Faith Without Works?


Faith Without Works?

James 2: 14-26

          “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” James 2: 14.

          Once again the idea that one works their way to heaven presents itself. This verse concerns the outward man that you and I see, look around you in church sometime and notice that there are many nice folks there who appear pious outwardly, but you cannot see the heart. The inward man is hidden from you; you ask and they tell you that they believe in Jesus, they sing in the choir, and they teach Sunday school. Quite lovely, and this is what you are meant to see, but the inner man is still hidden because you have to take them at their word. But what do they do?

          “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Matthew 15: 18-20.

          “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Matthew 7: 15-21.

          “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2: 15-17.

          If a person says “I believe in Jesus,” without some outward manifestation of that faith, then their faith is as worthless as telling destitute persons “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things they need to survive. It has no substance.

          “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble!” James 2: 18-19.

          Here we see the opposite side of the coin, and even though verse 19, in the above passage, seems to be a separate thought, it is not. The challenge is thrown out; if my works are of God, it indicates a genuine inward faith; if you say you have saving faith, without any outward indication of that faith, then that faith is not saving faith.

          Many people, including the Jews of that day, feel that if they just believe that Jesus is real and that He was what He said He was; and if they just read their Bibles and go to church and try to be good, they are Christians. But you see with that kind of person it is all outward show, like joining a club, with no inward change, which is what Christ promises to those who truly put their faith in His finished work on the cross.

          “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” II Corinthians 5: 17.

          This is a literal thing, it is not a matter of a person improving himself by adopting some new motto, taking classes on self-discipline, or quitting a habit like, smoking or drinking, no, this is a real change in heart, one’s outlook on life, and response to evil; this change is willing and not forced. The Holy Spirit comes to live within the heart of those who accept Christ as the only way of salvation. And with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit comes the change of heart that a person cannot do for themselves, and this causes a shift in outward actions.

          So the person being spoken to in verse 19 is the person who has joined the club and believes that because they believe in Jesus they are going to heaven. This is God’s response, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble!” The demons believe in Jesus, and it does them no good. There are many cults who believe in Jesus too, yet it is not saving knowledge, anymore than the demon’s belief.

          “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” James 2: 20-24.

          Abraham’s faith in God was so strong that it is said of him:

          “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” Hebrews 11: 17-19.

This particular incident is recorded in Genesis 22: 1-19. It is of interest that as Abraham was about to slay his son, God responded in the following manner. “But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’” Genesis 22: 11-12.

 Now we know that God is omniscient, that is, He is all knowing; if He is all knowing, why did He allow Abraham to go so far in this test of faith? In part it is because God wanted us to see that faith by itself is just a word, but if it is real, it produces works for all to see. And how real it had to have been! God’s words to Abraham were to assure him that He wanted no harm to come to his son and to show His approval of Abraham’s faith, both to him and to us.

Things do not happen in a vacuum; you and I are focused on a computer screen reading at this moment, while others are undergoing surgery, at the movies, driving in traffic, or in a pitched firefight. Life is a moving surging thing like the waves on the seashore; those waves do not stop just because we are asleep or not there. Every person has an individual personality and God is dealing with them all. As a result, the Abrahams go through what they go through and the Jobs go through what they go through and the godless go through what they go through; and all of it is designed to draw them to God or to bring them closer to Him. Nothing is for nothing.

However, if God knows everything that we are going to do, why not just create the ones that will accept Him as savior and take them to heaven without all the rigmarole; as for the ones who will reject Him, either not create them or kick them straight to hell?

Well the ones in hell will say “Hey, what am I doing here? I did not do anything!” And the ones in heaven will be happy to be there, but they will not really know why. God will tell those in heaven that they are there because Jesus died for them. But they will understand neither their sin nature nor the need for salvation because they did not live it other than in God’s mind. Men who choose evil in this life grind against those who need to be made aware of their sinful condition to bring them to Christ.

This would be much like a gamer playing an extremely complicated, lifelike combat computer game in which he can brag about fifty kills, which might be considered a high score. This gamer may meet a soldier who has seen combat in Afghanistan who also may claim fifty kills. Will the soldier be impressed with anything other than the gamer’s skill? Will he consider the kills as the same as his?

