The Book of James, Part 22:
Assessing Your Faith
Real Faith Cares (James 2:15-19)


In the last lesson, we introduced this section with a discussion about how many people who claim to be Christians don't show much evidence of it. Jesus told us that he expects us to be different, to be the salt of the earth, to make a difference.

We discussed that:

    1. Real Faith Saves - (2:14)

We studied several verses that taught us that it is our faith that saves us, not our works, but that James stresses that true faith is never alone, it is inevitably accompanied by works of faith; that works are not a condition for salvation, he is saying that good works are the certain, inevitable result of salvation.

We saw from New Testament verses that evidence of true faith is:

A new hunger for the Bible, to study it and to know it. A new sensitivity to sin. A new desire to connect with fellow believers.

James told us that it does not matter what you claim about your faith, what matters is the reality of your faith that saves you. Jesus told us that, too:

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. --Matthew 7:21
We have two more aspects of Real Faith to discuss this morning:

    2. Real Faith Cares - (2:15-19)
    3. Real Faith Obeys - (2:20-26)

Let's start with

    2. Real Faith Cares - (2:15-19)

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. --James 2:15-19

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that -- and shudder.

The first result of real faith was that it saves. Real faith allows us to experience the salvation that God offers through Christ by His grace. The second result of real faith is love. Another word we might use is compassion. Real faith cares about people, especially other believers.

If a brother or sister...

"Brethren, brother and sister" are used 20 times by James in the five chapters of his letter. What do these words imply? Why do you think James uses them over and over again?

Most of the time in his letter, James uses "brethren" or "brother" when referring to believers but here he also says "sister". This is important because it makes it clear that any reference to the "brethren" or "brothers" includes women as well as men. Our responsibility is to be as concerned for a person in need regardless of whether they are a man or woman:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. --Galatians 3:28 without clothing and in need of daily food...

Most scholars believe that "without" here is a figure of speech meaning "in need of". James is speaking of people in need of clothing, in need of daily food. Once again, James' teaching refers back to the teaching of Jesus:

Then the King will say to those on His right, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me." Then the righteous will answer Him, "Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" The King will answer and say to them, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." --Matthew 25:40
The Apostle John also spoke to this issue:
But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. --1 John 3:17-18

...and one of you says to them...

Just talking to a person in need of food or clothing doesn't help them much. They don't need talk, they need our help! A lot of people talk about the needs of the poor - "Isn't that a shame?" or "Why doesn't someone do something?" James tells us that true faith produces true compassion. And the compassion of Jesus always looks for a way to help.

One thought that frequently stops people from helping those in need is the fact that the need is so much greater than our ability to help. We think, "Why should I try to help? What difference would my little contribution make anyway?"

Here are a couple truths that should help us in responding to this cop-out:

...I will show you my faith by my works.

James says, "I will show you my faith by what I do." I will walk the talk.

What is the evidence of your faith? What do you do that shows that Jesus is in you?

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

I believe that James is saying this: It's not enough to have the right beliefs if those beliefs don't change the way you live.

James uses the demons as an example. Demons have a right belief about God. In fact, they "shudder". They take God more seriously than most people do. But does this right belief save them? Of course not.

Real faith is transforming faith. Real faith changes the way we live so that we are becoming more and more like Jesus in everything we do. Real Faith Cares. And:

    3. Real Faith Obeys - (2:20-26)

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "and Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness", and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. --James 2:20-26
Now James illustrates the principle that real faith is shown in what I do by two examples from the Old Testament. And the two people he chooses are probably as different from one another in most ways as any two people you could find.

The first person James uses as an example is:

1. Abraham:

James' first choice is logical one -- Abraham. Abraham is the father of all the Jews; their father by genealogy through Isaac and their father by faith as the one to whom God first gave His promises concerning the Jewish people. There are over 230 references to Abraham in the Bible, with over 70 of these found in the New Testament.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works...?
Is James saying that Abraham's works were what saved him?  No. James is saying that Abraham's works proved that Abraham's faith in God was real. This is even supported by the sequence of passages James uses:

James refers to three different passages about Abraham in the Old Testament:

And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. --Genesis 15:5-6
Abraham's faith, like ours, was based on the promises of God. Abraham believed God's promises to him in Genesis 15:5. It was at this point, before Abraham had done anything, that the Lord "credited it to him as righteousness". So we see that Abraham was justified by faith alone.

