Saving Faith (Part Two)- James 2:14-26

Our first post has shown James’ assertion that saving faith is not merely a mental activity, but must include action, we must act on what we “believe” and if we do not act on it we really don’t believe it. He then continues, in verses 18-22 to explain to us something else about saving faith. He begins by stating the misunderstanding some have about faith, that faith is possible without action, that you can have faith in something without acting upon it. James responds to this in verse 19, clearly stating that this is not the case, that action is an inherent part of saving faith and “faith” that does not act is not faith at all. He then provides an example of those who have “belief” but not faith, and the example he presents is demons, or fallen angels. According to James, demons understand that their is one God and know who that God is. They understand that He is God and agree with the fact that He is God, but do not act as though He is God, for they choose to rebel against Him and be their own lords rather than submit to His Lordship. James then presents a biblical example of saving faith, using the Old Testament example of Abraham. The story he refers to is in Genesis 22, and it involves God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham takes Isaac up on the mountain to offer him up in sacrifice, binds him on the altar and raises the knife to complete the sacrifice, but God stops him before he does so, and provides a ram as a substitute. This is a very familiar story, and serves as a foreshadowing of God sending a lamb (Jesus Christ) to be offered up in our place, as our substitute. The point James is making in this example is that Abraham did not have true, saving faith until he acted on what he understood and accepted, and when he acted upon it, his faith was “credited to him as righteousness”. His faith was clearly demonstrated only when he acted upon it, and in his acting upon it, he pleased God and was called God’s friend. This passage in James then brings us to need to address a misconception about faith common in the church today. This is the idea that faith is something that is primarily to be “quantified”, that if I have “more faith” I can get more “goodies” from God. This is an understanding of God as a sort of vending machine, with faith being “money” we put into the machine. If I put in 25 cents of faith, I can get a pack of gum. For fifty cents, I can get some crackers, for seventy five cents, some chips, for a dollar , a candy bar. But as James tells us here, God is not a vending machine, and faith is not something we have more or less of, we either act, or we don’t. To return to the chair illustration, faith is an either or, we either sit down in the chair or we don’t, we can’t really place part of our weight upon it, it is all or nothing. We either trust God or we don’t, and if we trust Him we will act on what He says because we are convinced it is true. The idea that we can get more goodies from God if we have “more faith” is foreign to what James is telling us here, and not in line with the biblical, saving faith James explains to us here. Some would contest this by referring to Romans 12:3, in which Paul tells us we are given a “measure” of faith, for the word “measure” is normally used to quantify something. In context, Romans 12:3 begins a discussion of spiritual gifts and their usage, and what Paul is saying through its use is that God determines which gifts each of us has, and our role is to first of all understand what gift we have, second of all agree with God that He has given us this gift, and finally, to act on what we know (have faith) by putting that gift to use, and the use of measure here simply describes for us the fact that the usefulness of the gift will be determined by how often we put it to use, by how often we choose to act upon it. Faith, in the New Testament, is a verb, and is not saving faith until we act upon it. Just as we can not be saved apart from acting upon what we believe, we also will not grow in the image of Christ without also acting upon what we believe, without biblical faith, not vending machine faith.

No Comments Epistles  //  Faith  //  Jesus Christ  //  Salvation and Redemption

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