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In-Depth Biblical Content by Pastor Andy Davis

How Justified Sinners Display Saving Faith (James Sermon 5)

How Justified Sinners Display Saving Faith (James Sermon 5)

February 09, 2020 | Andy Davis
James 2:14-26
Conversion, Sanctification, Walk by Faith, Holiness, Good Works



Turn in your Bibles to James 2. we'll look this morning at verses 14-26. In many ways, this is the theological center of the Book of James. As James, I think, is very practical and throughout five chapters is giving us evidences, or perhaps tests of what genuine, saving faith looks like. Not just here in this one place, but throughout all five chapters. And so, it's vital for us to understand these verses, and they are not easy to understand. We need to be able to harmonize this text with Paul's teaching in Romans 3, we need to be able to see the scripture as what it is, the inerrant and the perfect word of God. 


I. On the Perfection of Scripture and Apparent Contradictions


Our Entire Lives Are Founded on the Perfection of Scripture

The salvation of our eternal souls depends on scripture. It depends on the written word of God, and the perfection of scripture. The Bible says very plainly that the word of God is flawless. In other words, that there are no errors in Scripture. It says in Psalm 18 in verse 30, "As for God, his way is perfect, the word of the Lord is flawless." And again, Psalm 12:6 says the same thing, "The words of the Lord are flawless, like silver, refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times over." 

Now why is this true? Why is the scripture perfect? Well, because all scripture is God-breathed, 2 Timothy 3:16, "All scripture is breathed out by God, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness." Also the origin of Scripture is taught plainly in 2 Peter Chapter 1:21, it says, "Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." So the mind of God is perfect. As the text says that we just heard God is one. And what that means is there's no contradiction within the mind of God. He's never confused about anything, he is never at a loss for words, he never has no idea what to say. Once having said something he never has to double back and retract something that he said or add to it later because it was inadequate in any way. The word of God is perfect because the mind of God is perfect. And so, the doctrine of inerrancy is vital to the salvation of our souls. 

The Doctrine of Inerrancy is Vital

If we knew that the Bible were, for example, 99% accurate what would you do with that knowledge? Would not your imagination be running amok? Would you not wonder constantly about that 1%? And wouldn’t it crop up every time the Scripture crossed you in some way? In some way taught you something you didn't quite understand or in some way got in your business, got in your grill and convicted you about something? Would you not wonder about that 1%? And pretty soon 1% might become 2%. And effectively 5% and then 10%, and after a while you're not sure about any of it at all. So inerrancy is vital. 

Now, the essence of liberal theology is to teach us that the Bible is essentially a human book. It's what people in the past thought about religion, what people in the past thought about God. It's kind of an evolutionary view as well as we're getting more and more evolved. We understand spirituality, we've gone beyond the archaic teachings of the Bible. You've heard this kind of thing. 

Well, in our denomination there was a battle fought for the Bible called the Battle of the Bible in the 1970s. And was specifically over what kinds of things would be taught in the seminaries. Would the seminaries teach liberal theology? That the Bible is essentially a human book and then get up on Sundays and preach like that, or would the seminaries train men to preach the word as inerrant as the word of God. And we praise God that despite the overall tendency of mainline denominations to slide toward liberalism, the Southern Baptist Convention was willing to turn back to the doctrine of inerrancy, and therefore we have to continue to be vigilant and to fight for it. 

The Complexity of Words

However, words are complex, words are challenging. Paul himself said that we “see through a glass darkly.” That is, when we read scripture, it's not the same as seeing God face-to-face. We're going to have an infinitely clearer understanding of truth in heaven than we do right now, and words are part of the problem. It is by words that God saves us. “I'm not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for salvation.” And the Gospel is a set of words instead of doctrines about Jesus and about ourselves and about God, etcetera. But words can be difficult. They can challenge us. Married couples, you know very well what I'm talking about. Have you ever just talked past each other? And you have to go back and define terms? It's like, "No, no, no, you don't understand what I'm saying." Maybe that only happens with me and my wife, where you get just snared in your words, it's like, "Do we even understand what we're talking about?" Politicians do this, they just talk right by each other. And it's like, "Are we even operating from the same dictionary with the same definitions?" I mean, English is a strange language. It wasn't until I tried to teach it in Japan that I realized what a weird language we speak. And any of you who have done English as a second language, you've done some of this teaching, you realize how bizarre it is. Like the spelling rules are weird. But even some things like this, like complete and incomplete are opposites, right? But flammable and inflammable are synonyms. Figure that out. Give and take are opposites. But a caretaker, and a caregiver is the same person. I've never been able to figure that out, is a caregiver somebody who gives care or takes care? I don't know. Tell me afterwards what you think about that. Or this one, I could care less and I couldn't care less. Don't they mean the same thing? 

