We began last week to look at James 2:14-26, this can be a difficult and confusing passage. The misunderstanding of this passage has caused one of the most tragic interpretive blunders in the church. It is the misunderstanding of this passage that causes believers to judge the eternal salvation of others on the basis of how they live— their works. Many have the view, "If they don't live right, it's because they are not saved." It is my opinion that this is a very destructive belief that creates a doctrine of salvation by works which goes against the biblical teaching that salvation is by grace alone.
The key to understanding James is to understand how he uses the Greek word sozo, translated "save." James does not use "save" to speak of eternal redemption, he uses it to mean "physical deliverance from temporal judgment." James is telling his readers how to save their lives from the damage that sin brings.
James 1:21 (NKJV) Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
James 2:14 (NKJV) What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
James 5:19-20 (NKJV) Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
These verses all deal with how to save your life from the temporal judgment of God on sin. In verse 14, James is asking, "What will be the physical, temporal benefit to a Christian who doesn't act on what he believes?" Our faith will not save us from the temporal judgment of God on our sinful actions. God judges sin:
James 2:12-13 (NKJV) So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
We talked last time about "the article of previous reference" which some use to try to add the words "such" or "that" to faith in verse 14. The addition of "such" or "that" to faith are totally unjustified and done only to try to make James fit their theology. This addition to "faith" has caused the church to adapt the idea that there are different kinds of faith. It has made faith mystical and undefinable and has added support to the anti-logical movement.
Soren Kierkgaard, a the Dutch theologian of the mid nineteenth century, started this subjective movement that most of the church has been swept away by. Kiekgaard said, "It really makes no difference WHAT you believe, the HOW is all that matters. If you are really passionate, if you really have a zeal, that is all that is important. What you believe really doesn't make any difference." We see this everywhere in the church today — mindless passion! Kierkgaard used the illustration of an orthodox Lutheran and a Hindu. The Orthodox Lutheran prayed to God but he had no passion. He just prayed according to knowledge. Keirkgaard says this is useless to God. But if you take a Hindu praying before an idol, if he prayed with passion, he would, in fact, be praying to the true God - even though he had no knowledge of God. Kierkgaard's buzz phrase was, "Infinite Passion." He said that we encounter God by zeal. His teaching has infected the modern church.
I want to give you a deep theological thought that you need to grasp; When it comes to faith there are not different "hows", there are only different "whats." It is WHAT you believe that matters. You cannot believe in the wrong way. Faith is understanding and assent to a proposition. You can't believe in the wrong way, you can only believe in the wrong thing.
Others try to confuse the issue by saying that faith includes surrender or commitment. George Manford Gutzke wrote, "When we say we believe, we must always include that believing is yielding ourselves to the will of God." I think he is adding an element to faith that is not there. Faith is an act, when you believe you are given eternal life. But yielding is a process. As we grow in the Christian life, we continue to yield to the will of God. This is practical growth. If faith includes yielding to the will of God, my question is, "How much do I have to yield to be saved?" Would any of you say that you are totally yielded to God? So, how un-yielded can you be and still be saved? Do you see the confusion that comes when you try to make saving faith anything but understanding and assent to the propositions of the gospel?
One of the major causes of confusion in understanding faith as simply believing comes from a failure to see a the biblical distinction between a believer and a disciple. Compare these two verses:
John 5:24 (NKJV) "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
This teaches quite clearly that everlasting life comes to all who believe in Christ. Now compare that with:
Luke 14:33 (NKJV) "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
Is forsaking all a condition of eternal life? Eternal life is a free gift, but discipleship is costly— forsake all. Discipleship involves commitment and sacrifice. So, being a disciple must be different than being a Christian. You become a Christian by believing the truth. It is belief of the truth, nothing more and nothing less, that separates the saved from the damned.
Now, someone is bound to ask, "If we receive eternal life simply by believing, why should we bother to live a holy life?" By this question would they mean to be saying that living a holy life "earns" their way into heaven? Believers live a holy life out of love and gratitude for all God has done for them.
I think that most Christians tend to base their personal relationship with God on their performance, instead of on His grace. Most Christians are legalistic in their walk with God.
Do you understand that nothing you ever do will cause Him to love you any more or any less? You are loved and accepted through the merit of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ rendered perfect obedience to God and you have received His righteousness by grace through faith.
Why do you do what you do? Do you do it out of a love for God? The person living by grace, lives holy out of a loving response to the abundant grace of God already manifested in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NKJV) For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
It is the love of Christ that compels us to no longer live for our selves, but for Him. The word "compels" here is the Greek word sunecho, which means: "to hold together, i.e. to compress, constrain, hold, keep in."
