James passionately encouraged believers to put their faith into action. He challenged them to recognize that faith will show itself in ministry toward others.
What can we learn from James’ teaching about faith and action?
First, he teaches us that it’s easier to talk than it is to act. In church life we see this all the time. We talk about evangelism, but we don’t evangelize. We listen to prayer requests, but we don’t pray.
James knew the church and knew how many Christians live. He wanted to remind believers that that kind of faith which is devoid of fruit and action is not a saving faith.
Second, an easy belief has always been the scourge of the church. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it “cheap grace.“ Grace leads us to service, ministry, and obedience, but “cheap grace“ really does none of these things.
James reminded the church that “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something“ is an utter and complete lie. Even the demons believe that God exists – – and shudder. The belief of demons is belief but not saving belief. Saving belief means yielding our lives totally and completely to God, knowing that He calls us to obedience and action.
Third, while our friends and neighbors can’t see our faith, they can see our works. Our works and actions will witness of the power of God to change lives and to make us new people. Actions are essential for making this happen.
Finally, James did not teach the church to choose works instead of faith but to practice work and faith. True faith will do its inner work within us and will provoke us to love and good works. The writer of Hebrews called upon believers to spur one another on toward doing good and showing love (Hebrews 10:24).
Let us do the same as we seek to live our faith before others. Paul said something similar to the church at Philippi: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
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