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Mario Ducic                                                                        

February 2011
Perfect FAITH



 

"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 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 2:14-17)

 

Faith - a very simple word, but for many in the world it is still not understood.  Faith is so important to a Christian's walk with the Lord that the Word tells us that without faith it is impossible to please Him.

 

No matter how much we simplify it and make it important, today many flippantly claim to believe in God.  This flippancy and misunderstanding leads unbelievers to confusion about how people can claim to believe in God while their deeds contradict the Bible.  On the other hand there are many believers and preachers who claim to have great faith for signs and wonders, while at the same time are caught in deception, lies, and financial misconduct.

 

Everyone today calls for faith: from politicians to church leaders who call for the one true faith.  Churches have formed together and written their perfect doctrinal commitments, that are biblically correct, but it is interesting that despite so much faith, belief, and correct doctrine the people and cities they are in remain unchanged.  If everyone claims to believe in God, why do statistics show that only 20% of believers serve in their local body?

 

Therefore, we must look at the Word and see what this perfect faith is. I personally found, while studying many biblical passages, that faith is not just intellectual assent with certain biblical truths, rather an active relationship that changes people and society around us. 



PERFECT FAITH IS NOT JUST AN AGREEMENT WITH CHRISTIAN TEACHINGS

 

 

"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 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 2:14-17)

  

James, Jesus' brother and one of the leaders of the Jerusalem church, decided to write a letter to all the Jewish Christians who lived in pagan communities outside of Palestine.  Among other things, the goal of James' letter was the teach Christians how to behave properly in church and the world. 

 

Proper faith or proper behavior?  James claims that belief and behavior are interrelated and that you cannot separate them.  Misunderstanding arose because of the separation of faith and works.  This is how various doctrines arose, due to which many separated themselves from interpersonal relationships and grew cold toward one another because of difference in information. Many in churches and those in the world are confused when they see behavior that does not agree with Jesus' life and teachings, which in fact is not purity of doctrine, but wrong opinions and deeds of those who call themselves believers.

 

Christianity, or Christian faith, is not just belief in biblical teachings, but a relationship with the Lord and fulfilling His teachings.  The information world did what it was designed to and many received information about Jesus and the Bible, and they say that they believe in God, but the facts are that many remain in a simple informative belief.

 

Faith is not just mere belief and quoting of certain church values.  According to James, true and perfect faith is connected with works.  True faith actually changes our wrong behavior and our way of thinking.  If our life remains unchanged, despite our claims to believe in God, then our faith is not real; it is false.

 

Before James wrote about perfect faith, in the first chapter he emphasized fulfilling the Word, not just hearing it, when He said, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22)

 

Also, Jesus Christ, in context of hearing and doing the Word, mentioned a person who simply heard the Word, but did not do it and the consequences destroyed his life.  "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." (Matthew 7:26-27)

 

The Apostle John wrote and spoke to us about how words are not enough when he said, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:18)

 

Therefore, faith is not just intellectual assent of certain doctrines and facts, but manifested works of a changed life and way of thinking.  Unfortunately, many today intellectually agree with all they hear in church or read in the Word, but their actions deny what they agree with.  This is why many experience a shipwreck of faith, backslide, enter into wrong relationships, fall into depression; churches are ineffective and experience various other problems because perhaps their faith was not activated by works, but it remained at a level of acceptance and agreement with certain biblical information.

 

Evil spirits have impeccable doctrinal belief, but they do not have works.  This is, unfortunately, how people are whose works and attitudes drive away believers and prevent them from entering into the kingdom of God.

 

Isn't it interesting that the evil spirits knew that Jesus was the Son of God, even when some disciples did not know who He was?  "And suddenly they cried out, saying, 'What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?'" (Matthew 8:29) or even: "'Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are-the Holy One of God!'" (Mark 1:24)

 

In Acts, a woman went to Paul and proclaimed out loud good biblical information, even though she was possessed by evil spirits: "This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, 'These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.'" (Acts 16:17)

 

There were some Jews that went around trying to cast out evil spirits on the basis of doctrinal belief.  Although they did everything perfectly, the problem was that their works did not confirm their faith.  That is why the evil spirit replied, not just with doctrine but also said that he knew Jesus and Paul.  "And the evil spirit answered and said, 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?'" (Acts 19:15)

