False Faith Versus True Faith

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Many religions teach that if you are going to be saved and go to Heaven, you need to perform good works. However, this is completely wrong. Scripture makes it clear that salvation is by grace through faith and not works,

 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” ().

 

But where there is genuine faith, obedience or good works will follow. I am not talking about a perfect life, because we all fail in this. But I am talking about a life that is committed to walking in the way of the Word of God. The passage I just quoted continues, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (). Martin Luther wisely stated, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” That is an excellent summary of what James writes about . He is teaching what faith looks like from a human perspective. This passage contains a contrast of two kinds of faith: false faith (vv. 14-20) and true faith (vv. 21-26). Sadly, there are many who make a profession of faith but it is not the real deal. Such a reality is devastating and has eternal consequences. In this post I would like to briefly examine this passage and consider the difference between false faith and true faith.

 

FALSE FAITH EXPLAINED ()

It is of no good if someone professes to have a kind of faith that doesn’t prove itself by works. This is a cheap counterfeit. James asks, “Can that faith save him?” In answer to that question he begins with an illustration of an individual who is in need (2:15). A faith without works displays a compassion that is limited to mere lip service. Instead of actually doing something for a needy individual, the one without works simply states, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled” (2:16). James bluntly asks, “What good is that?” (2:16). This illustration makes it clear that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:17). The individual who has no works in their life can’t prove the validity of their faith, because there is no outward evidence. Faith that is limited to mere intellectual understanding is not real. Recognition of biblical truths does not save anyone (2:19). It is foolish to believe that a faith without works is genuine.

 

TRUE FAITH ILLUSTRATED ()

In this second section James shows how genuine faith will evidence itself in works. Abraham proved his faith by being willing to offer up his son Isaac. “Justified by works” (2:21) is not talking about the means of his salvation, but rather the evidence of his salvation. Rahab proved her faith by receiving the Hebrew spies (). James’ final example is the human body and Spirit. It is obvious that if the spirit were absent from the body, the body would be dead. James uses this logic in regards to faith. If faith doesn’t have works, it is dead.

 

So there are two types of faith. One is false and the other is true. One leads to Hell and the other to Heaven. Genuine saving faith that exclusively trusts in Jesus Christ will  be followed by acts of obedience. Not because our good works save us or gain merit, but because saving faith produces fruits of obedience.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

2:1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign

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Andrew Courtis

Andrew Courtis

ANDREW - Serves as Pastor of Hills Bible Church. I am married to Dianne and we have three children (Kate, Emma and Jack). I was born and raised in Melbourne, moved to Adelaide to undertake theological studies (BMin.), and have completed additional studies with the Australian College of Theology (MATh.). I have served in pastoral ministry in both Melbourne and Sydney and am a qualified school teacher. I am committed to expository preaching and making the word of God known and understood.

2 thoughts on “False Faith Versus True Faith”

  1. Andrew… I like the point you make that salvation is not by works but by faith alone, but our works is evidence that salvation has occurred.

    I am reminded of when Paul says to work our our salvation with fear and trembling for it’s God that works in us (). Whilst our perseverance in our faith through obedience to God doesn’t save us it does assure us that our faith is real and that we are a child of God. This is particularly comforting in times when we may be struggling in our walk with God. Perseverance in our faith when the going gets tough reassures us that our faith is real…. it’s the ultimate test of our faith! In fact if our faith is real it’s during these times that it’s best strengthened and we realise how gracious, merciful and faithful God is.

    1. Thanks for your comment Stu.

      It is a great comfort to see our faith persevere in tough times. It gives such great testimony to God’s great grace in granting us a faith that truly works!

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