As they speak, the gamer may be anxious to return home and try to top his score; will the soldier be as anxious to return to the battlefield? The soldier has sweated behind a wall watched his friends be killed, he has heard the whistle of bullets as they missed his head, he has eaten mediocre food, gone thirsty, and slept on the ground, he has put his rear end on the line. The gamer has put his in a chair. Who would have been changed by his experience? So is real life as opposed to virtual life.

If God through His word were to say to us, “Abraham has great faith in Me.” We might reply, “Um, if You say so.” Instead, when we read the account of the offering up of Isaac, and then read this, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son…” we are forced to reply that his works are a witness to his great faith. Thus Abraham’s great faith is justified before us.

It then follows that, “…faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect”; if there were no saving faith, Abraham would not have even considered offering his beloved only son as a sacrifice; even though he might have claimed that he believed God. As a result what he did showed what he felt in his heart, so actions really do speak louder than words.

In this we find a principle, “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” How was this Scripture fulfilled? The Abraham believed God quote is found in Genesis 15: 6, yet the offering of Isaac did not occur until perhaps thirty years later, Genesis 22: 1-19. God’s testimony as to Abraham’s belief is vindicated by his actions years later. Many Scriptures have been fulfilled in the past and many will be fulfilled in the present age as they happen. And many have already.

In summing this up, verse 24 states, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”

“Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2: 25-26.

If you go over the faith chapter, Hebrews eleven, you will find many great men of the faith to mention here; so why a woman why a heathen prostitute? Why place the dregs of society next to one of the greatest men of faith, one who is called “…the friend of God” in II Chronicles 20: 7 and in Isaiah 41: 8?

Many have tried to clean this up by saying that Rahab was an innkeeper or a hostess, not a harlot, but she was what she was and this should be an encouragement to all of us; just as the thief on the cross reached out to Christ next to him, so she came empty-handed and without any merit to the God of Israel.

“Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’ But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’” Luke 23: 39-43.

Some fourteen hundred years earlier, Rahab the harlot is speaking to the two spies, telling them of the dread that has come upon the occupants of the land which Israel is about to take. “And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.” Joshua 2: 11-13.

It took a great deal of courage for this woman to take her stand with these men and risk her life and perhaps the lives of her family, but it took a real faith in the God who is, “God in heaven above and on earth beneath”, to take that risk. In this she is in agreement with Paul when he says, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” II Timothy 1: 12.

Rahab was the first heathen to accept the God of the children of Israel upon their arrival in the land. Abraham knew and served God all his life, Rahab came out of a pagan background. Abraham became the father of many nations and was in the lineage of Christ, Rahab came from the basest of lifestyles, yet her faith not only saved her life and soul, she too became part of the lineage of Christ. Both are mentioned in the lineage given in Matthew 1: 1-6.

As an aside I would like to bring up something that has caused me some confusion in the past; Rahab the harlot is not the only time the name Rahab occurs in Scripture, that name is also used as another name for Egypt. Though the two names are spelled the same and are even capitalized; the woman’s name Rahab means, broad, or wide; while Rahab, a code name for Egypt means, insolence, pride, or violence. Both names are spelled differently in the Hebrew script, and the woman Rahab’s name is transliterated as Rachab, while the other Rahab is transliterated as Rahab. Here is an example of the second usage of the name:

“Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord! Awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Are you not the arm that cut Rahab apart, and wounded the serpent? Are you not the One who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep; that made the depths of the sea a road for the redeemed to cross over?” Isaiah 51: 9-10. You may also find it interesting that Rahab is the name of a mythological chaos monster; something I will leave to you to pursue if you are interested. I hope I have not confused the narrative by adding these two paragraphs, if so, my apologies.

Folks like Rahab and the thief on the cross are an example to us all because they came to God just as they were, sinful men and women, they did not try to clean up their act or try to bargain with God for their salvation, they just threw themselves at His feet and called upon His mercy. It is never too late to repent of your sins and call out to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” John 6: 37.

“Just as I am, without one plea But that thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bidd’st me to come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!” Just as I am, by Charlotte Elliott.

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2: 26.


Faith Without Works? Taken from


Scripture taken from the New King James version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.













                                            James 2: 1-13

          “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” James 2: 1-4.