So, we're constantly struggling with this and it happens even theologically, even in the Book of James. He uses a word in one way, “peirazo,” the Greek word for “try” or “test” and says that God does do that, he tests us and tries us. But he uses the same word a little later, which means in that context tempt saying, "God never tempts us." Exact same Greek word. Or you could look at the word for lust, epithumia in the Greek. It also means strong desire, and so obviously, all of our temptations are based on lust but the same Greek word is used for the Holy Spirit's deep desire over our hearts, that he yearns for us deeply. Same Greek word. Or again, the word translated zeal or jealousy, “zelos” in the Greek. Sometimes it's the one, sometimes the other. We're told that we should not have a carnal jealousy for one another, but we should never be lacking in zeal toward God. Context is king. So this is the challenge of language and God has entrusted the salvation of our souls to the words of Scripture, but that doesn't mean that the words are easy to understand. And therefore, 2 Timothy 2:15 says, to Timothy, as a pastor, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved. A workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Cutting it straight, handling it properly.

And so, we go to seminary, those that are set apart as preachers and we learn theology, we learn Church history, we learn exegesis, the original languages, so that we can rightly divide the word of truth. It's not always easy to understand. Now, the flaw is with us. There's nothing wrong with the scripture, it's not like God could have written it better. Jesus said to the Sadducees, who are basically the liberals of his day, "You are in error, because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God." There's nothing wrong with the scripture, there's something wrong with us. And so we bring confusion, we bring double-mindedness to the scripture and that makes it hard for us to understand.

The Apparent Contradiction

So, what apparent contradiction are we talking about? Well, in Romans 3:28, Paul says these words, "We maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." A person is justified by faith, not works. But then look at verse 24 of our text today, James 2:24 says "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." So this is an apparent contradiction, and it's not insignificant, it's not like perhaps some difficulty with one genealogy and another genealogy, where a name seems to be skipped or something like that. This goes right to the heart of how it is that sinners are made right with God. Now because of this, Martin Luther, the great 16th century reformer had a very low view of the Book of James. He was constantly battling on the issue of justification by faith alone. When he realized that sinners are made right with God, forgiven of their sins by faith and not by works, he was liberated from that slavery that he was living under as a monk. He said, "If anyone could have ever won Heaven by monkery, it would have been me." You can picture him like in the recent Martin Luther movie, down on his hands and knees scrubbing a floor. And the floor is already clean, because he's already scrubbed it, but now he's scrubbing it some more. This is a man who spent constant hours confessing tiny sins of his mind and heart to his confessor, Father Staupitz. He was relentlessly afflicted by terror of Hell and by the fear of the Law. And then at last, he understood justification by faith alone. That simply by trusting in Christ and not by works are our sins forgiven. And he said, "It was like the gates of Heaven flew open and I walked in." But then he's got to debate on this with the Roman Catholic magisterium, with the Medieval Roman Catholic hierarchy and they're constantly battling and no doubt they threw James in his face. And so therefore, in 1522 when he wrote an introduction to the New Testament, he called the Book of James, "An epistle of straw." Because it has very little of the Gospel, about it. Well, the great man was wrong.

So I know he's not here to defend himself, but he's fine, he's up in Heaven, he's not worried about what we think about him. But he was wrong. It's not an epistle of straw. Now, he did call him Saint James, and he didn't drop it out of the cannon. But I think he had a fundamental misunderstanding of these words. This is an apparent contradiction. There cannot be an actual contradiction in words spoken by God. And so we have to make an effort to harmonize what Paul says in Romans, and what James says here in chapter 2, because each of these scriptures are equally God-breathed. They're equally coming from the mind of God.

