20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? 21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. 25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.
The third kind of works that reveal evidence of true faith are works that show a:
- Hope pinned on God’s promises (20-24)
A hope based on the belief that God will do what He says He will do. James reminds us of Abraham who was called by God to offer his only son as a sacrifice. As Abraham obeyed, God intervened and provided a substitute sacrifice. Now there are some sticky words here if you take them by themselves. Is James really saying that Abraham was saved through his work of laying Isaac on the altar? The word “justified” means for a person to be declared not guilty as if he had never sinned. But it’s used in two different senses. The first is the actual act of having been justified, the act of salvation, God’s grace given through faith. But the other sense of the word deals with being shown to have been justified. In the first sense, God signs the paperwork that declares the sinner, “not guilty.” In the second sense, the one whom God has declared not guilty produces the paperwork signed by the judge that declares him not guilty. The first is the fact, the second is the evidence. It’s the second that James uses here. He is saying, “Didn’t the fact that he was obedient reveal that he had pinned all His hope on God’s promises? Yes, it did. But what enabled him to do that? Hebrews 11:17-19 reveals the reason Abraham was able to lay his only son on that altar, because God had promised him a seed that would come from Isaac. God promised and Abraham placed his hope in God’s faithfulness to keep His promise. He believed God, even if He had to raise him up from the dead. Abraham exercised his hope with action, by cutting wood and building an altar. He obeyed God because He believed God. What about you are you hanging onto the hope of God’s promises? Are you focused on the problems around you or the promises that surround you? The fourth kind of works that reveal evidence of true faith are works that show
- Show service to God’s people (25-26)
James continues with his Old Testament example, which is not surprising considering his congregation was made up of Jewish Christians. He uses the example of Rahab the harlot who protected and provided for the spies that Joshua sent to scout out the city of Jericho. In Joshua 2:11 she gives her profession of faith as She said, “When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” But those were just words, was her profession of faith real? What did her works show? They showed her faith to be real when she gave service to God’s people. She became as a Jew just as Ruth would also later do. And, like Ruth after her, by God’s grace, Rahab is one of three women listed in the earthly genealogy of Jesus. Her works showed her faith by her service to God’s people. Her immediate service to the Israelite spies and her eternal service to the lineage of Christ. Do you risk or sacrifice anything to serve God’s people? What are you doing that will impact God’s church for future generations? If you don’t your faith might be dead.
Once again, we have been given a test. A test to see if your faith is real or not, a test comprising of 4 questions.
- Do your works show concern for the crown of God’s creation? Do you truly help the needy by giving them what they need most, Jesus?
- Do your works show total trust in God’s Word? Does God’s Word determine how you act? Does it fill your life so that it overflows into godly living?
- Do your works show a Hope pinned on God’s promises? Even though you might not understand the circumstances that God has placed you in, do you trust Him anyway? Trust Him enough to show Him by your actions?
- Do your works show service to God’s people? Are you doing things to serve God’s church? If not, your faith might be dead.