James 2:14-26

Sunday Morning Bible Study

February 25, 2001


Mankind has a horrible problem.  It is such a horrible problem that it actually will keep us from God and living with Him forever in heaven.  That problem is called sin.  When we do things that break God’s laws, we create a vast chasm, a vast gulf between us and God.

It’s not that the problem can’t be solved.  There is a way across the chasm.  It is solved if you can pay the right price.  The price is death.  If you would care to pay for your sins, you can, by dying and going to hell.  But then you wouldn’t have really solved the problem would you?  The truth is, we can do nothing on our own merits that would fix the problem.

There is another way.  God has allowed for a substitute to take your place in death.  His name is Jesus. Jesus Christ came to earth for one reason.  It wasn’t to be a good person and teach us how to love each other.  He came to die.  He came to die in our place.

And now God offers to us a free gift of forgiveness.  He offers to freely pay for our sins and bridge the gulf between us and Him.  All you need is to do is trust Jesus.  All you have to do is to believe that Jesus died for your sins.

(Rom 10:9-11 NLT)  For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. {10} For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. {11} As the Scriptures tell us, "Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed."

There remains one little question.  Do you have the right kind of faith?  This morning we’re going to take a little test to examine if we have the right stuff or not.


In a recent issue of "Meat & Poultry" magazine, editors quoted from "Feathers," the publication of the California Poultry Industry Federation, telling the following story:   It seems the US Federal Aviation Administration has a unique device for testing the strength of windshields on airplanes. The device is a gun that launches a dead chicken at a plane's windshield at approximately the speed the plane flies. The theory is that if the windshield doesn't crack from the carcass impact, it'll survive a real collision with a bird during flight. It seems the British were very interested in this and wanted to test a windshield on a brand new, speedy locomotive they're developing. They borrowed the FAA's chicken launcher, loaded the chicken and fired. The ballistic chicken shattered the windshield, went through the engineer's chair, broke an instrument panel and embedded itself in the back wall of the engine cab. The British were stunned and asked the FAA to recheck the test to see if everything was done correctly. The FAA reviewed the test thoroughly and had one recommendation: "Use a thawed chicken."

:14-26  Faith and works

:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

profitophelos – advantage, profit.  What good is it.

faithpistis – conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it

worksergon – business, employment, that which any one is occupied; any product whatever, any thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind; an act, deed, thing done: the idea of working is emphasised in opp. to that which is less than work

candunamai – to be able, to be capable, strong and powerful

savesozo – to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction

What James is going to be dealing with is “good” faith versus “bad” faith.  He’s going to test us to see if we have the right kind of faith.

:15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

nakedgumnos – properly; unclad, without clothing, the naked body; ill clad

destituteleipo – leave behind, to be destitute of, to lack; to be wanting, to fail

dailyephemeros – lasting for a day; daily

foodtrophe – food, nourishment

:16  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?

departhupago – to lead under, bring under; to withdraw one’s self, to go away, depart

peaceeirene – a state of national tranquillity; peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord; security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous)

be ye warmedthermaino – to make warm, to heat; to warm one’s self

filledchortazo – to feed with herbs, grass, hay, to fill, satisfy with food, to fatten; to fill or satisfy men; to fulfil or satisfy the desire of any one

needfulepitedeios – fit, suitable, convenient, advantageous; needful, esp. of the necessities of life

bodysoma – the body both of men or animals

profitophelos – advantage, profit

James is giving us an example of a classic “farewell”, how you might say “goodbye” to another person.  “May you have God’s peace in your life, and I’ll pray that you are warmed and filled with food”

It’s not enough to just wish good things for people if you have the ability to help them.


Real faith helps others

You see this in the parable of the sheep and the goats. 
(Mat 25:31-40 KJV)  When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: {32} And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: {33} And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. {34} Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: {35} For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: {36} Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. {37} Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? {38} When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? {39} Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? {40} And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Jesus will one day separate all those who are genuinely saved from those who aren’t.  Yes, those who are saved have faith.  They believe in Jesus.  But their genuine faith will have displayed itself by doing good works.