          James begins this segment by appealing to us with the full weight of the Lord’s name, “…our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory”. There is good reason, for the Father gave the church to the Son, “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1: 22. “…Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.” Ephesians 5: 23b.

          It says of the Lord Jesus, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” II Corinthians 8: 9.

It is Christ, head of the church who warns us not to show partiality; this is not new, it is backed by the Law, “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. But in righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.” Leviticus 19: 15. The courts of America today favor the poor or those they deem to be a minority without consideration as to whether it is justice or not, the church does not need to do the same.

“…have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” Salvation is a level playing field, and the church which is made up of the same should endeavor to maintain that equality. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2: 8-9. If none of us should boast in our salvation, then none of us has reason to boast in our riches within the church, nor should we boast in knowing the rich and famous.

These are evil thoughts because partiality is given in hope of gaining something in return like, becoming the friend of the rich, traveling in their circles, being helped monetarily, or just boasting rights; no one does this for nothing. The rich, on the other hand are used to being fawned over and it is seen as their due, and unless you are considered useful to them your kind actions will draw no gratitude. The true Christian rich will expect no such gestures from another Christian, simply because they know that they too were snatched from the fires of hell.

Partiality is also evil because it dishonors the poor. When you despise someone like this, you may be despising a person who can teach the Scriptures like no other, they may really be able to enter in to some trial you are going through and be a real comfort, they may volunteer for jobs no one else will do; then again they may just need your love.

While handing out tracts downtown one day, I handed a tract to a rather swarthy person in filthy clothes; he looked at the tract for a second, and then said, “Are a Christian?” I said, “Yes I am.” “Oh!” he said and threw his arms around me and gave me a hug. You have to understand that I do not like being touched by strangers, so this was a bit of a shock. But, you know something, it was quite pleasant. The poor come into the church to meet Jesus; they can with a handshake, a hug, or a friendly smile.

“Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” James 2: 5.

God has not chosen the poor of this world and decided that the rich and the middle class can just go to hell, nor are they somehow His favorite children, rather the poor for the most part are more likely to follow His leading and desire to know Him more. They start off with little status in the community, little say in what goes on, and little respect from another caste; so humility comes easier to them.

Let us make one thing clear, the poor referred to here are those who have turned to Christ in faith, or are searching for Him, and in poverty one is more likely to turn to Jesus for salvation. However, areas of poverty are rife with crime, drunkenness, drug addiction, wife beating, and child abuse. Much the same as it is in the rich community, only the crime is more likely to be white collar, and the rest is often overlooked by the authorities because of their status in the community. I am sure several powerful industrialists, actors, or politicians both dead and alive came to mind as you read this.

Still, God has a heart for the poor as we should; so if the opportunity comes and the Lord leads you to donate to a rescue mission, home for battered women, food for the poor from a Christian organization, or volunteer in one of these places, do so; not for brownie points or to feel good, but because the Lord Jesus became poor and rejected for our sakes. “He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Isaiah 53: 3.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own esteem.” Proverbs 18: 10-11. It is the rich man’s focus on his riches and his arrogance that keep him from even seeking Christ. Very often the rich are educated in some amoral ivory tower university where liberal thinking replaces real life problem solving.

Too rich and over-educated, the well to do focus on this life only and forget that it consists of about seventy or eighty years. “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12: 20-21.

It is this education or the circles of intelligentsia that they run in that further cause the rich to misunderstand the gospel message. Their learning prevents them from accepting the simplicity of the gospel, and instead they sum all Scripture up as allegory, or tales passed down from generation to generation until written down in its corrupted form. This leaves Scripture with no firm foundation and opens it to any wild eyed interpretation. The poor grasps onto the gospel in simple faith and accepts it as what it is, the word of God.

“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption – that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’” I Corinthians 1: 26-31.

“But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?” James 2: 6-7.

The rich that James is referring to here are unsaved persons not rich Christians as discussed in the study, “That You May Be Perfect”, James 1: 9-11. He goes on to show the ridiculousness of showing partiality toward the rich; they oppress you, drag you into court, and blaspheme the name of Christ. How many anti-Christian movies are made by the rich, starring godless rich actors who snidely blaspheme the name of Christ? How many lawsuits funded by the rich have been brought against the church or community for mentioning the name of Christ in prayer, or for a Christmas display? How does the media, controlled by the rich, portray Christianity?

