Saving Faith Works
Read James 1:22; 2:14-17 (ESV)
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves…What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
How would you sum up the teachings of James?
We have reached the end of our series studying the letter of James and learning how to live out our faith in real life. We have learned directly from the brother of Jesus how to have a living and active faith. We often referred to his letter as “Christianity 101.” Christianity is not merely about giving intellectual assent to a set of beliefs. A true saving faith in Jesus Christ results in a changed life! There has to be an acceptance of true doctrine, yes. But there also has to be practical life application. That is the heart of what James taught in his letter to the early Jewish converts to Christianity.
In James 1:22, James commanded them to put the Word of God into practice! He said to be doers of the Word and not just hearers only. This applies to us today as well. Think about it: what good is it if you read your Bible every day only to close it up, put it back on the shelf, and immediately forget what you’ve read? Why dedicate every Sunday morning of your life to going to church to hear the Word of God preached from the pulpit only to drive home and live like the rest of the world the rest of the week? If you aren’t planning to put what you are learning into practice, why spend your time reading these daily Forward devotionals?
James said that if we think hearing the Word of God is enough we are deceiving ourselves. God’s Word was meant to be lived out. Jesus Himself said that His Words were meant to be put into practice: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). If you would be wise, don’t just read God’s Word. Do it.
Throughout his letter, James also emphasized the importance of good works. It’s important to understand and remember though, that James was not suggesting that good works are the basis for our salvation. Good works do not save us! The Bible repeatedly affirms that faith in Jesus Christ is what saves us.
In Romans 10:9 Paul assured us that “...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” In Ephesians 2:8-9 he explained that we can’t earn our own salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
In Acts 16, we read of a prison guard asking Paul and Silas, “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…’” (Acts 16:30-31).
We are saved by God’s grace when we put our faith and trust in Him. But still, James emphasized good works and godly living all throughout his letter. Not because those things save us but because they are evidence of our saving faith. He said that if we put our faith in Jesus but we don’t obey God’s word through our actions, our faith is dead (James 2:17). He went on in James 2:18 to say, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Our works demonstrate to everyone around us that we truly belong to Jesus.
Friends, let’s not be merely hearers of the Word. We want there to be evidence that we have placed our faith in Christ. So I encourage you to take some time today to reflect on what you’ve learned the past few weeks as we studied the book of James. Identify some ways that you can put what you’ve learned into practice. Remember—saving faith works.
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your grace and mercy towards me—a sinner. I know that there is nothing that I could ever do to save myself and restore myself to You. Instead, I place my trust in what You have done for me. Help me to put my faith to work in my life. I want to demonstrate to everyone around me that You have transformed my life and that I belong to You. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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