Monday, February 27, 2017

II. Faith Works

II. Faith Works

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-20)?

The fact that real saving faith works is equally true of sanctifying faith.  In Hebrews chapter eleven, Abel is the example of saving faith.  Enoch is the example of sanctifying faith.  The action verbs of sanctifying faith are reckon and yield (Romans 6:11-13).  Sanctifying faith is a life lived in cooperative synergism with the indwelling Holy Spirit.  The Bible word for this synergism, or partnership in holiness, is “fellowship.”  Without these two verbs of sanctifying faith, the Christian life is reduced to a legalistic form of will-power sanctification produced through the power of the “flesh.  This is the opposite of a life of grace through faith.  Therefore, reckoning the “old man” to be “crucified with Christ” is necessary before a believer can yield to the indwelling Spirit of Christ. 

When the believer’s life is consumed with knowing God and living for God, the rotting scales of worldliness will begin to fall away from our lives.  This spiritual dynamic is a matter of focus.  Focusing upon getting rid of worldliness is like trying to disengage a fishhook embedded deep in the flesh by pulling on it as hard as possible.  The result of doing that will increase the damage already done.  The solution is to cut out the hook, not rend the flesh.  If we want worldliness removed from our lives, we need to change the desires of our hearts to wanting to know, serve, worship, and walk with God more than anything else in our lives.  This demands a kind of faith that transforms the human will.  Before this will ever happen, our faith in the reality of God must increase through the knowledge of God’s Word. 

This world is filled with millions of professing Christians who are baptized, confirmed, and who have become members of local churches.  They attend church services, but for most of these people, the reality of their profession of Christ will seldom get beyond the church-house doors.  They are not working at living pure and righteous lives.  Neither are they intent on studying the Word of God in order to know and do God’s will.  Most of these people have no real desire to reach the lost and make no real effort to reach the lost for Christ.  Their profession of saving faith never transitions into the manifestation of life transformation in working/ministering faith.  This anomaly is a contradiction against the supernatural effect of saving faith. 

The reality of faith that understands the eternal condemnation of a soul and the eternal salvation of a soul is discovered by asking one simple question.  “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matthew 16:24-28).  Notice that the question is not asking about the value you put upon an eternal soul.  Everyone believing in an eternal Hell would say a human soul is priceless.  The question is really, what would you GIVE for one soul, especially if it was YOUR soul?  The reality of faith is tested by answering this question. 

In Matthew 16:21-23, Jesus had just told His disciples that He was going to go to Jerusalem and there He would be killed by the Jewish Sanhedrin.  Peter rebukes Jesus for consenting to this death when He could avoid it.  Jesus rebukes Peter with some remarkable words; “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:23).  Peter yet did not understand the necessity of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for the redemption price of lost souls.  The price being paid was unfathomable!  Jesus was establishing His answer to the question, “what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”  Jesus was willing to GIVE His life.  This is what Jesus is addressing in Matthew 16:24.  Real faith understands the value of an eternal soul and is willing to pay whatever price is necessary to bring ONE to Christ.  We will never understand this until we have learned to give out of our poverty rather than out of our abundance.  When the money is gone, what then can you give? 

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom (Matthew 16:24-28).

          Real Christianity is where real Christians live a real faith in the give and take of a real world.  James continues to bring us before the never lying mirror of God’s Word for self-examination.  We would be foolish to have God bring us to the never lying mirror of God’s Word for self-examination and not respond to the convictions of what that mirror exposes about the real us.  This is the warning regarding the possibility of an artificial faith spoken of in James 1:23-25.  If we bring what Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-28 into the context of what is said in James 1:23-25, we add a great deal of depth to what James is saying.  Real faith works as defined by what price we are willing to actually and personally GIVE in exchange for a soul. 

23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:23-25).

          All true teaching of “the faith” requires that we take a long and hard look at our spiritual reflection comparing the reality of what is seen with the expectations of God revealed in the Word of God.  We must carefully compare what we see with any discrepancies or contradictions to what God’s Word says.  In doing so, we are looking for a living faith.  A living faith is a working faith that walks the walk, not just one that talks the talk.