Still people would fill their churches with these evil-doers and kick out the raggedy poor, simply because, “Gosh, think how much good we could do for the needy with all the money that would be coming in!” Churches would be no better off if they were filled with unsaved rich people, for they do not part with their money easily and worse yet they would use their influence to water down the pastor’s message from the pulpit and in other areas like Sunday school. Christ did not set up His church to be run like a corporation; as stated earlier, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty…” I Corinthians 1: 27.

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” James 2: 8-11.

Since this epistle was written mainly to Jewish Christians at the time, it is not surprising that the law would come up at some point. Still, the comparisons that show here apply to both Jew and Gentile Christians; this should become apparent soon enough.

This royal law is found in the Old Testament, and it is also carried over into the New by Jesus Himself.

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19: 17-18.

By way of explanation, the phrase, “You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him” has the idea of keeping short accounts. The word rebuke here means reprove, and works like this, if your neighbor defames you, gives you cause for grief, or anger, you must go immediately and tell them of their offense against you. Often the slight was not intentional and an apology will solve the problem; if not, at least you have done your part and the offense does not fester on in your heart causing you to sin by harboring hatred against them. Having done this, the entire weight of their sin against you falls back on them, and they become God’s problem.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, ‘”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’” Matthew 22: 36-40.

“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13: 8-10.

“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” Galatians 5: 13-15.

There can be little question as to why this is called the royal law. This thought is taken further when it says that, “…if you show partiality you commit sin”, then it really starts to snowball. In verse 6, it says “But you have dishonored the poor man” ; this is not a show of love, but one of bias since you receive the beautiful people and disdain the unlovely, and one becomes a transgressor of the law.

“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” This is a marvelous verse because it shuts everyone up under sin, there is none who can say, “I have not sinned”, yet who has not been angry with someone for little or no reason, or hated someone, or failed to show love toward them. All have broken the royal law which sums up the whole law. Can they confess it? If they determine never again to hate anyone, does it stop? No, the very next morning the cycle begins again and we cry out with the apostle Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I Thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7: 24-25. 

“So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over Judgment.” James 2: 12-13.

“For this is the covenant that I will make with house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Hebrews 8: 10. This is an explanation of the law of liberty. For the Christian it works this way, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us and He directs our hearts in the way we should go. We have the option of listening to Him or of ignoring Him; this is what made Paul cry out in Romans 7 above, the flesh wars against the Spirit and the Spirit wars against the flesh.

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5: 16-18.

The law of liberty is a law that is within the heart of a Christian and they are guided by it rather than following a bunch of rules and regulations such as the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law is useful to convince a person that they have fallen short of God’s standards and need Christ, the law condemns; it does not save. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6: 14.

So, how can you be judged by the law of liberty? The Scripture plainly says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8: 1. As a Christian a person does not have to fear hell; however there are earthly consequences for their actions right here in the right now. If a Christian shows no mercy to his brother, he will receive no mercy when he falls into some calamity. Some, taking advantage of God’s grace, indulge in gross sin thinking that the law of liberty somehow has them covered and they die prematurely. “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” If you are a merciful person, you will not come under judgment.

“Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Or can declare all His praise? Blessed are those who keep justice, and he who does righteousness at all times!” Psalm 106: 1-3.


Partiality taken from


Scripture taken from the New King James version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.









The Crown of Life


                                         The Crown of Life

                                           James 1: 12-27

          “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1: 12.

          With verse 12 we shift gears and find ourselves dealing with a trial of another sort. As quoted in, “That You May Be Perfect”, the trials mentioned in verses 2-4, are sent by God, with the intention of proving, or testing ones character, faith, or holiness. The temptation spoken of in the next few verses are defined as, “Temptation, enticement to sin arising from either inward or outward circumstances”, Thayer’s Lexicon; this should become clear as we go along.

          “The crown of life”, is a real, genuine life that begins in this life and continues on into an eternity of blessings, which will include rewards for enduring temptations. Mature Christians who have endured temptations and received the crown of life will tell you that life becomes more bearable and their stress level has dropped because they now have a confidence in God’s care and take everything to Him in prayer, and leave it with Him.

          “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” James 1: 13-14.

