Brad Libolt speaking on James 2:18-26. Revisiting last weeks message, Brad spoke about the importance of having a faith that produces good works. Clarifying that this work does not save us but our faith in Jesus does and spurs us to do good works. Ending with an understanding that this true faith was at great sacrifice, Jesus becoming enemies with God so that we could be his friend.
Last week we talked about how faith without works is dead. We talked about how our works prove our faith.
I challenged you guys to take stock of where your faith is at, and to evaluate yourself and determine if you really do have true faith. I challenged you and asked if you have been doing the things we have been talking about, or if you have just been leaving them at the door.
We are going to continue talking about this, because James continues to explain what he means. So again, I’m going to ask you to evaluate your faith and see where you’re at. If you made a decision last week that you were going to make some changes and start doing the things we have been talking about, but then didn’t actually do them, you get another chance. And you will get many more chances in the future. So again, let’s take this time seriously and let’s explore what James has to say and really examine our heart.
You guys know that I am married, right? How do you know that I am married? How do I show that? You can tell that I am married because I wear a wedding ring. My wedding ring proves that I am married, but it doesn’t define it. If I take my ring off I am still married, but you might not know it. It’s the same thing with works. If we don’t have works, then someone might doubt that we have faith.
18 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. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
James uses a hypothetical conversation here. Someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” They say they don’t need both, that one or the other will suffice. James’ response to that is that they will show him their faith apart from their works, but he will show him his faith by his works.
How can someone show you faith apart from works? You can’t. If I told all of you that I can bench press 500 pounds, you would ask me to prove it. You don’t just take my word for it and think I can bench 500 pounds; you want to see me do it with your own eyes. You want to put the weight on the bar and count it up and make sure it’s legit. This is similar to what James is saying.
You can’t just say you have faith if there are no works to prove it. Instead, James says he will show his faith by his works. He will prove that he truly does have faith because you can see it in his works.
James continues to drive the point home, saying that yeah, you believe in God and that’s good, but guess who else believes? The demons even believe in God, and they really believe in him because they shudder. They are afraid of him because they know how big and terrified they are. But they don’t have good works. In fact, their works are very evil. So it’s not just about believing in God and in who he is, but our belief should cause us to do works.
20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
James gives an example from history that his audience would have been very familiar with, and it’s a story that we are familiar with too. He sees this as so obvious, that he calls people who think that faith apart from works is ok foolish. He asks another rhetorical question by asking if the foolish people want even more proof that that faith apart from works is dead.
So he tells the story of Abraham. He says wasn’t Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, wasn’t he justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? Was that not how he was justified? Faith was active along with his works, and his faith was proven by his works. It was completed by his works. In verse 23 is says that the scripture was fulfilled that says Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteous. This happened before Abraham offered Isaac on the altar. In Genesis 15 it says Abraham was counted righteous because of his faith, because of his belief. The story of Isaac on the altar is in Genesis 22.
So Abraham was saved because of his faith first, but then he proved that he in fact was saved and had true faith by works. This is why James says a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. No one knows if your faith is true if there are no works, so there must be works that prove your faith is genuine.
25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
James gives another example, he talks about Rahab. Remember the story of Rahab, when Joshua and the Israelites were going into the Promised Land they scouted out Jericho. Rahab hid the spies and helped them escape. She believed in the God of the Israelites, but that faith would have meant nothing if she didn’t have works. She proved her faith by doing good works. James uses the same phrase that we talked about last week, and says that faith apart from works is dead. So if faith apart from works is dead, then faith with works is alive.
We want a living faith, but the only way to know if our faith is living is if we have works. We can know that faith is alive when it manifests itself in fruit, in good works. Now, does God need to see works to know if our faith is true? No, he can look at our heart and know if we have true faith, in fact he is the one who gave us the gift of faith in the first place. But to everyone else, can we know each other’s hearts? Can we evaluate each other’s faith and know if it is true or not? We can’t unless there are works. The only way to evaluate whether or not someone’s faith is true is whether or not we see fruit in their life. We don’t get to judge one another because of that, but remember like my wedding ring, if you guys never see it on my finger you would question if I’m really married, and in the same way if you are never producing fruit or doing good works, others might question your faith.
Now to close I want to draw your attention to a phrase I skipped over. In verse 23 it says that Abraham was called a friend of God. Abraham was called a friend of God because of his true faith that was proven by works. Now where did Abraham get his faith? Was it something he created or mustered up or built on his own? No, it was a gift from God. God gave Abraham and Rahab faith, and he did it so they could be his friends. So you see what’s happening here, God gave them faith which allows them to be his friends, God wants to be their friend. And in the same way, God wants you and I to be his friend.
God desires a relationship with us, and not the relationship of an acquaintance or distant relative, but the relationship of a close friend. And he wants that for everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from.
Abraham was just a normal dude. His family worshipped false gods and idols, and he lived in the wilderness and had sheep. He was just a normal ancient dude who was ignorantly caught up in idolatry.
Then Rahab, who was she? She was a foreigner and she wasn’t a part of the people of God. She was also a prostitute. She was living in immorality, sin, and shame. But none of that matters to God. He wants everyone to be his friend. And that option is there for you and me too.
God wants to be our friend. But we have to understand that for this to be possible, he had to unfriend Jesus. On the cross when Jesus was dying we know that the Father turned his face away and forsook Jesus. He rejected him, denied him, and turned his back on him. For that moment Jesus was no longer a friend of God but an enemy. And he did that, he made that sacrifice so that you and I could be friends of God.
True faith is a gift from God, and we should be thankful for it. God is our friend, and we are his friends. That kind of relationship is so incredible and special, but it didn’t come without sacrifice, and we need to understand that we need to live our lives with true faith, faith that produces fruit and good works.