11. True Saving Faith: A Faith that Works (James 2:14-26)Related Media
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works. You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that—and tremble with fear. But would you like evidence, you empty fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by works. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And similarly, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
James 2:14-26 (NET)
What is true saving faith? Christ made very clear in his teachings that it is possible to have a false faith. In Matthew 7:21-23, he said that in the last days, many would call him “Lord, Lord” and declare all the righteous works which they had done in his name, but he would tell them, “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity, I never knew you” (paraphrase). He also gave two parables, the Parable of the Weeds and the Parable of the Fish in Matthew 13, which demonstrated that in his kingdom there were weeds (false believers) and wheat (true believers), good fish (true believers) and bad fish (false believers). At the end of the age, the angels will sort them out, and the false will be thrown into the fire. Among Christ’s disciples, there was exhibit one—Judas. He preached from village to village, did miracles along with the other disciples, but eventually denied Christ. Throughout his ministry, Christ taught that one of the disciples was a devil (John 6:70), that all the disciples were “clean,” except one (John 13:10)—referring to being cleansed from sin—and that one of the disciples would deny him. Judas was never saved, though he professed Christ, followed him, and served him.
That is exactly what James is dealing with in this text, and it’s one of the wider themes of the epistle. According to James 1:1, the book of James was written to Jewish Christians who were scattered abroad. Most likely, they were scattered because of persecution. Throughout the letter, James challenges these believers about what genuine faith looks like. They were going through persecution, and because of it, some began to think God was tempting them to do evil (Jam 1:13). Some were mistreating the poor amongst the congregations (Jam 2:1-6). They were fighting amongst one another, and some were murdered because of the conflict (Jam 4:1-3). Therefore, with a shepherd’s heart, James corrects these Jewish believers by challenging them to consider what true faith looks like.
It is clear from James’ argument in this text about how true faith always results in godly works, that some of these Jewish Christians believed that obedience to God’s Word wasn’t necessary. In 2:18, he illustrates an apparent statement by one of them, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’” James then interrupts and says, “Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works.” It appears that these Jews had experienced a pendulum swing when they became followers of Christ. Before their conversion, they, no doubt, felt burdened by the legalistic focus of Judaism, especially as the rabbis kept adding laws to God’s law—often called the traditions of the elders (Mk 7:1-3). When they heard about salvation by faith alone, as taught by the gospel, they were attracted. But some of them assumed that this gospel meant that obedience to God’s Word wasn’t needed at all. It led many of them into antinomianism, which means “to live without law.” James strongly condemns this belief in James 2:14-26, teaching that true faith will always produce godly works.
James 2:14-26 is probably the most urgent and challenging text in the epistle and also the most controversial. Because of James’ focus on the relationship between faith and works, Roman Catholic theology has used this text to teach that people are not saved by faith alone and that works, like penance, taking the Lord’s Supper, and participating in baptism, are needed along with faith for one to be saved. In addition, amongst evangelicals (those who believe in salvation by faith alone), some argue that true saving faith means simply believing in the elements of the gospel—that we are all sinners, Christ died for our sin and rose from the dead—but that following Christ and repenting of sins are not necessary aspects of true salvation. As long as one has intellectual belief in the gospel, that is enough for salvation. And since saving faith does not necessarily include following Christ and repentance of sins, salvation does not necessarily need to result in good works, which contradicts James’ teaching in this text. Some would even say you can take Christ as Savior without taking him as Lord. This view is called Free Grace theology. Opponents call it Easy Believism. This text, properly understood, contradicts both Roman Catholic theology and Free Grace theology. Salvation is not by works but always produces works.
The doctrine within James 2:14-26 was important to the first recipients, and it is extremely important to us. It teaches us the difference between a living faith—a faith that saves and changes a person—and a dead faith—which doesn’t affect a person’s life at all. Twice within the text, James mentions the possibility of having dead faith (v. 17, 26).
Other biblical writers warn about the same possibility of having dead faith. In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul said, “Put yourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize regarding yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you—unless, indeed, you fail the test!” Also, John wrote a whole book addressing the topic of assurance of salvation—knowing that we are truly saved. In 1 John 5:13 he said, “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
In this study, we will consider four aspects of what true saving faith is, contrasting it with false faith. As we consider this text, we must make sure that our faith is alive—that it is producing fruit in accordance with true faith.
Big Question: What aspects of true saving faith are taught in James 2:14-26?
True Saving Faith Includes More Than Simply Professing the Right Words
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself.
