“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?”
As a Christian, the goal for this life is to be as Christ-like as one could possibly be. However, not many Christians understand what this means exactly, or even how to accomplish so great a task. Yet the answers are found in the Bible that most people own. James wanted to make a point. All Christians are saved by faith, but our actions (or works) reveal that faith to others. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” (James 2:14). We have already learned that salvation is by faith. We also understand that no one can do anything to earn salvation – for it came by the sacrifice of Jesus. “8. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9. Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Then what is James trying to teach Christians? “17. Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:17-18). Even something one would think to be minor is important to consider.
James was teaching Christians that faith and works go hand in hand. Because faith is an issue of the heart (for one believes in the heart, then confesses with the mouth, see Romans 10:9-10), physical works are a necessity to show the world what has taken place in the heart. “19. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19-20). James wrote, “that faith without works is dead.” This is an indication of one who has only confessed with the mouth that they believed, but never truly believed in the heart – much like the devils. There is no evidence of this faith in that life. Understand that unless it is a “saving faith”, it is counterfeit. This kind of faith lulls people into a false security of eternal life.
How does one reveal faith in their life? “1. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). That faith is lived out in a Christian’s life. Remember that when one trusts in Jesus, there is a change in that life. To trust Christ means that you yield your life to Him, and you then follow Him and His Word (the teachings of the Bible). A Christian becomes Christ-like. “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). When a Christian lives for Jesus by the principles of that faith, we will please Him. More than that, we will increase in our knowledge of God.
James did not just teach that with faith comes works, he cited examples from the Old Testament that all would remember. See the example of Abraham. “21. Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22. Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23. And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:21-24). Recognize that James 2:23 was quoted from Genesis 15:6: “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” This was recorded twenty years before God called Abraham to offer Isaac. Yet by Abraham’s act of offering his son, Isaac, it revealed the faith he had had in his heart for all of those years. Abraham’s faith was “justified by works,” revealing his heart to all of the world.
Read another example: Rahab. “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” (James 2:25). Remember that Rahab was the woman who lived within the walls of Jericho when the children of Israel sent the two spies into the city. Because she believed in God, she hid the two men, and then helped them escape, saving their lives. Because of her act of faith, she and her family were spared when the entire city of Jericho was destroyed. Her faith in God was revealed by her actions of saving the men of God. All could see her faith lived out in her life.
Read James’ summary: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). A Christian must live a Christ-like life to reveal that one’s faith in Christ.
Can anyone see Christ in you?