#2 (THE "WITHOUT" SERIES)
"WITHOUT WORKS, FAITH IS DEAD!"
TEXT: James 2:14-26; Titus 3:8
INTRO: In the first message in this series we looked at "without faith it is impossible to please God." Now we are going to look at the very nature of faith, in other words, "without works, faith is dead." Faith and good works go together like "peas and carrots," or like "mustard and ketchup," or like "ice cream and potato chips!" (My favorite combo!)
Remember the Scottish row boat owner that took people across the lake. One oar in his boat was labeled, "Faith" and the other was labeled "Works." He would ask his riders this question, "Which is more important, faith or works?" Then he would proceed to demonstrate how they are both equally important by taking only the oar marked "faith" and rowing hard, causing the boat to simply go in circles thus going nowhere fast! Then he would take the other oar marked "works" and do the same, this time going in circles in the other direction, again going nowhere fast! Finally he would proceed to use both oars marked "faith" and "works" and show how quickly the boat moved through the water to the destination on the other shore, saying to his riders, “this is how faith and works must work together, it is not one without the other, but both!”
PROP. SENT: Without works, faith is never seen! Faith must find expression through our actions as well as our attitudes! Faith is dynamic and powerful, it therefore must express itself in very real ways!
I. FAITH - IN DEED! 2:14-17
A. Christian Faith
1. James picks his words very carefully here, he describes “Saving Faith” as having deeds or works to it!
a. Thus, if a man claims to have faith but no deeds it cannot be the saving faith taught in the Bible! ... It must be some other kind of “faith!”
b. Anyone who claims to have faith can be judged by the presence or lack of presence of works or deeds consistent with “Faith in God!”
2. James' point is very specific here, a man or woman who has no works to show for the faith they claim to have has NO SAVING FAITH!
a. Saving faith is not just mystical, it has real material expression to it!
b. Faith is observable in people's lives, as indeed it was in Jesus’ own life!
3. Even the smallest measure of faith will have some expression!
a. This may well be what Jesus meant when He said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move.” Matt. 17:20
b. The smallest faith will cause something to happen, things will move – things will move!
ILLUS: MANY YEARS AGO BEFORE MODERN MACHINERY TO BUILD HUGE CONSTRUCTIONS PROJECTS WAS AROUND, A MAN PROPOSED BUILDING A HUGE SUSPENSION BRIDGE OVER A HUGE GORGE. HE WAS LAUGHED AT, AND WAS ASKED HOW IN THE WORLD DID HE THINK HE COULD ERECT FROM ONE END TO THE OTHER THE HUGE CHAINS THAT WOULD BE NEEDED TO JOIN FROM ONE SIDE TO THE OTHER TO HOLD THE BRIDGE! HIS CRITICS WERE SILENCED WHEN HE PROCEEDED TO SHOW THEM HOW HIS FAITH IN THIS PROJECT WOULD COME ALIVE ... HE TOOK AN ARROW AND A PIECE OF STRING AND SHOT IT TO THE OTHER SIDE. ON THE OTHER SIDE, ANOTHER MAN TOOK THE STRING OFF THE ARROW AND TIED A THICKER PIECE OF STRING TO IT AND THE MAN ON THE OTHER SIDE PULLED IT OVER. ONCE OVER, HE TOOK THE THICKER STRING AND TIED TO IT A MEDIUM THICK PIECE OF ROPE AND HAD THE MAN ON THE OTHER SIDE PULL IT BACK. AGAIN, HE TOOK THIS PIECE OF MEDIUM THICK ROPE AND TIED TO IT A HEAVY ROPE AND PULLED IT BACK OVER. BACK AND FORTH THIS PROCESS WENT; EACH TIME WITH SOMETHING STRONGER UNTIL THE TIME CAME TO ATTACH THE HEAVY METAL LINES THAT WOULD HOLD THE BRIDGE IN SUSPENSION … AND THE BRIDGE WAS BUILT! HIS FAITH FOUND EXPRESSION IS SMALL WAYS AT FIRST, AND THE END RESULT WAS A WONDERFUL BRIDGE THAT HUGE VEHICLES COULD PASS OVER! WITHOUT SMALL EXPRESSIONS OF HIS FAITH, THIS BRIDGE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN BUILT! -- Source Unknown
B. Communicating Faith 2:15-17
1. James now gives an example of what he means by expressing faith!
a. He uses the example of someone who is in real need; they are hungry and naked...
b. The "brother or sister in Christ" that simply prays over them "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing in response to their need in a practical way if they can do something demonstrates NO REAL BIBLICAL FAITH!
c. This kind of FAITH in James' words: "what good is it?"
2. Our faith in God must find expression in what we do in everyday life!!!
a. Faith has a mystical dynamic to it,
b. But it also has a material dynamic to it!
3. Faith moves toward action, it finds expression in powerful ways!
a. While we are saved by FAITH ALONE, FAITH IS NOT ALONE in its existence in our life.
b. God’s faith in mankind was demonstrated by SENDING Christ to die for us; it followed in action, real action that resulted in a way being opened by our returning faith in Him.
