What is faith? Is faith just thinking that certain things are true, or is faith something more? Does God define faith for us in the Bible? How much faith does a person need to be saved and go to heaven? Can a person have faith in Jesus and that faith have no effect on their life?
These are very important questions that James will answer for us in the rest of chapter 2 of his epistle. The Bible makes it clear in passages like Ephesians 2:8-9 that the salvation of our souls is by faith alone and not by works: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Yet we see in the very next verse, Ephesians 2:10, that Christians “are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” It is these good works that James describes through the example of helping fellow Christians, family, or neighbors who need food or clothing. When we truly believe that Jesus is Lord, we will walk in His footsteps by actively showing love to those around us. Biblical faith is a trust in Christ that leads us to love God and love others, to serve Jesus and obey Him as Master.
The right connection between our faith and our works is important to grasp. It is our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection alone that saves us; no amount of good deeds can pay off the sin debt that we owe God. But if our faith in Jesus is a real faith, it will change us to do good works as new creations being remade into His image. To say that we believe in Jesus but to then be unwilling to follow Him and do what He says reveals that our belief is mere head knowledge. The devil and his demons have that kind of faith, but their destiny is hell because they do not love Jesus and want to be with Him in heaven. Our prayer is that all of you would have a genuine saving faith in Jesus that is proven over time by your deeds of loving obedience to Him. May we all have faith that works.
The Text (James 2:14-19)
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
Questions to Think About
- How and when did your belief in Jesus go from simple head knowledge to the kind of saving faith that James describes in today’s passage?
- Why is helping and caring for others a good evidence that someone has a saving faith in Jesus?
- Why do you think people are often deceived about what it means to be a Christian?
- Do you ever pray for other people? Who do you pray for and what do you pray? Why might praying for others be good evidence that a person has saving faith?