When James says, “What good is it … if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him?” in the Greek, the construction of his rhetorical question requires a negative answer.1 He is saying it is possible to have a “kind of faith” which doesn’t save. What type of faith is he referring to? He is talking about a faith that leads only to a profession—someone who simply “claims to have faith” (v. 14) but doesn’t live in accordance with his claim.
He gives an illustration of a brother or sister in the church who is poor—lacking clothes and food. One particularly pious believer, instead of helping him, offers a prayer of blessings, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well” (v. 16). James argues, what good is that?
In context, James has already argued that those with true faith care for the needy. In James 1:26-27, he said,
If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile. Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
He taught that religion that doesn’t lend itself to caring for the needy, such as orphans and widows is not genuine. In fact, the Jews in this congregation were not only neglecting the poor but dishonoring them. In James 2:1-11, he described a church that practiced partiality and prejudice. When a wealthy person visited the church, they put him in the place of honor, but when a poor person visited, they dishonored him—telling the poor to stand or sit on the floor. By showing partiality, they were committing evil and would come under God’s judgment. James 1:12-13 says, “Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment.” This judgment certainly refers to God’s disciplining believers who neglect the needy, but again in context, it also refers to God’s judging those who simply have a profession of faith, who are not truly saved. James 1:22 (ESV) says, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” A faith that doesn’t do God’s Word, including caring for the needy, is not genuine.
John taught the same thing about true faith. First John 1:13 says, “But whoever has the world’s possessions and sees his fellow Christian in need and shuts off his compassion against him, how can the love of God reside in such a person?” Likewise, Christ taught that when he returns, those who called him Lord but didn’t care for the least of these (by clothing and feeding the poor and visiting them in prison) would be cast into eternal darkness (Matt 25:41-46).
Faith that does not lead us to a lifestyle of good works, including caring for the needy, is not genuine. It’s just a profession. It’s just lip-service. That “kind of faith” does not save.
Unfortunately, there are many like this in the church. A great number of them tend to be second or third generation Christians or later. Their parents (or grandparents) experienced genuine conversion that turned them away from living lifestyles that were antagonistic to God and his Word, but the children commonly grow up in the church, learn the vocabulary of the gospel, but never experience the power of the gospel. Titus 1:16 says, “They profess to know God but with their deeds they deny him, since they are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good deed.” Consequently, many substitute Christian words for a Christian lifestyle.
Warren Wiersbe said this:
People with dead faith substitute words for deeds. They know the correct vocabulary for prayer and testimony, and can even quote the right verses from the Bible; but their walk does not measure up to their talk. They think that their words are as good as works, and they are wrong.2
In fact, Christ used this same type of language when describing the Pharisees who were not truly saved. He said they “honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from him” (Matt 15:8 paraphrase). Also, in Matthew 21:28-32, Christ gave a parable of two sons. With the first, when commanded by the father to work in the vineyard, he initially refused but then later went to work. With the second, the father commanded him as well; except this brother agreed but never went. Christ used this story to describe how tax collectors and sinners who initially rejected God were entering the kingdom when the Pharisees, who simply gave mouth service, would not.
There are many like this in the church. They use Christian terms and phrases like, “Christ is Lord!” “The Bible is God’s Word!” “Prayer is powerful!” “Abortion is wrong!” and “I am an evangelical!” They may even stand in the pulpit and teach, but they lack the kind of faith which changes their lives—producing good works, including caring for those in need.
Does our confession of faith come with more than words? Are we simply talkers or even teachers who don’t live out our faith? James warns us that a faith which is only demonstrated through words is not salvific.
Application Question: In what ways have you seen Christian vocabulary without Christian living amongst those who profess faith in Christ? Why is this so prevalent in the church? What types of needs are around you and your church? In what ways can you and your church better meet the needs of those around you?
True Saving Faith Includes More Than Having Right Theology
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works. You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that—and tremble with fear.
After using the illustration of a professing believer simply mouthing religious words to another believer in need, James describes a snippet of a hypothetical conversation by a believer who has a liberal view of the relationship between faith and works. He believes one can exist without the other. His words to a professing believer can be paraphrased like this, “You have faith in God, but it shows up in loving theology. You are not gifted in giving, serving, mercy, or evangelism, so you don’t do it and that’s fine. I have faith as well, but my gift is serving others and living out the practical aspects of the faith. It’s OK for us to be different. I serve and you think and talk.” James interrupts this hypothetical conversation and says, “Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works” (v. 18). Essentially, James argues that apart from works, genuine faith cannot be discerned. There is no proof! True faith always results in “boots on the ground”—a life that repents of sin and follows Christ. Paul even commanded those he preached to, to bear fruits worthy of repentance. In Acts 26:20 (NLT), Paul preached “that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do.”