Charles Spurgeon once, when he was talking about the debate on Calvinism, on divine sovereignty and human responsibility, he was asked, "How do you reconcile the doctrine of God's absolute sovereignty over salvation and the doctrine of human responsibility?" And Spurgeon said, "I would never try. I never have to reconcile friends. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility have never had an argument or falling out with one another. They're very good friends. So I wouldn't make any effort to try to reconcile them." End quote. So it is with this, there is an apparent contradiction and we don't need to reconcile them. They are teaching vital aspects of the salvation of our souls, and we need to try to harmonize them.

II. The Crown Jewel of the Gospel: Justification by Faith Alone


The Central Issue of Sinful Humanity is Salvation

The second part of my outline says this, "The crown jewel of the Gospel is Justification by Faith Alone.” The central issue of human salvation is how sinners like us can stand righteous before God, on Judgment Day. And then for all eternity in heaven." How can we go to heaven? How can sinners like us stand before a God who, the Scripture says is a consuming fire? The angels, the holy angels cover their faces, and they cry, "Holy, holy, holy." Isaiah, a godly man and a prophet said, "Woe is me, I'm ruined. For I'm a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord almighty." How can sinners like us be made right with God? "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23. God is perfectly holy, he has a perfect record of our actions and of the inclinations of our hearts. And how can we be made right in his sight? We could never save ourselves. And so God did it, by sending his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is begotten by the power of the Holy Spirit. Who is born fully God, fully man, who lived a sinless life, as recorded in the scriptures. Who did all these great teachings, who did all these incredible miracles but especially he was crucified on the cross as a substitutionary atonement for our sins. On the third day, God raised him from the dead. That is the Gospel. But how are we sinners to tap into that? How are we to connect with that work of Christ? And the Bible makes it very, very plain that we are justified by faith alone, apart from any works we could ever do.

How Are Sinners Made Right With God?

Listen to Romans Chapter 4:5, "To the one who does not work but trust him who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited to him as righteousness." That maybe, probably the clearest and most important verse on justification by faith apart from works in the Bible. Let me read it again. Romans 4:5, "To the one who does not work but trust him who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." Or again, Galatians 2:16, "We know that a person is not justified by observing the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ, so we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the Law, because by observing the Law, no one will be justified." And again, Ephesians 2, 8 to 9, it says, "For by grace, are you saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it's the gift of God. Not by works, so that no one can boast." There are many other verses like this. This is the center-piece of the Gospel, this is the crown jewel of the Christian religion.

Every other religion in the world is a religion of human works. All of them. There are Islamic good works, so defined. There are Buddhist good works, so defined. Hinduistic good works, so defined. Even the cults have their own system of works, inevitably flogging their members with a pattern of morality that they have to keep, in order to go to Heaven. All of the cults do it. Every religion in the world is a religion of human works and human endeavor, except for this one, the religion of God's sovereign grace. Martin Luther put it this way, "The Law says, do this and it is never done." The Gospel says, "Believe this man, and it is done already." So we're actually trusting in Jesus' works, not in our own. We're trusting in his perfect obedience to the Law, not in our own. We're trusting in his death, his bloody death on the cross to atone for our sins and pay the death penalty we deserve. So that we don't have to die eternally in Hell. That's the Gospel and that's the center-piece of Christianity. John Calvin said this, "Wherever the knowledge of justification by faith is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion is abolished, the Church is destroyed and the hope of salvation is utterly overthrown." So we believe that we are forgiven, made right in the sight of a Holy God by simple faith, not by good works.


III. The Different Questions that Paul and James are Answering


Outline point number three, “The Different Questions that Paul and James are Answering.” Now, Paul and James are seeking to answer different questions. Paul's question is, "How is a sinner made right with a Holy God? How can we be forgiven? How can we stand holy in his sight? How can we be welcomed into a perfect, holy heaven given that we have sinned?” And the answer is, by faith in Christ and not by works. But James' question is different. We could say two questions, first, "What kind of faith actually justifies?" And secondly, "How is that faith lived out or displayed in a genuinely saved person's life?" Those are the questions James is asking. Now Paul is also going to have to address those same questions. James and Paul are both true teachers of the true Gospel and they both had to address both sides of this equation.

