The type of faith James is referring to here is not genuine, saving faith; rather, it is the acceptance of our Lord's precepts. There are three types of faith, saving (Eph. 2:8-9), practicing (2 Cor. 5:7) and intellectual (James 2:14-26) or sometimes refereed to as dead faith. Faith that is not powered by Christ, and then practiced by our trust and obedience, is useless, false, dead, and even demonic! Thus, this passage is not about salvation, but rather how we are to live (Rom. 3:24; 14:23; Heb. 11:6; 1 John 5:12).
- James is not saying faith requires works, rather he is using a rhetorical statement here. What good is a faith of words and no actions? His point is that we are not to claim faith or brag about faith if we are doing nothing with our faith. This type of faith is phony. Faith is demonstrated by substance and connection, how we choose to live our lives and touch others for Christ. It shows how our morality is applied. If we ignore our brothers and sisters in the Lord, or in the world, while we boast we are in Him, what good is our faith? Our demonstrations are ineffectual, and even detrimental to others. Faith is not a substance that is to stand unused (1 John 3:16-20).
- Faith. James uses faith here as an "Academic Affirmation." This means having a mere intellectual understanding without trusting in Christ as Savior and Lord. For James, faith was not just an allegiance to doctrine; rather, it was to be a lifestyle. It was not just an idea to believe in, but rather the purpose for our lives. Faith is not to be passive, but rather active; it is the living Spirit living in us, empowering and growing in us (Gal. 5).
- In contrast, works/deeds refer to ethical behavior. Real faith is never to be hidden, indifferent, or independent. Rather it is demonstrated by our Christian life by helping out others in need, especially the poor. Right thought will create right actions. This is not about salvation; it is about our gratitude in Him and our obedience to His precepts.
- Dead is a saying that means totally useless, words without actions. It is a lifeless corpse from whence the spirit has departed that does not have any fruit, as in no response from it. James is saying when we do not demonstrate our faith we are as lifeless a dead body where the spirit/soul is gone! This does not mean we lose our faith; rather, we never had it.
Faith is not just an academic subject, something we just debate and talk about, nor is it about emotions; rather it must be real and it must be the motivating impacting force within us. If we have faith and do nothing with it, we are being illogical and absurd. Saving faith is a living faith; it will have genuine results! Thus, our desire, as Christians, will be to put into practice the precepts of the Lord, not because we earn anything, but because we are grateful for what we have and desire others to have it, too. Our faith will have activity that tells others and God that our faith is real.
God did not call us just to a creed; He called us to a way of life that includes thinking, faith, reason, and action. It is not about just right thinking or right doing; it is the synergy of the two. In this way, we can look after His sheep and be His hands and feet in the world; we can be what we are to Him and then show it to others (John 21:16).
It is purely by His acceptance of us that we are saved (Rom. 3:23-28; 6:23; 7:18; Gal 3:11; 5:17; Eph. 2:8-9; 1 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5). There is nothing that we can add to it, such as good works or clean living. Justification means that God's righteousness is covering us, protecting us from His wrath and punishment as a blanket! It is like getting a speeding ticket, going to court, and having the judge declare you innocent, even though you were speeding. To God you are clean, covered by what Christ has done for you. This creates our reconciliation to God; we were in perfect relationship to Him before the fall, and now we are again in harmony. Take great comfort; this does not happen overnight. Our faith has grace to it. We will make mistakes and have setbacks, but He is there for us, carrying us through. Allow Him to do so!
- Do you consider yourself a person who just thinks, or a person who just does?
- The classic question is if you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
- How does real, impacting, effectual faith have a result to it? Why does faith not just stand alone?
- Faith is demonstrated by substance and connection. What has that meant in your life? What can it mean for you and your church?
- How does your faith answer James' question to "show me?"
- Why is faith not just an academic subject, something we just debate and talk about? Why is faith also not just about emotions? So given these two reasons how would you describe faith?
- How would you answer this question from a traditional Catholic: When we say by faith alone, "what good would your salvation be without being transformed from His precepts and into His character?"
- James is saying that when we do not demonstrate our faith, we are as a lifeless, dead body where the spirit/soul is gone! If we have faith and do nothing with it, it is illogical and absurd. How does this make you feel, or convict you?
- If God did not call us just to a creed; what did He call us too? (Yes, creeds are important, but effectual faith is even more so). What is a way of life that you can have that includes thinking, faith, reason, and action?
- Why is faith not just about just right thinking or right doing? How can your faith be the synergy of right thinking and right doing?
- Faith can easily become just an intellectual exercise. So, what can you do to make sure that you are applying far more to it, such as trust and obedience?
- How can you make faith real and the motivating impacting force within you?
© 2004, 2007 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org/