Faith Without Works Is Dead

Podcast 45 Transcript

Hello, and good day. I am B. R. Maul, and you are listening to Living God’s Way in an Ungodly World. Thanks for joining me. Today, we are going to continue in the book of James. We are in chapter 2, and we’ll be starting in verse 14. It’s going to be a long reading today, so I’m going to go ahead and read the text, which will be 14 through 26. So it’s the rest of chapter 2. James is talking about faith without works. And that faith without works is dead. So I’ll read it, and this is really important because people cannot agree upon the meaning of it. For some reason, mankind wants to be able to do works to get into heaven, instead of just relying on Jesus Christ.

And so, many denominations, their foundation is on that very fact, that they believe in the blood of Jesus, that it is essential, but many denominations include their own traditions as equally as important to the blood of Christ. And with that, goes along with it, we must do good or we could lose our salvation.

That is false doctrine. Beloved, do not ever believe that. I know that’s much easier said than done because many denominations, especially some of the larger ones, Catholicism and Lutheranism among the two, are adamant about that. That there must be things that are done routinely, or you could lose your salvation. And that’s not biblical. James today, as confusing as this may sound, because when I read it to you, in some ways it sounds like James is condoning that works will get you into heaven. But he’s not. So, in my usual way of teaching, I’ll go ahead and read God’s Word first, all the way through 14 through 26 in James chapter 2, and then I’ll break it down. We’ll unpack that. The reading of God’s Word.

What does it profit my brethren if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, Depart in peace. Be warmed and filled, but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble. But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works? When he offered Isaac, his son, on the altar. Do you see that faith was working together with his works? And by works, faith was made perfect. And the scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God.

You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Heavenly Father, guide me as I teach from your word. As I have studied, Lord, and read, and you have spoken to me, speak to those as well whom are listening to this message, and I pray their hearts are opened, softened, that all insecurities and pride be put to the side, and that they listen to what the Holy Spirit speaks to them. And I pray this through the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord, your Son. Amen.

All right, let’s unpack this. There’s a lot to do, so I’m going to just keep on it going because this is a long one, but so important. So, verse 14. So, what does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Now keep in mind, he is talking to brothers and sisters in the faith. These are born again believers. But born again believers can quickly fall right back into old habits. And old habits, before we’re born again, we put our salvation on ourself. And for some, if it’s not directly upon themselves, an idol, a false god, false doctrine. But I would still argue that it’s still upon themselves because We are all going to have to answer for all that we have done.

So whether you are a born again believer and you will stand before Jesus Christ, or you will stand before the white throne of judgment as a unbeliever, either way, we will stand and answer. The big difference, of course, just making sure you understand, that born again believers Because of the blood of Jesus, we’ll indeed enter into heaven.

And for those at the white throne of judgment, we’ll unfortunately be tossed into hell. So now that we’ve established that, that James is indeed talking to brothers and sisters in the faith, he poses a very important question. What does it profit if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

Now that’s interesting because with the question he asks another question that essentially answers it. Because if somebody is saying that they, they have faith, and we get this often, most Christians know others who claim to be Christian, but their life does not reflect it. So other than they go to church, and some, on a very regular basis, in fact some, they could be elders, even the pastor of the church.

But if they’re not born again, it doesn’t matter. And certainly if their life doesn’t reflect that. Because the question of, can faith save him, of course is a big resounding, no. Faith does not save us. This is where it gets difficult. So beloved, bear with me, because we do know that it is by grace, through faith, that we are saved. Without grace, our faith does absolutely nothing. So faith alone does not save. And that is so important. Please do not forget that if you get one thing out of this message, it is that faith alone does not save. It is the blood of Christ, which is a gift, and then the grace of God who gives us the ability to have faith if we so choose. Now works, and that is good works is the reflection of one’s faith. It is because a child of God is destined to eternity of life that that child of God yearns to do good works. May sound subtle, but it is a huge chasm. There’s a huge difference between the doctrine of doing good works to get into heaven, and doing good works because one is going to heaven.

James goes on, verse 15, If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled. But you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Sometimes I hear Christians explain why, for example, they don’t give money to organizations that feed the poor. Or they refuse to give money to somebody who’s begging. Their reason is because, well, God will take care of them. And I’ll pray for them. And that, that’s good to pray, but as James is pointing out, by doing just that, by saying, oh, go ahead, you’ll be okay, I care for you, good luck, and sending them on their way, what profit comes out of that for the person who is in dire need?

