Summary: James warns us against False Faith and Faithless Works.

Sermon Notes May 4, 2014

How to Know that Your Faith is Real

James 2:14-26

There is a tremendous difference between something that is REAL and something that is FAKE. When our children were young one of their favorite gifts for their mom was a bottle of knock-off perfume. Perhaps you remember the commercials “if you like Chanel, you’ll love ..... (whateveritscalled).” Kim appreciated those gifts because they came from her precious children, but you better believe that when I bought her perfume it was not the knock-off variety! HINT: Dad’s, for MOTHER’S DAY, get the real stuff!

A friend shared the story with me about his “fake Rolex” that he bought for $10 from a street vender in New York City. He had reservations, but needed a watch and thought this looked good. Asked everyone, “do you like my fake Rolex?” The battery died after about one year. He was going to throw it away, but he liked the watch and it kept good time, so he brought it to a jeweler to see if the battery on his “fake Rolex” could be replaced. He discovered it was not a fake Rolex! It was the real deal. The watch that he bought for $10 was probably stolen and worth thousands.

What about your faith? Is it real or a look-alike?

James asks that ver question in James 2:14-26

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14, ESV)

The SUBJECT of this passage is in verse 14: Can a faith that demonstrates no works save someone’s soul?

Richard Tow writes, “On the surface it may look like James is comparing faith and works. But in reality he is contrasting superficial faith ...and saving faith, biblical faith.” (Source: Richard Tow, “Is Your Faith Real?”

James is making a contrast between two extremes.

Extreme One: FALSE FAITH. James 2:15-17

Both extremes are presented with the phrase, “....if someone says....”

Notice this expression in the first extreme. “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?” (James 2:15–16, ESV)

To illustrate this extreme, James describes a brother or sister poorly clothed and lacking in daily food. An unmentioned individual replies by giving a greeting. It would be the equivalent of saying, Shalom! Or Hey, Brother!

James describes this kind of faith is dead faith. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17)

James is not alone in his description of false faith. Jesus affirmed the possibility of FALSE FAITH when he said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46, ESV)

JUDAS is an example of false faith.

James asks, “can that KIND of FAITH save him?”

What are the “works” that James is describing? James gives us these examples throughout the epistle.

1. Helping those in need. “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,” (James 2:15, ESV)

2. Bridling the tongue. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26, ESV)

3. Visiting the orphans and widows. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27, ESV)

4. Keeping unstained by the world (James 1:27)

5. Good and honest relationships. “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” (James 3:14, ESV). TEENS toward parents. WIVES towards husbands.

6. Generosity. “You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” (James 5:5, ESV)

Are these characteristics seen in your life?

If they are NOT, James is warning you that your kind of faith is a FALSE FAITH


The second extreme is FAITHLESS WORKS.

This second extreme may have one of two meanings. Most who study this passage see James as repeating what he has already stated. In other words, James is the one responding to the unnamed questioner by saying “I will show you my faith by my works.” A less popular view is to see this second quotation as coming from a person who is making the claim that they are proud of their good works. The interpretation you follow much depends on where we end the quotation that James is using as a literary device. Most translations, including the NIV and the ESV show a short quotation followed by the author (James’) response. “You have faith and I have works.” But it should be noted that the quotation marks were not included in the Greek New Testament. The person reading Greek must determine where the quotation ends. If we carry the quotation a little further, the hypothetical person James quotes is saying something like this:“You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”” (James 2:18, NASB95). Note that the NASB includes the larger phrase within the quotation marks.

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