 

Actually, when James spoke about the benefits of faith, "he who says he has faith and does not have works" for the word "faith" he used the Greek word "pistis".  Apart from what the word tells us about being convinced, that we agree with godly truth, especially in relation to the gospel, explanation of the word also shows that it is not just mental assent with godly truth but also agreement that leads to good deeds.  In this special context, knowledge of certain truths without good deeds is called false faith.  One well-know pastor said this about false faith:

 

"False faith can be full of information and knowledge of the gospel of truth.  False faith can be exciting.  False faith can change the outer man, just like the Pharisees.  False faith can speak good things about Christ, just like the Jews.  False faith can confess sin just like Saul.  False faith can humble itself and sprinkle ashes on itself like Ahab.  False faith can repent like Esau and Judas.  False faith can be detailed in religious works like the Pharisees.  False faith can be very generous like Ananias.  False faith can tremble like Felix. False faith can enjoy believer's privileges like Lot's wife.  False faith can preach, perform miracles, and cast out evil spirits.  False faith can have a high position in churches.  False faith can be with great preachers like Demas.  False faith can be serene and physically sure like those five crazy virgins.  False faith can endure to the judgment day."

 

No matter how you view it, perfect faith is not just agreement with certain facts and gathering knowledge of certain biblical acts, but a living faith that is not separate from the work of a changed life and way of thinking.  When James spoke about works, he used the Greek word "ergon", which describes deeds or a result that is not achieved with just one deed, but by the accumulation of persistence and continuous work.

 

 

FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS USELESS

 

 

"But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:20)

 

"God gives every bird his worm, but does not throw it into the nest." - Unknown Author

 

If we want to perfect our faith, then we must manifest our works.  What, then, are the acts of faith?  Although the Apostle Paul claimed that "a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." (Romans 3:28), or that our good deeds cannot earn our salvation, true and perfect faith is always the result of changed lives and good works.  Actually while Paul in Romans spoke against those who wanted to be saved by works, rather than by true faith, James spoke against those who mingled intellectual assent of certain facts with true faith.  Real faith includes and gives the whole man to God, without holding back.  Faith without works is useless because it does not have works.   James gave us a small example so we could understand that faith without works is like "the body and the spirit are dead" (James 2:26).  When he said, "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?" (James 2:15-16) In other words, if we know a brother or sister is in need, and we only pray for them that God provide from heaven, but fail to buy them food, what good is it?  Other than that people can see how spiritual we are when we pray out loud or quote scripture in prayer.  In regards to this, James did not just speak about negative attitudes or useless faith, he went on to say, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)  If you can help, but fail to help, it is not your free will; it is sin!

 

Faith without works is useless; "it is dead". (James 2:17b) James used the Greek word "nekros", that translates the idea of spiritual death.  The word describes a condition when a soul is separated from the influence of a godly light and spirit, as the body is separated from the material world and air and thus has no hope for eternal life.  Yet, truth faith cannot be separated from works.

 

When John the Baptist began baptizing, the people asked him, "What, then, must we do?"  Rather than answering them with the Nicene or Constantinopolitan Creed and the prayer of salvation, or by explaining the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, he said the following, "He answered and said to them, 'He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.' Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, 'Teacher, what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'Collect no more than what is appointed for you.' Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, 'And what shall we do?' So he said to them, 'Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.'" (Luke 3:10-14)

 

When Jesus spoke about listening and fulfilling His words, he spoke about a man who built his house on a rock and when trouble came it stood firm, because he did what he was told, he didn't just listen.  The Word tells us that when Jesus "ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Matthew 7:28)  The Word used for teachings is "didache" that can be literally translated as "the art of teaching" or instructing.

 

What was the difference by instructing?  It was the works.  Jesus did not just share information and doctrine about Himself, rather by his life work and in a practical way people learned about true faith, while the Pharisees spoke well and taught information, they did not live it out.  Jesus said about them, "'The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.'" (Matthew 23:2-7)

 

True faith always, without exception, will birth good works. If it doesn't then it is dead, regardless of doctrinal purity of teaching.

