The Bible teaches we are saved by grace through faith, but when does faith equal works? How much action am I called to as a Christian if I claim to be a person of faith?
A. When you think about some the stories in the OT, the story of Abraham and Isaac is one of the most famous. I have, as a dad, always wondered how he could what he did. To really understand that story you have to go back to Gen. 15.
B. When Abraham was 75 years old, God told him that he would one day become a great nation. The only problem is Abraham had no children. About 10 years later, when he was 85, God renews that promise to Abraham. He tells him to look to the heavens and count the stars, because that will be the number of your offspring. The Bible simply tells us, “And he believed the LORD, and God counted it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6). Abraham’s faith is what God used to see Abraham as righteous. This man believed God fully even though there was no evidence of the reality.
C. Jump forward another 15 years and God blesses Abraham with a child of promise, a child through Sarah, the baby Isaac. Now, we don’t know how long after that, but Isaac is called a “lad,” and we know he is also old enough to carry the wood for the sacrifice up a mountain. His age is not the issue. What we know is that as they climb that mountain with Isaac carrying the wood and Abraham carrying the knife, Isaac asked his dad, “I see the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Do you know how hard that question would be for Abraham? But his reply was simply, “God will provide for himself the lamb.” (Gen. 22)
D. While the story lets us know that Abraham was willing to go through with the sacrifice of his son, God stopped him. God tested the faith of Abraham with what would have been the most difficult test imaginable.
E. But it was that faith that God counted as righteous. It was because of that faith that God called Abraham his friend. How much faith does it take to be saved?
I. Works Salvation?
A. So we come to the letter of James. With all that we have studied about what it means to have pure religion. What it means to be doers of the word and not simply people who hear it, but don’t respond to it. James makes a strong statement in the form of a question. (READ James 2:14-17)
B. People say, “Wait! This is works salvation! We are saved by grace not by works!” In fact, this passage is sometimes met with anger. But let James challenge you before you dismiss God’s message.
C. When we talk about salvation, most students of the Bible agree that a belief in Jesus, is absolutely necessary for a person to be saved through the blood of Jesus. So what does it mean to believe? That is what James is pushing.
D. Keep reading (James 2:18-19). Faith, or belief, is much more than just telling what you accept to be true. James is about to make the argument that faith alone is not a saving faith. To simply believe that there is one God that God is the God of heaven and earth, creator of the life is great. It is the basis of your faith, but that faith alone is not a saving faith as much as it is identifying what you believe.
E. I accept that Jesus is the Son of God. That leaves me terrified. You see, if I really believe there is only one God and that Jesus is my only hope and do nothing except profess that I believe it, then it leaves me in fear of condemnation at every turn in my life. I admit that God is my only hope, but my actions do not profess my faith.
F. Does Satan believe in God? Do demons have faith that there is ONE God? The answer is YES! But where does that leave them? Scared. They know the outcome of such a statement. They will be eternally condemned. Yes, it ought to scare you to know that God is real but do nothing.
G. So James says show me your faith apart from your works. That is demonic. It believes and testifies of who God is, but does not act in accordance with God’s will. James says, but I will show you faith connected to works. And that is the story of Abraham that we started with.
II. A Working Faith
A. It is not a works salvation, as though God owes me a wage for my actions. Salvation is a free gift from God. But the gift is conditional, just like the covenant was with the Israelites, so is the covenant with God through Jesus.
B. Paul makes this point clear in several places. But I want to take you to Eph. 2:1-3. (READ IT)
C. You and I were DEAD in our sin. The only thing that sin earned for us was eternity in the darkness and pain of being without hope, separated from God, never to know joy again. The Bible calls it Sheol, Abyss, Torment, Hell. The place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. That is what my sin earned me. BUT GOD.
D. READ Eph. 2:4-7. God’s grace comes to reach out to me, the sinner, and draw me to Him. God’s grace lifts me up and seats me with him in the heavenly places so he can show me off of what true change looks like.
E. READ Eph. 2:8-10. God’s grace saved me, but it required of me to have faith. Grace is a gift, not something I earn. I can’t boast of my faith, but I can live as God’s picture of grace by doing the good works that He prepared for me to do. Not to earn my salvation, but to live in thanksgiving for what he had done.
F. Saved by grace through faith. A faith that is active, responsive, living to do the will of God. A faith like that of Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his own son. A faith like Rahab who put herself at risk to save spies, not because of the spies, but because she believed in the One True God.
A. Do you have a saving faith? A faith that is living and active? Don’t just have a faith that leaves you in fear that God will condemn you, but have a faith that walks in His righteousness. A faith that repents of sin and claims the forgiveness and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Die to self, be buried with him in baptism, rise to walk in a new life, cleaned up from the inside out with a faith that is saved through the grace of God.
B. Jesus went to the cross to pay the price for your sin. Don’t let him die in vain. Have a faith that shows you believe and live a life that draws closer to God every day.