A Current Bible Study:
James 2
"What is Faith?"
      James, an Apostle or perhaps a half brother to the Lord Jesus Christ is used by God here to lay out some vital points about faith: What is real faith? What is its purpose? How can we recognize it when we see it in others or ourselves? When James is done with these questions we will close by taking a brief look at where genuine faith comes from.

     First we are told what faith isn't:
Verse 1: "My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons."
    He includes an example to show exactly what he's talking about:
Verses 2-4: "For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?"

    We need to have faith enough to let God be the judge in our lives. We aren't qualified to judge others or even our own heart. Look at how opposite from our natural tendencies the judgment of the Lord is (Remember these are God's Words. They are just coming through James):
Verses 5-7: "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 you have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by which ye are called?"
I shared this passage just last night at a Christmas concert in a prison. There were a few amens at this point, believe me beloved! To sum up here, the Lord is not impressed by our "riches," and we are all, in reality, "poor" before Him. Only He can judge accurately. Only He can see the heart of Man, and we must trust Him and allow Him alone to do it.

     OK, James, that's what faith isn't, but we still need to know what it is. Listen to what he says next:
Verse 8: "If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well:"
This law is royal because it is the law of the King of Kings. This is the way Jesus shows us. This royal law is everywhere in the New Testament, and it is never just mentioned in passing or buried in a long list of rules. Christ and all the Apostles totally endorsed it as penultimate. Here are some references:

Mark 12:31
II John 1:5
I Peter 4:8
I Cor 13:13

     Now James will show us that by this royal law, we all stand or fall:
Verses 9-11: "But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of (convicted by) the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. . Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law."

     Here comes the scary part. We are free from the Old Covenant. By faith in Christ we are actually free. We can skip circumcisions and keeping Sabbaths and feast days or we can keep them. It doesn't matter any more. The royal law is the New Covenant. By it we will be judged righteous or unrighteous. Please stay with me, friend. I know this can be unsettling. But remember that God calls Christ's New Covenant with us a "better" way, (see I Cor 12:31 and Heb 8:6 and 11:40) and so it must be. Hear James:
Verses 12-13: "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 shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment."

    So "What is Faith?" Faith is what allows us to fulfill the royal law, to love one another. Only faith in Christ can provide the necessary hope and strength it takes for us to truly put others first. We've got to allow Him to lead and cast all our personal cares on Him first, only then are we able to become His hands and feet on the earth today. And James says genuine faith and acts of royal Love ALWAYS go together:
Verses 14-19: "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 (a quick, thoughtless prayer or blessing?); 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. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."

      Faith without love for others (what James calls "works") is spiritual death. It is equivalent to no faith at all. Did you ever wonder why Christianity doesn't work sometimes?
     Faith is just the start, the ignition spark, it is not the end product. Sharing the Love of Christ with others is the end product, but can never be attained without a genuine, faithful connection to Christ.
Verses 20 and 26: "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?.....For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

    But, James, who has the faith to do the works of Christ? To love as He loved us all in the manger, in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross? I don't. Can anyone? Saving faith comes directly from God. We must turn to Him for it, and this leads us to our closing points: There is a second royal law. Well, actually, it is the first of the two New Covenant commandments. Here it is in Christ's own words:
Mark 12:30: "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment."
It is loving the Father and His Son through His Spirit that opens the way for His faith to fill us (see Eph 2:8-10 below). And let's just pause for a second here and see why loving Him is so wonderful. Here are a couple of reasons:
1)Christ loves impartially. God isn't like us (remember James 2:1-7, above). In other words, you can be assured today that Christ loves you, no matter who you are, regardless of what men say you are.

2)And (unlike someone, say, like me) Jesus will ALWAYS return your genuine love.

     Why, friend, thus fortified, ANY believer can begin to fulfill their true and only obligation to this world (revisit James 2:8 below). So in accord with old James, let's you and I set out today to do the works of Christ, but let us never forget to love Jesus first. Merry Christmas, beloved.

Ephesians 2:8-10: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it (faith) is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

James 2:8: "If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well:" 

May Jesus Christ richly bless you-JKD 12/24/02

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