Key Themes: Faith & Works

Sermons
Music
Blog

'What is authentic faith?’ is a question that has plagued Christians throughout the centuries of church history. It is incredibly important for us to be clear on, for the answer dictates how we will understand our present standing before God. Within his epistle, James provides us with the answer, explaining the interplay between faith and its public expression in good works. The theme of faith and works is at the heart of James’ pursuit of the end of hypocrisy.

In 2:14-26 James enters into the debate and casts a definitive explanation. In words that have proved equally clarifying and controversial, James describes that faith in God will always result in the doing of good works. If good works are not evident, one simply does not possess active faith—their faith is dead. Good works are thus the exercising of authentic faith.

In the midst of his argument James interacts with an imagined objector. He argues that faith and works cannot be separated; faith will inevitably produce works (2:18). Faith is not mere intellectual assent, for even the demons know the truth of who God is and what He’s done in Christ for the world (2:19). James then uses the example of Abraham and Rahab to show that these great saints, who were, to be sure, justified by faith, could also be said to be justified by works because their faith was evidenced by their obedience (2:20-26). This idea can be summarized by the famous quote often attributed to Martin Luther, ‘We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.’ As Jesus said, the tree of saving faith will always bear good fruit (Matt. 7:17-20).

The crux of the controversy surrounding James’ teaching stems from 2:23-24 where he uses the same quote from Genesis 15:6 that the Apostle Paul uses in Romans concerning Abraham: ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’. James and Paul seem to take the verse in contradictory ways. This seeming contradiction can be solved by noticing the different audiences of the respective letters and therefore the different arguments Paul and James are making. Paul is writing to Jews and Gentiles in Rome explaining how one is justified (cleared of guilt) before God. The answer is by faith alone, just like Abraham. James is writing to dispersed Jewish Christians experiencing persecution, confusion, along with the temptation to live like the world. The reminder these Christians need is that their faith will prove itself to be genuine by how they conduct themselves, in the same way Abraham’s did through his willingness to sacrifice Isaac.

The application for 21st century Christians is clear. We live in an intellectual age, yet faith is not mere intellectual assent. We live in a pragmatic age, yet faith is not a blind activity. We live in an age with a great need to see Christians shine like a city on a hill. Living out our faith through the doing of good works will prove our faith to be genuine, and bring about the end of hypocrisy.

 

For more articles on the key themes in the book of James, download 'The End of Hypocrisy ebook'.

Author: Nick Coombs
Published: 25 May 2015


Latest Posts:

  • Join the Team – Generations Pastor (Melbourne)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – Women’s Ministry Director (Melbourne)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – Training Director (Melbourne)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – City Kids Coordinator (West)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – City on a Hill Melbourne

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – Services Director (West)

    Join the Team –…

  • Key Themes: Suffering

    Key Themes: Suffering

  • Key Themes: Poverty & Wealth

    Key Themes: Poverty…

  • Key Themes: Now & Tomorrow

    Key Themes: Now &…

  • Key Themes: Wisdom

    Key Themes: Wisdom

  • Key Themes: Faith & Works

    Key Themes: Faith…

  • Opportunity to Serve – Communications Coordinator Melbourne

    Opportunity to Serve…

  • Fasting: A Brief Introduction

    Fasting: A Brief…

  • Unlocking a New Room

    Unlocking a New Room

  • Join the Team – Many Rooms Kitchen Coordinator

    Join the Team –…

  • Opportunity to Serve – City Kids Team Leader

    Opportunity to Serve…

  • On Mission with Milene Tan

    On Mission with Milene…

  • On Mission with Kenneth Webb

    On Mission with Kenneth…

  • On Mission with Debbie Bognar

    On Mission with Debbie…

  • The Structure of Proverbs

    The Structure of…

  • City on a Hill Church Planting Fund

    City on a Hill Church…

  • His Story Our Story – Recap

    His Story Our Story…

  • 3 Tips for Reading Proverbs

    3 Tips for Reading…

  • Join the Team – Research Coordinator

    Join the Team –…

  • Why should we trust the Bible if it gets the origin of life so wrong? – Part III