They need food, they need clothing, now. And beloved, God uses us. So when we come across those in need, there’s a reason why they are standing before you because God put them there. And as a child of God’s, you’re expected to help that person out. And I do want to quickly just say that that includes even when we feel we are so busy that we don’t have the time. All time belongs to God, and whatever time He has allotted you and allotted me, He gives us exactly the amount of time we need to do what He has in store for us.

The problem is, Christians fall into the same trap as those of the world and dedicate their whole life to working, to gathering goods so they can retire. And live comfortably. And none of that is biblical. God will give us the tools that we need to get his work done. And if that pertains to wealth financially, because he expects that particular child to handle that money wisely, then so be it. But often it doesn’t. It’s the time and talents. That he’s looking for. We are the ones who put such a high emphasis on the money. Alright, so back to what James is saying. Verse 17, Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. So by doing nothing, by just saying, God loves you, go on your way.

That does nothing to help people. And by doing that and living a life of saying that one believes in God and that one continues to speak with their lips that they have faith in God, but doesn’t live it, but doesn’t show it, that that faith is dead. So he’s not saying that to have good faith, you have to do good works.

Quite the opposite. It’s doing good works shows that you have faith. Do you see that? Verse 18, But someone will say, You have faith, and I have works. James says, Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. So this is not a contradiction of Romans 3. 28 which reads, Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. The difference there is the deeds of the law, one trying to fulfill the law by their own works, will always fail. If we are trying to earn our way into heaven, by trying to fulfill the law, we can’t do it. We will always fail because only a half a sin is needed to ultimately break all of that.

Because by breaking the One law, we are guilty of them all. What James is saying doesn’t contradict that, but he’s speaking the mirror image of it. What he is saying then is that somebody who has faith, who knows they have salvation, produces good works because true faith motivates a person to please God.

See, motivates a person to please God. You know, in this show, I often talk about this in my teachings. It’s the biggest thing. After all, this podcast is called Living God’s Way in an Ungodly World. By living God’s way, we are loving Him. We can’t live God’s way by not having a relationship with Him. And to do that, we must be born again.

And once we’re born again, we must be in his word on a regular basis, like daily. That is what’s going to help a person walk with the Lord, especially as times continue as they are to get worse and worse. When evil continues to abound. And anyone in their right mind is not going to argue that point, that right now evil is abounding. Always has been and will continue to abound, which means abounding is growing and growing and growing. Charles Spurgeon said, the child of God works not for life, but from life. What a beautiful way of pointing that out, the way James did. We are not trying to earn eternal life, it’s because we have eternal life.

So we work from that point. Spurgeon goes on to say, he does not work to be saved, he works because he is saved. Verse 19, James says, You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe, and tremble. Why is he saying that? Because, how often do we hear that? Oh, yeah, I believe in God. Oh, I believe in Jesus. Well, what James is saying is, that’s just service with your lips. That’s cheap. Now, if you mean it, well, that’s good. And your life is going to reflect that. But there are many who are out there, beloved, who are stuck in that trap. I believe that it is the enemy of God, Satan himself, who continues to foil the majority of people and have so many people who are very close in knowing Jesus, in knowing God, but you know what?

They don’t know Jesus as their Savior. They do not know Jesus as their Lord. They know Jesus like they would any other historical figure and probably more than any historical figure and that’s why Satan loves it so much. You take a country like America, and we have churches around every other corner. Bibles are abundant in bookstore after bookstore. And in modern time, the world, for those who have access to the internet, which is quite a few people worldwide. We have it where we can download the Bible right on our smartphones. Multiple versions of it. You can have the King James, the New King James, the ESV, the NIV, all kinds of them. But that does nothing if you’re not born again, if you haven’t trusted in the blood of Christ, repented, and have accepted Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior. Because even the demons believe and they tremble. They tremble because they know. They know better than most people. They definitely know better than anybody who’s not born again who Jesus really is.

And that’s why they tremble. But just because they believe in Jesus, these fallen angels, these demons, are not going to heaven. Hopefully, somebody who is living such a life These very words make you stop and do a double take, reevaluate where you stand with the Holy God, with your maker. And if you are not showing good works because of your faith, and if you believe that you may be trying to earn your way to heaven by going to church, by being as nice as you can, by doing everything but you have never verbalized to God, and repented and accepted his son as Savior.