The next passage -- Genesis 22 -- drives home James' point that real faith is never alone. It is always accompanied by "works" or actions that demonstrate faith in Christ. In Abraham's case, it was the amazing willingness to sacrifice his own son. Abraham's commitment to obey the Lord was unconditional and without limits; he was willing to do anything the Lord told him to do.

He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." --Genesis 22:2

He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." --Genesis 22:12

One result of this combination of faith and obedience by Abraham was a closeness to the God that was very unusual. In all the Bible, only Abraham is called a friend of God. There's no record in Genesis that God ever said this to Abraham but later in the Old Testamet, God refers to Abraham as His friend in two different passages:
Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? --2 Chronicles 20:7

But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, Descendant of Abraham My friend... --Isaiah 41:8

"A friend of God" -- That's a pretty incredible legacy.

What would you like written on your tombstone?

The other person James uses as an example is:

2. Rahab:

If Abraham is the most likely person for James to choose as a model of faith, then certainly Rahab is the most unlikely! After Joshua took over the leadership of the Israelites, getting ready to lead them into the promised land, he sent two spies into Jericho.

Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, "Go, view the land, especially Jericho." So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. --Joshua 2:1
Chapters 2 and 6 of Joshua tell us the story of Rahab. We know that she was a Gentile and a prostitute -- certainly an unlikely choice as a model of faith. Notice also that James chose a woman as his second example of faith.

With Rahab, we have the same sequence: first, there is real faith in the Lord and then there are actions that demonstrate the reality of her faith:

Her Faith:

...[she] said to the men, "I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. --Joshua 2:9
Her Deeds:
So the men said to her, "Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the LORD gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you." Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall, so that she was living on the wall. --Joshua 2:14
Remember that Rahab is in the ancestral line of Jesus.
Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. --Matthew 1:5
I assume you recognize that Jesse was the father of David and you know that Jesus was a descendant of David.

Rahab is also found in Hebrews 11 -- the faith "Hall of Fame".

By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace. --Hebrews 11:31
The scary thing about dead faith is that it is usually religious. This is what Jesus was talking about when He rebuked the religious people of His day:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. --Matthew 23:37
Were they religious? Definitely. They were the kind of people that would be in church every time the doors are open. But did they have real faith? Definitely not.

If Jesus has really saved you, if Jesus is really in you, then Jesus will be changing you.

On Sept. 7, 1867, in a sermon that Charles Spurgeon preached, he said that the Christian "serves his Lord simply out of gratitude; he has no salvation to gain, no heaven to lose ... now, out of love to the God who chose him, and who gave so great a price for his redemption, he desires to lay out himself entirely to his Master's service ... The child of God works not for life but from life; he does not work to be saved, he works because he is saved.

A great example of what we're talking about in this section is John Wesley. Wesley lived in the 1700's. He was ordained as a minister and later accepted an invitation to become a missionary to the American Indians in Georgia but was completely ineffective. Upon his return to England he wrote, "I went to America to convert the Indians; but, oh, who shall convert me?" Wesley wrote these words in his journal on January 24, 1738 at the age of 34. John Wesley continued to seek God in the months that followed.

Finally, on the evening of May 24, 1738, he wrote in his journal: "In the evening I went very unwillingly to [a Bible study meeting], where one was reading Luther's preface to the Letter to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while reading Luther describe the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, Wesley said, "I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

After this, Wesley was incredibly used by God both in Europe and in America. And one of Wesley's favorite sayings fits well with what James is teaching in this passage:

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can,
In all the ways you can, in all the places you can,
At all the times you can, to all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
Imagine the impact Christians in Albuquerque would have if we were known not only for our faith in Jesus but also for being the caring and compassionate people in the city, the most active in helping others, the most committed to doing whatever Jesus told us to do.


Next week:

We will dive into James Chapter 3. We will get a tongue lashing from James about lashing our tongues. He already brought up the danger of our tongues. Now he will expand on it.

Read James Chapter 3 to prepare for this next lesson.