Doug Nichols (Bothell, Washington.  Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 2.) writes,
“While serving with Operation Mobilization in India in 1967, tuberculosis forced me into a sanitarium for several months. I did not yet speak the language, but I tried to give Christian literature written in their language to the patients, doctors, and nurses. Everyone politely refused. I sensed many weren't happy about a rich American (to them all Americans are rich) being in a free, government-run sanitarium. (They didn't know I was just as broke as they were!)
“The first few nights I woke around 2:00 A.M. coughing. One morning during my coughing spell, I noticed one of the older and sicker patients across the aisle trying to get out of bed. He would sit up on the edge of the bed and try to stand, but in weakness would fall back into bed. I didn't understand what he was trying to do. He finally fell back into bed exhausted. I heard him crying softly.
“The next morning I realized what the man had been trying to do. He had been trying to get up and walk to the bathroom! The stench in our ward was awful.  Other patients yelled insults at the man. Angry nurses moved him roughly from side to side as they cleaned up the mess. One nurse even slapped him. The old man curled into a ball and wept.  The next night I again woke up coughing. I noticed the man across the aisle sit up and again try to stand. Like the night before, he fell back whimpering.
“I don't like bad smells, and I didn't want to become involved, but I got out of bed and went over to him. When I touched his shoulder, his eyes opened wide with fear. I smiled, put my arms under him, and picked him up.  He was very light due to old age and advanced TB. I carried him to the washroom, which was just a filthy, small room with a hole in the floor. I stood behind him with my arms under his armpits as he took care of himself. After he finished, I picked him up, and carried him back to his bed. As I laid him down, he kissed me on the cheek, smiled, and said something I couldn't understand.
“The next morning another patient woke me and handed me a steaming cup of tea. He motioned with his hands that he wanted a tract.  As the sun rose, other patients approached and indicated they also wanted the booklets I had tried to distribute before. Throughout the day nurses, interns, and doctors asked for literature.
“Weeks later an evangelist who spoke the language visited me, and as he talked to others he discovered that several had put their trust in Christ as Savior as a result of reading the literature.  What did it take to reach these people with the gospel? It wasn't health, the ability to speak their language, or a persuasive talk. I simply took a trip to the bathroom.”

Elton Trueblood said, “Our faith becomes practical when it is expressed in two books:  the date book and the check book.”

C. S. Lewis (Letters to Malcolm.  Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 10.) wrote, “I am often, I believe, praying for others when I should be doing things for them. It's so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see him.”


Do I help everybody?

We face an interesting problem in the American church.  We live in an incredibly prosperous society.  We also live in a society where there are plenty of people who know that they can hit Christians up for a fast buck.  If you hesitate, they know just how to lay on the guilt trip, telling you that they thought that Christians were supposed to help the poor.  I had a guy that we helped a few times tell me this last Christmas when I refused to help him anymore, that it was just like Jesus’ parents not finding any room in the inn.
Here’s the balance to helping people in need.  Paul said,
(2 Th 3:6-12 KJV)  Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. {7} For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; {8} Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: {9} Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. {10} For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. {11} For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. {12} Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

Especially in our American society, I think that we need to remind people of this.  I’ve run into people who say that they are travelling around the country for God, and ask me for a hand out.  But look at the apostle Paul, if he was running low on funds, he worked at his day job, making tents.

It’s one thing if a person is out of work and has been diligently pursuing a new job.  But if a person will not put any serious effort into finding a job, and has no intent on working, then we should not be helping them.

:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

deadnekros – one that has breathed his last; departed; , one whose soul is in heaven or hell; destitute of life, without life, inanimate; destitute of force or power,

If a person’s faith has no accompanying good works, then their faith is not genuine.

Some of the good works that true faith will produce involve the changes in our life that take us away from sinful behavior.

Paul said,

(Gal 5:19-21 KJV)  Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, {20} Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, {21} Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
If a person is claiming to be a Christian, yet their life continues to be filled with and characterized by these things, then I think that person ought to question whether or not their faith is genuine.

:18 show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.

show medeiknuo – to show, expose to the eyes; metaph. to give evidence or proof

withoutchoris – separate, apart; without any; besides.  This word is not in the TR (ek is used instead), but is in WH.

James is clearly talking about the issue of faith.  Even the one with “works” here still has faith (“I will show thee my faith by my works”). James is not talking about works as a way to salvation.  He is talking about works as a proof of faith.

:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

devilsdaimonion – deity, divinity; a spirit, a being inferior to God, superior to men; evil spirits or the messengers and ministers of the devil

tremblephrisso – to bristle, stiffen stand up; to shudder, to be struck with extreme fear, to be horrified

James is referring to the great creed of Judaism, known as the shema, the great declaration of One God:

(Deu 6:4 KJV)  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

In James’ day, most of the world believed that there were many “gods”.  It was the Jew who was different, believing that there was only One God. But here James is trying to say that it’s not that big of a deal to believe in One God because the demons know that this is true.  They tremble at Him.

The issue is not believing that God is real, the issue is making Jesus your Savior.


Charles Haddon Spurgeon (The Quotable Spurgeon, Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990) writes,

The stupendous Niagara Falls have been spoken of in every part of the world. But while they are marvelous to hear of and wonderful to see, they have been very destructive to human life, when by accident some have been carried down the cataract. Some years ago, two men were in a boat and found themselves being carried so swiftly down the current that they must both inevitably be borne down and dashed to pieces. At last, however, one man was saved by a rope that was floated out to him, which he grasped. Another rope was floated to the other man, but at the same instant the rope came into his hand, a log floated by him. The thoughtless and confused man, instead of seizing the rope, laid hold on the log. It was a fatal mistake. They were both in imminent peril, but the one was drawn to shore because he had a connection with the people on the land, while the other, clinging to the loose, floating log, was borne irresistibly along, and was never heard of afterward. Faith has a saving connection with Christ. Christ is on the shore, so to speak, holding the rope, and as we lay hold of it with the hand of our confidence, he pulls us to shore. But our good works having no connection with Christ are drifted along down to the gulf of despair. Grapple our virtues as tightly as we may, even with hooks of steel, they cannot avail us in the least degree. They are the disconnected log that has no hold on the heavenly shore.

:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

wilt thou thelo – to will, have in mind, intend; to be resolved or determined, to purpose; to desire, to wish; to love; to like to do a thing, be fond of doing; to take delight in, have pleasure

vain kenos – empty, vain, devoid of truth


Do you want to know the truth?

That seems to be the challenge here.
Sometimes the thing that holds us back the most in growing in the Lord is that we really don’t want to know the truth.  We don’t want to hear things that make us uncomfortable.

:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

justifieddikaioo – to render righteous or such he ought to be; to show, exhibit, evince, one to be righteous, such as he is and wishes himself to be considered; to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous, or such as he ought to be

he had offeredanaphero – to carry or bring up, to lead up; to put upon the altar, to bring to the altar, to offer

altarthusiasterion – the altar for slaying and burning of victims used of

James is referring to the story in Genesis 22, where God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac:

(Gen 22:10-18 KJV)  {10} And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. {11} And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. {12} And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. {13} And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. {14} And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. {15} And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, {16} And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: {17} That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; {18} And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

Abraham’s faith in God was proven because he was willing to do the difficult thing of sacrificing his only son Isaac.  His faith was justified, and God knew that Abraham believed.  The promise is repeated again that Abraham’s seed would be many people.

It’s interesting that James uses Abraham as the example of a person being justified by works because Paul uses Abraham as the example of being justified by faith:

(Rom 4:1-3 KJV)  What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? {2} For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. {3} For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Paul is talking about how we as people are justified before God by receiving our salvation through faith.
James is talking about how our faith is being justified and branded “genuine” by producing good works.

:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

wrought withsunergeo – to work together, help in work, be partner in labour; to put forth power together with and thereby to assist

Abraham’s faith was a partner with his works.  He didn’t just sit on the sofa and trust God, he got up and took his son to Mount Moriah to sacrifice him.

worksergon – business, employment, that which any one is occupied; that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking; any product whatever, any thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind; an act, deed, thing done: the idea of working is emphasised in opp. to that which is less than work

made perfectteleioo – to make perfect, complete; to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end; add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full

Abraham’s faith was brought to its highest peak through his actions.

:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

fulfilled pleroo – to fill up, to render full, i.e. to complete; to make complete in every particular, to render perfect; to carry through to the end, to accomplish

imputedlogizomai – to reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over

friendphilos – friend, to be friendly to one, wish him well; a friend; an associate.  Quoting from 2Chr. 20:7.