Do it now. Don’t wait. Verse 20. But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? So he puts this in the form of a question. I believe this is a rhetorical question because he states, Oh foolish man, talking to somebody who is being foolish. And so at this point in time, it’s like he is directing his attention away from those who are born again and to those who are sitting next to the born again believers and acting like they believe.

Pretending to believe. Or even wanting to believe, but just not there. We know in Proverbs that a foolish man represents a person who is against the gospel. Who does not want to believe in it. So the question, but do you want to know, oh foolish man, that faith without works is dead. Do you want to know that?

Or Do you prefer to just continue to walk in ignorance? Do you want to know the truth? Or do you prefer just to continue to live a lie? So you can just go on, blending in with everyone else. And I say everyone else because someone in this situation wants to blend in with Christians, the born again believers who love Jesus, but at the same time they want to blend in with the world.

These are people who want to try to stand on both holy ground and filthy ground, which is impossible. It cannot be done. So I believe that’s more of a rhetorical question. I could imagine, though, that there are some in their hearts that, sure. It would be easier for me just to keep doing what I’m doing because if I do indeed repent and admit that I need a savior and that I’m a sinner and have the Lord Jesus take my life, oh, well then there’s things I’m going to have to give up.

And unfortunately, that’s why many do not. Verse 21 and 22. 21. Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works? And by works, faith was made perfect. Let’s take a look at that because if we look at the life of Abraham, now we’re going back into the Old Testament, way before Jesus came down as a little baby, was born and then hung on the cross to pay our sin debt. Everybody before the cross they couldn’t look back like we do. The Old Testament people, they had to look forward. Now we say forward to the cross but other than those who specifically understood the prophecies very well but most people really didn’t know what that meant.

In fact, when it was prophesied that he was going to hang on a tree Roman crucifixion hadn’t even been around, because the Romans weren’t even around yet. But they were still looking forward, waiting for something to happen. And when they believed God, and this is the belief that’s in their heart, and they showed it by their works, that was their salvation.

So let me see if I can reword this just maybe in one other way, too. Because James says, Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Because Abraham had full faith. He knew that God was going to provide. He didn’t know how. Abraham didn’t know if God was going to provide an animal for sacrifice, which God ended up doing.

Or perhaps he could have been having faith that even if he did kill his son Isaac, he had faith that since God had already promised him that it is through his son, this people, this nation would be born, then perhaps he was going to raise Isaac as soon as he killed him. So we don’t know for sure what was going through Abraham’s mind.

When I’m in eternity, I certainly look forward to visiting with him about that, amongst many other stories in the Bible. But see, that wasn’t just lip service. If Abraham would have just dropped the dagger and said, I can’t do it, this is my only son that you promised. Well, then that wouldn’t have been true faith. God was testing that faith. He did show faith though when he left his, his homeland. And God said, I’m going to bring you to another land. I want you to take your family, all your belongings and get moving. That’s right there showing really good faith. But God gave Abraham the test of all tests. So in Abraham’s situation, through his works, he proved his faith.

And that’s what James is trying to get at. Most of us don’t have to face such a large test as sacrificing a child but God does have his ways of testing our faith and I believe God does that, not for his benefit because you know what? He already knew Abraham’s faith. He knows your faith and my faith. I believe he does it for us. I mean he lovingly wants us to know. So for those who are born again and they follow through that they can look back on their life and go, yes, there was many a times I trusted God and he pulled me through this and he pulled me through that and he carried me this way and that way. But he’s also extending that same courtesy beloved to those who claim to have faith.

And if they look back and think, you know, I never really have trusted God. I can’t recall a time where the Holy Spirit. told me to do this and I just did it out of pure faith. God is still extending with love the courtesy of saying you’re not there yet and if you fall into that category embrace that and embrace this very lesson as you learn about this because you can correct it and your eternity can start this very moment this day as you pray and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Verse 23, And the scripture was fulfilled, which says, Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness, and he was called the friend of God. Verse 24, You see then, that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. James goes on to give us yet another example in verse 25. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? That’s the story of Rahab. She was a Gentile woman and she allowed the spies who were coming through her place to hide from those seeking them. Because she knew that their God was the God, and so because of that belief, she was saved. This is a near and dear topic to me, because this is part of my story.

