Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Can faith save you?

The obvious answer is a resounding YES!
But let's take a look at what  Scripture says in the book of James.

James 2:14 says,
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can faith save him?

Again, there are many churches and even many more people who will say the answer is YES.  So, before I go into more detail on this verse, I want you to look deeper into Scripture.  While Paul teaches we are saved by faith, James is also saying we are saved by faith.  He goes on to say what that kind of faith should look like.

What we see here is the test of works, or righteous behavior that obeys God's Word and manifests a godly nature.  James' point is not that a person is saved by works (he has already strongly and clearly asserted that salvation is a gracious gift from God; 1:17-18; Ephesians 2:8-9), but that there is a kind of apparent faith that is dead and does not save (vv. 14, 17, 20, 24, 26; Matthew 3:7-8; 5:16; 7:21; 13:18-23; John 8:30-31; 15:6).  It is possible James was writing to Jews (1:1) who had jettisoned the works righteousness of Judaism but, instead, had embraced the mistaken notion that since righteous works and obedience to God's will were not efficacious for salvation, they were not necessary at all.  Thus, they reduced faith to a mere mental assent to the facts about Christ.

if someone says. This important phrase governs the interpretation of the entire passage.  James does not say that this person actually has faith, but that he claims to have it.

faith. This is best understood in a broad sense, speaking of any degree of acceptance of truths of the gospel.

does not have. Again, the verb's form describes someon who continually lacks any external evidence of the faith he routinely claims.

works. This refers to all righteous behavior that conforms to God's revealed Word, but specifically, in the context, to acts of compassion (v.15) 

Can faith save him? Better translated, "Can that kind of faith save?"  James is not disputing the importance of faith.  Rather, he is opposing the notion that saving faith can be a mere intellectual exercise void of a commitment to active obedience (Matt 7:16-18).  The grammatical form of the question demands a negative answer.

James 2:15-16 says,
"If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?"

James illustrates his piont by comparing faith without works to words of compassion without acts of compassion (Matt 25:31-46)

James 2:17 says,
"Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

faith by dead.  Just as professed compassion without action is phony, the kind of faith that is without works is mere empty profession, not genuine saving faith.

Can faith save you?  Sure, but it is a faith that is combined with action.  
Do you have a living, active faith filled a desire to be obedient to God's Word.  If your desire is to have faith and just sit around the house and do nothing for the Lord, then it is time to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith!

What does your faith look like?

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