Faith, Dead or Alive? by Virgil Stripes
James 2:14-26 (ESV)
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 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? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 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. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 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. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 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? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
This is probably one of the hardest pieces of Scripture to reconcile with what we have been taught. It clearly says that Abraham and Rahab were justified by their works. Or does it? If you read it again, you may notice that it says faith was active along with works. Faith is completed by works.
There are many people who teach that works are required for justification with God, yet there are several places in the New Testament that clearly say justification is by faith alone. Martin Luther struggled with whether or not to even include this epistle in his translation of the Scriptures. I believe this speaks clearly that it is faith that justifies us, but it must be faith that is alive. It is a faith that is working in our lives, changing our behavior. Causing us to do and to love what God loves.
How will I let my faith lead me into righteousness today? I will let my faith guide my actions, so God may be pleased with my faith. I will seek to put others’ needs ahead of my own, not because I believe actions will justify me, but because I have gratitude for what God has done for me. My actions will show God that my faith is alive!