Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written by James the half brother of Jesus. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fourteen through twenty-six of the second chapter. When you come to this particular passage of Scripture you will find one of the most noted and quoted passages contained within the epistle written by James. Any student of the Scripture is keenly aware of this portion of the epistle written by James, for it is within this portion of Scripture we find James writing and speaking concerning faith and works. What’s more, is that James doesn’t merely write about faith and works, but he also writes about the harmony and union that exists between the two. When writing this epistle unto those which were scattered abroad, James sought to bring them face to face with more than just a declaration and profession of faith within and from one’s lips and mouth. It is incredibly easy to make a declaration concerning faith, and to even profess that our lives are governed by faith, and yet the demonstration and manifestation of our lives proves anything but that. There are countless men and women who are able to define faith with the best of them, yet when it comes to the demonstration of faith within their own lives, they are hard pressed to engaged themselves in such a demonstration. What about you who are engaging yourself in reading the words which are found and contained within this writing? Are you more eager to define faith than you are in actually demonstrating faith within your own personal and public life? Are you better at defining and describing faith than you are with actively demonstrating and manifesting it within and upon the earth? If I am being honest with you who are reading this particular writing, I would dare say that the Lord of hosts has more delight and more pleasure in your demonstration of faith than He ever has and ever will have in your definition and description of faith. In fact, I would even state that the Lord cares nothing about your ability to define and describe faith as much as He does your ability to actively demonstrate and manifest faith within the earth. What’s more, is that faith was never intended on being something to which we given mental assent, nor was it ever meant to be something we assent to with the words of our mouth within the earth. One of the greatest problems facing countless men and women within our churches today is that they are experts in defining faith to others, and yet they care nothing about actively demonstrating faith within and upon the earth.
The more I read and the more I consider the second half of the second chapter written by James unto those which were scattered abroad, the more I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are found within the eleventh chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. I have to admit that over the years I have spent much time thinking and believing that this particular chapter is in fact a definition and description of faith, and that when we read the words contained within it, we are encountering a wonderful and powerful definition of faith as it is present within the earth. I have long read the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews as a chapter that describes the lives and stories of several Old Testament figures who are found within and upon the pages of the Old Testament. The entire eleventh chapter of this epistle written unto the Hebrews is one giant hall of faith where the author parades the lives of those whom they mentioned within and upon the pages. I have long read the eleventh chapter as a wonderful definition of faith, and what faith truly is in the lives of men and women who worship, serve, follow and obey the Lord. As I have engaged myself in reading this particular chapter afresh and a new this past year, I have found myself being drawn to the incredible reality that what we find in this chapter is ultimately a powerful treatise of what I would call “faith in action.” As I continue reading the words which are found within the verses of this chapter, I am confronted with the fact that what we truly have before us is an awesome demonstration and manifestation of faith within the earth. What I mean by this, is that what is found within this passage is more than just a definition of faith as we would like to understand the nature of faith. We dare not, we cannot, we must not read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and not be gripped and captivated by the tremendous portrait of faith in action within and among the lives of those whose stories are highlighted within the chapter. It would be incredibly easy to read the words found and contained in this chapter, and to see only a description of faith, and yet I am convinced that to do so would be to sorely miss the entire premise and purpose of that which the author is seeking to convey. Before we even get into the words which James writes in the epistle he wrote unto those which were scattered abroad, I feel it necessary to present you with the account of several lives of men and women whose stories are found within the pages of the Old Testament. Beginning with the fourth verse of the eleventh chapter we find the following words:
“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent t sacrifice than Cain, but which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarded of them that diligently seek him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house: by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for hew looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embrace them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city. By faith Abraham when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up. His only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall the seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was a dating, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. Through faith he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were compassed about seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when he shad receive the spies with peace” (Hebrews 11:4-31).
Within these twenty-eight verses we find the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews bringing their audience face to face with the lives of several Old Testament figures—beginning with Abel the second from Adam, and continuing through to Rahab the harlot who hid the spies of Israel from the soldiers of Jericho. The eleventh chapter of this particular epistle is about so much more than simply our defining and describing faith, but is about bringing us face to face with the demonstration and manifestation of faith within the earth. IN other words, what the author of this epistle is seeking to convey is that a mere declaration of faith is incredibly shallow if it is not followed up with and accompanied by an active demonstration of faith. I would dare say that for the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews, talk was incredibly cheap, and for them—actions spoke louder than words. I can’t help but read the entire eleventh chapter of this particular epistle and be confronted with the awesome reality what we have before is a powerful treatise concerning faith in action—faith which isn’t content to remain on the sidelines, but faith which seeks to be put in the game. Oh, there are countless men and women among us who are content to remain on the side lines boasting of their faith, and yet they have absolutely no desire to transition from the sidelines into the game. Such men and women are fearful of getting their hands dirty, and are afraid of what an active demonstration of faith could and would in fact mean for them. These men and women are content professing what they believe rather than demonstrating what they believe within the depths of their heart. Oh, please understand that this isn’t to say that these men and women don’t actively and don’t actually believe in the living God, but rather that there is no action to back up that which they believe. Sure they believe that God is, and sure they believe that God is a rewarded of those who diligently seek Him, but they are unwilling to engage themselves in actual action which proves and demonstrates their faith in the true and living God. In all reality, I would emphatically and without reservation or hesitation declare that God does not care for, nor does He have any desire in a faith that is not willing to engage itself within the earth, and among those around us within and upon the earth. I do not believe for one moment that the Lord of hosts is at all pleased with mere vocal and mental assent to faith while our hands and feet remain inactive within our generation.
