This week we look at what many commentators consider to be the main thrust of the Epistle to James–faith without works is dead. Many confuse what James is teaching in this text. Is he arguing for a works-based salvation? No. Is is arguing that works are the evidence of true salvation, not the source of true salvation? Yes.
This is a topic that the American Church needs to pay attention to and heed. Too many Christians today are what I call “cultural Christians,” in other words, they rely on a faulty faith or an intellectual belief in God as the evidence of their salvation. James is quite clear–this kind of faith is worthless.
Many years ago an evangelist came to Grace Church where I was serving at the time. He spoke with great passion about “The Prayer That Sends You to Hell.” This week’s title, “The Faith That Dooms You to Hell” is a play off of this title. Like James, he argued that too many Christians rely on a sinner’s prayer they prayed when they were a child or at some point in their life to ease their guilty conscious when it comes to eternal salvation. They don’t point to the fruit of their salvation, they point to a time when they prayed a pray and accepted Jesus in their heart, yet their life has shown no evidence of salvation from that point forward! Parents need to be especially careful when their children accept Jesus at a very young age and pray a prayer. Many times when the Spirit of God begins to draw a young man or woman to Christ and to genuine saving faith, Mom or Dad are right their to falsely assure their son or daughter that they are saved… “don’t you remember praying a prayer when you were four years old?”
Does this mean that God can’t save a young child or we can never know for certain if we are indeed saved? Absolutely not! God does save young children, and we can know we are truly saved, and James tells us what to look for–fruit. Works. Evidence that our salvation is real and living! It is not a mystery. James tells us its as easy as looking at a body and discerning whether it is alive or dead. Look for the vital signs: is there a heartbeat? is their the breath of life? are the eyes responsive? These are all vital signs of a genuine living person, and works are evidence of a genuine, living faith.
James points to some vital signs we should look for when examining ourselves: do we love others? do we care for each other? are we obedient to God’s word? Paul provides an extensive list of evidence we should see growing in our lives as a result of our genuine faith: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22–23).
Do you see this evidence in your life? Again, this kind of faith is not hidden from view…it’s obvious. Faith without works is dead, but true, saving faith is a living faith!–Chris Eller
This Week’s Core Virtue
Salvation by Grace (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:23-25; 8:38-39): We believe a person has a right relationship with God only by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. This makes believers eternally secure in Jesus Christ.
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