So, gratitude should be our primary motive, but secondarily, we should live holy because not to brings God's temporal judgment. James is stressing the importance of works, which we have defined as love in the life of a believer. Without works, walking in love, our faith will die:
James 2:26 (NKJV) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Last week we looked at verses 14-17 - so, today we'll resume our study at verses 18. Here James introduces the words of an imaginary objector to his ideas:
James 2:18-19 (NKJV) But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble!
Both of these verses belong to the objector. The response of James only begins in verse 20. The literary format James uses here was familiar in ancient times from the Greek diatribe. The diatribe was a learned and argumentative form of communication. The two phrases "But someone will say" (verse 18), and "But do you want to know, O foolish man" (verse 20) clearly show that the diatribe format is being employed. These two phrases bracket the words of the objector in verses 18 -19.
In a large majority of the Greek manuscripts of this epistle, we read "by" in verse 18 in the place of the word "without." The literally Greek would read like this:
"You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith from your works, and I will show you from my works, my faith. You believe that there is one God; you do well. The demons also believe; and tremble" (Jam. 2:18, 19).
The objector is in effect saying, "Faith and works are two distinct entities." "It is absurd to see a close connection between faith and works. For the sake of argument, let's say you have faith, and I have works. Let's start there. You can no more start with what you believe and show it to me in your works, than I can start with my works and demonstrate what it is that I believe."
The impossibility of showing one's faith from one's works is now demonstrated (so the objector thinks) by this illustration: "Men and demons both believe the same truth (that there is one God), but their faith does not produce the same response. Although this article of faith may move a man to 'do well,' it never moves the demons to 'do well.' All they can do is tremble. Faith and works, therefore, have no built-in connection at all. The same creed may produce entirely different kinds of conduct. Faith cannot be made visible in works!"
Gordon Clark's question is appropriate: "The text says the devils believed in monotheism. Why cannot the difference between the devils and Christians be the different propositions believed, rather than a psychological element in belief?" In other words, the text does not say that the demons believe in Christ as Savior, or even that they believe in Christ as Savior and Lord. Those who use the illustration of the demons' faith to prove the existence of a false intellectual faith that does not redeem, are "comparing apples with oranges."
Even if demons believed the truth of the gospel they cannot be redeemed. Christ did not die for demons but for man. Demons cannot be redeemed and that is why they "tremble." Judgment was certain for them.
Are faith and works in the Christian daily experience dynamically related? Does faith really die without the sustaining energy of works? "Such thoughts," the objector is saying, "are contrary to reality." He maintains that there is no visible, verifiable connection between faith and works. "Faith and works are not really related to each other in the way you say they are, James. So don't criticize the vitality of my faith because I don't do such and such a thing."
Now, in verses 20-26, we have James reply to the objector:
James 2:20 (NKJV) But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
"Foolish man" — what a stupid argument, how foolish you are to make it. Are you willing to know that faith without works is dead? A thing can properly be said to be dead when it fails to respond to its environment. So, dead faith would be faith that does not respond to its environment.
1 John 3:16-18 (NKJV) By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
Dead faith is a faith that does not love. Love is action, love is obedience to God's laws. Dead equals barren or unproductive. The Textus Receptus uses the word "dead" in verse 20, but the modern critics generally accept the reading "barren" as most likely the true meaning. There is a subtle play on words here in the Greek, ergon - arge, which is: "works - workless." If you don't work, your faith is barren.
2 Peter 1:5-8 (NKJV) But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The word "barren" that Peter uses here is often used of things from which no profit is derived. Faith without works is "barren." Jesus teaches this very idea in:
John 15:1-8 (NKJV) "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
Jesus is talking to the eleven disciples here, Judas has already gone. The subject is fruit bearing, which is walking in love. Jesus says in verse 3, "You are clean" which is speaking of their redemption. Then in verse 4, he tells those who are redeemed to "abide in Him." To abide is to follow or remain in Him, it is to be a disciple.
5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
Here we see that the Christian who abides in Christ will produce much fruit— walk in love. Failure to abide results in chastening, judgment in time. Those Christians who bear fruit are His disciples.
Matthew 13:22 (NKJV) "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
Here we see a believer whose faith dies and they "become unfruitful." Luke gives us insight into the fact that this person was, in fact, a believer:
Luke 8:13 (NKJV) "But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who BELIEVE FOR A WHILE and in time of temptation fall away.
To prove his point, James uses the illustration of Abraham in verses 21-24. If one could not see the dynamic interaction between faith and works in Abraham's famous act of obedience, he could not see it anywhere. Abraham had a living faith because he acted on what he believed.
James 2:21 (NKJV) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
When James says, "our father" he is not using it as a term that speaks of the Jews racial tie to Abraham. In the New Covenant, Abraham is only the father of those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:7-9 (NKJV) Therefore know that ONLY those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed." 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
James says that Abraham was "justified by works." This would have caused paroxysms! Abraham was the father of faith. To be "justified" is to be right with God. Paul taught that Abraham was justified by faith.