With all of this being said, we must recognize and understand that it is by and it is through faith that we are indeed and are in fact saved, but it has never been and will never be by faith alone. Eventually there has to come a point, and eventually we have to reach the place where our faith is allowed to transition to the next level within our hearts and lives, and is no longer allowed to remain stagnant and stale. I find absolutely no contradiction between the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the church which was at Rome—words which are found in the fifth chapter of the epistle. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this chapter beginning with the first verse:
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:1-11).
A similar reality is painted for us in the previous chapter within the same New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul, for if you turn and direct your attention to that which is found in the third chapter beginning with the twenty-first verse, you will find the apostle Paul settling the stage for an emphatic declaration that it is by faith we are justified by faith. Within the epistle written unto the Roman congregation the apostle Paul presents us with the awesome reality that it is by faith we are justified, and it is by faith we receive the free gift of salvation with is given and provided unto us by and through Jesus Christ. I firmly and unequivocally believe that it is by and it is through faith we are justified before and by God, and that this has absolutely nothing to do with us or what we have done or can accomplish. I firmly believe that it is only because of the free gift of God which is made available unto us through the person and sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we are justified by and through faith. In the third chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome we find the apostle Paul making a powerful case for our being justified freely by faith, and it begins in and with the twenty-first verse of the chapter:
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that he might be just, and the justified of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting them? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. IS he the God of the Jews only? Is he not only of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:21-31).
When we read the word which the apostle Paul writes in this particular passage of Scripture it would be incredibly easy to conclude that he is declaring that we are justified by faith alone, and there is no need for works at all within our lives. This could not be further from the truth, for if you read the twenty-eighth verse of this chapter you find the following words: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). Please note that what the apostle Paul is writing is that we are not justified based on fulfilling the deeds of the law which were prescribed unto Moses centuries earlier. The apostle Paul knew and understood that we are justified by faith through the person of Jesus Christ, and by the blood which He shed upon Calvary two thousand years ago, and this without and apart from the deeds of the law. If you study Scripture you will find that there were over six hundred statutes that were found within the law—of which it was absolutely impossible to keep and maintain all six-hundred statutes, decrees and commands within the law. Even keeping the first Ten Commandments of the law is not easy—let alone trying to keep all six-hundred plus commandments, depress and statutes. That which the apostle Paul is writing and declaring unto the Roman congregation is that we cannot be justified by and through and according to the deeds of the law, for the law could never justify any man—not even in the Old Testament. IN fact, this is what the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews was seeking to convey within that epistle, for the author sought to confront us with the reality that the law was imperfect in that it could not cleanse our conscience, and it could not justify us before the living God. The law was imperfect in that at the very heart and center of it was the need and requirement of sacrifice, for men and women would bring their guilt offerings, as well as their sin offerings unto the Tabernacle and Temple to make atonement for their sin(s). What’s more, is that there was only one day during the entire year when the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies and make atonement for himself first, and then for all the people—an act which would have to wait until the following year before being completed again. If there is one thing we must recognize concerning the Law of Moses, it’s that it could never cause one to be justified before the living God and in all reality—I would dare say that the law wasn’t even given for such a purpose. I am convinced that the law was given unto the children of israel in order that they might be separated and set apart from the nations and peoples of the earth as a people holy before and unto the living God.
