James 2: Saved by Faith, Justified by Works

Certainly debated as one of the most controversial passage in the New Testament, the second chapter of the Epistle of James contains scripture intended for a spiritually delinquent audience.

Starting out with partiality, James invites readers to rid themselves of favoritism. Because God and Christ show mercy and grace without favoritism, so should believers.

1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4)

It is important to point out the first century featured a polarized society where people were either rich or poor, either free or slave, either Jew or gentile. This is seemingly why James then writes about the members of the early church who were guilty of oppressing the poor.

5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?” (James 2:5-7)

James then explains that partiality is a sin against the royal law according to the scripture. This royal law is the law of God, the law of liberty, the law of love. Since we are all sinners according to this law, we all will be judged, thankfully by a merciful God.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:12-13)

The word teaches us that God is only pleased by the faithful. “6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

James highlights three kinds of faith, the first being dead, useless faith from which people can intellectually speak the words of God but do not act accordingly. This type of faith tricks people into a counterfeit sense of salvation. Those with dead faith will not inherit the kingdom of God. “14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. “(James 2:14-17)

The second faith described by James is demonic faith. “19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. ” (James 2:18-19)

The third faith is dynamic faith, the kind of faith that bears fruit and brings glory to God. “21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” (James 2:20-24)

Abraham’s faith was justified or ‘made complete’ by his actions which confirms the fact we are saved through faith by God’s grace and we are justified by works. Justification is a process by which we are made righteous as we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us every day grasping each opportunity as a way to apply the wisdom brought on by the word of God.

Many among the church find themselves wondering what exactly ‘works’ are. Works are the things we do or say that will further God’s kingdom and bring glory to God. Works are done with desire to please God. The bible teaches us that we all will be judged according to our works or lack thereof.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15)

How can we as believers apply the second chapter of the Epistle of James to our lives? We can profit from James’ advice by avoiding favoritism and allowing opportunities to develop into works that are pleasing to God.

This week I invite you to identify works in your life and also learn from missed opportunities to serve God through works. As you do this, you will find out what type of faith you have, either dead or dynamic.

I pray you are not among those fooled by the enemy, coerced into believing your faith is dynamic when in fact it is dead. Call on this ministry for answers as to the true nature of your faith and for guidance how to be certain your faith is indeed dynamic.

As we move on to the third chapter of the Epistle of James, let us remember to profit from trials in our lives. Also through the Holy Spirit, let’s honor God by not only hearing the word but doing the word. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Allow ourselves to be used by God as we are justified through our works. Let’s pray.

Father God;
We thank you for this day, for your blessings
And for the challenges you have brought in our lives,
We ask for your strength as we endure trials
And pray you will be there each time we need you.

Lord we thank you for your all mighty power
Which continues to drive us, to guide us
And pray that you keep our sails full of word driven wind
To pull us along and keep us Faithful.

God please forgive our sins, forgive our hurtful decisions,
And lead us to righteousness through works
Done in your honor, for your glory and your kingdom.

We thank you for providing all we need
To live and thrive through Christ each day,
And ask that you continue to bless our lives like only you can.

We thank you for your love and your divine presence in our lives.

Praise God,
Amen!

This message was written by Daniel St.Pierre
Email: DanielStPierre@ThriveThroughChrist.com

Posted in Bible Studies.