International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday February 16, 2014
Purpose: To examine the relationship between faith and works
Bible Lesson: James 2:14-26
James 2:14-26 (CEB)
(14) My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? (15) Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. (16) what if one of you said, "Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!"? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? (17) In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.
(18) Someone might claim, "You have faith and I have action." But how can I see your faith apart from your actions? Instead, I’ll show you my faith by putting it into practice in faithful action. (19) It is good that you believe that God is one. Ha! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble with fear. (20) Are you so slow? Do you need to be shown that faith without actions has no value at all? (21) What about Abraham, our father? Wasn’t he shown to be righteous through his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? (22) See, his faith was at work along with his actions. In fact, his faith was made complete by his faithful actions. (23) So the scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and God regarded him as righteous. What is more, Abraham was called God’s friend. (24) So you see that a person is shown to be righteous through faithful actions and not through faith alone. (25) In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute shown to be righteous when she received the messengers as her guests and then sent them on by another road? (26) As the lifeless body is dead, so faith without actions is dead.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
I am always amazed by the argument, whether we are saved or justified by “works” or “faith.” When I think the bible is very clear, we are saved by “grace.” As in Ephesians 2 (8) You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. (9)It’s not something you did that you can be proud of.
God’s grace was ultimately displayed on the cross and because of that we are offered eternal life by believing, trusting and obeying. I am not convinced that our salvation or justification is a one-time thing that we buy or possess like fire insurance. Jesus speaks rather bluntly about this in Matthew 7: (21) “Not everybody who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. (22) On the Judgment Day, many people will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name and expel demons in your name and do lots of miracles in your name?’ (23) Then I’ll tell them, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you people who do wrong.’
When we understand the price that was paid, and put our confidence in that act of grace and show our faith by “joyful obedience” in doing God’s will on earth, we are promised an eternal life in heaven, but not an easy life on earth. Those that follow God to the uttermost, will be asked to do the will of the Father, while on earth. Isn’t that our prayer when we pray the prayer Jesus taught his disciples?
What is the will of the Father? That the poor, the hungry, the widows and orphans will all be taken care of and we act as salt and light to those that have never heard God’s story. Most importantly we love our neighbors as ourselves. James calls it God’s “Royal Law.” (2:8)
It is not enough to say we believe, even the devils demons do that. Our faith needs to be shown by our works and the choices we make in our lives. Our goodness cannot save us, but neither can a hollow faith. It is God’s grace that saves us. We need to show our appreciation and commitment to that grace, by doing the will of the Father. The will of the Father can best be portrayed the same as any relationship. As husbands and wives we know very well what our spouse expect from us in a relationship. The same is true of our relationship with God. Knowing God’s will is not rocket science, it is doing what pleases God.