This is not, as is sometimes taken, a rejection of the idea that we are saved by faith alone. Rather, it is a recognition that a true faith in Jesus Christ will be revealed in the actions, deeds, or works of the believer.
This is not, as is sometimes taken, a rejection of the idea that we are saved by faith alone (“Sola Fide”). Nor is James arguing that it is by deeds, or works, alone that we are saved. Rather, it is a recognition that a true faith in Jesus Christ will be revealed in the actions, deeds, or works of the believer. It is a recognition that one’s truly good deeds, or works, find their genesis and effectiveness in one’s faith in Jesus Christ.
It is easy to simply say that one has faith in Jesus Christ. It is another to live that faith out publicly in all that one does. My desire to serve the needy other comes not just from my natural altruism, but from my faith in Jesus Christ and in his faith in me. Why else would he tells us to love one another as I have loved you and include in the commandment, the action, the deed, of “laying one’s life down for a friend?” (John 15:13) Did he not tell us that we would be forgiven as we forgive? Did he not tell us that we should feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to care for and to visit the sick and the imprisoned? Did he not reinforce that teaching with the admonition: “ Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least of my brothers you did for me?” (Matthew 25:40)
What good is faith if it is not made known by our works? Contrary to current ideology, faith is not a private thing. If it is true faith, it will inform all that I think, say, and do.” Did not Jesus tell us this when he said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another?” (John 13:35) How will others know that we love one another if we do not show it in our deeds toward one another? Our faith in Jesus Christ is intimately tied up with who we are and what we do. Faith and good works are two sides of the same coin.
Even Paul argues this in Galatians 5, verse 6 when he writes: “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” And, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14) There is no contradiction between faith and good works when seen in this light. If our faith is sincere it will be known to others through our unselfish deeds toward others in the name of Jesus Christ.
Lord, we believe, help our unbelief. Make of us your true instruments through a faith well lived. By our love for others may we reveal you to those who, as yet, do not know you. We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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