Ron Graham was called home on March 14, 2013. He began writing this commentary before his death and had asked me, Nathele Graham, to continue his service to our Lord by finishing what he began.
Christianity is not a religion. No rituals or works can add to the finished work of Christ on the cross. Once a person accepts Christ’s free gift of salvation there are things that should be done out of love for Christ. We are the instruments He uses to show His love to others. For instance, we know that we need to spread the gospel to all corners of the world, so we put some money into an envelope and send it off to a missionary group.
They use that money to spread the gospel in some far away country and we feel as if we have done all we need to do. That’s all well and good, but too often we forget to take care of a brother or sister in our own congregation who has a need.
“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; 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” (James 2:15-17).
When James uses the term “brother or sister” he is talking about fellow Christians, not some far off strangers or even the unsaved in your neighborhood. Missionary work is an important part of doing Christ’s work. But if we overlook the need of a brother or sister in our own congregation then shame on us.
James says without works, faith is dead. Our works are a result of our love for God and they should come instinctively. As believers born from God we should be passionate and driven by a desire to please God and to yield our lives to Him.
So how do we know whether or not our faith is dead?
Our faith in Jesus Christ needs to be a living faith. Not just words, but action. Jesus tells us to love one another. If we show no compassion toward others, or if we can’t seem to get motivated enough to help a fellow Christian who is in need, then our faith may very well be dead. In fact, you might want to examine whether or not you have truly accepted Christ.
“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18).
Works will not save us, but our faith in Jesus Christ should result in doing good works, and that includes helping fellow Christians. The first Christians knew what it meant to take care of each other. There was no government handout to support them and once they had accepted Christ they were no longer welcome at the Temple. What did they do? They took care of each other.
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common” (Acts 4:32).
Today we don’t usually need to sell what we have in order to help a brother or sister in need, but we can take the time to help when help is needed. Take a look at the people in your congregation. Is there an elderly man who needs help to prepare ground to plant a vegetable garden? How about a widow who needs a faucet replaced? Is there someone who could use a card to cheer them up? It is easy to blindly send money somewhere else and think we have fulfilled our duty as Christians, but we often overlook brothers and sisters near us who have great needs.
Many Christians are non-participants in God’s plan for mankind. They speak words that sound pious and holy, but it is another thing to put words into action. “I’ll pray for you” is a commonly heard phrase in the Christian community. All of us need prayer, but many situations need action not just words. If a fellow Christian needs a ride to the doctor but only prayer is offered we have failed to live our faith.
We can quote Scripture to someone all day long but if we don’t help a brother in need then our words are sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal our faith may be dead. Action requires something from us. We may have to give up some of our time in order to help, but that’s what happens when words become action.
Love is something that every Christian needs to show through action. Words are needed for encouragement, but action demonstrates Christian love.
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14).
John is talking about fellow Christians here. Missionary work and reaching out to the unsaved are necessary works for a Christian, but don’t forget to show love to the brethren in your own congregation who have a need. If you do not love your brothers and sisters in Christ, then you abide in death. Maybe you need to ask yourself if you have really accepted Christ.
So how do we know whether or not our faith is dead? A professing believer who ignores the need of a brother or sister may have a dead faith or no faith. Our faith in Jesus Christ needs to be a living faith. What does that mean: living faith? It’s faith that is placed in the living God and it is not just words, but action.
“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:8).
Are you careful to maintain good works? Works are not for your own glory but for the glory of God. If you won’t help someone in need (maintain good works ), your faith may very well be dead.
Our conversion/rebirth puts us forever in the hands of Jesus Christ. It’s essential that our words become action in order to produce good works. The more we grow in our Christian walk the more we will accomplish for the Kingdom of God.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:13-14).
Jesus gave everything for us. He loved us enough to step out of heaven and enter this fallen world where He knew He would be rejected and crucified. Accepting His act of love is the
only way we can have eternal life with Him. Shouldn’t we also give of ourselves? Works don’t save us, but works should certainly follow our born again experience. If they don’t, maybe you need to ask yourself if you truly are a Christian.
We need to share God’s gospel, but we also need to aid those near to us. If there is no active doing of good works in a believer’s life then something is wrong.
“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).
No matter how many times you say you love Jesus, if you don’t put your words into action—you deny Him. If you deny him then you can’t belong to Him. Look around you; there are fellow Christians everywhere who are in need of something. Don’t deny Christ by neglecting to do good works.
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
Turning words into action may not come naturally to all Christians, but if you love Jesus you should desire to serve Him. We serve Him by serving others. Pray for God to show you a need someone has and He will. Then turn your words into action and fill it. That need may be big or
small, but it is still a need.
What we do after becoming justified for God’s Kingdom is what James considers to be works. We are adhering to God’s will by following His commands. Works will not save us, but someone who is not a believer may see your good works and decide to find out more about Christianity. If your words are turned into action then you are doing God’s will.
James’ admonition that faith without works is dead isn’t a contradiction of the other Scriptures that plainly state we are saved by grace through faith:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
It is only the grace of God through our faith in Jesus that saves us. We cannot do anything to save ourselves, but good works result from our faith.
When you do a good work, don’t be prideful or boast. All glory goes to God. Many people do a multitude of works thinking that’s what makes them good enough to get to heaven. They believe this puts them in a right relationship with God. No, not even close. It is only our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that saves us, but works are a result of that faith. A truly born-again believer “in Christ” will find no drudgery in following God’s will. Words become action.
Our love for Jesus should motivate us to serve Him by serving others. First do the “work of God.”
What is the “work of God?”
“Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29).
Simply believe in Jesus Christ. That seems easy enough. Say yes to Him and it’s a done deal, you will spend eternity with Him. Then your words should turn into action. let that belief in Jesus live. Don’t allow your faith to be dead faith, but living faith.
Works cannot save anyone. Neither can empty words. Where faith abounds the fruit of the Spirit also abounds.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25).
Are you missing out on the joy of the Lord because your faith is dead?
When you crucify the flesh, that means that you stop putting yourself first. If that means you take time to help a brother or sister in need even if it cuts into your leisure time, then so be it. There is real satisfaction in serving the Lord. Let your words result in action and your actions glorify God.
What kind of faith do you have? Are you one of those who James addresses whose faith is dead or are you alive with the Spirit of God and following His commands? We should all give it some serious thought: Words vs. actions.
Are you all talk or do you let your works show your faith?
God bless you all,
Ron & Nathele Graham