James 2:18

Monday, 15 July 2019

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:18

James now introduces a possible argument someone might make. It is a hypothetical to get his reader to consider the matter. Paul did this in 1 Corinthians 15:35 –

But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?”

In this verse, James’ hypothetical is stated in relation to what was said in verse 2:14. There James said, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” Can such faith bring help or healing to another? No. Not unless it is converted into works.

In response, someone might say, “You have faith, and I have works.” What is the source of the faith? What is the motivation behind the works? Also, what external benefit is one over the other? To stimulate thought on the matter, James then says, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

A more literal reading of this would be, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I from my works will show you my faith.” Can a person’s faith without any deeds be demonstrated in the care of another? Obviously not. Faith is something that is within a person and which only concerns that person. On the other hand, James argues that a person can demonstrate his faith by his works. The person in verse 15 who is naked or destitute, and who is helped out by someone, can see the faith of that person in action.

However, there is a problem. People do good deeds all the time, and they often do not do them in faith. They may do them for recognition, to make themselves feel better, for personal gain, and so on. Good deeds may demonstrate faith in a true believer, but they also can be done by people who only claim to be believers, or who have nothing to do with the faith. James is only concerned with those of the faith who are willing to demonstrate their faith through good deeds. This will continue to be seen in the verses ahead.

Life application: James is working towards a goal in his thought process. He is coming to the conclusion that faith has an important part in our walk as Christians, but that deeds do as well. He still hasn’t indicated what deeds, or what type of deeds, other than to speak in the general terms of the previous verses.

In the coming verses, he will use several noted figures from the Bible to establish a baseline of what deeds are acceptable for the justification James refers to. Think on these people, and even do a quick personal study on them and where they are mentioned in Scripture, before those verses are evaluated.

Also, please think on the state of non-believers who do nifty deeds for others. Contemplate how they fit into the picture of the salvation Jesus’ provides. If deeds could increase our standing before God, can their deeds be credited for righteousness even though they don’t have faith in Jesus? Surely you realize now that they obviously can’t (see Romans 4:2), but it is important to think on their acts in comparison to those of Christians.

James stands and quotes someone who says, “You have faith and I have works.” He then agrees with that person by saying that he will show his faith by what he does. Can I do super things after becoming a Christian to increase my justification before God?

Paul says that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

For the believer, this is not a judgment of justification. Instead, it is a judgment for rewards and losses. Are our deeds done in conjunction with our faith? What deeds are you doing since you became a Christian? And what is the motivation behind them? Are you doing them for your own glory or that of Christ?

Heavenly Father, help us to want to be pleasing to You without pretense or for self-serving reasons. May our actions be a testimony to the salvation that Jesus worked out on our behalf, and may we not suppose that we are increasing our position in You above what He did, but let us trust in Him alone for our standing as Your servants. Amen.

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