A. A proper interpretation of James’ message requires us to look at the recipient of James’ letter and its context, as this passage is used by some people to argue that faith alone cannot save— that is, “works” is a necessity for salvation. However, it becomes clear that James’ point is NOT that salvation is by faith PLUS works, but that GENUINE faith RESULTS in good works.
- The RECIPIENT of James’ epistle is “the brethren”— that is, those who are ALREADY saved! Therefore, James is not focused on HOW a person is saved, but how a person who is already saved should live out his salvation.
- The CONTEXT of James does not contradict the fact that salvation is by grace through faith alone in Christ, which is explicitly clear throughout Scripture, such as in Eph.2:8-10. James’ call is for the believers to pay attention to the need to demonstrate outwardly the transformation that they already have from within, which is made possible by grace through faith in Christ alone.
B. If good works do not result from the faith you profess, either your faith is placed on the wrong object or is not genuine!
- James presents an example of a person who continually CLAIMS to be a believer, but whose life shows no evidence of the faith he professes to have— ie., his faith has not resulted in any good fruit! See Matt. 7:15-20 where Jesus gave caution against “false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravening wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits….the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” See also Gal.5:22-23, 2 Pet.1:3-11. The only way to know the genuineness of one’s salvation is the good fruit that is seen in his life.
- James’ point is that true saving faith always produces good fruit! James presents a scenario where a poor brother lacks food and clothing, and the person CLAIMING to have faith does not provide any help. Mere words are given (“Go in peace, be warmed and filled”), but the mere words are not supported by action. The one who CLAIMS to have faith, in James’ example, has a kind of faith that is dead. The faith he has is NOT the true faith. “Words of compassion are useless without deeds of compassion. In like manner, a profession of faith that does not result in good works is also useless. It is a mere profession, NOT a true conversion.”
ASK YOURSELF: Is there external evidence to your profession of faith? The professing believer whose faith is genuine will necessarily bear good fruit, as the Holy Spirit dwells in him. The transformation that takes place from within will necessarily be evidenced by a life that is becoming more and more like Christ.
Listen to the sermon here.