For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. – James 2:26

faith without worksEverybody believes something, whether it is true or false, and we act on what we believe. In other words, faith affects behavior. As we learned how the Scriptures define faith, now we will take a look at how faith works it way out in our daily living.

Another way to say that is that those in the Scripture who are said to have had faith did things as a result. Faith produces action. Faith works.

Now let’s be clear. Faith is not a work in and of itself. We are not saved by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith, as we established previously, is trust, it is belief. Specifically in our discussions faith is trust in the person of Jesus Christ.

So while faith is not a work, faith works. If it is alive and active and real then faith will result in good works. Why is this? Because simply put, faith leads to behavior. If we believe something it shows in how we live.

James is clear. Faith that does not work is dead. Dead faith is USELESS. It cannot save. It is dead, lifeless, meaningless, and void. Faith that results in works, that is living and active faith.

Let’s make a practical application here – if we claim to believe something but that belief does not result in action or behavior then we really do not believe what we claim to believe. The best example I ever heard of this, which I have used often, came from my mentor, and he stated it this way:

“If you are in the woods and believe that you hear a bear coming to get you, you will run just as fast as if a bear is really there coming to get you.”

Belief results in action, in works, in behavior. If we really believe something to be true, we act accordingly. That has a lot of punch to it when you start to examine your belief system. As I stated at the start, “Everybody believes something, whether it is true or false, and we act on what we believe.”

The danger is twofold. First there is a danger in believing a lie. If we have a false belief in our belief system, and we know that we act on what we believe, then how will we act if the belief is wrong? In the Bible, Saul became jealous and thought that David was out to kill him and he acted accordingly – with suspicion that lead to the point that he tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him while he sat at the dinner table. Saul’s false belief led to murderous actions. (1 Samuel 18:9-12).

Secondly there is a danger that we will think that we believe something, but in reality we do not believe it and therefore do not act on it. This happens when we mentally assent to something accepting in our minds that it is true, but we really do not embrace this belief with true faith, and as a result, we do not act on what we claim we believe. This would be exemplified in the life of a person who believed that a bear was coming to eat them and just sat there. It makes no sense to think that your life is in danger and not try to fight or flee. And yet when it comes to doctrine, people claim to believe sound doctrine and may not even understand that doctrine at all, and so they think they believe the truth but it does not affect the way they live.

And the real, eternal danger here is that we either believe a lie (false doctrine) or we think we are trusting Christ when we really are not. If we believe a lie, we are doomed, for only the truth makes us free. And if we think we believe the truth but do not actually believe it, then we are self deceived and are in danger of hearing those most awful words in Scripture, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”

Remember the Parable of the Soils? Those two soils that embraced the Word quickly but then died without bearing fruit – the shallow soil where the seed had no root and the thorny soil where the cares of this world choked the plant – they represent people who emotionally or mentally embrace the preaching of the gospel but do not actually have faith. They do not really believe what they have heard. The proof? They never bear fruit, and they wither and die with no root, being choked out by the love of this world. If they had had true faith, they would have borne fruit (good works). Their faith would have worked.

In order to understand faith then, we must strive to believe what God tells us, to rightly inform our belief system. We must be sure that what we claim to believe affects the way we live. In the Scriptures this is the idea that a good tree bears good fruit. If we have faith in Jesus Christ, we will bear good fruit. If we do not bear good fruit, then we need to examine what we really believe. We may just be believing in ourselves and thinking that that is the same as faith in Christ.

Let us look at one example today of false beliefs and dead faith. Several TV preachers teach this kind of faith or “force” that is deceptive and misplaced. It is faith in yourself and in your ability to manipulate God into doing whatever you need Him to do for you. At times he even preaches that we should have faith in our faith, making a god of our faith instead of seeing God as the object of our faith. It is self centered faith that when it comes to the matter of spiritual fruit is actually dead and useless. The works and the fruit present amidst the Word Faith cult are rotten, self centered, man praising, God abasing fruits. And real genuine faith in Christ does not produce these kinds of fruit.

Saving faith, faith that is alive, faith that produces spiritual fruit, faith that is active, faith that is real, is faith in the Word of God and in God Himself. Saving faith has no room for self, for pride, for licentiousness, or for sin. Saving faith is a gift from God. It is trust in Christ. It is proof of what we cannot see and the reality behind that for which we hope.

For now, ask yourself this question – what does the way you behave say about what you claim to believe?

(tomorrow: Faith that Works)