Well thankfully this week is shorter than last weeks, but it is deep toward the end. Here we start examining the debate on works and faith. My goal is to show you what the Bible really says. To be saved you must have a real relationship with God and comes through faith and obedient works as I will show you. Please do not get me confused, works do not save you, there serve as visible proof of your faith. Well without further delay, lets jump in.
1 My brothers, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. 2 For example, a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor man dressed in dirty clothes also comes in. 3 If you look with favor on the man wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor man, “Stand over there,” or, “Sit here on the floor by my footstool,” 4 haven’t you discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him? 6 Yet you dishonored that poor man. Don’t the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Don’t they blaspheme the noble name that was pronounced over you at your baptism? 8 Indeed, if you keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. 9 But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
Looking through the Bible you will see God does not show favoritism. Romans 2:11 especially makes this point, and Jesus told the disciples that the last would be first in Matthew 19:30. Here James is making the same point. God does not show favoritism and neither should we. Matthew 19:16-22 shows us the rich ruler who wanted to follow Jesus, but would not give up his possessions. In comparison, the poor are rich in faith. James ends this by making the offense clear. To show favoritism is to sin. There is no way around that. We must care for all.
8 Indeed, if you keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. 9 But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all. 11 For He who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. So if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you are a lawbreaker. 12 Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
These two sections bleed into each other so I have included those verses again. James reminds the reader that loving our neighbor is very important. To show favoritism and not love to your neighbor is a sin. Now remember that we were saved from our sin by Jesus. We broke the law. Even if you broke only one law you are still guilty. Therefore, remember that because of Jesus we are under the law of freedom. If we do not show mercy and love to others than we cannot expect to be shown mercy. We must show this undeserved forgiveness to others as we received a much greater forgiveness from God. In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus illustrates the foolishness of not forgiving others by telling a parable. A slave had an unimaginably high debt that he could never repay. His master forgave the whole thing, but that slave went out and found a man who owed him a small amount and threw him into prison. Imagine that, being forgiven millions of dollars just to go right out and beat a fellow worker for the ten dollars he owes you. That is what our unforgiveness looks like to God. We must forgive as we have been forgiven.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder. 20 Foolish man! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? 21 Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected. 23 So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by a different route? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
Now we hit the deep stuff. Chances are you have heard the kind of debate this passage and others in James have brought up. Many believe James is in direct contrast to Paul’s words in Romans. But what is James saying here? James looks at what these people called faith and points out a problem. They say they believe in Jesus, but if they won’t take care of their brothers and sisters do they really show God’s love? 1 John tells us repeatedly that those who love God know God. How do they show they love Him? By obeying His commands. Love, trust, and relationship with God, cannot be divorced from obedience to Him. Let’s put it in an analogy. You have a mentor, the best mentor anyone could have. You tell him you love working for him because he cares for you. Now whenever he asks you to do something you look at him and say no. Time and time again this happens. Would you say you truly loved that mentor when you refuse to listen to him? How much more with God Himself. James has a harsh comparison for those who claim to love God but do not obey Him. Demons called Jesus name and acknowledged Him as God (Mark 3:11 and many others), and yet they are not saved. Jude 1:6 tells us they are in chains awaiting judgement. They tremble in fear while we arrogantly lecture God on why we won’t obey His commands. Faith works with deeds. Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to God. His action showed His faith. It was not the action but the faith that saved, but that action was what showed his faith. Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 25:31-46. Many said there loved Him, but those who did not take care of those in need were sent away. We need to really see this. There are two parts to life changing belief. There is the belief in who Jesus is and trust that He will do as He said. There is also the obedience out of a desire to please God. These two together are a true relationship with God. One cannot function without the other. Belief in Jesus without loving obedience is a faith that does nothing in your life. As James said it is dead. Likewise works without faith is legalism, trying to earn salvation. Both are wrong and both demonstrate and indifference to Jesus. This is what Paul tells us through the book of Romans. We love God by what we believe about Him and by what we do in His name. Paul and James are not contradicting each, but supplementing each other. Paul tells us works without faith is worthless and James tells us faith with obedience is dead. You need faith and obedience to be in a true relationship with Jesus, the one who saves our soul.
You made it to the end! Good job. I hope I put all of this simply, but please do not be afraid to ask more questions. I do my best to put the truth at a level anyone can reach, but I do not always reach it. I prayer these words benefit you and I hope you will apply them to your life. God bless.