          Immediately we see the validation of the definition of temptation given in paragraph two above, it is induced by our own lusts. God cannot be tempted by evil because He is infinitely good; evil would not even enter His mind.

Concerning the evil that Judah committed in offering up their children as burnt sacrifices, God said the following. “…have filled this place with the blood of the innocents (they have also built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into My mind)…” Jeremiah 19: 4b-5. An omniscient God, all knowing, yet with a mind so holy and pure that evil does not even enter His mind.

We are drawn away by our own desires, or lusts, and are enticed by them. These desires or lusts are our weaknesses, known by the devil and used against us; yet they are our desires, so we decide how to respond to them. God says above, that He does not tempt anyone. Can you hear Him whisper in your ear, “Wow, look at that chick! Ask her out. Your wife will never know.” That is nuts! It is Satan who says those things to you. Jesus says this about Satan, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10: 10. Satan excites these thoughts in our minds to rob us, to kill us, and to destroy us, and many a man both worldly and Christian has been destroyed by him.

Satan is far more intelligent than any thousand rocket scientists. His organization of fallen angels makes the most efficient communist secret police look like a group of toddlers set loose in a candy store. Do not, absolutely do not, face this person alone; do not under estimate him; do not think you can sink below the radar, the enemy has already engaged you, and he will not stop attacking you just because you hold up a white flag. God is omnipotent, His power and intelligence is infinitely greater than Satan and his gaggle of followers; He is the only one who can and will guard you from this evil army’s onslaught. Take everything, every temptation every worry to God in prayer.

The dictionary defines the word entice as, “to lead on by exciting desire; allure; inveigle.” Some synonyms are, “lure, attract, decoy, tempt.” The antonym is to repel. Inveigle means “to, entice, lure, or ensnare by artful talk or inducements”; sometimes it seems like you need a dictionary to use the dictionary!

We are tempted when we are drawn away by our own desires; the things we want; then we are enticed by them. The word entice here suggests that we dwell on this object of our desire; it is at this point that the train wreck begins. Bear in mind that it is not a sin to be tempted. There is a saying that goes like this, “You cannot stop a bird from landing in your hair, but you can stop him from making a nest.” That is the basics of temptation, you see it, you desire it, you say to yourself, “It is wrong for me to have it”, and you forget it. Dwelling on it is the beginnings of sin.

Temptation is not just the bad boys of sin like, adultery, illicit sex, or murder; it is also, jealousy, the tendency to gossip, petty theft, stabbing a hated co-worker in the back when possible, revenge, and the so-called white lies. This is not a complete list; the reason we study the Bible is so God can reveal these hidden sins to us. “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119: 11. If we do not sin against God, we will not sin against man.

“Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” James 1: 15.

Permit me, if you will, to treat this verse like a sex education class, it is not my intention to be crude and my apologies to any who are offended. We have the man and the woman, desire and enticement; separately they will bring forth no issue, but when the man and the woman come together, the means of conception are present and when that happens a living soul is conceived, and inevitably the child comes forth. Even so desire and enticement conceive and after gestation sin is born, and sin which eventually takes over kills its parent.

Death in this verse may take different meanings. If a young man is going to medical school and gets someone pregnant, he may quit school to marry her, and there is death of a dream. You have all seen a televangelist confessing some grievous sin on television and with their reputation destroyed there is death of a ministry. Do something wrong at work and there is death of a career. It is a fact that many men who die of a heart attack do so during adultery. Often enough, men are murdered when they are caught with another man’s wife, so literal death is meant here too.

“If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.” I John 5: 16-17.

All sin does not lead to death, but unless God intervenes there are always consequences. Confess your sins immediately when you are convicted of them by the Holy Spirit.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John1: 9. If it will take our reaping the consequences of our sin to cleanse us from it, we will go through them, yet with God at our side.

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1: 16-17.

It is likely that this is a reference to the phrase in verse 13, which says, “…God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone”; for it states that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights…”  God is good and He warns of evil and temptations and even gives a way of escape. “No temptation has over-taken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” I Corinthians 10: 13.

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4: 14-16.  

“…comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” What a beautiful phrase; the image of a God with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning is equally stunning.

