Tuesday, 23 July 2019
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:26
James closes out Chapter 2 with a clear and concise simile which sums up his thoughts on faith and works. He begins with, “For the body without the spirit is dead.” It is an obvious statement. When the spirit of a man departs, the body dies. This is seen throughout Scripture, including the most poignant example found in human history –
“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” John 19:30
Jesus literally and truly died when His spirit left Him. His body could no longer perform the functions of a living being. This is true with all who die. Understanding that, and using a word translated as “as” for the comparison, James then says, “so faith without works is dead also.” Faith by itself serves no one. But when faith is moved into action, as when a spirit moves a body, so faith is alive.
As throughout several verses already, the question comes down to “what works?” As this commentary is being evaluated, fingers are typing on a keyboard. It takes faith that the keyboard will transmit the signal to the computer. As the keyboard is battery-operated, it takes faith that the battery has sufficient energy in it to continue the commentary. Though we don’t think of this, it is always true concerning such things. Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 –
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
The answer to the question of “What works?” is “Anything that carries the substance of the things hoped for into action.” There is not an arbitrary set of rules or standards invented by man which say, “He is doing works that demonstrate saving faith,” or “He cannot be saved because his works are not evident.” The only one who can do the works in faith is the individual with the faith. And the only One who can truly evaluate the works as to whether they are of faith or not is God.
Is lying in a bed, completely paralyzed, and yet praying to God for others a deed of faith? Yes, of course it is. If the person is praying to God for others, it is because he has faith that his prayers are heard by God. However, if that person is praying to the god of Islam, it is misdirected faith, and thus wasted faith. One must have properly directed faith in order for it to be accepted by God. All prayers are to go through God’s Mediator, Jesus Christ. When this is done by the poor paralytic, his prayers of faith are credited to him as works of faith.
This is exactly why Paul says that one must confess Jesus as Lord –
“…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9, 10
It is unreasonable to expect that a person who claims to have faith would be unwilling to do the one thing that all people can do – in faith – to be saved. Even a mute person can confess with his mouth. The sound may not be audible, but it is a confession nonetheless.
Any deed done in faith (meaning in faith in relation to Jesus Christ) is a work of faith as spoken of by James in this chapter. Any deed not done in faith is not. It is that simple.
Life application: Concerning faith and works as spoken of by James, the two are inseparable. It all points back to the work of Jesus Christ – in the life of the unbeliever and in the life of the believer.
If you have acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord, then your deeds of faith are to continue. Trust Him, and have faith that your life is being directed by Him to a good end for you. Any actual workings of deeds are to be done in faith that they are a part of His great plan in your life – just as Abraham offering up Isaac was; just as Rahab’s faith in the God of Israel was; and just as was the case in every faithful figure mentioned (or remaining unmentioned but remembered) in Hebrews 11.
Heroes of the faith are those who live intimately connected to the Spirit of God and who exercise faith in all they do. Are you a hero of the faith? Do you honestly trust that the immense trial you are facing is for a good end and a glorious purpose?
What about the annoying things that happen throughout the day? Have you come to the realization that even these are molding you for your good and for His glory? Walk in His Spirit, trusting that what transpires is just as it should be, O child of the Living God.
Thank You Lord that all things – good and difficult – are being used to conform us to Your glorious image and to refine us both in this life and for the life to come. We will trust you, by faith, in everything that occurs – that You will be glorified through our lives. In Jesus name! Amen.