Faith on display in your actions
In James 2:14, James asked two simple test questions that do not allow grading on a curve. James phrased the questions with the expectation that the correct answer for each question is no. The kind of faith that is all talk but no action is not saving faith.
A faith not backed up by our actions is a useless faith. (14–17)
While James refers to someone who claims verbally that he or she has faith, if the person does not have deeds or actions that support the claim, then that type of faith neither benefits the one making the profession nor other people. James asks: “Can that [kind of faith] save him?”
Earlier James connected repentance and saving faith: “Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word (through faith), which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). The verb “able” describes an ongoing belief.
Saving faith has a definite beginning, but saving faith continues as a believer demonstrates his or her faith by actions or works.
Individuals may have a living faith or a dead faith. James characterized dead faith as one that is not evidenced by works or action.
The brother of Jesus set forth an illustration to describe dead faith.
Suppose, James wrote, a Christian brother or sister is without provision for daily needs (clothes and food) and a Christian brother/sister responds with a provision of well wishes (peace, warmth and food).
That response is indicative of a dead faith because it is incapable of providing good or benefit to anyone.
Faith is more than merely what you believe. (18–20)
The point James sets forth in this section of Scripture is that faith is something you do, as well as something you believe. James notes that mere proclamation of faith is meaningless.
Even the demons can verbalize the key confessional statement of the Jewish faith: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4).
James acknowledges such a confession is good, yet it is not worthy of self-congratulation or praise.
The demons also confess the same, yet they have the sense to shudder (tremble from fear) — an emotional response.
An individual that affirms a demonic-type faith merely acknowledges God. According to James, a faith that does not reveal itself in actions is a demonic faith.
The demons possess more faith and even display more intelligence; demons have enough sense to shudder in fear.
Genuine faith is seen in our obedience to God. (21–26)
James illustrated real faith through the actions of two people — Abraham, a wealthy, godly Hebrew man; and Rahab, a poor, ungodly Gentile prostitute.
Abraham received the title friend of God (v. 23). Rahab demonstrated her faith in the Hebrew God by welcoming the Hebrew spies in peace (Heb. 11:31).
James’ major point is that obedient faith is the only demonstration of a faith that is real.
By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida