Faith With Works “Real Life” [James] Series  James 2:21-26
Paul James “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Rom. 3:28) “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’" (Rom. 4:3) THE WAY OF SALVATION: DOES JAMES CONTRADICT PAUL? “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24) “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?” (James 2:21) In appearance: They seem to contradict each other.
Paul James Primary Goal: To teach “justification by faith” as the way of salvation in Christ. Emphasis: On faith apart from “works of the law” [= meritorious works to earn God’s favor]. THE WAY OF SALVATION: DOES JAMES CONTRADICT PAUL? Primary Goal: To teach “true marks of real faith” as the way of discernment for saving faith. Emphasis: On “works of faith” as a true sign of saving faith [= fruit-bearing works of living faith]. In reality: They have the same center, coming from two contrasting emphases.
“FAITH WITH WORKS” PROVING TO BE A LIVING FAITH 1)ABRAHAM: Abraham’s “faith with works” proved to be a living faith. 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a friend of God. (vs.21-23) The focus here is NOT on Abraham’s sacrificial works but Abraham’s faith in God’s promise through Isaac (Heb. 11). Abraham’s faith was verified as “true” by his obedience. James’ usage of the word, “justified” is different in angle: For Paul it is “declaration of a righteous status by God” but for James it is “demonstration of the righteous status”. 1
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. Hebrews 11:17-19
“FAITH WITH WORKS” PROVING TO BE A LIVING FAITH 2)RAHAB: Rahab’s “faith with works” proved to be a living faith. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (vs.15-17) Why Rahab as the second example? Four likely reasons:  for a book-ends effect,  to show the transforming power of saving faith,  for the glory of God &  for no excuse. The point here is NOT that justification = faith + works but that true saving faith is MORE than “assenting faith”—i.e., it must be also “obeying faith” (producing works of faith). Rahab’s works were not meritorious self-efforts but faith actively working with obedience (Josh. 2:8-11, Heb. 11:31).
8 Before the men lay down, she [Rahab] came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, "I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Joshua 2:8-11
“FAITH WITH WORKS” PROVING TO BE A LIVING FAITH 3)CONCLUSION FOR ALL: True saving faith is “faith with works”—proving to be a living faith. For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (v.26) It does NOT mean: Salvation is by faith plus works. It MEANS: Salvation is by faith alone—but it must be a living faith that produces works! Another way to see the clarity of this conclusion: Faith without works = a dead faith. Faith with works = a living faith. Twofold counsel to avoid any distortion of this conclusion:  Do NOT separate faith and works;  Do NOT confound them (Charles Simeon, 1759–1836). 1 1
Our Works: Evidences of God’s Heavenly Grace Let the soul which seeks to come to Jesus in faith thus understand what it is to think of works. As soon as it begins to look upon its works as the ground of merit, as soon as it begins to say in fear, "My works are too small, too trifling, too sinful for me to be received," it must at once remember that "man is justified without works." No sin or ungodliness of which you have been guilty ought to keep you back from the hope of grace. Yet, on the other side, in order that the soul may not perhaps sit down in idle inactivity, in order that it may not go on in sin while it relies upon grace, let it be remembered that as soon as the first beginnings of the desire for grace awake within us -- this, if it is sincere, will necessarily show itself active in the doing of God's will... Thus we learn to understand rightly the word, "work for God worketh in you," that is, by faith; and our works become the lovely evidences of His heavenly grace, the foretokens of His everlasting favor. - Andrew Murray
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR OUR EVERYDAY LIFE 1.Do NOT SEPARATE FAITH AND WORKS or CONFOUND THEM. Faith and works are inseparable—if separated, it is a dead faith. We are justified by faith alone—but be sure that your faith is a genuine, living faith. 2.Let your works of faith be THE EVIDENCES OF GOD’S GRACE in you. Don’t settle for mental faith, deceiving yourself. Act on what you believe, confirming God’s saving grace working in you!