February 3, 2014
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
We have been talking about works and salvation — in the last blog especially. We cannot work our way into God’s favor! We cannot work our way into heaven and eternal life! But works play a very important role in the Christian’s life! And James 2:17 through 20 emphasizes that fact:
…faith, by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say,
“You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your
works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there
is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe, and tremble! But do
you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
James so emphasizes works in the Christian’s life that Martin Luther – who greatly struggled with works verses faith for his right standing before God – called the book of James, “a right strawy epistle” or “the epistle of straw”. But James – the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ – was looking at the issue from the human point of view. Martin Luther was looking at it more from the divine point of view.
Paul, in Ephesians 2:8 through 10 gave a most clear and precise presentation of the matter:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His
[God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God
prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Salvation comes first – by faith alone – trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross! Then come works! They are the result of salvation, not the cause of it!
James gives four examples of faith – or what faith is not – in James 2:14 through 26:
• Verses 15 and 16 – Giving a blessing to “…a brother or sister…naked and destitute of daily food…,” saying, “‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? ” As my wife and I learned in street-witnessing in Scranton many years ago, you cannot effectively communicate the gospel to someone who is cold and hungry. You must meet the needs of the body first! Then they may be open to hearing about Jesus Christ!
• Verses 21 through 23 (see Genesis 22:1 through 19) – Abraham proved his justification before the Lord by obeying God’s hard command to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. Yes, God stopped Abraham from plunging the knife into his son at the last moment, but he was willing to obey – the fruit of a work of obedience proving his faith in his Heavenly Father!
• Verse 25 (see Joshua 1 through 21) – Rahab, the harlot – a Canaanite living in Jericho – hid the Israelite spies, believing God had blessed Israel and given them the Promised Land. What she did with those spies proved her faith in the God of Israel!
The fourth example James gives is actually his second. Believing Demons! Verse 19 – “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe, and tremble!” Yes, demons believe! Most Bible scholars identify demons as fallen angels – those who participated in Lucifer’s rebellion when he sought to be God (see Isaiah 14:12 through 15 and Ezekiel 28:12 through 19). In Revelation 12:4 and 7 through 9, the devil is seen as being thrown out of heaven and dragging one third of the stars with him. According to Job 38:7, stars may refer to angels, kicked out of heaven with their leader, Satan. So demons have dealt with God, battled with Him and are defeated by Him. Demons do more than just ‘believe’ in God, they KNOW that He exists – in power and great glory!
Will demons be saved by their knowledge of God? No! So just mental belief – knowledge that God is real – will not save anyone! And Jesus made it quite plain in Matthew 7:21 through 23:
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven;
but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that
day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in
Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare
to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!
So believe in Jesus Christ and be saved! And prove your faith is real by the life you then live – the new life He gives you by the power of the Holy Spirit – manifesting good works pleasing to Him!