In this next section of James, we're going to be discussing faith and works. Faith and works are brought up several times throughout the Bible. Faith is "strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof." Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” People get confused when talking about the importance of your works (actions) in regards to faith. In both chapter 2 verse 17 and 26, James says that faith without works is dead. However, Ephesians 2:8 and Romans 3:20 talks about our works and how they don't matter for salvation. What then is the importance of works? Does this section discussing faith and works contradict what Paul was saying in Ephesians and Romans? This is what we're going to dive deeper into for this month's blog.
Before we look into the above verses, I think it's important to understand that James isn't saying that doing good works saves you. It is through God's grace that we are saved, no amount of good works in our life can save us. James is not contradicting verses like Ephesians 2:8 and Romans 3:20 in this. James is simply saying that if you have true, genuine faith, it results in a life of obedience and good works.
Saying you have faith is not enough. Your faith should produce good works in your life. Let's look at the relationship between faith and works here like a seed (faith) and a plant (works). If you have a seed that is truly alive, when you plant it, it will produce a plant. If the seed doesn't produce a plant, it is dead. If you have a dead seed and you grab a plant and place it in the soil above the seed, this doesn't make that seed anymore alive.
Just like in the verses 15-16 above, if someone doesn't have clothes or food, just telling them to "Go in peace, be warmed and filled" will not help them. James is not saying that faith is dead until good works are added to it (like the example of placing a plant on top of a dead seed). He is saying that faith is only alive if it naturally produces good works (if a seed produces a plant). Simply put, true faith and good works are tied together – you can't have faith without the good works. You can say you have faith, but that doesn't mean you actually have faith.
Another passage that I think of is John 15:5-6 (see below). This is another example of if you are living for God (abiding in Him), your life should produce fruit.
In this next section, James shares an example of a conversation with a possible opponent who says, "You have faith and I have works." James challenges the opponent with his response of saying that both faith and works are vitally connected. He basically just repeats his point from the first section in a slightly different way – you don't have true faith if you don't have good works. It is not enough to just believe in God. Even Satan and demons believe in God.
In the last part of this section, James is going to share two more examples of faith and works being connected – Abraham and Rahab. Abraham had faith in God and believed in His promises. This resulted in Abraham's act of offering his son, Isaac, on the altar. His faith was demonstrated through his actions (obedience to God). In the same way, Rahab had faith in God and believed in His promises; therefore, she provided refuge for the spies and risked her own life in doing so.
If we truly have faith in God, it means that we trust in God to provide. If we have true faith, it results in us putting our life, hopes, dreams, etc. aside and choosing to trust and obey God – including when it's hard, doesn't make sense, or is inconvenient for us.
I want to wrap up with sharing one more example in scripture of the connection between faith and works – the parable of the sheep and goats.
The "sheep" in this passage enter the Kingdom because of their good deeds to others around them while the "goats" get eternal punishment because of their lack of good deeds to others around them. Throughout scripture, we see that our works do not save us; however, when we have faith in God and follow Him, we are to be obedient and this obedience results in good deeds (works).
Do you have genuine faith in God or are you like the example of the dead seed with a plant placed on top?
Cornerstone Impact Update
A couple weeks ago, several SEM employees attended the Kingdom Advisors conference in Orlando. This is a great opportunity to worship alongside thousands of other Christians in the industry. One of the key takeaways I had from this conference was related to generosity. If we truly recognize that God is the creator and owner of everything, we should be using our money and our resources towards building up the Kingdom. When we understand that everything we have is from God, it should leave us wanting to be more generous with your money, time, home, etc. One of the speakers that stood out to me gave different examples of how people cling to what they have instead of using what God has given them to connect with others.
A specific example was opening up your home and using it to serve others. Are you reluctant to open up your home because you don't want your furniture to get messed up or you don't want your house to get messy? Maybe you’re reluctant to open up your home because you think it isn’t a nice enough space. There have definitely been times where I've cared more about how my house looks and don't want to have people over in order to keep it clean. However, God has provided the house and wants us to use to love on others.
In the middle of each month, I've been sharing another blog beyond the Bible study. Since September 2022, I've been going through our Biblical Approach to Finances series. October's focus was on giving to the church. This is something we typically don't like discussing, but it's so important to understand. If you missed the original post or want a refresher, click here.
A couple weeks ago, Eventide started posting a series on their LinkedIn: Timeless Truths for Investing. You can check out the first two parts of the series below:
Robert Netzley, the CEO of Eventide, wrote an article on what the Lord's Prayer can teach you about investing. Take some time to read the full article here:
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