Paul’s Answers

Now, Paul knew very well that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, apart from any works was open to misunderstanding and was open to slander and to being twisted. He knew that. Again and again in Romans, at least four times, he has to address slanderous accusations made against him and his doctrines. For example, he taught beautifully, and I love this verse, Romans 5:20, "Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more." Isn't that incredibly encouraging? You can't sin beyond God's provision of grace. So, I've pictured my sin as a fire. Sometimes like a match, sometimes like a torch, sometimes like a bonfire, sometimes like a raging inferno, and then God's provision of grace like the Pacific Ocean. And whether you take the match and put it in, or the torch, or the bonfire, or the raging inferno, and you drop it in the Pacific Ocean, God's grace is supra-abundant it's greater than all of our sins. And so where our sin abounds, grace abounds even more.

Well, you know what's going to happen, as soon as you teach that, they're going to say, "Well then, why don't we just go on sinning, so that grace may abound?" Have you ever heard that before? That's Romans 6:1. Paul knew very well that that's what people would say. "Well, if that's true, then we can sin as much as we want. Sin to beat the band and then go to Heaven afterwards. Can live it up in sin, and then go to Heaven afterwards." And Paul has to say, "May it never be." And for three chapters, Romans 6, 7, and 8, he unfolds the doctrine of sanctification, of progressive holiness. Of what kind of life you should live if you are a genuinely justified person. And it's a life of holiness, it's a life of putting sin to death by the Spirit, it's a life of obedience. He teaches all that, Romans 6, 7, and 8. So he would not in any way disagree that not every kind of faith saves a sinner. There are different kinds of faith. Other religions have fanatically devoted adherence to their religion, and they have all kinds of faith that their religion is true. 

Jesus himself in his own day, had tons of people following him because they saw his miracles. But it says at the end of John 2, it said “many put their faith in Him because of the miracles, but Jesus would not entrust Himself to them because He knew all men and He did not need anyone's testimony about man because he knew what was in a man.” So just because it says someone believed, doesn't mean that it's a genuine saving faith. So James is getting at what kind of faith actually justifies. 

Obedience Does Not Add to Justification

Now, Paul wants to be very, very clear, please don't misunderstand. It's not like you have faith as part one of your justification, and then you add good works as part two of your justification and those together are the way by which you are forgiven of your sins. That is a false doctrine. It's exactly what Paul is seeking to destroy concerning the Judaizers. The Judaizers said they believed in Jesus, they believed Jesus was the Son of God, they believed that Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead, they believed that forgiveness of sins was available in part by faith in Christ. But you had to add the Law of Moses, you had to add circumcision and all of the precepts of the Law of Moses, if you were going to be saved. Faith in Christ alone does not save you, it's faith plus works. That's the Gospel of the Judaizers. And he absolutely vigorously taught against that. You are fully, completely justified the moment you believe in Jesus. Justification is a perfected state from which you can never fall out. If you have been justified, genuinely justified, you're justified forever, forgiven forever, reconciled to God forever. God's at peace with you forever. That's the beauty of it. But now, you have a life to live. And what kind of life will you live and what kind of faith justifies? 

Now, I think Galatians 5:6 gives us a key harmonizing verse. We're going to come back to it, but I want to say it now and just get it in your mind. Galatians 5:6 says, "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only," listen to this, "faith working through love." Faith working through love. Hold on to that phrase. We're going to circle back and talk about it later. 


IV. Useless Faith, Dead Faith, Unproven Faith, and Demonic Faith Do Not Save a Soul


Outline point number four, “Useless Faith, Dead Faith, Unproven Faith, and Demonic Faith Do Not Save a Soul.” So let's walk through each of these. The question James is addressing is, “What kind of faith saves a sinner?” Secondly, “How does that faith display itself in a person's actual life?” So the issue of what kind of faith comes up clearly in verse 14. Look at verse 14. "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" That's one translation, or, "Can that faith save him?" Can that kind of faith that I'm about to describe or that I have described here, faith with no works, can that kind of faith save a soul? So we're dealing with the issue of what kind of faith do you have? All right, so James brings up four types of faith in James two: Useless faith, dead faith, unproven faith and demon faith. So let's walk through them. 

