“What good is it my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?…For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. ”
Many look at these passages as an argument against Paul’s teaching on Justification by Faith but that is not the case at all. Paul states that the ritualistic laws of the Pharisees and the circumcision requirement demanded by the Judean Law had lost its meaning. No longer did it express an obedience to the law of God’s Love and his Blessing on the people but it had become a bondage and a burden on the people. It imprisoned the Jews by resriction and unabtainable regulations that bore no resemblance to Love or Faith in God’s Justice. Instead of being for correction and encouragement to honor God in the fullest, it causes a resentment of God. The “works” that Paul gives reference to are those that make it impossible to please God by strict application and shows no mercy, love or acceptance from God.
James on the other hand complains that faith had been reduced to philosophy and religious theory. Faith had been reduced to meaningless drible. Faith had become an excuse not to observe the will of God and people did not want to walk in the Way of the Truth by Christ’s example. James did not want faith to become a wasted event in one’s life but a catalyst to do as Jesus and as they, the first disciples of Jesus did. While we are no longer bound to the Jewish rituals and rites, we are still to follow the Law of Love that permiates the Old Testament.
While the uselessness of the law has been removed from us, we still must adhear to the character of Charity that Christ has commanded us. You must remember that James was the leader of the Judean Church, a close knit community that shared all things in common. He told the full body of believers, “Pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom,” to minister to the needs of the church, including such meanial tasks as waiting on tables. Stephen was one of these and his testimony led to him being stoned to death. The very word deacon means server or worker and if serving the needs of the community is not a work of Faith then why was it a part of the structure of the early churches throughout the empire? And the rich gave out of their plenty so that none would be in need.
For James to hear that the Jews outside of Judea who had become followers of The Way were now saying that because they have claimed Christ that they did not have to do anything else distrurbed him. For them to beleive that they had no obligation but to sit around and say that they were saved and that that was all that Christ required of them went against all that he knew to be true. These Jewish Christians “Helenized” their belief and turned Christianity into a philosophy rather that a Walk of Faith. Even Paul wrote against believing with lips only. In , Paul writes. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity of the flesh , but through love serve one another.” And in , ” So then as we have the opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Paul thanked the churches for coming to the aid of the Judean Church, for their generosity even when things were bleak for themselves. You can see how James would be on edge when these very same Christians who received aid from the Gentile Christians now felt that they did not have to help each other.
James was there when Jesus told how the people would be divided as sheep and goats, with those who served God on one side and those who did not serve God on the other (), he heard the lesson of the three men given talents and what would happen to the man who did not use his (). James knew the story of the good Samaritan (). James was the one who listened to Paul and Peter and ruled that the Gentile Christians did not have to observe Jewish customs. He was there when Barnabus and the other men of wealth sold property so that the community would not be in need.
James knew Jesus Christ and knew that the message of faith action was vital to loving God. He heard all the lessons , saw all the miracles, and was there when the alms that were given to them were given to the poor. He was there in the Garden when Jesus prayed to the Father and said, “Thy will be done.” James also knew the the Law was not the means of Salvation, but the sacrifice, commandments and example given by Christ were the fulfilment of the Law. But he also knew that the purpose of God’s Love was contained in the Law. “Works” was not the “Law”, but Faith was shown by works of service. When Paul and Barnabus came to the counsel at Jeruselem to meet with James and the others on the question of the Gentiles and the Law, it was James who said, “We should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God.” (read )
Paul fought against the laws of cirumcision. James fought against the lawlessness of complicity. These are two different fights that both deal with living the Christian life. Jesus said if you love me, keep my commandments. He said the whole of the Law was contained in Loving God completely and loving your neighbor as yourself. James was seeing the unproductiveness in the people. He saw them as the unyielding fig trees that Jesus cursed. He knew the words of Jesus that the harvest was great but the workers were few. Not only were there still to few evangelists but there were to few stewarts and deacons within the chruches. He believed Jesus when Christ preached, “So you also when you have done all that you are commanded say, ‘We are unworthy servants, we have only done what was our duty.'” ()
Paul, in asks who can resist God’s will? While blessings come apart from “works”, Paul never says that we are to resist working for the good of men. James is telling us to resist the temptation to have faith without fruit. James does not say that works replace faith or that you are saved, redeemed and santified by works. He is saying that faith without works is the same “faith” of the demons. They believed in Jesus but did not follow Christ. To be wholly and to be holy, your faith is enriched by your desire to follow Christ’s example and to always be aware of God’s will to love and keep one another safe.
Works begin with Faith. James does not say that faith is useless, he says faith not tempered with works is wasted faith. He does not say that works will save you but that if you use faith as an excuse not to do works of service for one another, your faith has no value, it is as the dead fig tree. As God is our “Potter”, he does not make a vessel to remain empty but to be used. As you sing the song “Mold me, Meld me, Use me,” do not say empty words. As God creates in you a new creation, serve God in a mighty way by using the gifts God gave you so that others will find encouragement, strength and Christ’s Love in your actions.
In Paul states. “…What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” Is it love to let a child starve? Is it love to dress yourselves in finery when so many are naked in the cold? Is it love to have a closet full of coats while a homeless man has not even a box to live in nor a single coat? Is it love to leave the widow and the orphan helpless and say I have done all that I have to do because I have Faith. Is it Love to say, “Go in peace and be warm and filled without giving them the things they need.”? ()
It is good to pray for others, to wish them well but unless we take action to see to the needs of others personally, our faith has no roots and is quickly devored by the ravens of complicity and the wild creatures of Satan. To share the Word by our action there can be no fault. If we Love God by our faithfulness and honor Him with our action, no man can find fault in our Love or our God. In this Paul, John, Peter and James are in agreement. Show me your faithfulness to Christ by loving, sharing and entering into meaningful worship with others with Christ like and Spirit led works.
In . Paul tells us to use our hands for honest work, let everything be good and helpful. begins with. “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.” This is why James says, ” What good does it do to say you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions?” (), and, “We are made right with God by what we do not by faith alone.” ()
The key is: NOT by Faith ALONE, but we as believers are to complete our faith as one who goes to college to educate themselves for a future or goes to a trade school to learn a skill. What good is it to do these things and not use the talents you have learned? We are all in the business of Christ, We are to use the skills He has taught us, we are to continue in His path and work the fields that are ready for the harvest. We are to serve all as He served us. We are to build up and not tear down, to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and care for the widows and orphans just as the disciples did when they walked with Jesus and as they did for the early members in Jeruselem and Mesopotamia, Macedonia and Rome. We are to become tradesmen for Christ in all that we do and everyway we can. contains these words to live by; “You must love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength. …. Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so all will go well with you.” This has not changed over the centuries. Do what is right and do it often. Stay away from the concept that you can do nothing. Grow in your Faith by faithfulness to the working of the Spirit of God and how willingness to serve man as Christ served us. While I may do works outside of Faith, I can not do Godly Work without faith. Faith leads me to work for the Lord. By the Spirit of God, my works show my faith.
Against these thing no man can fault my God.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
James 2:26 (Listen)
26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (ESV)
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (ESV)
10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (ESV)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ (ESV)
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (ESV)
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (ESV)
15:1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. 5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
16 “‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
and I will restore it,
17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’
19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, 23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. 33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (ESV)
10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (ESV)
9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”
27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”
30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (ESV)
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (ESV)
16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (ESV)
28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (ESV)
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (ESV)
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (ESV)
24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (ESV)
5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Deuteronomy 6:18 (Listen
5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Deuteronomy 6:18 (Listen)
18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers (ESV)