“20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[b] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
For many years, there has been a very popular myth in evangelical Christian circles that salvation is based solely on a personal decision for Christ – usually through a “sinner’s prayer” and that the result may or may not make any difference to the day to day life of the individual concerned. This is rather like an insurance policy prayer, with the idea that this is all God needs: a verbal signature at the bottom of a brief prayer and you are guaranteed a place in heaven.
It is indeed possible to believe in God (the demons do that) and also believe that Jesus did indeed live, die and rise again, but still not be saved. How so? These beliefs whilst good are insufficient. We cannot rely on hearing and believing truth as being enough. In fact, James called this ‘dead faith’. He mentioned it three times in this chapter so far. James states categorically “Faith without works is DEAD.”
Mike wrote yesterday about faith and works. They are indeed inseparable. One proves the other. True faith in Christ will always result in a change of life, in a transformed person. This will be evident to all. Not only as a change of character, where we may be more patient or kind or generous or full of joy, but also in what we do.
John McArthur puts it so much better than I, when he says “Faith is invisible. You can tell me you have faith, but I can’t see that faith unless you show me that faith. And you can’t show me that faith unless you show it to me in a transformed life. It is not enough to say you have faith; that proves nothing. That’s merely an affirmation which may or may not be true. Faith, in a sense, is like the wind. You can’t see it; you only see its effects. It’s like electricity; you can’t see it, but you can feel and enjoy and appreciate its effects. It’s like radio waves. You can’t see them; they’re invisible. But you can appreciate their effect.”
So what can we glean from Abraham and Rahab?
For God to commend someone as having faith, there has to be a test or event to demonstrate that faith. Neither Abraham nor Rahab were justified before God because of their exemplary law-keeping. Abraham was faced with the ultimate test – sacrificing his son. This is certainly a costly demonstration of faith.
In the same way, we are told that Rahab heard of the exodus and believed in the Covenant God of promise (Joshua 2:9-11). James alluded to one event in each of their lives to show that they had saving faith. They were justified before the watching world on account of the works that their saving faith produced.
So what about us? Does our faith stop at merely an intellectual belief or are we actively living out our faith through a transformation of our minds, bodies and spirits by the power of the Holy Spirit?
Father God, thank you that through your Word, we can know you and grow in our relationship with you. Thank you that you want to transform us into your likeness and you enable us to live lives of powerful obedience. Please forgive us when we have acknowledged you with our lips but shied away from obeying you with our actions. Thank you that you hear us when we call out to you. We know that you began a good work in us and will bring this transformation to completion, as you promised. Help us to let down our defences and allow you to increase our faith, by whatever means you choose. Amen.