Useless Faith

First, useless faith. Verse 14, "What good is it?" What good is it, what does it benefit, how does it profit, what difference does it make, that kind of thing? Does your faith do you or anyone else any good in this world? Is it good for anything? And if it's not, we would call it useless. Look at verses 15-16, the example he gives. "Suppose your brother or sister is without clothes and daily foods. If one of you says to him, 'Go. I wish you well. Keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?" What good is it? So, there's a practical need, you see the need, and you do literally nothing to meet it. What good is it if the person's trembling, shivering with cold, and they haven't eaten anything in a day, and you say, "Go, I wish you well," and you pat them on the back and send them on their way?  James is ridiculing that. Their stomach is still growling and they're still trembling. They have interacted with you, a supposed believer in Christ, and nothing has changed at all. You have made no impact on the person's life, no impact on their experience. What good is it? He's going to say the same thing in verse 20. "You foolish man. Do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?" So the word there is “idol,” or “lazy,” or “unemployed.” Your faith is unemployed, it's an unemployed faith. As though I think your faith is the sluggard of the Book of Proverbs. You remember the character, the sluggard. What an interesting individual the sluggard is. "As a door turns on its hinges, so the sluggard turns in its bed." Or look at the sluggard, he dips his bread into the dish, but he will not bring it to his mouth. He needs his mommy to help him, help him to feed. “Just, would you please just lift this bread with the sop into my mouth? Thank you so much.” The sluggard makes excuses saying, "There's a lion out in the streets. Who knows, I might get mauled," and so he stays home for the day. And you look at his house and it's overgrown with weeds, and the roof is falling apart. It's the life of the sluggard. That's the word that's used here. Your faith is like that, it's a sluggard faith. It doesn't do anything in this world, it's useless. James does not want a congregation of so-called believers whose faith makes no difference in the world in which they live. 

Dead Faith

Secondly, dead faith. Look at verse 17. "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." So James goes even further, he calls it a dead faith. There's no life there. And that's vital, isn't it? Because Jesus comes to give us eternal life. And if your faith is dead, it means you have no life. You're not alive in Jesus. You're actually dead in your transgressions and sins. You don't actually have spiritual life, it's a dead faith. Now, the key issue here has to do with fruit. If there's no fruit, there's no life. And so, what is fruit? And that's vital for us as we read the New Testament. What kind of fruit are we looking at? And I'll talk about it at the very end of the message here, but the Bible defines what good fruit is. 

One preacher said there's two main categories of fruit: Attitude fruit and action fruit. So attitude fruit would be the internal attitudes of your heart, the fruit of the Spirit. Those are demeanors and dispositions of your heart. But then there's action fruit, and that's what James is talking about here. It just rolls out into actual things that you've done. But if there's no fruit, there's no life. Jesus said, in Matthew 12:33, "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good. Make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad. For a tree is known by its fruit." Or, again, Jesus said in John 15, "I am the true vine and my Father is the vine dresser. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." A few verses later, he says, "Such fruitless branches, that are on the ground, are collected, picked up and thrown into the fire and burned." So in other words, he's saying if there's a branch that's in Christ in some sense, they're not grafted in, but it's hanging on. Could imagine a vibrant vine and then a branch that's been cut off, it's not connected, and it's just laying on top of the grape vine. There's no genuine life, it little by little, starts to wither and it gets faded, it gets yellow, then it gets brown, then black. It's dead. And you can see it especially when the time comes for harvest. Spurgeon said, "The source of the apple tree's life is the root. Whether it has apples or not, the source of the tree’s life is the root. But, in the spring, if that tree has no little bud, and if that bud doesn't develop into a leafy cluster, and if that doesn't develop into a tiny little green hard apple, and if that doesn't develop into a rosy red or pink apple, then there's no life in the tree.” So you have to see the fruit in order to see the life. Now, the fruit does not create the life, it proves it, it gives evidence that there actually is life there. Dead faith produces no fruit because there's no life in it. 

