Faith alone?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: James 2:18-3:18; Proverbs 19:15-16

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
James 2:24 “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

What just happened at verse 24?

Did the Apostle James just contradicted the Apostle Paul who said in Galatians 2:16 that “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”?

Or did our church fathers got it wrong by emphasising “by faith alone”? In the context of James 2, the Apostle was not arguing that we are justified by the works of the law or the works that comes from our own strength. Rather, he was saying that faith without works is dead. Or to put it another way, faith in God must produce works or it is not faith at all. Hence, our salvation is not found on the empty promises of human beings to God that “I believe”; but rather the sincerity of the belief is to be demonstrated by how we love God and one another. This is the so called “works” that comes with our salvation.

Sometimes, Christians brought it upon ourselves by being bad witnesses of the Gospel. We can shout out a lot about “faith” but the works were slow to accompany that enthusiasm. We are eager to “bring in the salvation” but slow to follow up with the tough journey of discipleship with those who believed. We are so happy that a loved one is saved, yet we are slow to reach out to the poor, outcast and needy that could be our immediate neighbours. There was time when I deeply regretted for not inviting an elderly man to my home for a meal. He was a neighbour in the next block of flats and he was often alone and seemed to have hygiene issues. I thought about it for too long; for when I was about to invite him, he was nowhere to be found. So faith without works can have the reverse effect. People can think that we are just hypocrites, who can only proclaim, but no action. When the rubber hits the road, our faith must produce the work; not just any work, but works of service that shows God’s love for humanity. Hence, we are saved not just in name; but it is really for the outpouring of God’s blessings into the lives of others. By this then, people will know that we are Jesus’ disciples and many more will come to know Him.

Dear Lord of compassion, help us to love and care more for others as faith without works is not a faith that is alive; but dead. Amen.