James then argues for the insufficiency of orthodox doctrine alone by pointing out that even demons have right theology but are not saved (2:19). John MacArthur’s comments on this are helpful:
As far as factual doctrine is concerned, demons are monotheists, all of whom know and believe there is one true God. They also are very much aware that Scripture is God’s Word, that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, that salvation is by grace through faith, that Jesus died, was buried, and raised to atone for the sins of the world, and that He ascended to heaven and is now seated at His Father’s right hand. They know quite well that there is a literal heaven and a literal hell. They doubtless have a clearer knowledge of the millennium and its related truths than does even the most devoted Bible scholar. But all of that orthodox knowledge, divinely and eternally significant as it is, cannot save them. They know the truth about God, Christ, and the Spirit, but hate it and them.3
Demons have better theology than most, if not all of us. When demons met Christ in Scripture, they often bowed down and declared that he was the Son of God (Lk 4:41). They even understood their future end; they asked Christ to not torment them before the time and to not send them to the abyss (Matt 8:29, Lk 8:31). However, their theology is void of commitment to practice what God’s Word says. It is possible to be a theological scholar and yet be lost. That’s exactly what most of the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees were. They studied the Bible, copied it, and taught it. But they did not incarnate the Bible’s message; they did not live out what it said and ultimately rejected the messiah who Scripture taught about.
True salvation includes not only orthodoxy (right doctrine) but also orthopraxy (right practice). In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul said this to Timothy, “Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach. Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” Paul warned Timothy about this because it’s so easy to separate theology (what one believes and teaches) and practice (how one lives). Without persevering in both, we may prove that we are not saved and also lead others into darkness. True faith is more than simply having right theology!
Application Question: How is it possible for a person to love the Bible and theology and yet not truly be born again? How have you seen people and churches minimize either the need for right doctrine or serving others? How can we keep ourselves (and the church) from either extreme?
True Saving Faith Includes More Than Having Emotional/Charismatic Experiences
You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that—and tremble with fear.
Not only does James declare that having right theology is not proof of true salvation but also emotional or spiritual experiences. When describing the demons, he declared that they not only have right theology—believing that there is only one God and not multiple gods—they also “tremble with fear” of God, which is more than many believers do. They have an emotional and physical response to God, but it doesn’t save them.
Unfortunately, many in the church when giving proof of their faith point to some emotional or charismatic experience they had—maybe at a church when they gave their life to Christ, they spoke in tongues or prophesied. But these by themselves are not proof of salvation. In Matthew 13:20-21, Jesus described the person who received God’s Word upon shallow ground. He said,
The seed sown on rocky ground is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. But he has no root in himself and does not endure; when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away.
This person seemingly had a charismatic “salvation experience,” receiving the gospel with joy, but when trials came, he eventually fell away. Often people with charismatic salvation testimonies are immediately put in leadership or in front of crowds, which can at times hurt their infant faith and contribute to their falling away. For this reason, Paul warned against putting new converts into church leadership because they could fall into the condemnation of the devil (1 Tim 3:6).
When considering charismatic experiences as proof of salvation, it should be remembered that Judas cast out demons and healed people but wasn’t truly born again. Also, in the Old Testament, God chose to use a false prophet named Balaam to not only prophesy blessings over Israel but also to give a prophecy about the coming messiah (Num 24:17), and yet Balaam was not saved (Num 22-24). He was a false prophet who helped Moab tempt Israel into sexual immorality and the worship of Baal. Even Caiaphas, the high priest who helped crucify Jesus, prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, though he wasn’t saved (John 11:49-51). In addition, the false professors who approach Christ in the last days saying, “Lord, Lord,” will point to their charismatic experiences (prophecy and mighty works) as proof of their salvation (Matt 7:22-23), but Christ will declare to them that he never knew them.
Maybe, there were some Jewish believers pointing to their emotional or charismatic experiences as proof of their conversion. However, James implies by pointing out that demons also have emotional/physical responses to God, that those experiences alone don’t prove one is saved. In the Gospels, we see demon possessed people falling down before Christ and having seizures (Mk 9:26, Lk 8:28). Sadly, some churches teach that these types of experiences are proof of God’s blessing. Sometimes, they might just be proof of demonic activity. Emotional and charismatic experiences alone are not proof of true salvation.
Application Question: Why is it important to establish that emotional/charismatic experiences are not proof of salvation or God’s working? How are emotional/charismatic experiences, at times, overly exalted and abused within the church?