 

What is with faith in the local body for the needs of the local body?  Sometimes it seems that we have faith for many great things, but in practice we cannot be faithful in the little and simple earthly things, like punctuality, dressing neatly, the discipline of church attendance, prayer, fasting, cleaning, serving where there is a need, or reacting to financial needs of the church or loved ones.

 

Many today have faith for signs and wonders, but not for practical works and needs of the local body.  This kind of faith is pharisaical faith that will not be able to strengthen the local body, or reach a city.  Passivity, lack of sacrifice, selfishness, and strife concerning informational doctrine are works of the flesh, not works of faith.

 

The phenomenon of listening and not doing the Word is not anything new.  It was a problem in the times of the prophet Ezekiel.  The people simply did not react to the sermons of the prophet Ezekiel.  They said that it was a good prophesy, that they loved listening to his words, ye they did not do anything to fulfill it, but continued running after their own ambitions and money.

 

They came to hear the word for entertainment.  They didn't care about hearing from the Lord or carrying it out through their works.  This is how many today view church, as a theater where there are actors and spectators.  They enjoy the music, the people, and the activities, but do not receive the message to heart, desire change, or want to serve in the church.  The reason for this is that they have a false faith, a faith without works that is dead.  "'As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, "Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD". So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.'"  (Ezekiel 33:30-32)

 

 

HOW TO HAVE TRUE AND PERFECT FAITH 

 

 

"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 2:21-24)

 

James gave us directives on how to have a perfect faith - works to activate your faith based on information.  Paul told us, in Romans, that our father Abraham, according to the flesh, was justified by faith, not by works, or fulfilling the law (Romans 4:2)

 

We, as Abraham, are justified by faith, but that faith is not just mere information or doctrine, but a living faith in relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through this living relationship and faith in Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we have activated that work of faith that has changed our way of living and thinking.  We do not live as this world and our way of thinking is different.  We refine our faith by doing good works through it. 

 

Through our works and obedience to the Word, our faith proves to be trueWhen Abraham, in Genesis, heard God's call, he didn't remain passive and write a book about his experience with God's voice, he activated his faith.  He made his faith effective so it would be a true and experienced faith.  The Word says that when he finished speaking with God "Abraham took Ishmael his son, all who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very same day, as God had said to him." (Genesis 17:23)

 

Abraham did not activate his faith in that one day alone, rather he performed many acts of faith because of his obedience to the Lord, even when he was tested in sacrificing his son as a sacrificial offering.  These are the works of a righteous man who lived by faith.  This is why James said that his faith was "working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect".(James 2:22)  Perfect in original Greek means that his faith met the goal, and the goal was to perform acts of love.  This is true faith that is different from faith based on information and doctrine, a faith that does not have a goal of bringing about works of faith, because it is not based on relationship that brings about change, but only gathering of knowledge and manipulation of information.

 

Abraham's faith brought about many works that changed during the life of his faith and the history of God's people.  Abraham today is called the father of faith, although he never performed a sign or wonder.  The Word tells us "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going." (Hebrews 11:8)

 

What are the works of faith that we need to activate?  It is time to change our informative faith into a faith of relationship with the living God.  If we choose to do this, our relationship and walk with God will never be dull and barren, because our faith will be effective. 

 

Perhaps these acts are not similar to Abraham's, but surely they will be practical works that Jesus told us to do according to His Word.  Through our relationship with Christ, our works will change and be activated in relation to our children, spouses, loved ones, co-workers, parents and will remain in our ministry to the church and individual acts of faith.

 

Christ said to let our light shine for all to see, "that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16b)

 

It is time to radically activate our faith and make it perfect, as Jesus sought of the young man when He said, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Matthew 19:21)  What are the acts of faith that Jesus desires of us in order that we follow Him completely?  What are the bad attitudes and things that we must change so that those around us see true faith in us?  Peter said that "having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation." (1 Peter 2:12)

 

In the book of Revelation, Jesus said to nearly every church, "I know your works".  Do acts of faith follow our acts of faith or will we stand before Him with faith based on information and doctrine that doesn't follow works?  Will Jesus call us His friend, as He did Abraham?  The answer lies with us and with the decision we make.  Do we want to continue on with a Christianity based on information or live in a living faith with the Lord?  "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?" (James 2:14)

 

 

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