    Why should we trust…

  • Why should we trust the Bible if it gets the origin of life so wrong? – Part II

    Why should we trust…

  • Why should we trust the Bible if it gets the origin of life so wrong? – Part I

    Why should we trust…

  • Tacos of Grace

    Tacos of Grace

  • City News September

    City News September

  • City News August

    City News August

  • Join the Team – Operations Director

    Join the Team –…

  • Welcome Dave Miers

    Welcome Dave Miers

  • City News July

    City News July

  • On Mission with Paul Distefano

    On Mission with Paul…

  • On Mission with Steve Murray

    On Mission with Steve…

  • On Mission with Rick Jordan

    On Mission with Rick…

  • Welcome Leighton Cantrill

    Welcome Leighton…

  • The Lost Art of Sorrow

    The Lost Art of Sorrow

  • Interview With Sam Wright, Pastor of Redemption Church

    Interview With Sam…

  • The Reality of Suffering and Evil

    The Reality of Suffering…

  • Join the Team – Accounts Coordinator

    Join the Team –…

  • The Attentive Life - Book Review

    The Attentive Life…

  • A Date with the King

    A Date with the King

  • Trusting the Grand Weaver

    Trusting the Grand…

  • City News February

    City News February

  • Songs of Summer II

    Songs of Summer II

  • City News January

    City News January

  • Generous – Quarterly Update

    Generous – Quarterly…

  • City News December

    City News December

  • Join the Team – Community Director

    Join the Team –…

  • Engage 2014

    Engage 2014

  • Planting with PlantED

    Planting with PlantED

  • Join the Team – Video Coordinator

    Join the Team –…

  • Introduction to Promises

    Introduction to Promises

  • Join the Team – XD-Ops

    Join the Team –…

  • City News November

    City News November

  • His Story Our Story – Photo Journal

    His Story Our Story…

  • Kirsty’s Story

    Kirsty’s Story

  • Pete’s Story

    Pete’s Story

  • Amy’s Story

    Amy’s Story

  • Surviving Same Sex Attraction as a Christian

    Surviving Same Sex…

  • Generous Campaign

    Generous Campaign

  • Why Bother With Predestination?

    Why Bother With Predestination?

  • City News October

    City News October

  • This Is (True) Greatness

    This Is (True) Greatness

  • The Call to Mission

    The Call to Mission

  • What About the Warnings?

    What About the Warnings?

  • The Peril of Porn

    The Peril of Porn

  • Dating For The Glory Of God

    Dating For The Glory…

  • City News September 2013

    City News September…

  • Adoption: The Gospel Made Visible

    Adoption: The Gospel…

  • You Knit Me Together

    You Knit Me Together

  • Working For God

    Working For God

  • Australia – The Results Are In

    Australia – The…

  • Thorn in the Flesh

    Thorn in the Flesh

  • Tough Questions

    Tough Questions

  • Good Grief

    Good Grief

  • An Honourable Office

    An Honourable Office

  • City News July 2013

    City News July 2013

  • Faith and Work

    Faith and Work

  • We Are Family

    We Are Family

  • WWJD: Responding To Begging

    WWJD: Responding…

  • Work. Rest. Play - Part II

    Work. Rest. Play…

  • City News - May

    City News - May

  • Salvation Happens To Us, Not By Us

    Salvation Happens…

  • Doves & Snakes

    Doves & Snakes

  • Planting & Pregnancy

    Planting & Pregnancy

  • Lest We Forget

    Lest We Forget

  • Introduction to 1 Peter

    Introduction to 1…

  • Easter 2013 – Photo Journal

    Easter 2013 – Photo…

  • More Than Gold

    More Than Gold

  • Join The Team – Music Director

    Join The Team –…

  • Jessica’s Story

    Jessica’s Story

  • Changes

    Changes

  • Andy’s Story

    Andy’s Story

  • Work. Rest. Play - Part I

    Work. Rest. Play…

  • Join The Team – Biblical Living Pastor

    Join The Team –…

  • Eat, Drink & Be Merry Melbourne!

    Eat, Drink &…

  • City News – March

    City News – March

  • The Affections of Our Hearts & The Idols We Worship II

    The Affections of…