When Jehoshaphat was surrounded by his enemies, he prayed for God’s help and said,

(2 Chr 20:7 KJV)  Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?

Long before Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac, God had made a promise:

(Gen 15:5-6 KJV)  And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. {6} And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

It would be this verse that Paul uses to show us that the righteousness was put into Abraham’s account simply because he believed.  He was made right with God because of his belief.

But it’s not until many years later that Isaac would even be born and even more years after that when God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  But how could Abraham sacrifice this son when this son was to be the one through whom God would give him offspring like the stars of heaven?

(Heb 11:17-19 KJV)  By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. {18} Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: {19} Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Abraham had faith.  His faith was expressed in offering up his son.
He could offer up Isaac because he trusted that God was able to keep His promise to Abraham, even if it meant raising Isaac from the dead.
His act of sacrifice was the total demonstration of his trust in God.  It was the final maturing of his faith.

:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

Ye seehorao – to see with the eyes; to see with the mind, to perceive, know; to see, i.e. become acquainted with by experience, to experience; to see, to look to

then toinun (“certainly” + “now”) – therefore, then, accordingly

justifieddikaioo – to render righteous or such he ought to be; to show, exhibit, evince, one to be righteous, such as he is and wishes himself to be considered; to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous, or such as he ought to be

only monos – alone (without a companion), forsaken, destitute of help, alone, only, merely

NOTE:  James is NOT saying that a person is made right by their works.  He is only saying that they can’t have faith without having works.  The works don’t save you, but they prove that your faith is real.

:25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

likewisehomoios – likewise, equally, in the same way

harlotporne – a woman who sells her body for sexual uses

receivedhupodechomai – to receive as a guest

messengersaggelos – a messenger, envoy, one who is sent, an angel, a messenger from God

sent them outekballo – to cast out, drive out, to send out

Joshua 2 – Joshua sent two spies ahead to check out the city of Jericho.  The spies encountered this woman, Rahab, who took them in and hid them.  She had faith, she believed in their God, and as a result took care of the spies.

(Josh 2:9 KJV)  And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.

She demonstrated her faith by hiding the men and then misdirecting the people who were looking for them.
Her actions demonstrated her faith.
As a result, she and her family were allowed to survive Israel’s conquest of Jericho.  She became incorporated into the Jewish nation and was even in the line of King David, the line of the Messiah.  Which was also the same family line as James.

:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Biblically speaking, your body is dead when your spirit leaves it.  A body without a spirit is dead, is worthless.

So then is a person’s faith if it is not accompanied by works.  It is dead.  It is worthless.


Action proves faith

Sometimes your faith isn’t all that special until you have to prove your faith by acting upon it.
Blondin the tightrope walker.
Jean Francois Gravelet was born February 28, 1824 in Hesdin, France.  When he was five years old he was sent to the École de Gymnase at Lyon, and after six months' training as an acrobat he made his first public appearance as "the Little Wonder."  He developed his skills under the guidance of P.T. Barnum (of Barnum & Bailey Circus).  He became known as the Great Blondin.
In 1859 he announced that he would do the most amazing of all feats, he would cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope 1,100 feet (335 m) long, 160 feet above the water.
On June 30, 1859 the rope was in position and at five o'clock in the afternoon Blondin started the trip that was to make history. He stopped in the middle, lowered a rope to the Maid of the Mist, pulled up a bottle of water and sat down while he refreshed himself. He began his ascent toward the Canadian shore, paused, steadied the balancing pole and suddenly executed a back somersault. The crowd 'screamed', women 'fainted', those near the rope 'cried' and begged him to come in.
He crossed the Falls several times, each time making it more difficult.  He crossed the rope on a bicycle, walking blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow, stopping to cook an omelet in the center, and making the trip with his hands and feet manacled.
His most daring crossing came when he announced that he would carry a man across on his back.  One man agreed to let him do it.  It was his manager, Harry Colcord. (see picture)
He performed privately for both the Prince of Wales and King Edward VII, he repeated the stunt of 'carrying a man on his back' and offered to carry the prince, but he declined.

You don’t have to be a tightrope walker to get across the falls of life.  You just need to trust Jesus enough to get on His shoulders.

POSTER-Buffalo and Erie Historical Society c.July 4 1859   Blondin carrying manager Colcord source:P.D.Babitt c.1859