“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” [James 2:17]
Ever wondered why James used a prostitutes works to make his point?
So many churches improperly teach James 2:17 as being written to believers, and how they need to have a steady amount of works or their faith will die. If this were to believers then it means one moment our faith is alive, then the next it’s dead, then alive, then dead. It would fly in the face of Paul’s teachings that we are saved apart from works [Rom 3:28].
In truth, James 2:17 is written to unbelievers, which is also three verses earlier Paul asked the question, “Can that faith save him?
In other words James is saving this person is not saved, and can this fake faith really save him? And the answer is “no”.
The work that James is talking about in James 2:14-26 is an action that takes place when we make a decision to believe God (particularly in the identity of Jesus). James gives two examples of what these specific works are, and both clearly describe a one-time action that was taken which confirmed their faith was real.
The most interesting example James used was about a PROSTITUTE named Rahab (James 2:25), who only had a single work in ALL of bible. Is that the best example James could give? He chose a prostitute over Moses, Joshua, David, Job, or even Daniel? Did James not read the old testament scriptures? What’s the deal James?
The point is Rahabs one work was enough, and it’s the kind of work James was talking about, and I think that’s why he used her as an example….so no one could view it as anything other than a single action that illustrated she really believed in God.
Rahab believed God and helped the Jews escape. The point all along was about a work that involved making a decision upon believing God. In other words she opened to door to her heart and her faith was credited to her as righteousness.
James 2:25 “ 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?
So while it IS GREAT and part of the normal Christian life to have works, our works don’t dictate the status of our faith. Your faith is either 100% dead, or it’s 100% alive, and if it’s alive it will never die.
In John 6:28 a Pharisee asked what were the ‘works’ (plural) that pleased God, and in John 6:29 Jesus replied with a singular response as He said “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
So apparently Jesus sees true faith as a work and He isn’t all jacked up on the Pharisees laundry list of works as means of pleasing God.
Take away: If you’re going to look at your works, make sure not to miss the most important one. Faith. Is your faith real and have you opened the door to your heart?
Author: Mike Cynar
Mike Cynar grew up in church and observed that countless people would go to church and then just stop. The church always referred to them as ‘fake Christians’ or ‘backsliders’ but Mike discovered the problem was deeper. The problem was the church message. The message was 90% behavior improvement and how bad you are, with a pinch of who you are in Christ, It was like every sermon was being preached to the church of Corinth. It’s in the Baptist church, Catholic, Pentecost, and most every other church. After discovering the true gospel message and how we are made right with God because of what ‘Jesus did’ (not what ‘we do’) Mike set out to free believers from behavior improvement programs and bring them back to Jesus. The Result – Jesus Without Religion was launched.