I’ve already written about the obvious contrast in James 2 and the three different kinds of works that are involved. Just to clarify, here are some things James is obviously not contrasting:
- Activity vs Inactivity
- Merit vs Faith
- Good deeds vs Evil deeds
- Obedience vs Salvation
What is being contrasted is a living faith and a dead faith.
A dead faith is not one that is simply inactive. A dead faith is one that fails to act in works prescribed by God.
With that understanding, we can be very busy and have a reputation for being spiritual, but still be dead. And this is exactly what we find in the book of Revelation. Revelation 3:1 says, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”
The examples that we have in James 2 remind us that actions must be based on God’s will for them to be “counted” as faith. When we live according to that word, we will find the righteousness that comes by that faith.
There is a difference between perfection and faithfulness. It is faithfulness that accounts for righteousness. That can be vague, but I don’t intend for it to be. I am not discounting the idea of obedience. In fact, as James shows us, it is impossible to have a living faith without looking at God’s word and following it. That is the very definition of obedience. Faithfulness–having a living faith–this is what brings about justification in our lives.
God is the One who justifies and forgives us, but it is conditional. We must exhibit a living faith for that to happen to us. That is why James could write, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). The “works” he is talking about there are not works of “merit” but works of faithfulness. When we choose to live according to the precepts of God, making the decision to pursue true LIFE, then we are creating a living faith because we are trusting in living the way God says to live.
No one can say that he deserves eternal life because he is living in faith. That is not even possible to suggest. It mistakes the purpose of grace, and it shows a warped understanding of life. Living by faith does not EARN eternal life in the future. It IS “eternal life”.
Faithful Living Is Eternal Life
Jesus prayed to the Father and said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). The way Jesus told us to live is life. When He said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10), He did not say that to people who were dead. They were walking and talking, physically alive. What He came to teach was the way of life, not the way to eventually be granted life, but how to have life now.
2 Peter 1:4 says that we have been given “exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” When we add those Christian characteristics of faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, and love, we add the “divine nature” to our lives. These are the very things that make up life.
This is how we can have saving faith today. Look at what God wants us to do to live, and live that way. That is what life is all about. And as a Christian, we have the ability to understand and grow in those areas. That is because we experience the new birth–we hear and understand the new life that God wants us to have, and we submit ourselves to living it by deciding to become a child of God.
When you repent and are baptized for forgiveness of your sins, you rise up to walk in a new life (Romans 6:1-7). That “new life” is the life that James is discussing. Understanding this, we can see how important this book is to the Christian faith. We learn how to choose the right path and what that path is. We get to build our faith by deciding to conduct ourselves in the path God determined and recorded for us in the Scriptures. Without this knowledge of what God wants, we would never truly be able to live the way we were designed to live.
Let’s construct our faith by looking into the Scriptures and finding the keys to making the right choice, the choice of LIFE.
See you tomorrow!