Summary of passage: James asks what good is it to have faith without deeds? Faith by itself without action is dead. You show your faith by what you do. As shown by deeds, Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar which showed his faith complete by deeds. A person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
Rahab was considered righteous when she gave lodging to the spies and sent the soldier off in different directions. Faith without deeds is dead as the body without the spirit is dead.
13) This is subtle and tricky. Faith in Jesus Christ alone will save you. You are saved by faith and receive salvation and a place in heaven when you accept Jesus in your heart. But when you do have this faith, you are a changed person. This new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) you have become has a new kind of faith: a faith that desires to prove itself through works. This saving faith that we not have has works along with it. James says in verse 17 faith now has action that accompanies it.
It mimics the saying “Actions are more powerful than words.” You can say you believe in Jesus all you want. You show you believe in Jesus through the actions of your heart.
14) According to many commentaries I read, this is considered by some to be the most difficult verse in the entire New Testament to reconcile. Wonderful (read sarcasm here). Further, one said the faith of demons should not be compared with the faith of human beings according to Hebrews 2:14.
Demons know Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 8:29) and they yield to His Lordship (Mark 1:24; 5:7; Matthew 8:29-30).
As in Hebrews 11, we see the pillars of faith (Abraham and Rahab) mentioned here yet again. How by faith they followed God without question (Hebrews 11:8-13; 31).
I’m going to make my own conclusions here on the difference: Man/Abraham/Rahab followed God out of love; the demons followed/obeyed God out of fear. This I believe is the crux of the matter.
Side Note: One commentator I read said demons are angels who have sinned. This was interesting so I wanted to share. Of course, we don’t know but it’s something to ponder anyways.
15a) No. I don’t despite the evidence in this passage. I would like to hope so. But I don’t. I believe those who are converted on their death beds don’t have the opportunity. But Jesus is happy to have them despite the fact they didn’t have time to do good works. This is what Paul says (Ephesians 2:9).
It also brings into my mind the falling away passage we studied in Hebrews 4:4-6 (another passage I have difficulty with). I believe once you accept Christ you are his. You can’t fall away unless you deliberately deny him afterwards. But those who stumble still have him. For there is nothing in this world you can do that Jesus will not forgive. He has claimed you and even after you accept you, you sin. But He always remains.
Do I believe most people who are born again will produce good works? Yes. You have no choice. If you accept Jesus, you are a new person and His. Therefore, the deeds will follow. But as I mentioned I do believe in exceptions. So I don’t think every person will accomplish this.
b) Personal Question. My answer: I don’t know honestly. I can’t see myself through their eyes and no one has come up to me and said, “Wow! You are obviously God’s as I see through such-and-such evidence.”
I hope they see something but I have such a low opinion of myself right now I would say nothing. For I’m not where I want to be in my daily walk with Christ. I’m just not. So I’d say there is no evidence of my faith right now.
And to me I could care less what others thought/think of me or if there is evidence (in their eyes) of my faith. It only matters what God thinks of me and what He knows I am accomplishing. And right now I feel I am failing miserably. It’s my daily prayer for God to heal my heart from past pains so I can move on to what He has for me. For the devil will not claim me. And I will win.
Conclusions: This passage was very, very difficult for me to chew on. Very. For I believe once you accept Jesus in your heart you are in Heaven. You do not get into heaven by works. Yet works is what makes us alive in Christ. Christ puts works in our heart once we have him and the Holy Spirit within that we must act on. Otherwise, we are dead.
Yet I believe there will be people in heaven who do not have works to show for their faith. But they have faith. This is what I believe at least.
This concept is very difficult for me to reconcile. You don’t need works to get into heaven yet if you have faith you produce works. And I just don’t see works in my life. So does that mean my faith is dead? It’s a bit of a dichotomy, isn’t it?
I just believe in my heart God wants our faith first and foremost. He wants us. He wants our hearts paramount. Everything else is secondary: our works and whatever else we do for Him. As long as our hearts stay true to Him the rest falls into place. Including works. We shouldn’t have to think about works. They should just flow naturally out of our heart that is now God’s. It should be joyful and unforced. It should be with love and a deep gratitude. It should be God/Holy Spirit–not something I could ever do or take credit for.
End Note: Question 15b did not sit well with me after pondering it for a bit. In this world where it’s a daily struggle to counter our culture of always being in each other’s business and trying to keep up with the Jones, I thought this question was in the same vein. This was my first response at least.
We are not of this world and this question could be taken in the context of “Well, what have you done lately to show your faith?”, promoting pride over humility. Yet, at the same time, we are to walk our faith and show non-believers what a believer’s life should look like. So taken in this context it makes us ponder, “Are we walking our faith?”
I hope it’s the latter. But for me, having been raised in the culture of nothing less than perfection will do, I did not like the wording of this question. It makes me feel like I’m not doing enough and I’m inadequate in some way (something I already feel anyways. Is any of us truly doing enough? Consider Paul’s life…). I’m doing the best I can under the circumstances God has given me.
I would have preferred apparent to “God”. For He is all that matters.
If you are broken like me, you probably took this question hard like I did and immediately threw up walls because that’s what you do when you are reminded of past pains. Then I read Matthew 5:16 where Jesus says, “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
So it is all for God. It’s for others to see God through us. For His glory. Never ours. We do good deeds not for ourselves or what it brings us but what it brings God: other broken people who need Him as much as we do.
Hopefully, in the end, maybe just a bit of our brokenness will be mended in the process.