Being brought up a Lutheran, and believing that going to church, doing the right thing, and the fact that I was baptized as a baby, and that I went through confirmation. And just the life that I lived. It really seemed through the teaching and preachings and just watching the family members and friends around me in the society that I lived do the same thing, just attending church, living life, uh, the way we wanted to otherwise, that I was heaven bound.

And I thank the Lord for being so patient with me and in time helping me to see that that was wrong. Because he told me, in no other clearer way than right in my heart, read my Bible and do not take all your teaching from just people. But take all your teaching from me, and then I will work through other people to teach you.

And he does that for all of his children. I’m not special. But it’s the trap of the enemy, and that’s why it is so important to me that this message goes out to the world, to leaders of churches, those that are claiming that you are Christian, and if you are heeding the advice of a denomination, if you are continuing on the ways of having to do things because, well, this is what you were taught and that this is what your college taught you or the seminary taught you or the church taught you. It doesn’t matter. But anything that is taught by people and is not in God’s Word, that’s tradition. And the enemy has used centuries to build upon tradition. And making it feel so important to us as people. As if that’s what makes us part of God’s family. As if by doing these things, we are pleasing God.

He is in awe because of the reverence of us going to church and following a certain rhythm of faith. A rhythm of worship. But he’s not. He has put everything into his son, Jesus Christ. And he has made that perfectly clear to us. So we cannot just do works. And yet, many churches today, Christian. Many, many churches today, that is their foundation. There are so many that don’t even preach the whole gospel. They preach what people want to hear. Christmas is almost upon us. And many will be flooding into churches, those that love to go on Christmas and Easter, and they feel like they’re doing something, they feel like they’re a part of something.

And unfortunately, they are a part of something, but it’s not a part of God’s family unless they’re born again. And the other trouble, though, of even born again believers being so adamant of following a denomination is that that is robbing God of, first of all, all the credit that He deserves. And laying it upon this foundation of traditions and methodologies because people find such great comfort Christians and non christians alike In such behavior. We love routine. We embrace that routine and that routine Easily becomes an idol that we don’t want to let go of That we must have that routine and then suddenly the blood of Christ really just becomes a part of The routine. That is the danger in it. But my heart goes out, beloved, to all who are not born again and they know so much about Jesus. They do go to church. This Christmas, they’ll be there. They’ll sing Christmas hymns and Christmas carols. But then, after all the presents are opened, after the traditions have been played out at church, The baking supplies put away, decorations are stored, and many return to just life as it was. Their life isn’t lived for Christ.

They don’t live to do good works for Jesus. In fact, these same people moan and groan because of having to do good works. It breaks my heart because there’s less and less people wanting to do good works. I took a couple of my kids to ring the bell for Salvation Army. Well, this year, we went to a location we hadn’t been to before, in a much smaller town. When we got there, I looked around. Oftentimes, the bell and the aprons will be hung near where the kettle is. And I couldn’t see it. And then one of the gals said, Oh, are you here for the Salvation Army? And I said, Yes, we are. Oh, yeah, we have the stuff back here. So she went behind the desk and got it out.

And so as I was ringing the bell and tying one of the aprons around one of my kids, one of the younger employees came over and she asked, she says, What are you doing? Why are you ringing the bell? I said, Well, this is the Salvation Bell, so we’re here to ring it. And she asked again, But why? And I said, Well, that is what bell ringers do, get people’s attention to donate. And her answer almost took my breath away. She said. Oh, I’ve never seen this before. And she works at that store. We live in a world where people want to have salvation and feel they deserve salvation because they’re good people. Because they’re not the ones on the nightly news doing horrendous acts of crime.

Because they are normal, whatever normal is. And they do know who Jesus is. And they like Jesus. What he did was a good thing. And they go to church, even, at times. And they try to do good works. And they try to be a good person overall. But they have never been born again. And that’s not B. R. Maul talking.

The Bible says that. Jesus himself, in John 3, says that. That unless one is born again, he shall not see the kingdom of God. And why is it so many churches, many denominations, do not do that? Want to talk about and teach and preach about being born again, but they emphasize baptism. Well, there’s a lot of reasons for that, but this isn’t the episode to get into it.

