Faith and Deeds
by Harvey Porter
Martin Luther said that the epistle of James was "an epistle of straw." His reason for saying this was that he felt that Paul and James were writing two different things about faith. He felt that Paul was correct and James was not. He did, however, write that "Faith is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be not works, there must be something amiss with faith"(see Here I Stand by Roland Bainton).
Luther was not the only Bible believer who has trouble with faith and works. We should all know that works of merit will not save anyone. We should know that faith is not just a good feeling, or sentiment, but a driving force that causes us to work our heart out for the Lord of our life, the Savior of our soul.
James wrote, "Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, `You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that_and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless [dead]?" ( James 2:17-20, NIV).
All the great inner qualities, such as faith, hope, and love, are accompanied by outward action. Every deeply held belief will come out in what we say and what we do. Many have made faith more emotion than action. True faith is a wonderful feeling and very comforting, but it is also "blood, sweat ,and tears" in every day living for the Lord.
James is almost blunt in describing real faith. He said, if it is not accompanied by action, it is dead? Faith that is dead is useless. It can do nothing. It benefits no one. The Lord of life is not pleased with it. We all should know and understand that.
James then challenges us all by saying, "You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do." This is the test of faith, or for that matter, any virtue. Not even love can be shown without acts. Do we want to know how strong our faith is? The answer is, "What does it do?" All of us know those who are all talk and no produce. Talk is cheap and action is costly. That's life!
There are any number of practical ways in which we can measure our faith. How often do I worship the Lord? Do I forsake the Lord's Day assembly and knowingly miss partaking of the Lord's Supper with Him and with fellow Christians? Do I feel any pain or remorse that I have let my Lord down? We can know how great our faith is by how much we sacrifice in giving to the Lord's work. We can know something about our faith's strength by how much time we spend with Him in His word and how much time we spend with Him alone in prayer. All of these things are a direct result of faith. We believe Him when He has commanded these and other things for our good and for His praise and joy.
What a startling statement James gave when he wrote, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that_and shudder." It is not enough to say that we believe in the one God. Why? Well, even the demons do that. And what's more, they even shudder. That indicated that the demons knew what their fate was and they knew who God was and what His power could do. In this age we need more whose faith will cause them to shudder. Many do not have that much faith. If we cannot trace acts in our lives that are doing something in the Lord's cause, then our faith is no better than the demons.
Luther was right when he said, "We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith."
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