Unproven Faith

Thirdly, unproven faith. Verse 18. So this is kind of like Missouri, the “Show Me” state. I wonder, where did they get that name? I'm just curious. Were there a bunch of people that were like, "I don't believe it. I don't believe it. Show me." All right, so you got the Show Me state. So if any of you are from Missouri or know the answer, I would like to know the answer. All right,  it's like, show me that you have faith. If you just tell me that you have faith, I have no way of knowing. Look in verse 18. "Someone will say you have faith, I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds and I'll show you my faith by what I do." So genuine, saving faith produces a transformed nature. Jesus called it being born again. So if you have a genuine faith in Christ, you're given a new nature. "If anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation. The old is gone, everything becomes new," 2 Corinthians 5:17. You've become changed. There's a new nature. But that new nature has to show itself, it has to act out. It is a heart issue. It is a heart issue. You don't move a muscle to be justified. The thief on the cross didn't move a muscle to believe that Jesus was the coming king. But if he had never said anything, we would not have known that he was saved. Jesus would not have said, "Today, you'll be with me in paradise," just by reading his mind, though he could read it. It was the fact that he said something. He couldn't do anything, but he was speaking. So there has to be movement. It has to move a muscle. You have to talk a certain way, and then walk a certain way, and do certain things if you are genuinely a born again. 

And the cases of Abraham and Rahab, that James is going to bring up, show faith tested and proven is genuine, and that only happens with works. Now, I believe that James may be using the word "justified" differently than Paul. I think that's part of the problem here. I think Paul is, when he says that we are justified by faith apart from works, I think that means before God, vertically, in standing with God, as in a court of law, acquitted, declared righteous, legally by God the judge. That's how he means "justified by faith apart from works". I think with James, it's much more vindicated or proven. The individual is vindicated as a righteous person, vindicated or proven as having genuine faith. It has to be proven. We'll talk more about that in a moment. 

Demon Faith

The fourth kind of defective faith, verse 19, is demon faith. Look at verse 19. It says, "You believe that there is one God. Good. Even the demons believe that and shutter." Now, this may be the key issue. On what basis do individuals, who are not genuinely born again, claim that they are Christians? Generally, it means that they assent to the Christian doctrines. They assent that those doctrines are true. And if asked by someone in a poll, "Are you a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etcetera?" They're going to say, "Christian." 65% of the American population claims to be Christian. But if you were to ask them on what basis, they'd say, "Well, I believe the things that the Christian Church teaches," things like that. 

What James is saying here is that assent, agreement, to orthodox doctrine is not enough to save your soul. It is necessary, but not sufficient. That's a logical term. You need it, without it you cannot be saved, but it's not enough. And why does he say that? He gives the example of demons. The demons have orthodox doctrine. They know the Ps and Qs, and all that. They can dot every I and cross every T. They know they know the Bible far better than anyone in this room. Satan knows the Bible far better than we do. So demons understand, for example that there is one God and only one God, the oneness of God. "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." They know that there are not many gods and goddesses. They know that very well, they're the ones that concocted the gods and goddesses. They know that Jupiter and Venus and Aphrodite are not real. They're god and goddess impersonators. They know that there is one God. And so, James is saying, “if that's you, you believe that there is one God, good. That's a good thing, but the demons believe it too and they shudder.” 

The Demons Shudder

Now, what does that mean, that they shudder? One of two possibilities. First and foremost, simply, they shudder in terror. They're terrified of the one God. They know that their time is short. Satan, in Revelation 12, knows that his time is short, that he's going to end up in the Lake of Fire. All of his angels, the devil and his angels, are in rebellion against Almighty God. And when Jesus came and started driving out demons, one of the demons said, "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." They were terrified of Jesus. They knew that there's a time coming when they're going to be judged. And so, they believe that there is one God and they are terrified of him, they shudder. That's one way of understanding the shuttering. 

The other could be a shuddering of revulsion. They shudder at every true doctrine of the Bible because they hate them all. They hate God, the hate human beings, they hate righteousness, they hate everything pure and holy. And so, it's not enough to just believe that things are true. The question is, is your heart attracted to it, is it amiable to you, is it delightful to you? Do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Do you love your neighbor as yourself? It's a matter of love and affection. And so the demons believe that there is one God. By the way, that's an interesting insight into the spiritual realm. What it means is they don't see God all the time, they have to believe in God like we do. It's not like God's in their face all the time, they have to kind of be brought into his presence, as in the Book of Job. And so they're just moving around in a spiritual realm like we are in a physical realm. They don't see the Holy God all the time, but they believe he's there, and they know what's going to happen. And some day, he's going to judge them and condemn them.

