2018-01-31 / Religion

Faith without works is dead

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

James 2:14-26

Lost humanity has tried to develop its own plan of salvation for the eternal consequences of sin. This attempt began in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:7. The oldest son of Adam and Eve decided to offer a sacrifice of his own making, which was not accepted by Godƒ — Jehovah. Genesis 4:3, 5. His brother brought the proper sacrifice, which was acceptable to our Heavenly Father — the creator of the universe. Genesis 4:4. The downward spiral of the sinful mind has continued to this day.

The Old Testament sacrificial system was given in order for sins to be forgiven. Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35. However, these offerings could not change the heart of sin that had — has — been passed to all mankind. In this system, sin was forgiven, but the sin-nature remained as the dominant factor in each life.

When Jesus Christ of Nazareth — the Son of God — came into the world, he was introduced by John the Baptist. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29b. When our Lord was on the cross, he declared for all mankind, “It is finished.” John 19:30. This declaration provided the means by which the sin of all of the human race can be cleansed.

The proclamation of this message was — and is — the work of all individuals who have accepted the divine provision for salvation — cleansing from sin. The change that takes place in the individual life comes through, simply, believing in the divinely designed plan. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

There are those who consider “believing” as, simply, “mental assent.” The word used in scripture carries with it the meaning of “placing total confidence in” that which has been provided. Our lost race has developed many faithplus means by which some attempt to by-pass the divine plan. They might begin with “faith in Christ,” but attempt to attach man-made qualifiers to their system.

Some teachers attempt to picture the plan of God as some kind of divine equalarm balance. Their picture sees good works on one pan, and bad acts on the other. Their interpretation sees the “good outweighing the bad” as the means by which one may obtain eternal salvation. This is not the scriptural picture. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of (out of) yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8, 9.

It becomes obvious, to any serious student of scripture, that the bornagain believer will perform “good works.” These good works are the result of personal salvation, not the cause.

Some teachers of scripture would insist that the writings of the Apostle Paul, and the apostle James are contradictory. The writings of “James the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19) was not directed to non-believes — sinners. He addressed his letter to “My brethren.” James 1:2. Thus, the teaching is for those who were already believers. the readers of this letter knew that their sins were forgiven. As with the writing of Paul, the discussion of “works” is the “result of salvation” not the “cause.”

James asked some questions to stimulate the thought processes of his readers — “What doth it profit (advantage), my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” James 2:14. He, then, gives examples of the answers given by the believers of the “social gospel.” “If a brother or sister be naked (scantily of poorly clothed), and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful for the body; what doth it profit?” James 2:15, 16. The apostle is not degrading the message of salvation, as it regards spiritual needs. The physical needs are the most-pressing concern at the moment.

The life of any believer is lived on two levels — the spiritual and the physical. These two aspects of life meet in our daily living. James wrote, “Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone (by itself).” James 2:17.

It has been said, “the proof in the pie is in the eating.” Even though this adage is not in scripture, the principle is taught — “Yea, a man (someone) may say (utter), Thou hast faith, and I have works…” James 2:18a. The writer of old challenges, “shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by (out of) my works.” James 2:18b.

The fact of faith and believing are very important in the life of all who are part of the kingdom of God. Again, “mental assent” is not sufficient in spiritual matters — “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” James 2:19. The apostle is pointing readers to a personal evaluation of the quality of their own faith. He, again, points readers to his main idea — “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:20.

James reaches into the background of all Jewish readers of his teaching. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” James 2:21. He, further, asked, “Seest thou how faith wrought with works, and by works was faith made perfect (complete)?” James 2:22. The historical principle needed to be shown — “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed (reckoned; accounted) unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” James 2:23; see 2 Chronicles 20:7.

James used the example of the woman, Rahab — "Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she received the messengers, and sent them out another way?” James 2:25. His original statement is repeated — “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2:26.

Our salvation comes on the basis of faith. We perform good works to show our love for our Lord. If you do not know him as your savior, please accept him, today. John 3:16.

Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Fla. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P. O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478- 299- 2068. Email: temples_ james@ yahoo. c om

Return to top