Faith: It’s What We Do
After preaching a brief sermon during Watch Night (New Year’s Eve) Service, I was thankful for the opportunity to go a little more in-depth regarding faith and works. Here are some main points from the lesson:
- Belief that = intellectual agreement; Belief in = active trust
- There is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God personally1
- We are able to have a relationship with God by responding to God’s grace with faith(fulness)
- Grace (charis) and faith (pistis) were terms used in the first century system of patronage (patrons would do a client a favor (charis = grace); clients were to respond with loyalty, devotion, etc. (pistis = faith)
- “Faith” that does not produce works (acts of godly obedience and mercy) is not true faith
Belief That Vs. Belief In (Video)
There was an officer who pulled over a swerving driver who happened to be a recent parolee. After smelling the alcohol on his breath, he asked the man to step out of the vehicle.
The officer was about to conduct a pat down search, but the driver — who had two strikes and had no intention of returning to prison — had other plans. He pulled out the pistol he had in hidden in his waistband and pointed right at the officer’s chest.
Now the officer had seen bulletproof vests stop bullets before in live-fire demonstrations. He believed that a bulletproof vest could stop a bullet. But he was about to believe in his vest. For he knew that the driver would fire at least one shot before he was able to draw his own weapon.
It’s one thing to believe that bulletproof vests can stop a bullet. It’s quite another thing to believe in a bulletproof vest by actively trusting it to stop a bullet.2
Here the president of a company that manufactures bulletproof vests shows how much faith (active trust) he has in his vest — by allowing someone to shoot him at extremely close range.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have “faith” but does not have works? Can such “faith” save them?
15 If a brother or a sister is poorly dressed and lacking daily food 16 and one of you (all) says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,” but does not give them what is necessary for their body, what good is it? 17 In the same way, also, “faith”, in itself, if it does not have works, is dead
18 But someone will say, “You [the opponent] have ‘faith’, and I [James] have works.” Show me your “faith” without works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one, you do well! Even the demons believe that – and shudder! 20 Oh, you want to know – you foolish person – that “faith” without works doesn’t work?
21 Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works having offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith was working together with his works, and by his works his faith was brought to maturity. 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled, the one saying, “Abraham believed (in) God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” – and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that his faith was working together with his works, and by his works his faith was brought to maturity.
25 And also, in the same way, was not Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she welcomed the spies and sent them out a different way? 26 Just as the body without the spirit [or “breath”] is dead, so “faith” without works is dead.
- Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
- Black, David Alan. It’s Still Greek to Me: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to Intermediate Greek. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998.
- Blomberg, Craig L., and Mariam J. Kamell. James. Vol. 16. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
- Davids, Peter H. The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982.
- Davids, Peter H. “James.” In New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, edited by D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, 4th ed., 1354–68. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
- Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
- Moo, Douglas J. James: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 16. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985. (The text appears identical but this is the version I cite)
- Moo, Douglas J. The Letter of James. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2000.
- Motyer, J. A. The Message of James: The Tests of Faith. The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985.
- McCartney, Dan G. James. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009.
- McKnight, Scot. The Letter of James. The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011.
- Nystrom, David P. James. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997.
- Richards, E. Randolph, and Brandon J. O’Brien. Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012.
- Richardson, Kurt A. James. Vol. 36. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997.
- Silva, Moisés, ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014.
- Simmons, William A. Peoples of the New Testament World: An Illustrated Guide. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008.
- Stulac, George M. James. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
- Wallace, J. Warner. Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2013.
- Dr. William Lane Craig: “In this class through the study of Christian doctrine, I can help to teach you a lot about God. But unfortunately my ability to help you to truly know God is very limited. It is up to you to do the knowing. Nobody else can do this for you. To return to our illustration, if I could by divine revelation tell you a lot of information about your future wife that you are going to marry, still I could not give you that intimate personal relationship with her. You’d have to do the loving and the caring and the building yourself. It is exactly the same with God. I can give you a lot of information about God so that you can know more about him but only you can learn to know God for yourself.” https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-1/s1-the-doctrine-of-god/the-doctrine-of-god-part-1/
- Illustration from a true story recounted by J. Warner Wallace in Cold-Case Christianity.