True Saving Faith Is Proven by a Pattern of Obedience to God’s Word, Including Willingness to Sacrifice for God
But would you like evidence, you empty fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by works. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And similarly, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
Finally, James adds two illustrations of saving faith in Abraham and Rahab. Abraham, when asked by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac, obeyed God immediately (Gen 22). Right before killing Isaac, God stopped him and provided a ram for slaughter. Hebrews 11:19 teaches that Abraham was willing to kill Isaac because he believed God would raise him from the dead. Since this would have been the first resurrection, Abraham’s obedience to God’s Word was a big act of faith.
Rahab was a harlot living in the town of Jericho. Because of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and some of their conquests in the wilderness, the people in Jericho heard about how great Israel’s God was and feared him. When Rahab heard about the works of Israel’s God, she not only feared God but believed he was the true God (Josh 2:8-11). In response, she hid the Jewish spies from the authorities in Jericho and asked the spies to deliver her and her family when they conquered the city. She was spared, became part of Israel, and eventually became part of Christ’s lineage. Her actions in protecting the Israelite spies and committing treason to her people was a great act of faith. She was willing to put her life in danger, leave her people, property, and assumedly her life of prostitution to follow the God of Israel. True faith produced great works in the lives of these two Old Testament believers.
Though James is arguing that true faith always results in works and not that one is saved by faith plus works, some have misunderstood his teaching. In fact, in verse 21, when James said, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?” this verse really troubled Martin Luther. The apparent contradiction with Paul’s teaching on justification by faith alone caused Luther to call the book of James a “book of straw” and to wonder if James even wrote it.4 How can verses like Romans 4:5, which says, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who declares the ungodly righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness” and James 2:21, which says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works…?” correspond with one another?
Even though Martin Luther misunderstood this text, as does Roman Catholic theology, James is not teaching that works and faith are needed for one to be saved. As mentioned previously, James is teaching what all Scripture teaches, that true salvation will produce good works. That is clearly James argument in verses 20-26 as demonstrated by two things:
1. In Scripture, the word “justify” can have two meanings. One means to acquit or to declare righteous, as in a court case, which is how justification is used when referring to salvation (Rom 4:5). The second means to vindicate or prove that one is righteous. For example, in 1 Timothy 3:16, Paul said this:
And we all agree, our religion contains amazing revelation: He was revealed in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
To be “vindicated by the Spirit” refers to Christ being raised from the dead. By resurrecting Christ who was put to death on false charges, God’s Spirit proved to everybody that Jesus was righteous. This is the sense in which James is using the word, justify. Abraham’s and Rahab’s works proved that they were righteous—meaning saved. It was not by doing them that God saved them and declared them righteous.
2. Also, proof that James is not referring to Abraham being saved by works is the fact that he refers to an event that happened at least thirty years after he was saved. James 2:23 says, “Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.” This verse comes from Genesis 15:6 when Abraham looked up at the stars and believed that God was going to multiply his children as the stars. It wasn’t until Genesis 22 that Abraham obeyed God by seeking to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham’s works in Genesis 22 simply proved that Abraham had faith in God and that he had already been declared righteous, many years earlier. In fact, Abraham was probably saved before Genesis 15. In Genesis 12, in obedience to God, Abraham left his home and family and moved to Canaan, which God said he would give him. Abraham was included in Hebrews 11, the heroes of the faith chapter, for that great step of faith (v. 8).
How Were OT Believers Saved?
Abraham being declared righteous because of his faith is also important to understand because some people think believers in the Old Testament were saved by works and that believers in the New Testament are saved by faith, which is wrong. God has always saved people and declared them righteous based on their faith. Even before they fully understood all the details about the coming messiah, God was applying his future death to their account. Revelation 13:8 (NIV) says this: “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” In what way was Christ slain from the creation of the world? In the sense that his death has been applied to those with faith from the creation of the world. Even the required Old Testament sacrifices always pointed to Christ’s future atoning death.
James was not teaching that salvation came through a combination of works and faith, as Catholic theology teaches, but that true works always prove faith. God gave Abraham righteousness based on his faith over thirty years before he attempted to sacrifice his son. And with Rahab, when she heard about God’s great exploits and believed in him, she also was given righteousness. Her hiding of the Jewish spies and potentially endangering her life only proved that she had genuine faith.
What are some applications about saving faith that we can take from the lives of Abraham and Rahab?
