Faith Vs Works

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The below Bible study on faith or works based salvation takes a verse by verse look at James 2. These free inductive notes are intended as supplement to your own study, not a replacement. Feel free to copy, print, or share them. These notes can be helpful for individual study of the Word or for small group Bible studies.

Faith or Works Based Salvation – Sermon Part 3

See part 1 of this sermon on faith and works.

See part 2 of this sermon on faith and works. 

Text: James 2:14-26 

The next 2 examples demonstrate how genuine, saving faith produce works.

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?

22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;

23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God.

It’s important in understanding this passage to first consider what James is not saying here. James is not saying that Abraham was saved by his good works. In fact Paul quotes this same OT passage to argue that man is justified by faith without works. Paul and James are talking about two different kinds of work.

·        Ro 3:28

28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Paul argued emphatically that works of the Law played no part whatsoever in salvation. Paul was addressing those who rejected the gospel because they thought they could be saved by their own righteousness.

James is not referring to works of the Law at all, but rather of works in obedience to the gospel.

Paul showed the total insufficiency of works without faith while James taught the essential nature of works to demonstrate that the faith was genuine and operative.

When James says that Abraham was justified by works, he says specifically that the work by which he was justified was the offering up of Isaac. The offering of Isaac was in Genesis 22 when Abraham was well over 100 years old.

However, when God said that Abraham believed Him and it was reckoned to him a righteousness, that was when Abraham was less than 86 years old in Genesis 15.

Abraham had been a believer and reckoned as righteous by God for about 20 years or more when it says that here in verse 21 that he was justified by works, so the justification that this verse speaks of cannot possibly be referring to salvation which took place 20 or more years earlier.

So, what was this justification that James refers to if it is not salvation and justification before God? The context is that our faith is demonstrated by our works. God knows our hearts and knows if our faith is genuine. Men on the other hand cannot see our heart, but they can observe our works. That’s why verse 18 says, “I will show you my faith by my works.” The justification by works that James is speaking of here is a justification before men to demonstrate that the faith is genuine. Faith is justified in the eyes of men by the works that accompany it.

24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

·        Genuine faith always produces works

1.      The good soil yields a good crop.

Mt 13:8

8 “And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

2.      Though salvation is by faith, the purpose of our salvation is to produce good works!

Ephesians 2:8-10

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works , which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Mt 7:16-18

16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?

17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.

The message is you can readily discern the type of tree it is based on the fruit that it produces. James tells us that genuine saving faith produces good works. Well, then what if good works are lacking in one’s life, even if he says he is a Christian and is active in church? If good works are missing from one’s life, it doesn’t matter what he says, his faith is useless and dead and cannot result in salvation.

As the title to today’s message says, Saving Faith Works!

25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?

·        Though Abraham was a man of great faith and called a friend of God, it is noted here that Rahab the harlot was justified by works in the same way that Abraham was. God imputes righteousness to every true believer. This righteousness in turn, regardless of previous sins, manifests itself in the form of good works.

·        I’ll briefly give you the story of Rahab if you’re not familiar with it. As this verse says, she was a harlot which shows that the grace of God is able to reach every lost soul regardless of the depths of their sin. The nation of Israel was about to enter the land of Canaan and defeat all its inhabitants because the Lord was giving it into their hand. Israel sent two spies into Jericho to scout it out before attacking it. They stayed at an inn on the wall of Jericho where Rahab was the inn keeper. When the king of Jericho discovered that the two spies were staying at her inn, he sent word to Rahab to turn the men over to him. She had heard about the God of Israel and knew that He would give Jericho into Israel’s hand, so instead of turning them over to the king, she hid them and then helped them escape. She actually risked her life to protect them thus demonstrating her genuine faith in God. Her faith was rewarded by her life and the lives of her family members being spared when Jericho was attacked. Her faith is also commended in Heb 11, God’s hall of fame.

Final Analogy and Conclusion

26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James concludes with one final analogy to dispel any lingering thoughts that one can have genuine faith without demonstrating it with works. Just how dead is the body after the spirit leaves it? Jesus final words show how necessary the spirit is for life.

Lk 23:46

46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” Having said this, He breathed His last.

Jesus body was absolutely dead when His Spirit left it.

The same truth is seen in Stephen’s death.

Ac 7:59-60

59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”

60 Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

Friends, the Bible doesn’t teach that faith without works is merely sleeping or just dormant or even unconscious. Faith that is not accompanied with works is just as dead as were Jesus’ and Stephen’s bodies when their spirits departed from them.

If you profess Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, then what you do for the Lord in obedience to Him speaks far more clearly to others about the genuineness of your faith than what you say.

But what should you do if you conclude after hearing this message that your faith is useless and dead? Please don’t misunderstand this message and think that the answer for you is to start doing works to be saved. Works cannot possibly save you or make even the smallest contribution to saving you, but I’ve got good news for you Jesus Christ died for your sins. Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but through Me.” Salvation is only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He can give you a new transformed life today. You must repent of your sins, place your trust in Him to save you and begin living your life for Him. So then, what about works? Where do they come in? If your faith is genuine, then you will be saved and works will be the natural result of your new life in Christ. A good tree always produces good fruit!

Make sure that your faith is a genuine saving faith that works!

See part 1 of this sermon on faith and works.

See part 2 of this sermon on faith and works. 

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