James 2:17-24 (TPT)
17 So then faith that doesn’t involve action is phony [dead/fruitless].
18 But someone might object and say, “One person has faith and another person has works”[ good deeds]. Go ahead then and prove to me that you have faith without works and I will show you faith by my works as proof that I believe. 19 You can believe all you want that there is one true God, that’s wonderful! But even the demons know this and tremble with fear before him, yet they’re unchanged—they remain demons.
20 O feeble sons of Adam [empty man], do you need further evidence that faith divorced from good works is phony? 21 Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham found righteous before God because of his works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 Can’t you see how his action cooperated with his faith and by his action faith found its full expression? 23 So in this way the Scripture was fulfilled:
Because Abraham believed God, his faith was exchanged for God’s righteousness.
So he became known as the lover of God! [one whom God loves—love that binds friends together] 24 So now it’s clear that a person is seen as righteous in God’s eyes not merely by faith alone, but by his works.
In our passage today, James addresses the potential for people to make an intellectual assent to God and claim it as faith. These folks may agree with the teachings of Jesus, but that does not mean they are following Christ or operating in saving faith. Salvation is all based upon grace and the kindness of the Savior; we cannot and will never earn our salvation through good deeds, nor gain it by our intellectual prowess. Faith—which is really our active and ongoing trust, devotion and obedience to God—must be connected to deeds done out of pure love; otherwise, we are not bearing the Spirit-driven “fruit” of our salvation. Our Savior does good deeds for us out of his love for us; we are made new in his image.
Jesus reminds us we can easily identify true believers; Christians are like trees. A good tree produces good fruit. He goes on to say, “Just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Mat 7:20). True faith changes us from the inside out; it renews our thinking and that renewal transforms us into fruit-producing followers of Christ. We leave people better than we found them. If we are not producing the fruit of our salvation—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—we have a phony or dead faith (Gal 5:22-23). Let’s be like trees bearing the righteous fruit of Christ our Tree of Life.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for helping me live by faith and producing the fruit of loving deeds. In a world that is bent on selfishness, may your children reveal a whole different attitude and lifestyle. Help us Lord to touch the lives of people each day with your love and leave them better than we found them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.