1. True saving faith is always based on the revelation of God’s Word. James 1:18 says, “By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” God speaks and we believe and obey. In the New Testament, God has given us his gospel—that Christ died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead so that we can be saved. We are called to believe it and follow Christ. In John 1:12-13, Christ said:
But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children—children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.
Have we truly believed in the gospel in such a way that changes both the direction of our lives and our eternal destiny? True faith in the gospel does both.
2. True saving faith is costly. For both Abraham and Rahab, following God meant bearing a tremendous cost. For Abraham, that meant potentially losing his son, Isaac. For Rahab, it meant endangering her life as she obeyed God and disobeyed the government by hiding the spies. Likewise, in Luke 14:26-27, Christ said,
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
True faith always has a cost, even if that only means giving up lordship of our lives to Christ.
This is especially important to consider, as many in the Free Grace Theology camp believe becoming a disciple of Christ is secondary to salvation. Christ’s challenge to take up one’s cross and become a disciple, for them, is a second step after conversion, instead of an aspect of true saving faith. First, one believes (referring to intellectual belief) and is saved; then, hopefully, that person commits and becomes a disciple, which includes taking up one’s cross. However, every believer in Scripture is called a disciple of Christ. And in Matthew 10:33, Christ declares that if we deny him before others (meaning not taking up our cross and being willing to suffer for him), he will deny us before the Father (cf. 10:38-39). Salvation is costly in that it cost Christ his life, but it’s also costly for us, as we in response take up our cross and follow him (Lk 14:26-27).
Practical Examples of Costly Faith
What might this costly faith look like in our lives practically? Bruce Goettsche, Pastor of Union Church in Illinois, said this:
- It is seen in the person who continues to praise God in spite of a devastating diagnosis.
- It is seen in the person who refuses to give in to the temptations of the world to despair, to live beyond our means, to live with no regard for our commitments.
- It is seen in those who make the tough decision to put God first even if it means missing out on some of the things others do.
- It is seen in the person who continues to love a person even though they have been repeatedly unkind.
- It is seen in those who give what they have to alleviate the needs of others rather than indulge ourselves.
- It is seen in the person who refuses to give in to anxiety because of their trust in God’s wisdom and timing.
- It is seen in those who do what is right even though everyone else is doing what is wrong.5
How is God calling you to carry your cross as an act of true faith?
Application Question: Why are works such an important indicator of true faith (cf. Ez 36:26-27, 2 Pet 1:5-10)? What type of cross is God calling you to carry as you follow him?
James challenges Jewish Christians who had turned away from legalistic law-keeping in Judaism to an antinomian form of Christianity. They thought salvation by faith meant that they didn’t have to obey God’s Word at all. But James teaches that true faith changes believers in such a way that repenting of sin and doing good works will always be progressive staples of their lives. Consider Ezekiel’s prophecy about God’s work in a believer’s salvation in the New Covenant:
I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you; I will take the initiative and you will obey my statutes and carefully observe my regulations.
The reason true believers will obey God’s Word and practice good works is because in salvation God radically changes them. He gives them his Spirit, and they become new creations in Christ—the old has passed away and the new has come (2 Cor 5:17). God removes their stony heart—breaking the power of their sin nature—and gives them a new heart—a new nature that wants to obey his Word. By his Spirit, he works in them to obey his statutes. Sanctification is a process; it doesn’t happen all at once. But, nevertheless, it begins at conversion when a person receives the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit begins to make them holy. The fruit of the Spirit will be evident to some extent in a true believer’s life. In fact, in Matthew 7:16-20, Jesus said:
You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.
Our salvation is not an ineffective salvation that doesn’t radically change us. It affects every aspect of our person, and the fruits will be progressively present. What are aspects of true, saving faith?
- True Saving Faith Includes More Than Simply Professing the Right Words
- True Saving Faith Includes More Than Having Right Theology
- True Saving Faith Includes More Than Having Emotional/Charismatic Experiences
- True Saving Faith Is Proven by a Pattern of Obedience to God’s Word, Including Willingness to Sacrifice for God
- Pray that our faith and that of our brothers and sisters would be more than words, theology, and emotions—that it would be a faith that works by actively loving God and others. Pray that we would excel in serving God and others in this coming season.
- Pray that if there are any among us with a dead faith or no faith at all, that God could convict them of sin and Christ’s righteousness and convert them, so that they follow Christ wholeheartedly. Pray this also for friends and relatives who don’t know the Lord.
- Thank the Lord for his salvation and that he continually changes us by his Spirit into his image.
Copyright © 2021 Gregory Brown
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1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (p. 124). Chicago: Moody Press.
2 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 354). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (p. 131). Chicago: Moody Press.
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