There is a tremendous difference between something that is REAL and something that is FAKE. When our children were young one of their favorite gifts for their mom was a bottle of knock-off perfume. Perhaps you remember the commercials “if you like Chanel, you’ll love ….. (whateveritscalled).” Kim appreciated those gifts because they came from her precious children, but you better believe that when I bought her perfume it was not the knock-off variety! HINT: Dad’s, for MOTHER’S DAY, get the real stuff!
A friend shared the story with me about his “fake Rolex” that he bought for $10 from a street vender in New York City. He had reservations, but needed a watch and thought this looked good. Asked everyone, “do you like my fake Rolex?” The battery died after about one year. He was going to throw it away, but he liked the watch and it kept good time, so he brought it to a jeweler to see if the battery on his “fake Rolex” could be replaced. He discovered it was not a fake Rolex! It was the real deal. The watch that he bought for $10 was probably stolen and worth thousands.
What about your faith? Is it real or a look-alike?
James asks that ver question in James 2:14-26
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14, ESV)
The SUBJECT of this passage is in verse 14: Can a faith that demonstrates no works save someone’s soul?
Richard Tow writes, “On the surface it may look like James is comparing faith and works. But in reality he is contrasting superficial faith …and saving faith, biblical faith.” (Source: Richard Tow, “Is Your Faith Real?” sermoncentral.com/sermons/is-your-faith-for-real-richard-tow-sermon-on-obedience-139218.asp?page=0
James is making a contrast between two extremes.
Extreme One: FALSE FAITH. James 2:15-17
Both extremes are presented with the phrase, “….if someone says….”
Notice this expression in the first extreme. “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15–16, ESV)
To illustrate this extreme, James describes a brother or sister poorly clothed and lacking in daily food. An unmentioned individual replies by giving a greeting. It would be the equivalent of saying, Shalom! Or Hey, Brother!
James describes this kind of faith is dead faith. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17)
James is not alone in his description of false faith. Jesus affirmed the possibility of FALSE FAITH when he said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46, ESV)
JUDAS is an example of false faith.
James asks, “can that KIND of FAITH save him?”
What are the “works” that James is describing? James gives us these examples throughout the epistle.
1. Helping those in need. “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,” (James 2:15, ESV)
2. Bridling the tongue. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26, ESV)
3. Visiting the orphans and widows. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27, ESV)
4. Keeping unstained by the world (James 1:27)
5. Good and honest relationships. “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” (James 3:14, ESV). TEENS toward parents. WIVES towards husbands.
6. Generosity. “You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” (James 5:5, ESV)
Are these characteristics seen in your life?
If they are NOT, James is warning you that your kind of faith is a FALSE FAITH
The second extreme is FAITHLESS WORKS.
This second extreme may have one of two meanings. Most who study this passage see James as repeating what he has already stated. In other words, James is the one responding to the unnamed questioner by saying “I will show you my faith by my works.” A less popular view is to see this second quotation as coming from a person who is making the claim that they are proud of their good works. The interpretation you follow much depends on where we end the quotation that James is using as a literary device. Most translations, including the NIV and the ESV show a short quotation followed by the author (James’) response. “You have faith and I have works.” But it should be noted that the quotation marks were not included in the Greek New Testament. The person reading Greek must determine where the quotation ends. If we carry the quotation a little further, the hypothetical person James quotes is saying something like this:“You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”” (James 2:18, NASB95). Note that the NASB includes the larger phrase within the quotation marks.
This is likely a contrast with a different kind of person boasting about his/her WORKS. Dr. Ron Blue agrees with the NASB reading as he makes this observation. “In other words the respondent is saying, “Faith is not the key; what counts is works.” Thus the respondent has gone too far. James did not say that works are essential to faith, or that faith is unimportant. His argument was that works are evidence of faith.” J. Ronald Blue, “James,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 826.
“Two illustrations that show both false faith and faithless works cannot save. Flimsy faith is dead; so are empty, faithless works.” J. Ronald Blue, “James,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 826.
James’ point is that you cannot separate faith from works.
“Faith and works are like the light and heat of a candle; they cannot be separated.”
James’ answer to the second quotation is “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” (James 2:20, ESV)
Here, the Greek word for useless is argos. It means idle, ineffective or useless. We see this word used in the following passages:
2 Peter 1:8 “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Tim 5:14 “Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.”
Illus – Faith and works are like two oars in a row boat. One named FAITH and one named WORKS. If you row the FAITH oar, the boat only goes left. If you row on the WORKS oar, the boat only goes right. Both are required if you are to make progress.
Now, James gives us Three Illustrations of FAITH and WORKS being evident
1. ABRAHAM. James 2:21-24.
The ILLUSTRATION is Abraham’s offering of Isaac.
This takes place after YEARS of walking with God.
He did more than say that he believed in God. His belief prompted him to obey.
Abraham’s action was prompted ONLY by FAITH.
This takes place after only MOMENTS of knowing about God.
Note the comparison
Father of Israel
Walked with God for many years
Took Isaac up the mountain
Placed his son’s life in jeopardy
First heard of Elohim
Hid the spies
Placed her own life in jeopardy
The body apart from the spirit is dead. Key word is “Separated” (Greek χωρὶς – without, apart from). John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, ESV)
False Faith – Ritual without reality
Faithless works – Works without true conversion
Is your faith real?
James is not advocating a religion of good works. He is advocating self-examination.
Effort does not produce works that please God
Faith produces the fruit of righteousness.
One day, a young disciple of Christ desirous of wanting to fully receive all that God had for him visited the home of an elderly Christian.
He had heard that this old man had never lost his first love for Christ (P) over all the years.
The elderly man was sitting on the porch with his dog taking in a beautiful sunset. The young man posed this question:
“Why is it, sir that most Christians zealously chase after God during the first year or two after their conversion, but then fall into a complacent ritual of church once or twice a week and they end up not looking any different than their neighbors who aren’t even Christians?
“I have heard you are not like that.”
The old man smiled and replied, “Let me tell you a story:
One day I was sitting here quietly in the sun with my dog.
Suddenly a large white rabbit ran across in front of us.
Well, my dog jumped up, and took off after that big rabbit. He chased the rabbit over the hills with a passion.
Soon, other dogs joined him, attracted by his barking.
What a sight it was, as the pack of dogs ran barking across the creeks, up stony embankments and through thickets and thorns!
Gradually, however, one by one, the other dogs dropped out of the pursuit, discouraged by the course and frustrated by the chase.
Only my dog continued to hotly pursue the white rabbit.”
“In that story, young man, lies the answer to your question.” The young man sat in confused silence.
Finally, he said, “Sir, I don’t understand. What is the connection between the rabbit chase and the quest for God?”
“You fail to understand,” answered the well-seasoned old man, “because you failed to ask the obvious question.
Why didn’t the other dogs continue on the chase?
And the answer to that question is that they had not seen the rabbit.
(Adapted from a story told by the early church fathers. ) Told by Gary Amirault
Is your faith real? Have you had an encounter with Jesus that has radically transformed your life?