Nov 11, 2018 – Connecting Thought and Action
Rev. Scott Strickman
Sermon Series – James: Distilling Faith
James 2:14-26 (ESV)
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
The separation of ideas/theology/conviction from actions/deeds demonstrates something central is lacking in our faith.
1) Not faith or works
- v14 “if someone has faith but does not have works” – “Can that faith save him?”
- 1:21 “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls”
2) Faith without works
- vv15-17 “poorly clothed and lacking in daily food…. you say… ‘go in peace’… without giving…”
- v19 “you believe that God is one… even the demons believe…”
- v18 “I will show you my faith by my works”
- v26 “as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead”
3) Faith that works
- v25 Rahab – “received… and sent”
- vv21 Abraham – “justified by works… offered up his son”; v23 “it was counted to him”
- vv22-23 – “faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works… he was called a friend of God” (James 4:4, John 15:12-17)
Questions for Reflection
- What is your understanding of the Christian conception of “salvation”? How are we “saved”? Is it by faith? Works? Something else?
- Which are you naturally more inclined to: belief or action? Do you confidently trust, do you easily understand? Do you easily act? When do you feel greater assurance or which energizes you more: when thinking/feeling, or when doing? Which is harder for you, and why?
- The gospel message of grace is to be received by us. How should it produce faith that consists of both knowledge/beliefs and actions, changed thinking and changed living?
- What are some ways people fail to keep beliefs and actions connected? Why is hypocrisy so common? What goes wrong in us (or in the moment we need to act)?
- James gives several examples throughout the book in regards to how we relate to people who are poor. What is it about relating to someone who is poor that exposes our flaws, limitations, hypocrisy?
- Jesus calls us friends, telling us there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends (John 15:12-17). How is understanding the ways Jesus has been a friend to us essential to holding together belief in who he is/what he says, and acting on it (hearing and doing)?
- Ephesians 2:8-10 “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Is there a way to understand faith and works so that Paul and James are coherent rather than contradictory?
Prayer of Confession
Our Father, we have not honored our relationship with you. We are guilty of hypocrisy. We maintain a divide between what we think and what we do. Our thoughts need correction, but even when our understanding is right it does not always translate into actions that demonstrate true faith. Fix our corrupted faith. Thank you for grace and mercy. Thank you that you forgive the wrong we do, and also the wrong thinking and feelings we have. Thank you for Jesus who treated us as friends, laying down his life for us. We long to be faithful friends to you. Amen.