James 2:26: Faith Without Works
James 2:26 (NKJV) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
- Have you ever been a part of a group of Christians that were critical and judgmental?
- Have you ever felt pressure to prove you are saved?
- Have you ever been accused of not being saved?
If you are like me you have been accused and most likely, have accused. You have been critical and judgmental of others, and in all probability, have been judged by critical people. Giving validation to the words of Jesus in John 7.
John 7:1-2 (NKJV) “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
I am learning that we are to accept people where they are. To love them in their sin and trust the Holy Spirit to bring them along. We are not to let our spiritual growth and convictions to make us look down our noses at others. I find, that we are all at different places in our Christian walks. Therefore we must be as gracious with others as God has been with us.
I remember not to long ago I was a part of a church that made me feel lower than a Ground Hog's belly button! It had at its heart a Calvinistic theology that had been taken to the extreme. Although they taught that salvation was by grace apart from works, they pressured me and others to live up to a standard of holiness that quite frankly brought death instead of life. I can not be to hard on these people for in truth I was just as hard on them as they were on me. God put me in a place where I got a gut full of critical and judgmental people because I was just like them.
I remember coming across that story in Luke 18 of the Pharisee and the Tax collector
Luke 18:9-14 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
At the time I remember feeling like the tax collector. Only, instead of beating my chest and repenting before God, I pointed my finger at those Pharisee who clearly thought themselves better then me. I proudly accused them before God. What a mess!
In truth, I was, and still am, a sinner who needs to point my finger at my self and not at others. Amen? I was 4 years in that works oriented Church before I left. Spiritually, I escaped only with my faith. Doctrinally, I was confused. Ready to give up on Church. Wondering if such a thing as "Sound Doctrine" existed.
However, unknown to me at the time God had deposited within me several precious gems of grace. Out of my suffering, has come lessons on God's Grace that have taught me to be more careful not to judge people. To error on the side of mercy. Do I still judge? Yes. Am I still critical sometimes? Yes. But I see progress!
One of the gems that God has written on my heart is my understanding of Grace. Grace is more than unmerited favor, it is more than mercy, It is God's empowering presence in my life. I have come to understand that He loves me the way that I am, but He loves me to much to leave me this way. He enables me to serve him.
At the same time, God does not force me into service he does not make me prove my love for him or even my devotion. He allows me to choose. He accepts the meager and unimpressive acts I am able to give in my present spiritual condition. He sees my service, good works, my obedience to His Word, as imperfect as they currently are, as my way of saying, I love you.
There are things in our lives that we must deal with on a daily basis. We must acknowledge that they are not God's best for us, that they are sin. We must recognize that they are holding us back and causing death in us spiritually. But, understand that He is in charge of our schooling and our progress is dependent on our willingness to submit to His Word. God knows the combinations of events that will allow us to see our sin and, in time, hate it enough to leave it behind.
Philippians 1:6 (NKJV) Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
Motivation for Works.
My motivation is my love for God and my desire to glorify His Name, His reputation over mine. It is His presence in my life that has enabled me to love him.
I find that a lot of Christian groups seem to get confused as to the role works plays in their faith. This is understandable for service and morality is a large part of our relationship with God. Therefor, the question has to be answered
- Are we saved because we do good works,
- Or do we start doing good works because we are saved?
This may or may not surprise you but the scriptural answer is: None of the above! Salvation has nothing to do with my good works. My works simply show my faith. They are a window. Just as breathing shows I am alive.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Our salvation has everything to do with God's love and grace in our life, our faith in the atonement of Christ Jesus on the cross. I am saved because He loves me and indeed all humanity. He saw each of us wallowing in our sin and had mercy on us. There was nothing I did to earn or gain his favor or my salvation. With this in mind, I ask, is there something that I must do other then continue to believe, to keep my salvation?
Now look at James 2:26
James 2:26 (NKJV) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
In context, James is rebuking folks for seeing people suffering and doing nothing about it. He reminds them of the importance of being doers of the Word and not hearers only. He points out that our faith is of no value to us or anyone else if our works do not accompany it. True fact! absolutely! Our faith is seen by, and in, our works. However, nowhere does he say our faith is made alive or born by our works. We are not saved by our good deeds. Amen?
It is essential to get the horse before the cart. These two scripture are not contradicting each other they are working in harmony. So long as you understand that first comes faith and Good works will follow. Salvation first, and out of our Gratefulness for our salvation is born our desire to do Good works. You will never see true faith with out good works.
Where things gets sinister is when cult groups, Pastors, or fellow Christians add pressure to prove our salvation by performing good deeds. When this happens, our good works become a law that brings death.
There are several groups out there that teach a works based faith but will not admit it. I went to Wikipedia and found the following. At first, this doctrinal statement seemed pretty good. but as you keep reading you see a works based faith emerge.
"Salvation is possible only through Christ’s ransom sacrifice, and that individuals cannot be saved until they repent of their sins and call on the name of Jehovah. Salvation is a free gift from God, But "Faith that does not prompt us to do good works is not genuine and will not result in our salvation. Per James 2:26, "faith without works is dead". Preaching is one of the works necessary for salvation, for them as well as for those to whom they preach. We believe that people can be "saved" by identifying God's organization and serving God as a part of it" *
Any group that require their followers to prove their faith by preaching, teaching, or any other works oriented act of service, has no hope for salvation. All their works are of no value in God's eyes sense they are presented by man's command, absent God's Grace. God will reject any sacrifice that is brought in the flesh designed to impress. Good works performed to prove faith, give birth to pride and self-righteousness. Pride is a sin that leads to death. There is no different between proving salvation and earning salvation. When you require good works it will bring death instead of life.
There should be only one motivation to do good works. This motivation should be between you and God and is something that no one but God should try an measure. It will be found in different quantities in each person depending on the maturity level of the believer. That motivation is, your love for God.
Jesus said it as clear as it can be said in John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. Our good works are our way of expressing our love for God. I am learning to love him more and more every day. I express my love for him in many different ways. One of those ways is to share my faith. I do this because I love my Heavenly Father. Not to prove to my Pastors or leaders or even to God that I am one of His witnesses.
God expressed his love in that he sent his son to die in my place. He saved me, redeemed me while I was lost .While I was a sinner. Before I loved Him. (Romans 5:8) My Good Works and obedience to His Word is simply my way of saying I love you back.
My salvation had nothing to do with my good works before I was saved and it has nothing to do with my good works now, after I am saved. There is nothing more discouraging then having to prove your saved. Some Groups will twist scripture. Like James 2: 26, trapping people with doctrines that sound good until you apply them to your life.
In Closing, I fully acknowledge that works play a vital role in my relationship with my Heavenly Father. For sure they are a window into what I believe and why I believe it. But they can't make up for the sins in my past, they will never redeem me, they won't make God love me any more than he already does, and they will never sustain me spiritually. Only God's Word, God's Grace, and God's Son Jesus Christ Can do those things for me.
Is faith without works dead? Yes it is. Yet faith with works can also be dead. It is all about who you believe in and why you are working.
Your Brother in Christ
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