(James 2:14-26)

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Miss America question – Why is it that Miss America contestants are asked, “If named Miss America, what would you do to promote world peace?”

We have a lot of old sayings that send this message:
Actions speak louder than words.
If you talk the talk, then walk the walk.
Practice what you preach.

The first century version of this is: Faith Without Works is Dead.

What James is Not Saying:

  1. He is not saying that we earn our salvation through works.
    1. We cannot do anything that places a claim on God. James 2:24 has been the focus of controversy for many hundreds of years now. It seems to contradict what Paul says in Romans 3:24
    2. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
    3. The confusion is centered on the word justification. Paul and James use the term differently. They both use it differently than we do. We tend to think of justification as legal ruling. Justification is the process through which something “Gets us off the hook.” And the debate for at least the last 500 years has been over that can happen through anything we can do.
    4. Terms and concepts that Paul and James wouldn’t have concerned themselves with have added a lot of baggage to this term. But maybe there’s another way for us to understand “justification.” Take it out of the legal world and move it into the world of typesetting. One makes the text line up on the left, one in the middle, and one on the right. Justify in this sense means that someone or something lines the text up to a norm.
    5. Maybe this gets us closer to the biblical meaning, even though typesetting is completely foreign to James and Paul. God, in his grace, is lining us up. He is moving us from unrighteousness to righteousness. It’s a process; it is change; it is training. He’s making us holy.

  2. James is not saying that words and faith are unimportant. He covers the follow up to the concern that faith is just empty talk. He can hear someone who’s really task-oriented saying, “Alright, you take care of the faith stuff and I will handle the deeds!”
    1. But that sort of unenlightened and uninformed work is just as empty and meaningless as faith without deeds.
    2. We can suffer not only from idleness, but also unreflective work. Such work will tend to focus on ourselves and our own talents rather than God and the power of his Spirit.
    3. James is making the case that faith and deeds go together.

What James is Saying:

  1. James is saying that faith must be embodied. That sounds a lot like Jesus who taught us that our righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus was the word of God made flesh. Probably no one knew that as well as James.
    1. So the illustration about failing to meet the physical needs of a brother or sister.
    2. We are body and spirit and being a friend of God is faith and deeds.
  2. James is saying that faith means risk. Abraham and Rahab. They took a chance, they risked. Why? Because they believed in God’s word. They had faith.
  3. James is saying that faith and deeds are always working together.
    1. A friend of God not only believes what God believes, but does as God would do.
    2. This goes back to the lesson of hearing and doing the word. We have to put it into action.
    3. We must be careful that we do not get caught up in any false dualism that forces an emphasis on faith and teaching to the exclusion of action OR an emphasis on action to the exclusion of prayer, reflection, teaching and faith.

A. J. Jacobs – The Year of Living Biblically

We can ask so many questions about faith against works, maybe we just need to start letting them work together as God always intended.
I commend this congregation. May God help us to 1) know what we believe and trust in God’s grace for salvation, and 2) live out that salvation and show it at work in us through the things we do. I see it.

CURE, Hope Chest, Car Care, Girls Making an Impact – see, we even have a name for some of it at West-Ark. But then there are all the many and varied ways that you are showing your faith in your deeds: visiting others in the hospital, providing for the needs of those who cannot supply them, fellowship that overcomes loneliness, taking meals to new parents, young people mowing the lawn of widows, sending a card. That’s not just busy work – that’s faith.

Do you have faith? Put it into action.
Are you active in good works? Great, but is your faith in the work or in the One who equipped you and prepared the work for you?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 3 August 2008

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