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May 16, 2018, 9:10 AM

The Fruit of Faith

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?” (James 2:14)

Throughout Christian history, people have tried to pit Paul, with his emphasis on grace, against James, with his emphasis on works/fruit. O. S. Hawkins observes that the apparent conflict has been presented like the main event of a heavyweight prizefight: “In this corner, wearing the grace trunks, is the apostle Paul. And in the other corner, wearing the works trunks is James, the half-brother of Jesus. In some Christian circles, the prizefight continues two thousand years later. Let’s get inside the ring and see if we can determine the winner.

ROUND ONE: PAUL ON THE OFFENSE. Paul begins with a left jab: he says, “For by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:8). He plunges right into the fight insisting that salvation is God’s work, that salvation is “by grace.” God’s gift of salvation is not in response to any of our human efforts. It originates with Him, not with man. Our salvation is by grace; “the gift of God” (v. 8), a blessing freely given by the Father, a blessing that can never be earned. Paul insists that salvation comes “through faith, and that not of yourselves” (v. 8). Salvation is God’s work, and it must be accomplished in God’s way, which is through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). James seems to be on the ropes.

ROUND TWO: JAMES COUNTERS. James stands his ground. He is now toe-to-toe with Paul. He counters, “A faith without fruit is a false faith.” More specifically, James asks, “What good is it if you say you have faith and have not works? Can this kind of faith save you?” (James 2:14). With lightning speed, he keeps coming: “Faith without fruit is not only a false faith; it’s futile.” Then James issues this challenge: “You say you have faith. Show me! Even the demons believe and tremble” (vv. 18-19, paraphrased). James stands his ground. He continues, “Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is DOA, dead on arrival” (vv. 20–26, paraphrased).

THE FINAL BELL: When the bell rings, both Paul and James are still standing. In fact, they are actually hugging each other. Then, at the same moment, they grab the other’s arm and lift it high in victory. They both win! How? Because in the final analysis, these two men of God are saying the same thing. Paul is saying what James is saying: “We are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works!” (Eph. 2:10). And James is saying what Paul is saying: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (James 1:17a). The teachings of these men of God complement each other; they are not contradictory. Paul was primarily writing to the Judaizers. In response, Paul emphasized the primacy of faith. James, on the other hand, was writing primarily to people who went to the far extreme of grace and insisted that they could live any way they wanted as long as they “believed.” Thus, James’s emphasis was on what our Lord called the fruit of our faith. So, faith and works walk out of the ring arm in arm. That is as it should be. Works are never a requirement for our salvation; works are the result of our salvation. Yes, it is faith alone that saves, but faith that saves is never alone! The question is not whether faith can save us or not, but whether a faith that never produces what our Lord called the “fruit of the Spirit” (Eph. 5:9) can save us.

Let us join in prayer: Loving Father, enable me to gladly do the work to which you beckon me. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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