An Excerpt from James Sets the Plumb Line
Faith and Works
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give the things which are need of the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if does not have works, is dead.” 18But someone wills say ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”
This is speaking of faith that is head knowledge alone. This is speaking of faith that is not growing into a demonstration; that has not taken hold in the heart and has not become the motivating force that governs life and brings us into obedience to God’s will and way. It is brain power without willpower or the power of the Holy Spirit working in a life.
Faith that saves is a demonstration of the living Spirit living, empowering and growing in a person and is profitable and becomes the belief system which governs the life of each individual.
Galatians 5:5-6 “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”
Romans 1:17 “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”
The “works of God (John 6:29, Ephesians 2:8-9, 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 3:5)” produces works-acts of obedience in which one proves the genuineness of the works of God and His faithfulness for our benefit. Works of faith build the foundation of faith that will not collapse when the “troubles” of life and the times of testing come.
Hebrews 11:31-32 “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace. 32And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:”
Acts 7:55, 60 “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,… 60Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
1 Peter 2:12 “having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
Titus 3:1-7, 14 “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. 3For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life…14And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.”
James is telling us about our vertical (and upright relationship to God) faith-faith that does not produce works is dead and gives no testimony and bears no fruit from the work of God in a person’s life.
Faith guides our actions. If you have faith you must act like it to keep that faith alive.
Faith is measured in “feet”-as in the movement of YOURS!
Faith-an right relationship with God-will yield a right relationship with our fellow man.
Something dead is totally useless-words without actions. This speaks of a lifeless corpse from whence the spirit has departed. James is saying when your faith is not demonstrated in works-acts of obedience-you are as lifeless a dead body where the spirit/soul is gone, held captive and/or fallen asleep. This condition-being dead-renders a person unable and incapable of doing the works that God has prepared for them.
Your faith must be an active demonstration of obedience/acts that tell others your faith is real. These acts/works build a foundation of faith that will not fail during troubling times. Works of faith are your testimony to God impacting your life-renewing your mind and transforming your life. Faith prepares you to live in the fullness of all God intended as He chose to give you life and makes you able to complete the works that God preplanned, prepared and equipped you to do.
1 Timothy 1:5 “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,”
Matthew 17:20 “So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’”
Luke 17:6 “So the Lord said, ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’”
Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit to those who believe in Jesus.
1 Corinthians 12:9 “to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by £the same Spirit,”
Show me who and what you are. You are to become a demonstration of the “good works” of the faith that is given to you by the work of the Holy Spirit. You are to bring forth “good works”-the fruit of righteousness and living a life that shows what God has done in your life. When we bring our dark side into the Light, God’s work is revealed. Show me-become a demonstration project-your faith with “good works”; the ones that God prepared beforehand and provides the strength for you to accomplish.
Habakkuk’s faith is alive, actively producing good works.
Habakkuk 3:16-19 “ When I heard, my body trembled; My lips quivered at the voice; Rottenness entered my bones; And I trembled in myself, That I might rest in the day of trouble. When he comes up to the people, He will invade them with his troops. 17 Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls—18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.19 The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.
Luke gives us the story-a show me demonstration-of a work of faith,
Luke 5:17-20 “Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. 18Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. 19And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus. 20When He saw their faith, He said to him, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’”
Faith with works is truly living; living to the fullest in the abundant life that God has prepared and equipped the believer to live.
Dead without life, not bearing fruit-nothing coming forth-no response (see above and for extra study look at Jude 12,
Matthew 7:19, 12:33-37 and Luke 6:43-49).
Set the Plumb Line
The church has debated the supposed conflict of Paul-justified by faith- and James-justified by works-for centuries. Their debate proves, there is no conflict.
Paul tells us our walk with the Lord begins in being given the gift by the Holy Spirit so that we may believe and accept the gift of salvation. Jesus Christ fulfilled the law and gave us the right to accept His work.
The faith Paul speaks of here is a horizontal faith-faith that saves and does not require us to accomplish works, we just have to accept. This is about what has already been done by Jesus on our behalf.
Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Galatians 3:23-26 “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. “
James says that once salvation is activated more will come. The Holy Spirit will give you a larger faith so that you might produce works-yield fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25, 1 Corinthians 12)-of testimony and demonstration of what God has done and is able to do through those who have committed and are submitted to Him and His service.
Works are a natural product of living within the blessings and magnitude of what has been done, for you.
Paul wrote to the Romans of the work justification by faith-“it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes
(Romans 1:16-17).” Paul told the Romans that the work had been DONE by Jesus and accepted by the people of the church at Rome brought salvation to them.
Paul wrote to them “your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (Romans 1:8). He was encouraging them in the work they were able to DO in demonstrating their faith, so that evidence of God’s work was known through out the world.
We should live as Paul and be able to proclaim just as Paul did that because of what the Lord has DONE (Acts 9:1-22. 2
Timothy 4:17-18) Paul was able to DO the works of faith and proclaim near the end of his life, “I have fought…I have finished…I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:6-8)”.
2 Timothy 4:6-7 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Paul’s ability to be alive in Christ Jesus, produce good works and “keep the faith” brought the comfort of Paul as an obedient servant, even as he came to the end of his life here on earth. Yes, Paul was imprisoned and faced challenges. Paul lived in the power and strength of God working in and through him.
1 Thessalonians 3:5-8 “For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain. 6But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you—7therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. 8For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.”
Habakkuk 2:4 “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.”
The teachings of Paul and James as regards “faith, works and state of being” are reconciled in Jude 3, as Jude encourages his readers to “contend earnestly”, and Jesus speaks in Matthew 7:18-20 (see also Jude 12).
Jude 3 “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was on for all delivered to the saints.”
Matthew 7:18-20 “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
True faith comes fully dressed (Ephesians 5:10-20) ready for works. Also see Luke 24:29.
- What does your faith profit?
- What kind of believer have you proved to be?
- What fruit has come forth from your life because of your faith?
- What is the “foolish man” this scripture speaks about?
- Do you see that there is no contradiction between Paul and James?
- What helps you to understand this and how would you paint the picture so that others could understand?
- Has your faith prepared you for works?
- Are your feet showing the measure of your faith?
- How do these verses compare with Jude 12?
- How does this relate to John 6:66-68?