Saturday, December 13, 2014

Faith almost real - James 2:14-17

"What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself." (James 2:14-17)
What is the benefit of faith? The Greek word James uses here for "use" means to "pile up" or to "accumulate." This word can similarly be translated as "profit". So what profit is there in faith? Faith opens up to us the entire Kingdom of God. Paul tells us that "the administration of God which is by faith." (1 Timothy 1:4) The very economy of God is administered through faith. Without faith we cannot receive or participate in the Kingdom of God. However, through faith, all things are opened up to us and all things become possible to and through us. The writer of Hebrews lists some of the benefits that others have found in their faith. "Who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight." (Hebrews 11:33-34) And the list goes on. There is great benefit in faith, if it is the right kind of faith.

James warns us of a faith that is concealed from reality; a faith that is merely internal, mental, and "spiritual." Such faith we have, not as a real possession, but as a phantom, or shadow of the real thing. Such a warning applies not only to faith but to all things which we posses in shadows only, not in reality. King Solomon said, "Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed." (Proverbs 27:5) Even love, when it is concealed from reality, is of little use to us or to anyone else. Love benefits us only when it is bought into the light and prompts us to loving actions and behaviors. Love revealed is powerful while love concealed is dead. The same is true with faith. If something is to have benefit in our lives then it must transcend the conceptual and break forth into the practical; it must produce in us change that is lasting and actions that are salutary.

Faith brings its benefits when it works. Notice what the writer of Hebrews says of faith. "By faith Abel offered to God... By faith Noah... prepared an ark... By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out... By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden... By faith he left Egypt..." (Hebrews 11:4, 7, 8, 23, 27) Each each case, and many more could be cited, their faith lead to an action. For them, faith was as much a verb as it was a noun. Faith caused them to do something, and that action, the result of their faith, did profit them and those who were with them. Faith has little or no benefit in our life if it remains a thing and never becomes and action.

Here in lies the great biblical definition of righteousness. "For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:5-6) To put it in an algebraic formula, faith working through love equals righteousness! Faith without works generated through love is worthless, Love working without faith is useless. But faith working through love is of great benefit.

So why do so many people fail to reap the benefits of their faith? Because they have never added anything to their faith. They have faith but that is all; their faith remains in them alone. It promises great things, but never actually accomplishes anything. It looks beneficial, but its hopes are disappointing. It is like a runner in baseball who makes it to first base and then stops. Until he adds to his run another run to second, third, and finally home plate, his one single accomplishment will remain alone and without the benefit of a score. You have faith, that's great! But what will you be adding to that faith? Will you be joining your faith with love to produce the works of God or will you simply remain where you are, content in your "faith"? It is time to add works to our faith that we, and others, might be profited by what we posses.

David Robison

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