There is a story of a little boy who came home after church services one Sunday morning puzzled.  He asked his daddy, what is a Christian?  His dad put him on his knee and carefully explained what it meant to be a Christian.  He said a Christian was a person who had trusted in Jesus Christ to save his soul from having to go to hell by calling on Jesus to be his Savior.  He said a Christian was a person who read and studied the Bible every day to discover God’s truth so he could live for God and obey Him.  He said a Christian was a person who talked to God and believed God would meet his every need.  He told him a Christian was a person who tried to love all people the way God loves them, even those people that hate you.  He told the little boy that loving them meant making any sacrifice necessary to get people saved and help them to become Christians too.  After the father finished, the little boy’s eyes grew big in amazement, “Daddy, have you ever met one of those kinds of people?”

Biblical “faith,” like biblical Christianity, is defined by what we do, not by what we know. The point of James 2:20 and 26 is that knowing truth, without doing truth, is dead faith.  Paul deals with the same issue in his confrontation of the continuing carnality in the lives of the Corinthian believers.  “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.  Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (II Corinthians 13:5).  Paul is saying, the change in the way you live will prove if Christ is really living in you.  Lives lived to the contrary of God’s revealed will in God’s Word reveals a contradiction to saving faith.  In fact, reprobation is the danger (II Corinthians 5:17).

Faith is the certainty (a real possession) of the spiritual things we hope for.  Faith is the proof of the reality of the spiritual things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1).  Therefore, faith comes:

1. By hearing the Word of God regarding an invisible spiritual truth
2. Resulting in a conviction that the truth is real (owning it)
3. Implying a pledge of fidelity to that spiritual truth
4. Resulting in obedient action that corresponds with that truth (living it)

Without anyone of these elements, neither saving faith or working faith is real.  Hebrews 11:4-40 gives detailed illustrations and personal examples of those who acted upon the truths of God as a reality (true working faith).  Faith holds the title deed to do what God promises and acts upon that title deed as if the property in question already belongs to the believer. 

Biblical faith deals only with truth and reality as defined by the Word of God.

1. By the Word of God, we know what is real
2. By the Word of God, we experience what is real by acting upon the Word
3. By the Word of God, we possess what is real because it is the immutable promise of God

God honors living faith (Hebrews 11:2)

“For by it {faith} the elders” {Hebrews 11:2; all the generations of faithful believers before us; both men and women, some of who are listed in Hebrews chapter eleven} were honored by God.  As we look at each of these people, we will see that God honored them by honoring His promises to them.  He looked after them, cared for them, corrected them, directed them, and gave them victories over their enemies and the world around them.  God has historically honored faith.  We can believe He will historically continue to do so. 

True life transforming saving faith expresses itself in moral obedience to God’s Word and in ministry to others in a working faith.  That is what James means by the use of the word “works” (ergon).  It can also be translated doing. In James 1:23, the word “doer is from the Greek word poietes (poy-ay-tace’), meaning a person who performs what he professes.  Faith without “doing” is self-deception about its reality.

22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (James 1:22).

          James is not proposing that “works” (doing) is a means of salvation, but rather that it is a product of (and proof of) a real and living faith.  This is the evidence of the kind of faith that really saved a person.

    Any professed faith in Christ that continues in resistance to God’s will (as revealed by His Word), in rebellion against God’s will (by selfish disobedience), or that continues to reflect an attitude contrary to God’s Word, must question its own hypocrisy and its own reality.
     The groundwork of introduction to James 2:14-20 is verse 13.  “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”  Just as mercy is the inevitable response of real and true biblical love, verses 14-16 show us that works, a working faith that does what God says, is the inevitable response (action) of a real, true biblical saving faith.  When you take a real, living faith before the mirror of God’s Word, that which is reflected is an action of life that images a “doer of the word.”

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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