ILLUS: IN 1975 A
CHILD NAMED RAYMOND DUNN JR. WAS BORN IN
4. Faith that is not accompanied by action is dead, it is not BIBLICAL FAITH!
a. When the Jerusalem church was suffering and in dire need the Apostles told the believers to have faith and trust in God to provide...
b. THEN they wrote letters to the Macedonian churches and the Corinthian believers asking for an offering to help their brothers and sisters who were in need, you can read about this in the letters to the Corinthians!
c. Their faith in God and the call to have faith in God was joined with action and a request of action from other Christians who also had faith!
d. This is precisely the point James is making here: Faith is to be coupled by deeds! … Or it is dead and not a living faith!
II. FAITH - INDIVISIBLE! 2:18-19; Titus 3:8
A. Convenient "Faith!" 2:18a
1. James anticipated that there would be someone who in an attempt to sound spiritual while avoiding the call to action would raise an objection:
a. "You have faith; I have deeds." Meaning that someone will claim that we all have different gifts, therefore, I might have faith and no deeds while someone else has deeds but no faith!
b. This objection was strictly raised as a way to excuse oneself from the responsibilities to act out their faith!
2. There have always been people in God's family that will attempt to convince others that they are deeply spiritual though they have little action or practical ways to show for it! This is just too convenient, and NOT BIBLICAL!
a. First, it is not like Christ, who had perfect faith in His heavenly father but also added, "My father works and I work!" (Jn. 5:17) … this statement happened around Jesus healing on the Sabbath and the outcry of the Jews who were angry that Jesus “worked” on the Sabbath … they of course were too spiritual to help sick people on the Sabbath!
(1. The Pharisees were always good at looking spiritual, they prayed long prayers in the Synagogues and street corners so that people would see how spiritual they were but they wouldn't lift a finger to help someone who was hurting and in need of help!
(2. They knew how to appear to be spiritual but how to avoid responsibilities to act out their spirituality!
b. Spirituality that impresses people without improving people is worthless spirituality!
3. The world does not need more examples of people who are good at sounding and looking spiritual but have no practical expression of their so called spirituality!
4. The last days are going to be full of this type of false spirituality ... "having a form of godliness, but denying its power: from such turn away!" (II. Tim 3:5)
a. In the New Testament era it was called "Gnosticism" … a mystical kind of spirituality that had little to no practical expression!
b. In the present era we are seeing this happening again, with the “New Age movement,” and also in the church. We must be careful that true revival has practical expression in changing lives, changing churches, and changing society ... the work of God's Spirit in our lives is not just to thrill us and give us some deep experience that cannot be expressed!
5. Faith must be wedded to works to be God's saving faith, if it is not wedded to works it is not God's saving faith!!
6. Faith and works cannot do well alone; they can actually be harmful if separated!
ILLUS: I LOVE SALT -- IT IS THE MOST USED SUBSTANCE ON EARTH; IT IS A NECESSITY FOR OUR LIVES! IT IS MADE UP OF TWO ELEMENTS: SODIUM AND CHLORINE. IF THESE TWO ELEMENTS ARE CONSUMED SEPARATELY YOU WOULD DIE! SODIUM IS A HORRIBLE POISON; IT CAN BURST INTO FLAMES WHEN EXPOSED TO WATER AND AIR. CHLORINE TOO IS A HARSH POISON, AND IF INGESTED WILL KILL QUICKLY. IRONICALLY HOWEVER, IF YOU COMBINE THESE TWO POISONS TOGETHER THEY MAKE AN INGREDIENT WE CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT! TOGETHER THESE INGREDIENTS ACT AS A WONDERFUL SEASONING, AS A DISINFECTANT, AS A PRESERVATIVE, ETC. THIS IS THE WAY FAITH AND WORKS ARE, SEPARATELY THEY CAN CAUSE DAMAGE; TOGETHER THEY ARE GOD'S POWER AT WORK IN OUR LIVES! -- Source Unknown
B. Committed Faith 2:18b-19; Titus 3:8
1. It is not enough to simply say, "I believe" but show no practical ways of this!
2. As an example James says that even the "demons believe, and they shudder!"
a. Faith that does not move us to righteous expression will move us to shudder!
b. The demons of Hell believe in God ... but their actions are anything but righteous, thus they shudder at their faith in God! They shudder in fear of God!
c. Faith in God that is devoid of righteous expression is not peaceful, and it is not the kind of faith God calls us to! Demon Faith Shudders, Real faith Serves!
d. Faith in God that finds righteous expression brings peace, comfort, power, joy, patience... etc.
3. In Titus 3:8 Paul states the same thing when he says, “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”
a. Those who trust in God will demonstrate their trust or faith in doing what is good, expressing their faith in God in ways that others will recognize!
b. Notice too that Paul says that this principle is profitable for everyone!
c. It is incumbent upon all believers, not just some!
