My fear is that our passage today has the possibility of putting you to sleep. We have a very serious theological topic to cover this morning. So, my hope and prayer is that between the uncomfortable chairs, some visual illustrations and possibly an elbow to the ribs by your spouse you will be able to stay awake. – James 2:14-26

So far in this series on James, we have been examining what Living Faith looks like, LF perseveres through trials, LF perseveres through temptations, LF listens and acts, and LF avoids worthless religion. Today we are going to see that Living Faith Works…

Read James 2:14-26

Introduction: fake apple
We are going to look at two different types of faith:
1. A True, genuine, justifying, living faith
2. A fake faith

But before we get there I have to confess that,
This is somewhat of a controversial passage because, as you will see, James says that we are justified by our works. This phrase ”justified by our works” seems totally contrary to what we have taught here at Spring Run so far, and totally contrary to Paul’s writings in Romans, where he says that we are justified by faith alone, not by works.

Now, before we go any farther, I want to make sure we understand this odd word, justification. We do not normally use this word in our everyday vocabulary, so let me explain what it is and why we need it.

Dictionary.com’s definition of justification:
a. the act of justifying
b. the process of being justified or the condition of having been justified
Thanks Dictionary.com that was not helpful…at all!

Let me take a whack at it…

What is Justification:
Justification is the act of taking something that was broken and making it right. For instance,

If you act wrongly towards someone you may try to justify your actions to make it right. This is something that happened to me last week: ”you rear ended me, yeah but that’s because I was looking down at my phone.”

A carpenter will take something that is crooked and make it straight.

You can also ”justify” the lines in a document on your computer. One looks out of line or broken but the other is ”justified” and puts the lines back in order. [POWERPOINT SLIDE 1 and 2]

Why do we need justification and Why do I need to be justified before God?
1. We were originally made perfect in God’s image and meant to live in a perfect relationship with Him.
2. However, we rebelled and sinned against a holy God, thus ”breaking” our relationship with God. For a Holy God cannot be in union with a sinful being.
3. Therefore, our broken relationship with God needs to be made right again, we need to be justified with God.

How can I become justified before God? This is the main question we are going to try to answer this morning.
Is it through my works? Do I work my way back to God and into His good graces and justify myself?
Or is it by my faith, in which I believe and rest on Christ alone and his works to justify me before God and put our relationship back right again. And if this is true then Why in the world would James say that we are justified by our works not by faith alone????

Let’s take a look at these two types of faith:
1. faith with works and
2. faith without works.
Let’s call faith without works FAKE FAITH, and faith with works that justifies us before God LIVING FAITH.

What does FAKE FAITH look like?
It looks dead. Verses 14-16 James says faith that does nothing to help others (i.e. loving your neighbor) is not alive it is dead. He says, ”What good is that?” James says that faith needs to act and when it doesn’t act then it just proves itself to be dead.

It looks like a demon’s faith. James uses the argument that some people may say that they can have faith without works, that works is for someone else. But James’ response cuts to the heart, verse 19 ”You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder!”
Even demons can be orthodox at the intellectual level. Demons can believe that Jesus is the Son of God and maybe even believe that His death on the cross brings forgiveness of sins but they don’t put their faith in Jesus, making Him the Lord of their life.

It looks useless. Faith without works is useless, it is idle, ineffective, vain, empty. It has no value for what it is intended for.

Now we know what FAKE FAITH looks like what does LIVING FAITH look like?

What does LIVING FAITH look like?
It looks like Abraham’s faith. Abraham is the poster child for ”justification by faith” yet he is known for his work of being obedient to God’s command to sacrifice his son Isaac. Let’s go over verses 21-23 [POWERPOINT SLIDE 3]
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with(together, cooperate) his works, and faith was completed(to fulfill, to make perfect) by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ”Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”-and he was called a friend of God.

Living faith justifies us before God.

Living faith is visible. v.24 Our works are visible expressions of our invisible faith. Example of helping man in motorized scooter get out of his car.

Living faith looks like a redeemed prostitute. James uses Rahab the prostitute as an example. How would you like to be known for ever and always as someone associated with something you did in your past. I would be known as, Fletch the cheater, because I got caught cheating on a quiz in 9th grade, forever and always, Fletch the Cheater. But thanks be to God that His mercy extends to cheaters and prostitutes and anything else you can come up with.

(I wonder if Rahab is in heaven seeing her name not as just something she is ashamed of but rather as a badge of grace, that God chose to save such a person as her, with such a horrible past, and therefore to always be known as Rahab the prostitute is to always make known the unbelievable mercy and love of God.)

Living faith looks like a redeemed prostitute who has turned to God begins to live her life for His glory.

Let’s see these two types of faith with a few illustrations:

v.26 ”For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

I. A body without a spirit is dead. I really wanted to roll in a corpse, which would have been awesome, but I wasn’t sure where to get one.
What is the difference between a dead person and a live person?
– Both are persons but one has the spirit of life and one doesn’t
– One can walk, talk, their heart beats, their brain operates, their lungs breathe, and this is evidence of the spirit of life that is in the body.
– But a dead person shows no signs of life, there is no brain activity, their heart is not beating, they have no vital signs of life. And therefore they can’t do anything, they are pretty much useless.

II. A fruit tree without fruit is useless. If a fruit tree never produces fruit then it is useless, it is not doing what is was created to do. But a fruit tree with fruit, proves itself to be a true, living fruit tree.

III. A glove without a hand is empty. Illustration of the Ove Glove, I love the Ove Glove. But a glove is created to have a hand inside it, only then can it be used for its created purpose.

Wrap up explanation
So we see that the faith in which Paul talks about in Romans, a faith alone which justifies us before God is the same faith that James is talking about here in this passage. It’s just that James is helping us, pastorally see that a true living faith that justifies will also include within it, good works.

Conclusion: opening up an apple. The apple is true, living, justifying faith, the seeds in it are our works.


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About The Author

I love to develop and create resources. It’s just a passion for me. I have an intense desire to help people understand the gospel and its implications in every area of our lives. I’m currently on staff at a vibrant, authentic church in Midlothian, VA, Spring Run Presbyterian (PCA). I became a Christian through Young Life in high school and was on staff with YL for 14 years. I have one gorgeous wife who is gifted and talented way beyond me and 3 unbelievably awesome kids who all have a heart for ministry. I received a Bachelors Degree in History from Virginia Commonwealth University, a Masters of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Covenant Theological Seminary.

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