What is so incredibly interesting about the epistle which was written by James is how the second chapter opens up and begins. If you begin reading the second chapter of this epistle you will find James instructing and admonishing his readers and audience to have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect of persons. Or, in simpler and layman terms, what James was saying was that we should not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with partiality and/or favoritism. James then goes on to write concerning our sacred and solemn assemblies, and how we respond and react when one comes into our assembly with a gold ring and in goodly apparel versus how we respond when one who is poor comes into our midst with vile raiment. James goes on to write of those who would show preferential treatment to the one who entered dressed in goodly apparel, while utterly and completely despising the poor man who came into their midst with vile raiment. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many we have shunned, neglected, ignored and even rejected in our midst because we have given ourselves unto favoritism and partiality. I can’t help but wonder how many times we have given of ourselves to those whom we deem as worthy, while at the same time shunning and despising those of lower stature. In this epistle James goes on to ask whether or not we are partial in ourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts. James takes it a step further and speaks of God choosing the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom of which He has promised to them that love Him. James goes on to indict those to whom he was writing how they despised the poor and favored the rich—despite the fact that rich men oppress them, draw them before the judgement seats, and blaspheme that worthy name by which they were called. James goes on to declare unto them that if we fulfill the Horan law according to the Scripture—the law to “love your neighbor as yourself—we do well, but, if we have respect to persons, we commit sin and are convinced of the law as transgressors. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to that which is written and found in this passage of Scripture, for it comes directly on the heels of James declaring that pure religion and undefined is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. Please don’t miss or lose sight of this tremendous reality, for the first chapter concludes with James writing and speaking of our visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction—those whom the world would cast aside, neglect, reject and ignore—and the second chapter begins and opens up with James writing about partiality and favoritism in the house of the Lord—a sin that would cause countless men and women to face and experience the judgment of the King, and be cast into everlasting and eternal punishment. Consider if you will the words which our Lord Jesus Himself spoke unto His disciples, which are recorded for us in the twenty-fifth chapter of the gospel of Matthew:
“When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the boats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I as an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave t he drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:31-46).
Within the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples He set forth two distinct groups and types of people—those who were moved with compassion at the needs of those around them, and actually engaged themselves in ministering unto them, and those who chose to overlook such needs and neglect and ignore those who desperately need help. I do not believe it is by coincidence that James writes and speaks about faith without works being dead immediately on the heels of speaking of favoritism and partiality, for James sought to bring his readers and audience face to face with the reality that their faith is demonstrated by more than simply words. James began by writing and speaking of the fatherless and the widows, and even wrote of and suggested their affliction, and then began writing about partiality and favoritism, for he was undoubtedly aware of how those to whom he was writing were showing partiality within their assemblies and meetings. What’s more, is that those to whom James were writing were experts at speaking of and declaring their faith in the living God, and yet there was absolutely nothing which proved, demonstrated and manifested such faith. Not only were they indicted for showing partiality to those of greater reputation who entered into their midst, but they were also living their lives without and apart from an active demonstration of faith. Oh, they were great at speaking concerning matters of faith, and they were great at talking about faith with others, yet when it came time for them to actively demonstrate and manifest their faith in their generation, they chose to ignore and reject such action(s) within their lives. What’s more, is that James links the concept of faith without works being dead and showing partiality and favoritism unto those of higher stature and reputation by speaking of the royal law of the King, which is to love your neighbor as yourself. Oh, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation in the first of two epistles which were sent unto them. Beginning with the first verse of the thirteenth chapter the apostle Paul writes the following words:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinkers no evil; rejoiceth not iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When Is as a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glad, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
In conclusion I feel compelled to highlight the words which the author of the epistle wrote in the eleventh chapter of the epistle. The author of the epistle concludes the epistle by mentioning the names of various other figures whose lives resonated within and under the Old Covenant, and how such men and women performed valiant and great things within the earth. Consider if you will the words which are found in the chapter beginning with the thirty-second verse:
“And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barack, and of Samson, and of Jephthae: of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mocking and scourging, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:32-40).
It would be very easy of us to think that our demonstration and manifestation of faith can only be seen and found in such great exploits such as subduing kingdoms, stopping the mouths of lions, quenching the violence of fire, escaping the edge of the sword, and waxing valiant in fight, and turning to flight the armies of the enemies. It would be very easy for us to think that the demonstration and manifestation of our faith can only be seen in such exploits as these, while not considering or thinking even for a moment that our faith can be demonstrated and manifested in something as simple as ministering unto one who is need. More often than not we look for faith in the spotlight and on center stage, when in all reality the demonstration and manifestation faith, and our faith put on display through our works can be seen in the shadows where no one is, and where no one is watching. James writes and speaks of faith without works being dead, and how we show, prove and demonstrate our faith by and through our actions, and we would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand such a tremendous reality within our lives. I can see no greater example of demonstrating our faith in the shadows than in the account of the Good Samaritan—particularly and especially because within this parable is both a priest and a Levite who saw the need, and yet chose negligence instead of compassion. Neither the priest nor the Levite chose to demonstrate and manifest their faith in the realm of need and affliction, and yet there was one—a Good Samaritan—who chose to look beyond himself to the need of another, and to act with compassion. I would dare say that perhaps the single greatest place where faith is demonstrated and manifested is not necessarily in great exploits and great feats, for not everyone in the kingdom of God will see such events and occurrences within their lives. There are men and women whose faith will be demonstrated in caring and looking after the orphans, the widows, the sick, and the helpless within the generation—i.e Mother Theresa. It would be incredibly wise and prudent of us to recognize and pay close attention to this, for by doing so we can truly understand what faith with works looks like, and how we demonstrate and manifest our faith—not only in the shadows, but also in the secrets place where our Father who is in heaven sees and is aware of our actions in our generation.