Romans 4:1-8 (NKJV) What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS." 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin."
Paul makes it clear in Romans 4 that justification is by faith alone. Paul also says this in:
Galatians 3:6 (NKJV) just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
So, Paul says that justification is by grace through faith and he uses Abraham as his illustration, and he quotes Genesis 15:6. But James is saying justification is by works and he also uses Abraham as his illustration, and he too quotes Genesis 15:6. How do we reconcile this? I think that the key to understanding this is in:
Romans 4:2 (NKJV) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, BUT NOT BEFORE GOD.
Notice the phrase "but not before God," you cannot be justified by works before God, only by faith. When you believe the gospel, the righteousness of God is imputed to you. In Romans 4:3, Paul quotes Genesis 15:6:
Romans 4:3 (NKJV) For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
When you trust in Christ, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to you:
Romans 4:6 (NKJV) just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
Imputed means: "to deposit to your account." It is a gift of God's grace. We were all bankrupt, we stood before God with nothing in our account. God, by a sovereign choice of His will, deposited Christ's righteousness in our account when we believed the gospel.
Genesis 15:6 (NKJV) And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
That is how it has always been, Old and New Testament, we are made right with God by his grace. He dispenses that grace to us and we respond by believing and are saved, works are not involved. Does James believe this? Yes, he does - in James 2:23 he quotes Genesis 15:6.Well, what then does James mean in:
James 2:21 (NKJV) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
Listen carefully! James says here that he was justified when? When he offered Isaac on the alter. That was forty years after the time when he is said to have believed God. if works are necessary for justification, Abraham went forty years believing God without being justified.
This problem is resolved by understanding that there is "another" justification, and it is by works. There is a justification before God, by faith. And there is a justification before man, by works. It should be clear that James and Paul are not using the word "justified" in the same sense. Remember our hermeneutical principle; determine carefully the meaning of words. James uses the word "justified" in the sense of: "vindicate."
W. Wiersby writes, "By faith he was justified before God and his righteousness declared: by works he was justified before men and his righteousness demonstrated."
L. Strauss writes, "There is one's justification before God and one's justification before the world of men."
George M. Gutzke writes, "James uses the word justified with a different emphasis than Paul did. When James writes about justification he is referring to the experience of a person being made acceptable before God in actual practice. It is one thing to be cleared from all guilt because Jesus died for us. It is another thing to have our way of life acceptable in the sight of God." I agree with this statement.
There are two kinds of justification. Abraham was justified by faith before God but he was also justified by works before men. The only way we can demonstrate our faith before men is by love.
John 13:34-35 (NKJV) "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Galatians 5:6 (NKJV) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
Living faith is demonstrated in love.
Abraham was justified by faith in Genesis 15:6, and he was justified by works in Genesis 22 which was forty years later. Let's look at Genesis 22. Before Isaac's birth Abraham had nothing to rely on but a promise:
Genesis 15:5 (NKJV) Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."
What did Abraham have to verify that promise? He had a very old wife that was barren and had never had children. He himself was old. He had nothing to believe in but a promise. And then Sarah became pregnant and Isaac was born. Now he had more that a promise, he had Isaac. After the birth of Isaac, Abraham was in danger of leaning on Isaac. He and Sarah had finally had a son. Abraham had believed God, but could he put his faith into action?
Genesis 22:1 (NKJV) Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."
God tests Abraham's faith, would it act or would it die?
Genesis 22:2 (NKJV) Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."
God made a promise to Abraham that he would have a son forty years earlier. He finally got his son and now he was told to kill him. Would he act on his faith and obey God? As a parent, how would you respond to this? I would need many signs for conformation. But notice Abraham's response:
Genesis 22:3 (NKJV) So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
Abraham's faith in the covenant keeping God was alive and he acted. This is an incredible act of faith. God had made Abraham a very specific promise of blessing to the whole world through Isaac. Abraham might have thought, "I don't know how God is going to keep His promise if I kill Isaac, but that is for Him to work out, my responsibility is to obey."
Genesis 22:5 (NKJV) And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you."
Isaac was the one essential link between the aged couple and the fulfillment of God's promise of a great posterity. Abraham says, "We will come back to you." He had faith that somehow God was going to work this out.
Genesis 2:7-8 (NKJV) And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. 8 The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.
Abraham tells his son that God will provide the sacrifice — this is a prophecy of the atonement of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. You know the rest of the story or you can read it if you don't. Abraham put his son on the alter, raised the knife to kill him, and God stopped him and provided a ram for the sacrifice.
This was an incredible act of faith on Abraham's part. He believed God's promise and he acted on what he believed.
The word "justified" can be used in one of two ways:
1. To declare and treat as righteous.
2. To vindicate, to show or demonstrate as righteousness.Luke 7:35 (NKJV) "But wisdom is justified by all her children." This is teaching that a wise act produces good fruit, it vindicates a persons wisdom.
