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June 5, 2016

"FAITH AND WORKS"

TEXT: James 2: 14 - 26
READING:
 Romans 4: 1 - 25

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SUBJ: True faith and the works that are produced by it seen in the simple examples of James and the implications to us with regard to the assurance of faith.

AIM: That our faith may truly be exercised in looking to the Lord and thereby seizing opportunities to serve.

INTR: This passage of scripture has been troubling to many who hold to the doctrines of grace and has been a cause of careful delineations of its content.
1. Such is often the case where misunderstandings and misapplications have challenged the belief systems of men.
2. As had been previously discussed, even men such as Martin Luther questioned the legitimacy of the book of James believing it to counter salvation by grace alone and justification by faith alone.
3. Paul and James are not at odds; it is rather that they view faith from two different perspectives. Paul writes from the standpoint of the believer trusting in God for his salvation alone and James writes from the perspective of the character which faith produces.

THESIS: True faith lays hold on eternal life in the person of Jesus Christ; it rests in the finished work of Christ; it seeks to please God and so engages in imitation of Christ as its pattern and example.

I. A pointed example (vv. 14-17)
1. The simplicity of this example makes it impossible to ignore.
1) It is a source of discomfort to all of us who have ever acted in this manner and
2) It is a challenge to be alert to such situations.
2. The question is asked “can faith save him?” The answer is no on two counts – faith is the gift of God and has no merit in the possessor and true faith has identifiable characteristics.
3. This leads to the question as to what is “dead faith?”
1) The issue is how it relates to the Word of God and the practices therein declared.
2) Consider the parable of the sower and note the outcome of the wayside, stony ground and thorny ground hearers. All began with faith and came to nothing.
3) What of the Good Samaritan and other examples of “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
4) It is a faith without evidence of its existence and
4. It is such a faith that is separate from repentance, and the fruit of the Spirit – it exists isolation!

II. An expose’ of dead faith (vv. 18-19)
1. Verse 18 is often quoted and justifiably so in that it puts things in perspective for all.
1) Such would not be the answer of one boasting of works as the manner of some is.
2) Consider the words of Christ: 28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. John 6:28-29.
3) The connection of works to faith in: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10.
4) Where such faith exists, these things are way of life without thought and are not enumerated and claimed for merit.
2. An often heard claim is that “I believe in God” or “I believe there is a God” or even “I believe the Bible is the word of God.”
1) All of those things can be said of the demons and the devil himself – they knew who Jesus was and they were bent on destroying His works.
2) A significant difference is seen in that the devils tremble at what they know while a dead faith is unaffected.

III. Justification by works indeed (vv. 19-26)
1. Justification by works versus justification by grace
1) Romans 4 leaves no doubt that salvation is not by works in any way shape manner or form.
2) Of course, the works described there are law works which are taught as the means of salvation thereby discrediting the sufficiency of Christ and His work on the cross.
2. The actions of Abraham justified his faith in God:
1) His obedience was a work of faith in God without question
2) He did not merely express a belief in the ability of God to raise Isaac – he acted upon it
3) And his faith was not only expressed toward God it was confirmed to him and us who read of it today.
3. So also was the faith of Rahab the harlot who was counted in the Christ line!
4. Is it possible that we might have “dead faith?” True faith is the gift of God and is not dead, but by virtue of these words we must be diligent that our old nature not produce in us a dead imitation of it!