So I’ll end here with a few things. First of all, verse 26. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. That’s powerful. That is so powerful, beloved. Because think about it, when we are born, when everybody, every single human being is born, our spirit is dead. So when he says, as the body without the spirit is dead, yes, before we’re born again, we are walking dead.

Literally walking dead, because our spirit hasn’t been born yet. And so James is pointing out, when that happens, well then that faith, without being born again, without that spirit being born, faith without the works is dead also, because that faith won’t have good works. People without true and real faith, so in other words, those who are, are not born again, cannot do good works.

They will only do works that may look good. But only if it profits them because they are slave to sin and they are a servant to the devil in serving the world until they are born again. So I beg of you, if you fall into this category, stop whatever you are doing and just pray to God, ask him for forgiveness, admit that you are a sinner and that you need a savior and that his son, when he died, his blood was pure and washed away all sins, including yours, and that he is your Lord forever and from this day forward and that your life is his and amen.

And to that, if you do it, welcome to God’s family. Start living God’s way in this ungodly world, and you will shine. You will so shine, beloved. The last thing I want to end with is the reference to Ephesians chapter 2, 8 and 9, for this is the passage that does tell us, for by grace you have been saved through faith.

And that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. I hope this helps. You better understand that then. Because what James is saying agrees with this exactly. Paul and James are not contradicting one another. They are the mirror image of one another. Because it is only by grace that we are saved. God gives us that grace. We do not have that. But it is through faith. And yes, that faith is yours. You have to make that decision to follow the Lord. You are granted that privilege of deciding whether or not you are going to love him or keep your love for yourself and love yourself more.

But he gives you the grace through that faith and it is a gift. So you have to accept it. And not of works, lest anyone should boast. Nobody has that right to boast. Now, if we were to stop right there, that doesn’t completely help see eye to eye. But if we read verse 10, Paul says, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Did you catch that, beloved? For we are His workmanship. That’s God the Father. For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works. Not by good works. For good works. And those good works are Heavenly Father prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. It is our duty, beloved, to do good works when we are born again, because we have nothing else greater to work for than for our Heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ, our Savior, that we will spend eternity with Him and together, and what a joyful thing!

Which makes this time of year when we celebrate Jesus Christ coming down in the form of a little baby and living for 33 years on this very earth, the sinful, broken earth, to save our hides. It’s awesome! And so I’m glad James wrote this. I’m glad the Holy Spirit left it for us to read that we may test ourselves and that we may judge each other’s fruit because we should help one another out.

If you are with a brother or sister who is not living the life as a Christian ought to and yet they claim with their own mouth that they are, well then James is saying, let’s double check yourself and make sure you are indeed a Christian. And for those who are born again, and they’re not doing good works, it doesn’t mean that you’re hell bound.

But it does mean you are missing out on all of the blessings that God wants to bestow upon you here and now. Yes, you will receive the blessing of eternal life by believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. But if he stopped there and tried to fit into the world, Beloved, Christian, hear me out.

The most miserable person is not the unbeliever because they have no idea what they’re missing out on. They really do think that this world offers something. It’s the born again believer who’s not in the will of their Father. That is the most miserable person. Walking this planet because they know, they know that they need to because they want to do good works but they’re so attached to other things of this world or they’re too afraid to because of what other people will think or what they will do to them that they don’t.

And I encourage you in this day and time when Christians are losing their jobs and in America we’re being called Christian nationalists. soon, it’ll just be those Christians. We are losing jobs because we are not willing to do things that are unrighteous. We will not do things to harm our bodies. We will not do things to harm other people’s bodies.

We will not do things to take the life of other people to better ourselves, and the world hates it. So do those good works. Show the world your faith, Christian. Shine brightly. Be the salt and you will reap such blessings you won’t know what to do. Thank you so much for joining me. It’s always great to be here and to be able to talk about God’s word.

It’s a great time to teach, but as I teach, the Lord teaches me. I’m learning right alongside you. So thank you for listening. I’d love to hear from my brothers and sisters. I encourage you to go to my website. There’s a place there. You can click on contact. Get a hold of me. Whether you have a question or whether you just want a visit or whatever it might be, I love hearing from my brothers and sisters.

If you’re not born again, and if you still, if there’s something that you just don’t know about, Something that is just kind of eating at you, and you don’t know what it is, and you don’t know who to go to. This is an invitation. I invite you to get a hold of me. Go to my website. Get a hold of me. We’ll talk.

And until next time,

God bless.