“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” [James 2:17]

Ever wondered why James used a prostitute’s works to make his point?

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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 the bible. Is that the best example James could give? Did he choose 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 Rahab’s 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 Pharisee’s 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 was raised in a church setting where he frequently noticed that many attendees would eventually drift away. The church labeled these individuals as ‘back sliders’ or ‘fake Christians’ just looking for ‘fire insurance’. However, Mike realized the issue was rarely with these individuals but instead with the church’s message itself. The teachings heavily emphasized behavior improvement and one’s flaws, with only a fleeting mention of one’s identity in Christ. It felt as though every sermon was tailored to the church of Corinth, who as we know or committing sins that even unbelievers don’t partake in. This trend was noticeable not just in one denomination, but across Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, and many other churches. Upon understanding the true essence of the gospel – that our righteousness comes from Jesus’ actions, not our own – Mike was inspired to liberate believers from lifeless sermons and reconnect them with the genuine teachings of Jesus. He believes that one can nurture a vibrant and growing bond with Jesus, unhindered by rigid religious practices. And thus, “Jesus Without Religion” was born.

It turns out that it is grace that leads to repentance. And if our heart is to get others to walk in the Spirit and live a godly life, then the best approach is not a beat down sermon, but rather to remind other that it is only when we understand our true identity in Christ that we will live it out. Yes, it’s true, if you’re convinced that God thinks you’re a dirty sinner, you will ultimately continue a lifestyle that mirrors that view, but if you truly believe that even on your worst day, you are called holy, sanctified, justified, and will be presented blameless in the end, well, it turns out this is the secret to living out on the outside what has been worked in to the inside.

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