Summary: [Rick Warren outline] Faith is not just something you SAY, not just something you FEEL, not just something you THINK, and more than just something you BELIEVE. James teaches it’s also something you DO. Powerpoint at website.

Real Faith That Really Works

James 2:14-26

PowerPoint at:

It seems if you put the word "real" in front of anything it sells more – “real coffee” or “real leather.” We’re interested in the genuine article. There is Real TV. There’s a book out Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. Coke used to be the "real thing".

I want to talk to you today about what James has to say about how to have a real faith. There are a lot of phony religions out there -- people who think they are Christians and really aren’t. In this passage James talks about the difference between real and counterfeit Christians, authentic believers and fake believers. He talks about how you can have a real faith. Jesus verifies this saying that by a person’s fruits you can know them.

This is the most controversial and misunderstood passage in the book of James. Many cults misunderstand it and try to use this passage to prove you have to work your way to heaven. The entire New Testament teaches that we are saved by faith alone. "By grace, through faith." James comes along and says, “It’s not just faith but faith and works.” What is he talking about? James or Paul…which one is right?…Martin Luther wanted to try to take James out of the canon of scripture because of how Catholics misunderstood this teaching on works. So, is James right or Paul? They are both right. They are talking about different things.

Paul was fighting the problem of legalism -- the problem of: "I’ve got to keep all the Jewish laws and regulations to be a Christian." Paul is talking to that group.

James is not fighting legalism but laxity -- those that say "It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you believe."

They are fighting two different enemies. But they both use the word "works" in different ways. When Paul uses the word "works" he’s talking about Jewish laws like circumcision and things like that. When James uses it, he’s talking about the Christian lifestyle -- acts of love. It’s totally different. Paul focuses on the root of salvation -- what happens to me internally. James focuses on the fruit of salvation -- what happens on the outside. Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them." Paul is talking about, “How to know you’re a Christian.” James is talking about, “How to show you’re a Christian.” Paul is talking about how to become a believer. James talks about how to behave like a believer. It is not a contradiction.

It’s summed up in

Eph. 2:8-10

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

There are three prepositions in this passage -- "by grace", "through faith", "unto good works". If you get those out of order, you’re in trouble. If you think you’re saved by works, for faith you’re in trouble. But he’s saying we’re saved by grace, through faith. We’re saved just by accepting God’s gift.

But how do I show I am a believer? James says there’s five ways you can know you’ve got the real thing. He gives us five steps or principles here in this passage.


v. 14 Real faith is not just something you say, something you talk about. "Can that faith save him? Can such faith save him?" It doesn’t say he actually has faith, he just claims to have it. He talks about it. He knows all the right phrases. There are a lot of people who claim to be Christians. George Gallup says that 50 million Americans say "I’m born again," but you don’t see anything in their lifestyle. Today we tend to label people as Christians if they make the slightest sound of being a believer. It’s more than just talk that is involved in real faith. Jesus said, "Not everybody who says to me `Lord, Lord’ is going to enter into the kingdom of heaven." Not everybody with a Christian bumper sticker is a believer. [holding John 3:16 sign between the goalposts!] Not everybody who is a professor of Christianity is a possessor of Christianity. "Can such faith save him? What value is this kind of faith?" Nothing. Talk is cheap. Remember when Larry Flint, the publisher of Hustler, said he was born again? But you never saw any change in his life. He kept right on printing pornography. No difference. No change.

James is saying that real faith is not just something you say. Do you know anybody that claims to be a Christian but you don’t see any evidence in their life? That’s a phony faith.

Copy Sermon to Clipboard with PRO Download Sermon with PRO
Talk about it...

Roger Arnold

commented on Sep 20, 2008

This is a wonderful sermon

Karen Powell

commented on Sep 29, 2008

I have been studying this passage in a class I am taking - reading your sermon has helped to shed further light on my understanding - Thanks -

Vernon Ball

commented on Apr 24, 2010

Pastor Jerry, This is just one of the best sermons that I have study and read, Thank You for this keep them coming.

Michael Roberts

commented on Mar 28, 2014

Great sermon text-so plainly explained and challenging.

Victor Uzochukwu

commented on May 13, 2022

Nice one

Join the discussion