James 2:14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
I have read James 1:14-26 quite a few times in the last week, continually praying that The Lord would open it up to me more. Last week I was thinking that the word works could be substituted with obedience. Whereas I think that is part of it, this morning I have landed on a clearer definition of the word works as used by James.
First, lets discuss what “works” is NOT. As in every case, “false religions” pervert the Word of God. Religions throughout history have added to God's plan of salvation with their own rituals and requirements to be saved; and in doing this, have placed those that have been deceived under heavy burden and bondage. This IS NOT the character of God! God wants to set you free from the bondage of sin and religion; He wants to lighten your burden:
Matthew 11:29-30 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
John 8:36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
It is Satan who lies, deceives and confuses people about the “works” God desires, and the “works” James is talking about:
John 8:43-45 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.
John 6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."
It is interesting that sandwiched in between James establishing what he is trying to get through to the reader about works, is this verse:
James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
There must be something more to this word believe if on the one hand, Jesus says, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent"; and then James says, “ You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble”. And there is more! James is making the point that mere belief of God does NOT mean a thing as it relates to eternal life. You WILL NOT BE SAVED by simply saying “yes I believe in Jesus”; “or saying, “yes I believe Jesus died for the sins of the world.” True belief in Jesus Christ manifest itself in saving Faith in Jesus Christ and that saving Faith is demonstrated by the believers desire to serve their King. The desire to serve Him out of love and thankfulness, not obligation.
I think it is clear in James 2 that the “works” James is talking about is:
1- Believe and Trust God completely 2- Serve God completely 3-Do God's Will
James gives us 2 examples of “works” that demonstrate saving Faith. The first is Abraham. Abraham was promised a son in the most unlikely and illogical of situations. Through much waiting on God's promise, Abraham did finally have a son (Isaac), but then God told him to sacrifice his son. In reading this account I can't help wonder if Abraham would have been like most of us in saying, “WHAT! You finally give me a son and now you want me to kill him!?!” Whether Abraham was thinking this or not, Abraham obeyed God. Ultimately God stopped Abraham as the knife was raised, but clearly Abraham was fully prepared to Do God's Will and he trusted fully in Him.
James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
The second example James gives is Rahab the prostitute. Joshua 2 gives the account of this story; but in short; she knew that these two certain men were sent to destroy the people of her city. She also knew that there were men in the city that became aware of this and sought out to kill the two men. Rahab protected them because she knew that it was God's Will for these men to do this. She ends up pleading with them that she and her family be spared; however, there would have been no guarantee of this when she protected them. The ultimate point is, Rahab believed in God and had the desire to do His will. Rahab had the desire to “be on God's side” so to speak.
James 2:25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
James tells us over and over, be DOERS, not just HEARERS. But he also raises the bar in saying, if you are not a DOER, your faith is DEAD, your faith is useless. Not because you need to “earn” your way to Heaven; but because your “works” demonstrate the condition of your heart.
James 2:20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
James 2:24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
James says the same thing THREE times in six verses. We see in Scripture where Jesus would repeat something twice in a row for emphasis, yet here He inspires James to repeat this point three times. I'm thinking it must be pretty important. Like Jesus said, you will know them by their fruit.
Matthew 12:33 "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.