[What your NOT doing speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what your saying]
“Can that faith save him?”
Can- “dunamai” Having power to, capable of, able to
Save – “sozo” Preserve [keep] one who is in danger of destruction, to save as from the power of messianic judgment
Are we not saved by grace alone applied by faith alone? John 3:36; John 5:24; Rom. 10:9; Eph. 2:8,9
What than is James talking about in this part of the chapter? James 2:14- He asks a question with the intentions of the answer being NO! “Can that faith save him? No!” WHAT?! Doesn’t Jesus, Paul and the rest of the New Testament say, “YES!?”
This perhaps is why Luther said of the book of James, “I’d like to throw Jimmy in the fire.”
This is not the first time that James has taken us in the direction of faith in motion. James 1:27 “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Deceiving yourselves about what? That a faith that shows no ‘doing’ is able to save.
Vs 14-17 All we need is Faith in our Faith? [Leaving others destitute, naked and hungry must prove something]
My 6 year old daughter cut her thumb open the other morning, cutting a bagel[no it is not something we allow her to do]. She came into my home office clenching her fist around her thumb, blood dripping and crying. What did I, her dad, do? “I’m studying about the great truths of the faith, right now honey. I see your hand is dripping blood so I bless you. May you heal quickly!” Then as she walks back into the kitchen to apply a wet cloth and a band-aid she faints. What good is it if I come stand over her and say, “I have faith that you will recover, and be well! Now go in peace?” That’s NO GOOD! That is NOT what love does! That’s NOT what I did! I was there to catch her before she hit the floor and care for her until the thumb was taken care of and the color returned to her face. James tells us to have a faith that just quotes your faith- demonstrates no action proves something. It proves that your faith is dead!
Phillip Melanchthon, a prodigee of Martin Luther and one of the first writers of systematic Theology, said it this way, “We are saved by faith alone but we are not saved by a faith that remains alone.”
Vs 18-20 We shouldn’t mix Faith and Life? [Holding the right doctrine must make us something]
In 1752 a theologian puritan preacher named Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon titled, “True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils” Great Title! He focused on the heart of these verses, verse 19. Edwards talked about the good things devils have- 1)A sound understanding of who God is, He is One [they have attended the greatest divinity school in the universe, the very presence of God] 2)A respect for the power and greatness of God [They move about under His shutter]
In pointing this out Edwards gives us the picture of religion without a faith that saves! Religion alone often brags of a correct understanding of theological nuances, even knowing who God is. Religion continuously holds out the nature of God as means of punishment and manipulation to it’s subscribers so that the entirety of their life is to “live under the shutter”. Spewing religious terminology while always in the shadow of trying to do enough good deeds to appease an angry God. It is a knowledge of God without a knowing of God in the reality of life. Holding the right doctrine doesn’t necessarily mean we have a living faith. It may mean we are just equal to demons. James points us to way that we CAN KNOW if faith is a saving faith.
Vs 21-26 Justified by Works [A Pagan, a prostitute and You…the degrees of separation]
What demonstrates a true and saving faith? A true and saving faith is ALWAYS demonstrated, proven, authenticated, matured and completed by works. James gives us two examples of authentic faith that was so full and powerful that it moved those who possessed it to works beyond what seemed rational or were merely motivated by religious knowing. The first example, Abraham. A man chosen by the grace of God from a pagan setting. Asked to believe, trust, have faith in the One who was calling him. Believes God, surrenders all other hope of success and life to the promise of God alone- it is counted to him for right standing before God. This faith is so definite and so complete that even when God asks him to sacrifice his first born son, which by the way was not a religious rule, out of great love and respect for the God in whom he knew he could trust he does the unthinkable- prepares the human sacrifice. God intervenes in the last moment! From this point on Abraham is called the friend of God. Faith that so deeply understands the grace and care of God that it holds nothing back- a faith of intimate friendship- is no mere theological knowing. This is a faith that courageously trusts the good hand of God, Hebrews 11:17. The second example is not unlike the first. A Jericho prostitute bravely acts in faith to hide the spies of the God she barely knows but knows enough. Her faith, though young, is complete and therefore demonstrated by works. Works that places her own life at risk, but trusts God’s salvation when judgment comes to the rest of the city. This is the basis upon which she makes her decision to protect God’s spies in the city.
The degrees of separation between you, or I, and these two examples (the Pagan and Prostitute) are the degree to which our heart is so impacted by the faith that we possess. Faith that is merely knowledge of God exampled by religious platitudes and a life of shutter, James has told us is dead. A faith that is moved by the grace of God shown to us through His Son always demonstrates acts of worship- it has life!