Paul uses the first and James the second. So, James is using the word "justified" to speak of vindication or a demonstration of his righteousness.
James 2:21 (NKJV) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
Here we see that Abraham was justified WHEN he offered Isaac on the alter. Remember, this was forty years after his justification by faith. Then he goes on to say:
James 2:22 (NKJV) Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
One might conclude from this that the main factor in reaching the goal was works, so this can't be referring to the first use of justification — to declare righteous. Works strengthen his faith and give it vitality. "Made perfect" is: "matured." Our faith is matured by works. As clearly as faith had generated obedient activity, so too, had obedient activity generated a richer faith. When you act on what you believe, your faith will grow.
Abraham had a conviction that God could overcome a metaphorical "deadness" exhibited by his own body:
Romans 4:19 (NKJV) And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb.
Abraham moved to the assurance that, if necessary, God could actually resurrect his son's body from a deadness which would be all too painfully literal.
Hebrews 11:17-19 (NKJV) By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
How much faith does it take to believe in something that's never happened? He knew that the seed wasn't Isaac, but that the seed would be called through Isaac. It is very possible that Abraham was aware that this One who would come would be one raised from the dead. For he saw Isaac as a potential figure, symbol, type of that One who would come.
Could Abraham have believed God and not acted to offer Isaac? Yes. Do you believe that God sovereignly controls all things? Do you believe that Romans 8:28 is true? Yes, but do you always act on what you believe? No!
Point: Like Abraham, we too have been accounted righteous before God by faith. Yet, that original confidence in God can be expanded and developed by a life of active obedience.
James 2:23 (NKJV) And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God.
Who are the friends of God? Jesus tell us:
John 15:14 (NKJV) "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
Friendship is based upon obedience. Because of his living faith Abraham was called the friend of God.
James 2:24 (NKJV) You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
The shift to the second person plural shows that the argument with the imaginary opponent has been dropped and he returns to the point. James never speaks of justification by faith and works; it is either faith or works.
In verse 24, James is saying that justification by faith is not the only kind of justification there is. James does not say that justification by faith cannot exist apart from justification by works. If this was true, it would have been forty years before Abraham was justified.
Next, James moves to the illustration of Rahab.
James 2:25 (NKJV) Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
In this illustration, he returns to his fundamental theme of saving the life from judgment. Abraham and Rahab were as different as they could be; Jew/Gentile, man/woman, good/evil, God fearer/pagan. But Rahab was like Abraham in that she acted on what she believed.
Joshua 2:1-14 (NKJV) Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, "Go, view the land, especially Jericho." So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there. 2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, "Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country." 3 So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country." 4 Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 "And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them." 6 (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.) 7 Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate. 8 Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 9 and said to the men: "I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 "For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 "And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD, HE IS GOD IN HEAVEN ABOVE AND ON EARTH BENEATH. 12 "Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father's house, and give me a true token, 13 "and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death." 14 So the men answered her, "Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the LORD has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you."
By acting on what she believed, "Your God, he is God in Heaven above and on earth beneath" she literally, physically saved her own life. She would have died with the inhabitants of Jericho had she not acted on her faith. By her "love", she saved her own life and the life of her family. Josephus accredits Rahab's safety to her good deed.
James' readers could do the same thing, save their lives, if they were committed doers of the word. So can we. If it was a case of escaping physical death which sin could so greatly hasten, faith alone could not save anyone. But faith that worked could. Do you see the connection between faith and works? There is a vital connection. Life preservation is at the core of this whole passage.
What kind of works vindicate faith? As we said in our last study, love is the work of faith.
Galatians 5:6 (NKJV) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE.
Abraham and Rahab both laid their lives on the line for what they believed. Their love caused them to be willing to sacrifice all for what they believed. Their faith was alive!
James closes his argument with this:
James 2:26 (NKJV) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
"For as" is literally: "just as even so." In this analogy, in both cases, if the second member is missing the result is death. A person's faith, like his body, can die. James' point: works are actually the key to the vitality of faith. His point is not that a vital faith is the key to works. When love separates from faith, that faith becomes lifeless and useless. When our faith dies we loose our fellowship with God and come under temporal judgment.
Abraham's obedience to God was an act of love:
John 14:15 (NKJV) "If you love Me, keep My commandments.
Rahab's risking her life was an act of love:
John 15:13 (NKJV) "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.
Biblical love is defined as obedience to God and sacrificial service to a neighbor. Love is the spirit that keeps faith alive. The Corinthians were believers but they lacked love and were temporally judged because of it.
How would you characterize your faith? Is it living or dead? Are you a doer of the word or only a hearer? A dead faith is in danger of temporal judgment. It is a living faith that preserves the physical life and brings temporal blessings.
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