4. Faith must be committed to action! Real faith cannot be held back from acting, it will WORK, and it will ACT!
ILLUS: AFTER THE BATTLE OF LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, WHEN THE FEDERAL TROOPS HAD CLEARED THE HEIGHTS WITH AN IRRESISTIBLE DASH, GENERAL GRANT SENT TO GENERAL WOODS AND ASKED, “D1D YOU ORDER THE CHARGE?” THE RESPONSE WAS NEGATIVE FROM GENERAL WOODS. HE THEN ASKED HOOKER AND SHERIDAN THE SAME QUESTION AND GOT THE SAME NEGATIVE ANSWER! APPARENTLY NO GENERAL HAD ISSUED THE CHARGE, THE MEN WERE JUST SO FULL OF FAITH THAT THEY WERE GOING TO BE SUCCESSFUL THAT THEY COULDN'T STAY IN THE DITCHES AND THEY ALL ATTACKED AT THE SAME TIME, THEIR FAITH WAS SO GREAT, THEY JUST ACTED WITHOUT ORDERS FROM A GENERAL! FAITH ACTED! -- Source Unknown
III. FAITH - INDISPUTABLE! 2:20-26
A. Common ground Faith! 2:20-25
1. James now proceeds to use two different examples of how FAITH and WORKS go together, and the two examples couldn't be more different, and yet also the same!
a. Abraham: the Jewish progenitor! His faith in God moved him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and caused him to wander the rest of his life in a strange land!
(1. His faith in God to have a son wasn't realized for almost 25 years, yet he still acted in faith!
(2. When God called him to give up his only son at a ripe age of around 113 years old, he was willing to act on his faith in God!
(3. James was writing to both Jews and Gentiles, to the Jews Abraham was the perfect example, and to the Gentiles James calls Abraham "their ancestor" ... clearly including the Gentiles who like Abraham have faith too. It was not DNA that made them ancestors to Abraham; it was faith that proved their heritage!
(4. Abraham was the perfect example of faith and works together, and a greatly admired man of God who was called the "friend of God" ... a great Jewish example of a real man of faith!
b. Rahab: the Gentile prostitute! These two examples could not have been more different, and yet there was one thing that was the same in both -- James is attempting to show they both ACTED IN FAITH and were therefore equally honored by God!
(1. This is good news, even the lowest in society can act in faith and be held up as a model!
(2. James picks the most admired man of the Jews and the lowest woman of the Gentiles to show how the same faith in both had similar expression in actions!
(3. They both served as models of how saving faith works!
c. They were not saved by their works, but their faith made them work!
2. The common ground of faith is works, it doesn’t matter who we are, what station in life we hold, if we claim we have saving faith it must be demonstrated in deeds or acts consistent with that saving faith!
a. The playing field is level for all, preacher and parishioner alike must act out their faith!
b. Faith and works go together in God's economy!
3. Real faith bursts into action in all kinds of real ways, it is not just some mystical concept, and it is not real in those who do nothing!
B. Complete Faith 2:26
1. James now ends where he began in verse 14, "faith without deeds is dead!"
a. Good works are a part of biblical faith!
b. In fact, good faith is impossible without good works!
ILLUS: AN IRISH BISHOP HAD TAKEN A COUNTRY WALK WITH A FRIEND. ON THEIR RETURN JOURNEY THE FRIEND URGED THE BISHOP TO HURRY, FEARING THEY MIGHT MISS THE TRAIN WHICH WOULD TAKE THEM HOME IN GOOD TIME. THE BISHOP LOOKED AT HIS WATCH AND SAID, “OH, WE HAVE PLENTY OF TIME.” HIS FRIEND HOWEVER ASKED, “BUT IS YOUR WATCH RELIABLE?” THE BISHOP REPLIED, "I HAVE COMPLETE FAITH IN MY WATCH!" SURE ENOUGH, WHEN THEY GOT TO THE TRAIN STATION THEY HAD JUST MISSED THE TRAIN BY A FEW MINUTES! THE FRIEND THEN SAID TO THE BISHOP, “AH, FAITH AND GOOD WORKS ARE BOTH NECESSARY IN THIS WORLD, YOU HAD FAITH, BUT IT SEEMS TO ME THAT IN THIS CASE (AS HE THEN TAPPED HIS FINGER ON THE BISHOP'S WATCH) THAT IN THIS CASE THE 'GOOD WORKS' MIGHT HAVE BEEN EQUALLY IMPORTANT!" HOW TRUE! -- Source Unknown
2. "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." 2:26
3. We cannot do without works as a demonstration of the real saving faith God gives! How much faith is evident in your life????
CONCLUSION: Real faith in God has real evidences in our lives. Christian faith cannot exist without expression! While a man or woman is justified by faith alone, his or her faith will not exist alone without works! Faith is not just a mystical concept; it is a material and concrete reality that finds expression in our lives by what we do. Faith cannot exist in a vacuum, it explodes into reality through the works we do in Christ's name! Do you have real faith?