Picture, if you will an open field and in the center of that field there is a huge shade tree, spreading out its branches many feet in all directions; as the sun rises the tree’s shadow is on the westerly side of the tree, its exact location depends on the time of year. As the sun continues to rise, the shadow moves in an easterly direction until it is directly overhead, and you eat your lunch under its cool shade. Soon you have to move as the shadow continues in an easterly direction until the sun is in the west and the shade is on the east until the sun goes down.

God’s personality does not shift or change to where He does this today and decides to do something else tomorrow. God’s personality must be rock solid, for if it were not, chaos would reign in creation, we would not know what to expect from day to day. It would be like waking up one morning and finding that gravity had become uneven, some here, none there, a pull twice as hard here, and next to nothing there and always shifting around. How could anyone live under those circumstances? God defines His personality much more bluntly in another place, “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” Malachi 3: 6.

“Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” James 1: 18.

“Of His own will”, if God did not will it, it would not have happened; if He did not awaken us to the gospel, we would not be saved. But it says of God, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3: 9. If He had not sent His Son to die for us, there would be no gospel, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3: 16. Scripture says this of Jesus:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1: 12-13.

We were not born of blood, that is to say, we are not Christians because our parents were, no matter how good they were. Nor because it is our will, joining the church and doing all kinds of good deeds, and singing in the choir; you cannot earn your way to heaven, though many seem to think they will get to heaven by their works. Nor do we get to heaven by the will of man, baptism, or blessing by the priest or even the Pope, will not get you to heaven. We are saved only by the shed blood of Christ; and this is the will of God.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1: 19-20.

Verse 19 is some of the best advice you will ever receive. Every person should be ready to listen, slow to speak, for you cannot put your foot in your mouth if it is shut; slow to wrath, a matter should be carefully investigated before flying off the handle. We represent God as firstfruits of His creatures, He has done so much for us, and we should at least try to serve Him properly. James says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren”, meaning that he is speaking to Christians in these passages.

“Therefore, lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1: 21-22.

James is still speaking to Christians, and even though Scripture says this, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” II Corinthians 5: 17. And, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” Romans 8: 1a; we are to, “…lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness…”  The Christian is seen as righteous in God’s eyes, yet they are to lay aside filthiness and wickedness, and not just wickedness, but an overflow, or abundance. You can see this filthiness in the conversation at the water cooler at work; men stand around and soon one tells a coarse joke, and the talk degenerates from there until even the Christian is sucked into it.

The overflow of wickedness is really interesting. In the King James it is rendered this way, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” James 1: 21. Superfluity, now that is your word of the week; short definition, the state of being superfluous; 1. Being more than sufficient; excessive. 2. Unnecessary or needless. However, it is the Greek meaning from which it is translated which is of interest.

According to Thayer’s Lexicon, superfluity of naughtiness is the “residue – the wickedness remaining over in the Christian from his state prior to conversion.” It defines naughtiness, wickedness in the New King James, as malignity, malice, ill-will, or a desire to injure. So this wickedness is left over hatreds from the Christians prior life; the malice, ill-will, and desire for revenge are to be laid aside and given over to God who avenges and does the equalizing.

It is interesting to note that the J. B. Phillips version of the New Testament comes close to rendering this verse clearly. “Have done, then, with impurity and every other evil which touches the lives of others, and humbly accept the message that God has sown in your hearts, and which can save your souls.” James 1: 21.

This “implanted word, which is able to save your souls”, is the way of ridding ourselves of things like filthiness, malice, ill-will, or vengeance; it is the washing of the water of the word that cleanses us from these evils that reside in our hearts. This is, in fact, how Christ cleanses His church, “…that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word…” Ephesians 5: 26.

Since James is addressing Christians, the statement, “…the implanted word, which is able to save your souls”, is not likely to mean salvation, rather it is a reference to something else. The word of God does indeed save souls from eternal damnation, but in this case the word is intended to lead folks into the abundant life as well as save the Christian’s physical life. The premature death of a sinful Christian has already been discussed, so it is not necessary to go over it again, other than to emphasize the importance of studying the Scriptures to find God’s will for you. And for you to realize that God is not waiting to stomp on you for every transgression.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3: 5-6. Do you believe this?

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” James 1: 22-25.

I knew a woman who for perhaps fifty or sixty years rose every morning at five and read her Bible. Yet in all the time I knew her I never saw one bit of change in her life. It is not that she was a bad person, she was very nice, but I honestly do not think she really saw the things she had been reading for so long, still I do believe she was a Christian.