So, in the end, it all boils down to two different issues. Useless faith, dead faith, and unproven faith all lack deeds. There are no corresponding works. But demon faith lacks loving relationship with God vertically, a loving connection or intimacy with God. And so let's go back to that harmonizing verse, Galatians 5:6, "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but only faith working through love." So what does that mean? True faith justifies the sinner, causes the righteousness of Christ to be imputed, credited, or reckoned to us, and then transforms the heart and gets it busy in work. It makes your heart healthy and active and energetic. It starts to work through love. Your heart now sees God vertically as beautiful, attractive, the loving Heavenly Father, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, it sees your neighbor as yourself and you start to move out in love. It starts to work in love. And so genuine, saving faith works. It energetically works in love.

And so, the issue is clearly addressed. Verses 15-16, "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or daily food. Suppose one of you says to him, 'Go. I wish you well. Keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs. What good is it?" Well, saving faith would never do that. Saving faith is going to say, "What can I do to help this brother or sister without clothes or daily food?" Just like we saw with the talking about orphans and widows, to look after orphans and widows in their distress, to actually do something to care for them. Not just come and visit them, but to make certain that their needs are met. Just as we've been saying in the sheep and the goats, when the Son of Man comes, he's going to gather all of his sheep together and he's going to say to his sheep, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison, you came to visit me." Now, Jesus is not saying because or on the basis of those works, your sins were forgiven. That would be justification by works. But he's saying this is the evidence of the fact that you are in fact my sheep.


V. Two Famous Case Studies: Abraham and Rahab


Case #1: Abraham

Well, he then gives us two case studies, Abraham and Rahab. And this is where the verbiage gets so difficult. Let's walk through these case studies. First, Abraham. Verses 21-24, "Was not Abraham, our ancestor, justified for what he did when he offered his son, Isaac, on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God and it was credited him as righteousness,' and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." Well, James knows very well that this text in Genesis 15, where God says to Abraham, "Come out and look up at the starry sky, look at all those beautiful stars up there in the night sky.” And then He made him a promise, "So shall your offspring be." And he knows that Abraham believed that promise and right there and then, it was credited to him as righteousness. Romans 4 zeros in on that moment when Abraham, who Paul calls wicked in that he was an idolater, an unbeliever but a sinner, when he was made righteous, he was reckoned as righteous. James knows about that whole account. But he also knows, as do we, of the testing of Abraham's faith, which actually happened over years, but especially in Genesis 22. You remember Genesis 22, in verse 1, "Some time later, God tested Abraham, saying, 'take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and offer him up as a burnt offering in one of the mountains I'll tell you about.'" 

Now that is a severe test of faith. And what did he do? Well, he obeyed. He got up and obeyed. He saddled up his donkey the next morning, he and his son went, they got to Mount Moriah where God identified it, they started going up the mountain, he stretched out his son, he took the dagger and he was just about to plunge it into his son's breast. Genesis 22, verse 10-12, "Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son, but the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, 'Abraham, Abraham.' 'Here I am,' he replied. 'Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do nothing to him.'" Now, listen to these words. "Now, I know that you fear God." It's incredible. That's God saying that Abraham, "Now, I know that you fear God since you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." Now, the Lord knows everything. He knew Abraham's heart. He knew the future, he knew what he would do. But he wanted it acted out in space and time. He wanted actual works of obedience. And when those actual works occurred, then he can say, "Now, I know that you believe in Jesus because you have obeyed Me." And so that's the case study here. And then, the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God and it was credited as righteousness." It was lived out, it was vindicated. It was proven in space and time. Every single day we have opportunities to obey. Faith is like a magnet seeking iron to be attracted to. We are, as believers, looking for a command to obey, and there are many of them. As Jesus said, "Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded." There are so many commands; commands about our marriages, parenting, commands about our prayer lives, our money. Our lives are filled with commands in the New Testament, and in the old, that are still binding on us. And faith, genuine faith, is just looking for a way to obey just as Abraham did. 

