Faith Lacking Works is Dead

James 2:14-17 ESV

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 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? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Some people have the mistaken notion that only James taught this and that Paul didn’t. But Paul did teach this, too. He said if we walk according to the flesh we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, then we have eternal life (Rom 8:1-17).

He said that we are slaves of the one we obey. If we obey sin, it leads to death, but if we obey obedience, it leads to righteousness and sanctification, and its end is eternal life with God (Rom 6:16-23).

And he taught that if we make sin our practice that we will not inherit eternal life with God but that we will die in our sins. For, he said that we are all going to reap what we sow, and we will be judged by what we do (Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; 1 Co 6:9-10; 2 Co 5:10).

Jesus Christ taught the same thing. He said if anyone would come after him he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin) and follow him in obedience. For, he said, if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them for eternity. But if we lose our lives (die with him to sin) for his sake, then we have eternal life (Lu 9:23-26; cf. Eph 4:17-24).

Jesus made no bones about it. Following him is a total commitment. If we do not participate with him in his death to sin we have no part in him. If we do not take up our cross daily and follow him, we are not worthy of him. If we do not walk in obedience to his commands, we don’t know him (Jn 6:35-58; Matt 7:21-23; Matt 10:38; Lu 9:23-26; Jn 3:36; Jn 14:21-24; Jn 15:10).

In the Old Testament God described faith as obedience and unbelief as disobedience. He did the same in the New Testament. So, faith is not some feeling or some intellectual assent to who Jesus is, but it is doing what God says to do. It is walking (in conduct) according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. It is putting to death the deeds of the flesh, etc.

For, God’s grace, which brings salvation, instructs us to say “No!” to ungodliness and fleshly lusts and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit 2:11-14).

James 2:18-23 ESV

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God.”

Many people today are teaching a faith in Jesus Christ which is of human origin, not of God, for it does not submit to God’s law, thus it is hostile to God (Rom 8:5-8).

For, it teaches that we can just invite Jesus into our hearts or make some public confession of faith in Jesus Christ or repeat some words after someone else and that it guarantees us forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God regardless of how we live our lives on this earth.

It makes no requirements for dying with Christ to sin and for living to him and to his righteousness. It makes no requirements for walking in obedience to our Lord according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. Some may teach these things, but not as requirements for eternal life with God.

They will teach or they will give the impression that we can keep on living in sin and that Jesus will just keep on forgiving us, and they totally ignore the Scriptures that teach that if we walk according to the flesh that we will not inherit eternal life with God. They also ignore the Scriptures that teach that God will judge us by our works.

Faith in Jesus is not a “do-nothing” faith. Even the demons believe and they shudder, but they are not saved. Many will come before God one day saying, “Lord, Lord,” and he is going to tell them, “Depart from me you workers of iniquity. I never knew you!” For, he said that it is those who do the will of the Father in heaven who enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 7:21-23).

James 2:24-26 ESV

“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

Genuine faith in Jesus Christ is going to be accompanied by obedience to the Lord in doing the works that he has called us to do and that he is empowering us to do. Our faith is proven genuine by what we do. We can’t just claim faith in Jesus Christ and then go on living in the flesh doing whatever it is we want to do. That is not God-persuaded faith.

It doesn’t mean we will live perfect lives or that we will never fail, but it does mean we have died with Christ to sin, we have been reborn of the Spirit of God, and now we are living for the Lord and no longer for our flesh. For if our minds are set on the flesh, and if we continue to live according to the flesh, we do not have an inheritance in God’s eternal kingdom.

So, what we must know here is that Jesus died on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. He died to deliver us from our slavery to sin, not just to forgive us our sins. He shed his blood for us on that cross to buy us back for God so that we would now glorify God with our lives (1 Pet 2:24; Rom 6:1-23; 1 Co 6:19-20).

So, faith apart from works is dead faith. Yes, we aren’t saved by our own good works done in the flesh, but we are saved to good works which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them (Eph 2:8-10).

Songs in the Night

An Original Work / December 18, 2013

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 NIV ‘84

Lord, I praise You forevermore.
You, my Savior, I now adore.
Hope in heaven awaiting me,
Because You died at Calvary.

I have been forgiven,
And I’m bound for heaven.
Jesus set me free from
All my sin, I say.
I will praise Him always!

Lord, I love You for all You’ve done:
Overcame death, my vict’ry won!
Jesus saved me, and now I’m free!
I rejoice in His love for me.

I will walk in vict’ry!
My sin is but hist’ry!
I am free to please Him
With my life today.
I will love Him always!

Lord, I thank You for giving me
A new life bought at Calvary.
Loving Jesus, I meet with Him.
Tender mercies now flow within.

Lord, I am so thankful;
Through my Lord, I’m able
To sit at His table;
Fellowship with Him.
I will thank Him always!

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