Be Faithful through Works

KEY VERSE: “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” —James 2:17

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: James 2:1-7, 14-24

IN THE lesson today the Apostle James is addressing his remarks to Jewish proselytes who, as brethren, were not properly motivated by the Spirit of the truth. Their background, under the scribes and the Pharisees, gave them precedent for their actions, for which the apostle is here calling them to task. It was the practice in the synagogue to give the choice seats to the rich and the prominent. It did not seem to make any difference as to their condition of heart; the honor was bestowed simply on the basis of outward appearances. On the other hand, the poor and the needy were shunned and relegated to the least desirable positions. James is concerned that this unchristian practice had been carried over and was being practiced by the brethren.

To carry on with such a custom showed a complete lack of understanding of the basis of the relationship between the followers of Christ and the Heavenly Father. God makes no distinction between persons for any reason that relates to the flesh, because the entire race is condemned in Adam. Those who do have a relationship with God have not received it because of any intrinsic merit of their own; it is only because God has called them and justified them by the blood of Christ. They have nothing they have not received. This means that in God’s sight, all of those who have received this favor—rich, poor, male, female, regardless of race—are equal. The only thing that makes any of them right with God is the blood of Christ.

In view of these things, James goes on to say, “Are ye not partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. … If ye fulfill the royal Law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well: but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of [condemned by] the Law as transgressors. … So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the Law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”—James 2:4-13

Another important manifestation of a Christian’s faith is the spirit of hospitality. The Apostle Paul states, “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” (Rom. 12:13) This is one of the evidences of a mind renewed to spiritual things. James apparently noted a deficiency in the brethren in this regard, for he said, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works, can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so, faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. … Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”—James 2:14-20

One of the greatest works of faith recorded in the Bible was that performed by Abraham when God requested him to offer up his own son as a sacrifice. Isaac was the son of promise, for it was to be through his seed that the wonderful promise God made to Abraham (Gen. 22:15-18) was to be fulfilled. (Gen. 17:19) If Isaac died, it could have meant that the promise would be voided. The Apostle Paul stated, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that received the promises offered up his only begotten son, … accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” (Heb. 11:17-19) This was the Apostle James’ thought also when he said, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God.”—James 2:21-23

Dawn Bible Students Association
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