James 2: 14 – 17
One of the definitions of faith taught in the body of Christ today, especially in the Pentecostal and the Charismatic sect is that FAITH is a subjective force, which when applied releases the desires and the many wants and needs we have prayed and believed God for. This is the picture painted – you become a Christian and then possess the right to get all you want from God as long as you rack-up enough faith to get the things. However, the moment there is no reality or material evidence of the things you have prayed for or desired, then the conclusion is that such affected persons do not have ‘faith’.
Believe, confess and receive is the mantra – unless you do these things, they say or teach that, nothing happens. The Believer who has been taught these principles now gets engaged in a race to believe, confess and receive. So if nothing is happening to such a believer, the onus is left on the believer to check and correct what he/she is doing wrong because the idea taught by these sect is that God must give the believer anything they desire as long as they follow the principles highlighted above, irrespective of whether it is the Will of God or not.
As a result of this, many believers go to Church today, not to go and worship God but to check and find out what God can do for them – checking maybe there is a better principle to receiving their said desires and the many needs they have. Having all the good things of life does not equate to having ‘faith’ in God. There are many people who are not Christians and who have better things than most Christians. What matters is working hard not a race to having a subjective force that gets from God. Our prayers are heard by God, only when we pray in accordance with His Will, not ours.
This was not the Faith, James was describing – his definition of Faith is belief and to his audience it is belief in God, just like every born-again Christian, as a child of God, believes in God. The difference between James’ definition of FAITH and Apostle Paul’s definition of FAITH is that James looked at the subject from the angle of the Old Testament, which stipulates that you must not just, for example repent of your sins but must have in hand the requisite sacrifice or offering to substantiate the belief you have.
In order words, James gives an example of the brother or sister who needs to be clothed; the proof of the one who claims to believe in God is that, the brother or sister should not be sent away without being clothed. They ought to be clothed by the ones who claim to believe in God and have the means to clothe them. To James and his audience, the proof that you believe in God is shown in what you do to your fellow human being who is in need or want. This is one of the lessons we can draw from this book of James: it is good when we are benevolent to our fellow human beings.
As far as James (as he looked at issues from the perspective of the Old Testament) is concerned, you can only show your belief in God by the things that you do – the Works. Looking back into this same book of James, Works to James was, taking care of the orphans, fatherless, widows, remaining unspotted from the World, slow to speak, quick to listen, slow to anger, favoritism et al.
It is good to do the aforementioned things by James because they remain the proof for the one who believes in God and in this context, the one who is a Jew. According to the Old Testament, James would be right when he declared that the person who believes in God and does not show it in the display of what the Old Testament says, then that person’s belief stands to be questioned. In other words, James declared that FAITH cannot stand alone.
Jesus was quite explicit when He said, “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, gift-wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.”
There is another perspective and that is, Jesus stepped out of glory to become the ransom and the fulfilment of the Law to save them that would believe. There was something wrong with the Old Testament (says the writer of Hebrews) and the reason for the New Testament. The Old Testament and it’s Laws and commandments were restricted to only the Jews, there was no accommodation for the Gentiles and therefore no Gentile could be saved from the Old Testament Law and creed.
Jesus, therefore must pay the slave master so that the ownership of the slaves (the World) can be transferred to their new owner, hence the reason why He so loved the World that He must give His only begotten Son, so that anyone who believes that He died, was buried and was raised from the dead would eventually live eternally.
And for this reason (the work that Jesus came to do) the New Testament was initiated…we have to henceforth see things from the perspective of the New Testament. We are therefore introduced to the Doctrines of the New Testament through the Epistles of the great Apostle Paul.
What then is FAITH and WORKS from the perspective of the New Testament?
“Faith is the soul’s eye by which it sees the Lord. Faith is the soul’s ear by which we hear what God the Lord will speak. Faith is the spiritual hand, which touches and grasps the things not seen as yet. Faith is the spiritual nostril, which perceives the precious perfume of our Lord’s garments, which smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia. Faith also is the soul’s taste by which we perceive the sweetness of our Lord, and enjoy it for ourselves.” – C.H Spurgeon
Keep it right here and be refreshed!