Living, saving faith is exclusively the gift of God, ordained by God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast himself. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath ordained, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8–10).
Living faith is characterized by agape love of one’s neighbor, not lip service. “What availeth it my brethren, though a man saith, he hath faith, when he hath no works? Can that faith save him? For if a brother or a sister be naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace: warm yourselves, and fill your bellies, not withstanding ye give them not those things, which are needful to the body, what helpeth it? Even so the faith, if it have no works, is dead in itself.” (James 2:14–17) “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (Matthew 10:36–37)
One’s works (self-righteousness) do not earn one’s justification. “But some man might say, Thou hast the faith, and I have works: show me thy faith out of thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)
Common knowledge of God the Father and of Christ is not living faith. “Thou believest that there is one God: thou doest well: the devils also believe it, and tremble.” (James 2:19) “And in the Synagogue there was a man which had a spirit of an unclean devil, which cried with a loud voice, Saying, Oh, what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us?” (Luke 4:33–34)
The feigned faith of the proud is a self-made, self-deluding death trap. “But wilt thou understand, O thou vain man, that the faith which is without works, is dead?” (James2:20)
The English reformer John Owen summarized this when he wrote: “the sum of what James says is, that a dead faith cannot save, but a living faith, and that a living faith is a working faith…”
The “sandal-leather” in Abraham’s faith, his obedience, demonstrated the genuineness of his living faith. “Was not Abraham our father justified through works, when he offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou not that the faith wrought with his works? And through the works was the faith made perfect.” (James 2:21) “For he considered that God was able to raise him up even from the dead: from whence he received him also after a sort.” (Hebrews 11:19)
Abraham’s faith “was effectual and fruitful with good works…[and]…was declared to be a true faith…” [1599 Geneva Bible Comments] “Seest thou not that the faith wrought with his works? and through the works was the faith made perfect.” (James 2:22) “Then Abraham answered, My son, God will provide him a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both together.” (Genesis 2:21)
Living, saving, justifying faith is evidenced by obedience and courage, and is belied by barrenness and fruitlessness. “Ye see then how that of works a man is justified, and not of faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified through works, when she had received the messengers, and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, even so the faith without works is dead.” (James 2:24–26)
What characterizes living, saving faith?
What is the significance of works in living, saving faith?
Lessons are based on the International Sunday School Lessons for Christian Teaching, copyright © 2014 by the Committee on the Uniform Series.
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