Case #2: Rahab

Case number two is Rahab. Verse 25, "In the same way, was not even Rahab, the prostitute, considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a direction, in a different direction?" So, Rahab believed in her heart that the God of the Hebrews was the true God and that the Jews were going to inherit the Promised Land, she believed that. Listen to what it says in Joshua 2:9-11. "I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting and fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you", listen to this, "for the Lord your God is God in Heaven above and on the earth below." So she had this heart faith, but then she had an opportunity to act on it. When the two spies came to her house, she hid them from the officials there in Jericho, and then sent them off in a different direction so that they would not be captured. And in this way, she physically saved herself and her family from destruction when the walls of Jericho fell. But more than that, she gave a clear example that she had a saving faith in the living God, faith just like the Old Testament saints did, that God is the God of heaven above and the earth below. And God had a special place for Rahab. She ended up making it into Jesus' genealogy. Isn't that incredible? She was King David's great grandmother. And so, she married Boaz, and Boaz gave birth to Obed, and Obed gave birth to Jesse, and Jesse was the father of David. And so, Rahab was in the lineage, the physical lineage, of Jesus. And we're going to see her in Heaven. And so, a sinner is made right with a Holy God simply by believing the Gospel, simply by trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.


VI. Application


Has that happened to all of you? Do you know that your sins are forgiven by simply trusting Christ? If you're not trusting in Christ, you are certainly trusting in your own works. It's what people do, “I'm basically a good person and my good works are going to outweigh my bad.” I hear this all the time. I would say throw that away. None of our works is pure in the sight of God. None of us. None of our works are perfect. They cannot justify us. Trusting in Christ alone. But once you've done that, what kind of life are you going to live for the rest of your life? What kind of works are you going to display? I want to give you, just quickly, what kinds of works you should look for.

First of all, works of repentance, where you realize you are grieved over your sin. You don't just accept the sin in your life, you're grieved over it, you hurt over it, you seek it out. You say, "Lord, show me the sins of my life. I'm not going to be complacent about the sins of my life." So, works of repentance, of confession of sin, of seeing it and fighting against it. Works of secret piety. Are you meeting with the Lord daily, taking in the word of God? Are you praying? Do you go into your prayer closet?  It doesn't have to be a physical closet, but do you have a secret prayer life? Do you commune with God through the Holy Spirit throughout the day? Do you have a sense of intimacy with Christ, works of secret piety?

Thirdly, works of obedience. I just said a moment ago, are you seeking out ways you can say to Jesus, "I will obey you"? Are you willing to sacrificially obey? Very few of us are going to be tested as much as Abraham was tested, but God does test us. Are you willing to do difficult things? Sacrificial obedience, patterns in your life. Works of separation from the world. In what way are you saying, "I don't want the world's stuff, I'm not interested in the world's lust. I'm not interested in the world's bag"? Are you actually turning away from the world's entertainment patterns and the world's values. Are you increasingly separated from this world? None of us is that perfectly, but if you recognize the corruption of the things in this world, and you hate it, and you don't want any part of it, you want to be pleasing to God and you want to go to Heaven when you die, you want to live a supernatural kind of life, works of separation.

And then, finally, works of love. Certainly works of love to God, heartfelt worship, where it's not true of you when you come to corporate worship, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from [God]." You've got a heart filled with the desire to praise him. And then, you sing and you pray like somebody who genuinely loves God. But then, horizontally, you're loving your neighbors as yourself; could be orphan and widow care, it could be those administering to the poor and needy, it could be evangelism. You're seeking to alleviate suffering, whatever way you can make people suffering in this world, and even more importantly in the next, less so that they will not suffer eternally, but will have eternal life. But then, you can alleviate some physical suffering now. Are you doing those kinds of works? 




Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for the clarity of the word of God. It is not easy always for us to understand it and how we can harmonize justification by faith alone and then that energetic life of good works. As you said to your disciples, "Anyone who believes in me will do the work that I've been doing, and greater works than these will he do." For 20 centuries, the church has been pouring out great works, works of faith. And so Lord, I pray for First Baptist Church. Help us to make a huge difference in this community, that it would make a difference whether this church is even here or not, that we would be evangelistically powerful, and that we would be mercy ministry powerful. That we would be the kind of church that's doing a river of good works for your glory, not to earn our place or to forgive our sins, but that we might shine as lights in a dark place. In Jesus' name, amen.

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