Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 89 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading James 2 today and our focus is on how faith always produces good works. No good works means no faith. We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Scotland, UK, Madhya Pradesh, India, Washington, D.C. and Tupelo, Mississippi. Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan
In James 2, we find that James is going to challenge believers very hard with the interplay between faith and works. Quite possibly, James is writing and dealing with a group of people who were claiming that they didn’t need to do good works to please God since they were already saved. Perhaps they thought they had punched their ticket to Heaven, and could relax. This is speculation, of course, but like Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which was written in large part to correct the view that circumcision was necessary for salvation, the book of James also seems to be written to correct some erroneous views.
Some look to James 2:24, and see a big conflict between Paul’s teaching of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and what James says:
24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. James 2:24
I think what we are seeing here is Paul emphasizing that salvation is indeed by faith and not by works, and James emphasizing that salvation will always produce and be accompanied by good works. Our friends at Gotquestions.org helps us to see this:
The question of faith alone or faith plus works is made difficult by some hard-to-reconcile Bible passages. Compare Romans 3:28, 5:1 and Galatians 3:24 with James 2:24. Some see a difference between Paul (salvation is by faith alone) and James (salvation is by faith plus works). Paul dogmatically says that justification is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), while James appears to be saying that justification is by faith plus works. This apparent problem is answered by examining what exactly James is talking about. James is refuting the belief that a person can have faith without producing any good works (James 2:17-18). James is emphasizing the point that genuine faith in Christ will produce a changed life and good works (James 2:20-26). James is not saying that justification is by faith plus works, but rather that a person who is truly justified by faith will have good works in his/her life. If a person claims to be a believer, but has no good works in his/her life, then he/she likely does not have genuine faith in Christ (James 2:14, 17, 20, 26).
Paul says the same thing in his writings. The good fruit believers should have in their lives is listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Immediately after telling us that we are saved by faith, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9), Paul informs us that we were created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). Paul expects just as much of a changed life as James does: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). James and Paul do not disagree in their teaching regarding salvation. They approach the same subject from different perspectives. Paul simply emphasized that justification is by faith alone while James put emphasis on the fact that genuine faith in Christ produces good works.
Let’s read our passage.
Here’s our verse of the day: 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:17)
Pauls says something very similar to this in Galatians 5:6, “6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Faith will always express it self through love and action.
Spurgeon himself wrestles with the question of whether James and Paul contradict each other, but concludes that they do not, explaining:
What James does mean, however, is this, no doubt, in brief and short, that while faith saves, it is faith of a certain kind. No man is saved by persuading himself that he is saved; nobody is saved by believing Jesus Christ died for him. That may be, or may not be, true in the sense in which he understands it. In a certain sense Christ died for all men, but since it is evident that many men are lost, Christ’s dying for all men is not at all a ground upon which any man may hope to be saved. Christ died for some men in another sense, in a peculiar and special sense. No man has a right to believe that Christ peculiarly and specially died for him until he has an evidence of it in casting himself upon Christ, and trusting in Jesus, and bringing forth suitable works to evince the reality of his faith. The faith that saves is not a historical faith, not a faith that simply believes a creed and certain facts; I have no doubt devils are very orthodox; I do not know which church they belong to, though there are some in all churches; there was one in Christ’s Church when he was on earth, for he said one was filled with devils; and there are some in all churches. Devils believe all the facts of revelation. I do not believe they have a doubt; they have suffered too much from the hand of God to doubt his existence! They have felt too much the terror of his wrath to doubt the righteousness of his government. They are stern believers, but they are not saved; and such a faith, if it be in us, will not, cannot, save us, but will remain to all intents and purposes a dead, inoperative faith. It is a faith which produces works which saves us; the works do not save us; but a faith which does not produce works is a faith that will only deceive, and cannot lead us into heaven
C. H. Spurgeon, “Fruitless Faith,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 60 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1914), 566–567.
End of the Show: Bible memory verse for March: Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore, [Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.”
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