to the reward in Heaven instead of the worldly blessings in front on him.

Then we saw how Moses acting on his faith led others to act in faith.

Basically we saw how Moses put his Faith In Action.

This is exactly what we want to accomplish this year. We want to put our Faith In Action in hopes of reaching out to others who do now know our Lord. We want people to see we have Faith in Jesus and that Faith is not something that they can only hear from the words we say, it is something that can be seen by how we live our lives, by what we do, and by the LOVE we show.

 Now before we get too far into this I want to make sure we all understand the balance between Faith and Works. For years there have been countless discussions, debates, and probably even fights about the apparent conflict between the teachings of Paul and the teachings of James. Paul’s general teachings are that by Faith alone we are saved, which is true. Some have understood James to be telling us we are saved by works, which we know to be wrong. What it really comes down to is they did not fully understand James teachings, which we will get into some of them today. But to start with let’s look at one of Paul’s teachings:

 Romans 3:28:

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”

 Pretty straight forward if you ask me. We are saved by Faith Period.

 Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, the beginning of the Protestant church is considered as a great theologian. We owe him a lot of things, first his marriage led to the allowing of protestant priests to marry. Something I think Stacy, myself, and hopefully are wives are happy about. Martin Luther translated the Bible from Latin to German so that the common person could read it, which is part of what influenced the translation of the Latin Bible into the English, hence the King James Bible. He also wrote Hymns and inspired the tradition of singing in church. Needless to say we owe a lot to Martin Luther. Sadly though it was not all good, he believed in persecuting Jews and the Nazi’s used a lot of his teachings to justify what they did. He also has contributed to a great Christian Controversy.

When Martin Luther reads Paul’s teachings such as Romans 3:28 where it says

“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” he embraced the philosophy of ‘Sola fide’. Basically he believed that Faith Alone was all it took to be saved; he did not believe anything else was needed. To Martin Luther, if you believed regardless of how you lived you life you were saved. In some of the Bible translations done by Martin Luther he makes some disturbing comments on the Epistle of James. Pretty much Martin Luther believed the Epistle of James should not be part of the Bible, he rejected that it was written by the Apostle. He found no value in it.

Martin Luther as much good as he has done for modern day Christianity, has also be a major contributor to the misunderstanding of James’ teachings over the years.  What we will see today as we dig into the Epistle of James today is that, James is not telling us we get to heaven by doing good things. He is telling us that we do good things because of our Faith.

 Now if you would turn to James 2:14-26

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

 18But 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.  19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.  20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

 25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

 Let’s start by looking at Verse 14

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?”

What James is asking in this verse is a profession of faith with no life change enough to save someone? If a person hears the good news and with his mouth accepts Jesus and believes it, but his heart or mind are not truly behind it, is that enough to save them? Simply put the answer to that question is No! So when we say that all you have to do is confess that Jesus is your savior and you are saved are we misleading people? No, I think not. Most sinners prayers include statements like, I submit to you Lord or I want to follow you Jesus, or something along those lines. Basically that is where discipleship comes in to place. The sinners prayer or confessing one’s faith is just the first step. Problem is some people stop there and think that is enough. James is telling us no, it is not. What we need, is faith that produces fruit! It has to change us.

 Verses 15-18 give us a perfect example.

15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” 18But 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.”

 Those are very strong words! Faith without action is Dead! Those words hit Christians all over the world real hard if they are listening. If we turn to Matthew 25 we will find a teaching by Jesus that sounds very similar to the example given to us by James.

Before I read this just to put into perspective a bit, this piece of teaching is from Jesus Olivet Discourse. This is His fifth and final major discourse or major speech in the Bible. Now in Matthew 24:3 we see that Jesus was talking to His disciples, but if we reference Mark 13:3 we see more specifically that Jesus was talking to Peter, James, John, and Andrew privately when he said these words.  

 Matthew 25:31-46

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’  41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’  45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

 Did you catch in verse 44 that those on the left, the cursed ones called Jesus Lord? Those very well could be people who say they believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and confess their faith but never let it lead to action. In other words they paid Jesus lip service, but their Faith was dead. I think Jesus makes it very clear to us that Faith without fruit is worthless, Faith without action leads to eternal punishment. While Faith with Action leads to Eternal Life, It is pretty clear that confessing our faith is just the first step, it needs to lead to life change and actions. As James 2:18 says we should show our faith by what we do.

 Now James 2:19 is pretty simple, I think.

19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”

I read one commentator who believe that James included this verse in attempt to shock his audience. Basically James is telling us that anyone who believes in God is on the right tract but they are no different from the demons and evil spirits. How did the demons respond when Jesus was walking around on Earth and He confronted them? They screamed in fear because they knew who Jesus was and they responded to His commands.  They had more faith than those who paid Jesus lip service.

 Moving on to James 2: 20-24

20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”

These are excellent examples to James audience. James is writing to the 12 tribes of Israel, he is writing to his fellow Hebrews. As Hebrews they have the stories of Abraham and Rahab memorized. From an early age they all were required to learn these scriptures word for word and know what it meant. Here James is not telling Christian Hebrews something new, he was reminding them of something they had forgotten. That faith was required and it lead to action.

 We find that both Paul and James reference these scriptures in their teachings about faith and works. Paul tells us in Romans 4:3

“What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Abraham believed in the promise that God was going to make Abraham the father of a nation when he went to sacrifice Isaac. In this case we find that both Paul and James are correct. Paul states Abraham believed, or he had Faith and he was considered righteous. James states that Abraham put his faith in action by sacrificing his son Isaac. Then we look at the teaching on Rahab.

James says in chapter 2 verse 25

25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?”

 In Hebrews 11:31

31By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient”

Now there is debate on who the author of Hebrews is but many believe it is Paul. What we find here is support of faith and actions. In this verse it tells us that Rahab had faith, and she welcomed the spies. James tells us she was righteous due to her lodging and directions she gave the spies. All of this was done by the Faith she had in God after hearing what He had been doing for the Hebrews. Her Faith led to action.

 Finally we get to James 2:26

26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

I think James sums up his teaching here in chapter two pretty clearly. Not much I can really add to it. Faith without Action is like a body without a spirit, dead.

 So unlike the disagreement that Martin Luther and others have seen between the teachings of Paul and James, we find that the teachings of James and Paul support each other. Paul tells us we are saved by Faith, and James agrees. James just makes sure that we understand that our Faith needs to be true. It cannot be lip service, it cannot be the same as the demons, it needs to be 100% fruit bearing faith. If we have faith but don’t let it change us it leads to eternal suffering. Our faith should be driving us to act.

            What are some of those actions:

            Life Change – We should not be living our lives as we did before we accepted Jesus.

            We need to Love – follow the Great Commandment Love God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind. Followed closely by loving your neighbor as yourself.

            Reach the Lost – Be part of the Great Commission, more specifically find ways to serve others to reach the lost.

           The main point we need to learn from these verses in James is that we need to put our Faith in Action. It will take many different forms, just like each of us are different. We have different passions, desires, skills, and gifts; our actions will be based on those. Your actions will be different than my actions, but each of us have some form of action we are needed to do.

Remember:

1. Life Change

2. Love God

3. Love Each Other

4. Reach the Lost

Thank you for Reading and God Bless!

Pastor Robert

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March 14, 2010 - Posted by | Sermon

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