Bible study should produce change in the heart. This “…perfect law of liberty”, has the ability to change us, as though we were to look into the mirror of God’s word and as we peer intently we find ourselves being changed into the image in the mirror, and in so doing we begin to do the things that we learn.

“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.” James 1: 26.

While this verse is for all Christians its origin is likely to have been the Jews who joined the church without a real conversion to Christ. In this state the unsaved Jew continues to think that it is the keeping of the Law that justifies him, so his religion is one of doing works, yet the inward man has not been changed and his words betray his fallen state; self-deceived the unfortunate person moves ever closer to a Christ-less grave.

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1: 27.  

We now see the opposite side of the coin from verse 26, and works are included here as, “Pure and undefiled religion…” the difference here is that these works come out of the heart of Christ in caring for the helpless as He so often did when He walked in Israel. Even these works would be useless if they were not done as unto the Lord. The outward evidence of salvation is that they endeavor to, “keep oneself unspotted from the world”.


The Crown of Life taken from


Scripture taken from the New King James version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.





That You May Be Perfect


That You May Be Perfect

James 1: 1-11

          “James a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings” James 1: 1

          This letter which conservative scholars believe to have been written by the Lord Jesus’ half brother James, around 45-50 A.D. is addressed to the twelve tribes, indicating that it is written mainly to Jewish believers. Since this letter as well as the book of Hebrews is addressed to Israelite Christians, some of the statements will concern them. This is important because some passages may be confusing if everything is interpreted from the Gentile standpoint. Still, both books are important to all Christians, and certain passages are not to be cast aside as, just not applying, if one does not understand them.

          It is of passing interest to note that the letter is addressed to the twelve tribes. There is certain folklore about a missing ten tribes of Israel, and I believe that the Mormons think that the ten tribes settled in the Americas; James does not subscribe to this belief. The idea seems to have taken hold because after the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel was carried off by the Assyrians circa B.C. 720; they are not mentioned as having returned as a nation as Judah did. Not only are the twelve tribes mentioned here, they are also enumerated in the book of Revelation, in a future event, see Revelation 7: 1-8. By this, it would seem that the lost ten tribes of Israel stories may be rejected.

          It should be noted too that the book was written about 45-50 A.D. roughly fifteen years after the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, named in the salutation above. Many of us can remember the Viet Nam war, more lived during Desert Storm; as a result, if someone were to make a false statement about those conflicts, we could say, “No, I was there, that is not true.” The same holds true of the life of Christ, accusations such as, the body was stolen, He did no miracles, or He swooned on the cross and awoke later, would have stopped the whole idea of Jesus the Messiah if it were not for eye-witnesses.

          “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” I Corinthians 15: 3-8. Written 56 A.D. James the author of the book of James is also mentioned in this passage, along with Cephas who is Peter. This many eye-witnesses would hold up in court, but not in the minds of those who do not want to believe.

          “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1: 2-3.

          The dictionary defines joy as, great delight, or happiness; the Greek word in this case is the, cause or occasion of joy, gladness. The idea of joy in trials is quite foreign and likely to be rejected outright, considering we feel little enough joy in life as it is, to feel this strong emotion in troubles seems to be asking a bit much. However the joy in this case is not something to be worked up, rather it comes from a knowledge that it is to produce a godly character in us. If this is something that one treasures, then it is a good thing.

For example a man may spend grueling hours building a house for himself, he may toil against many obstacles building a race car, a woman may spend hours knitting something, often having to unravel it and redo it to get perfection, or she may work years learning to make wedding dresses. Can they joy in these time consuming, arduous tasks? A godly perspective is needed when considering joy in trials. Yet when in aguish one does not often consider such things, so if you find yourself unable to have joy, do not beat yourself up over it, rather, pray to your Father and He will strengthen you.

These “various trials” are a part of the Christian life and should be seen as Job saw God’s hand in his trial, “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23: 10.   

In this case “the testing of your faith produces patience”. Alternate words for patience are, “endurance or perseverance”, as noted in my Bible’s margin. So the testing gives us endurance or perseverance. As one joke goes; the impatient person prays, “God, give me patience, and I want it now”. Unfortunately, patience, endurance, or perseverance, are not things we learn on our own or instantaneously, but they are things that even worldly men need to truly be successful in life. And more the Christian if they are to live a contented godly life.

