Christian Faith: Commitment, Community & Legacy


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Faith Without Works Is Dead

Scripture text: 'What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 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? 17 Thus 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 without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is [c]dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 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. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:14-26 KJV).

Introductory Remarks

The point of faith, the commitments of faith, the community of faith and the legacy of faith are not literary or polemical only, my Christian friends. Think of Donatists, who on the question of the integrity of priests, denounced traitors who had turned Scriptures over to Diocletian and had Bibles by the thousands burned, or Nestorians, who because they disagreed with the language of the Chalcedonian Creed went it alone--but they disappeared because of lax morals and rampant sin in their ranks, or North African Roman Catholic and Byzantine Christianity, who, in spite of these Christians being indigenous for five centuries or more, succumbed to the military onslaught of Islam and was all but wiped out.

When we are articulating faith a number of obligations must be considered and walked out in the daily lives of the believers: The love of God (1 Corinthians 8:3 cf. Matthew 22:36-40); eschewing evil (1 Peter 3:11); missionary outreach (Acts 8:4); ministry support; public divine services on a week by week basis and mentoring in the way of life we have been entrusted by the Apostles.1  These we must do and we must do them more and more.  We must do them because a faith that is merely an idea falls far, far short of the commandments of Christ, the Christ who said, "If you love me keep my commandments" (John 14:15).  The one who said, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19).  Who spelled out the marching orders--orders even faithfully carried out by the post-A.D.70 Jerusalem Church2: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations: Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all things which I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20).  These commands and this way of life are the genius of God in Christ and is the standing order, the everlasting decree, the enduring edict for the glory of God, through the Son, by the Spirit (Ephesians 3:21; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Hebrews 13:20 cf. Revelation 14:6).

Fulfilling prophecy is a done deal, say some, but they are dead wrong: When we build up the kingdom and bring more people into it, this, my dear friends, is "fulfilling prophecy" for prophecy has not concluded, but is ongoing, but only now in the guise of the growth, expansion, strength and power of the mountain that covers the earth (Daniel 2:45).  The Gospel and the glory of the passion and grace of Jesus, through the shame of the Cross, but his victory over death, hell and the grave are the singular and stunning message that is the answer for the ills and woes of mankind. 

And what does this message say?

It says that men's lives are much more than the persuit of materialism (Luke 12:15), human beings are more than a body and needs nourishment, but more than bread (Matthew 4:4), and that he needs hope, but more than hope for just another day.  No!  Mankind needs a bigger, grandeur, inexpressible hope: the Holy City dressed like a bride prepared to meet her husband, set on a hill, exquisite in beauty, full of delights (Revelation 21:6) in the presence of Almighty God! We must complete the work and remember the admonition: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, from henceforth: For they shall rest from their labor, and their works do follow them (Revelation 14:133). 

Our gainful employment, in the eyes of the Lord of the vineyard, is not in believing only, but in rendering him the fruits he expects in their seasons (Matthew 21:41).  As Christians, this is the nation we are and the duties and obligations with which we have agreed when we said, "Yes" to the Lord, "Yes to Your will," and, "Yes to Your way." 

When we pray, "Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," this is not a prayer for the Apostles only, for only by continued obedience, zeal, outreach, encouraging, supporting, administrating (yes administrating - Romans 12:7ff) can we have those perfect works that our holy and loving Savior is looking for (Revelation 3:2).

Do not, my Christian friends, be misled about convictions and words: Convictions and words mean nothing without corresponding actions.  If one has convictions but does not pray, or one believes Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, but fails to deny ALL temptations, what good is that in the eyes of God?  Or if we recognize God has forgiven us, but we refuse to forgive everyone, what is the point of calling oneself a "Christian"?  Or if you value the Gospel for your own soul, but do not believe in soul-winning and the possibility of salvation of others, how is that helpful to your fellow man?  If one is Christian by name only, but not also by thought and conduct, how is that for the good of the kingdom of God and the cause of Christ in a dark, sinful and spiritually needy world?

Make yourself known:  Wherever you are; whoever you are, reach out to us!  Share your name and country and affiliation.

Tell us the fellowship situation and conditions you face: Do your fellow Christians know you believe in Realized Eschatology and are they agreeable or disagreeable about it?

What languages do you speak and is it legal for you to reach out to others for Christ?  If it is other than English, can you help us translate messages into your spoken language?

Are you in a position to sponsor a project?  Can you financially contribute to underwrite shared efforts (for example, a tract in multiple languages titled,What Must I Do to Be Saved?, or an alternative title, God's Way of Salvation).  Would you be willing to write?  Let us know!

Do you have ideas you would like us to consider?  Do you have suggestions you believe would help our messaging?

What unique challenges do you believe you are facing?  Tell us about them.  

And so, my dear friends, I earnestly implore you, to muse and reflect upon how we can collaborate as fellow-workers in God's kingdom.  I urge you to think about all the privileges, duties and obligations that God requires of Christians and how you can make those sacred things materialize in your life by your actions.  Some of the things we must do must obviously happen in private (each of us must have a prayer life that sustains a personal and obedient and dear relationship with our Creator).  But other things can only happen when we connect and collaborate.3  Reach out to us and your other fellowbelievers in Christ and let's discuss what mutual actions we all can be willing and able to participate and support in.  And think, above all, about the bigger picture and how a body cannot function as only an eye, or only a hand or only a foot (1 Corinthians 12:27ff).  We all have gifts; everyone has a talent; all are useful, but to be useful our talents and efforts must be presented and utitlized, not hidden under a proverbial bush (Matthew 5:15).  Arise and shine, give God the glory!  Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light (Ephesians 5:14).  God bless you this day and I pray to God, earnestly hoping that his written new covenant will be done in all of our lives.  Amen.

 We Are One in the Spirit

Notes

1 See our recommended reading selection below, The Origins of Christian Morality, by Wayne A. Meeks.  This is an excellent treatise on the origin, scope and utility of our Christian way of life and how it is a unique and empowering lifestyle for anyone who wants to begin a brand new and rewarding vocation, full of joy, enthusiasm and a certain and brilliant future in an uncertain and broken world.

2 Solomon Grayzel, A History of the Jews, pp. 199-200, A Meridian Book, 1968.

3 It must be understood that the works that follow us are not things, but people.  

4 "And if one should prevail against, the two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord shall not be quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12) This is a true word of wisdom and we must be wise and have each other's back.  How can we achieve this?  A goal for us is to be on a basic same page and to create a mutual agency and platform where we can do extremely effective work calling people to Jesus Christ and into full-time ministry where a variety of very important steps can be continually taken to make a difference in this world in the name of our Savior.

**Recommended reading: The Origins of Christian Morality.