In Faith on
29 May, 2012

Faith that saves embraces and acts

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works. James 2:18-22

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In Sunday school growing up, I heard many conversations between student and teacher that went a little bit like this:

T: “Who can tell me what it means to be saved?”
S: “Believing in God.”
T: “Yes, but believing in God is not enough. Even the devil believes there is a God. We have to repent of our sins, accept Jesus into our hearts and strive to become more like him. That’s what separates us.”

In other words, we can’t just believe IN God to be saved….we have to actually believe him. That means we take him at his word. We believe that what Christ did on the Cross is real and true. And we repent of our sins and work hard to be doers of the word (James 1:22) and become more Christlike, which is our calling (Romans 8:28-29a).

This is confirmed in the commentary on James 2:19 provided by Crossway’s ESV Study Bible:

The affirmation of monotheism stems from the core Jewish creed called Shema. But James stresses its inadequacy, since even the demons believe this, and they shudder. Mere mental assent to the Christian faith does not save anyone. The faith that saves, as both Paul and James affirm, embraces the truth of the gospel and acts accordingly.

So, what is the result of faith that actually believes God? Faithful obedience. But it requires action. How do I know that? Well, let me make a list from Hebrews 11…

  • By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain…
  • By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark…
  • By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age…
  • By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…
  • By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau…

By faith, they all obeyed. They acted. They trusted. Their faith was ever-so-clearly completed by their works (James 1:22).

Is that not inspiring? I’m feeling challenged to evaluate areas of my life where I’m simply believing in God and not truly believing him. I hope you are, too! Let me leave you with one of my favorite parts of James that helps us remember to do more than just believe IN:

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25

Jen


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1 Comment

  • evanlaar1922

    Great clarity – thank you!

    29 May, 2012 at 10:37 pm Reply
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