“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1: 4.

Through trials we gain endurance, and endurance is a state of, needing nothing necessary to our completeness. When we reach this stage, patient endurance has brought us to spiritual maturity, which is what the word perfect means in the last part of the verse, “…that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”. Difficult as these things are to understand, we are not alone in the trials of endurance.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. “ Hebrews 12: 1-2.

It serves little purpose for us to complain of these things when our King, Christ Himself, has endured far worse than He asks us to go through. His courage should be recognized by us and it should inspire us to greater things. As the apostle Paul said, “…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 13-14.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1: 5.

Wisdom falls into two categories, worldly, which is demonic and godly wisdom; it is the latter which the Christian must seek.

“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’” I Corinthians 3: 18-20.

“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding…” Colossians 1: 9.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” James 3: 17.

The tendency is to use worldly wisdom to solve our problems, not so much because we prefer it; rather more that it is what we have grown up with, in school, those we associate with, and in general problem solving through life. The main way to differentiate which is which is to be a student of the Scriptures, the more we learn of Christ, the easier it is to see how He feels about a given situation and His response to it. The book of Proverbs is also an excellent source of wisdom; in fact, Scripture says this of itself.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” II Timothy 3: 16-17.

It is your knowledge of these Scriptures that the Holy Spirit draws upon to point you in the right direction in any given situation. It is true that the Spirit can show you the right thing to do even without a good knowledge of the Bible, however, the more you know the better off you are.

But, “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God”, when you come to a trial and you do not know what to do, or even why it is happening, ask of God. This has to be our first response; too often we dither about trying to muddle our way through a given problem without even thinking of asking God; you are prolonging the agony, stop and ask.

The Lord tells us that if we ask for wisdom He will give it to us without reproach, that is to say, without blaming or scolding us. How often has someone looked at you like you were an idiot because you could not grasp some difficult task? How often have they even said, “Are you stupid or something?” If someone is honestly trying, they should not be treated that way, yet our parents, supervisors, and co-workers are sometimes guilty of this, forgetting that they had to learn the same thing they are teaching another. God is not like this!

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord…” James 1: 6-7.

The man who doubts is one who wavers between belief and unbelief. He goes from wanting God’s wisdom to trying to solve the problem in his own wisdom. If such a person were to gain God’s wisdom for his problem, he may just as likely go with his own worldly wisdom, ignoring Godly wisdom and making his situation worse by doing things his way. Do not be surprised, there are many people like this. If they will not go before God with the heart to do what He tells them, then they will not get an answer.

“…he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1: 8.

A double-minded man is one who still has one foot in the world and one foot in Christianity, as a result you have what may be called the ugly Christian. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6: 24. It is important to understand the truth of this statement, many think that they can break this rule, but there are no exceptions, a person with one foot in the world will always become more worldly, not a better Christian.

“Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away.” James 1: 9-10.

Some believe that the phrase, “…the rich in his humiliation”, is a reference to the rich losing it all. There is some justification to this train of thought, because in 70 A.D. Titus and the Roman legions sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, killed over one million Jews and took so many as slaves that it drove the price of slaves down. So the rich did lose it all.

Notice how the lowly brother is to glory in his exaltation; it is one sentence, the rich too, are to glory in their humiliation, or being made low. It is likely that this means that the rich are to take a place among the poor as equals. Thus the poor are exalted and the rich are humiliated. This humiliation is not in the sense of being put to shame; rather it is a Christ like attitude.

“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” I Peter 5: 5-7.

“…because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.” James 1: 10b-11.

This is the great leveling field of the church, the rich man sees that all of his endeavors will fade away and the sands of time will cover it so none will even know he existed. The only true lasting riches are in Christ with whom we will spend eternity, and the things built there will be everlasting. The Lord even goes so far as to say as much.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6: 19-21.  

Thus far we have dealt with trials which are defined as, adversity, affliction, or trouble, sent by God serving to test or prove ones character, faith, holiness; from Beginning with James 1:12, we will see what temptation is.


That You May Be Perfect taken from


Scripture taken from the New King James version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.