Sermon – February 23, 2020
Our Scripture today deals with two main ideas: the sin of partiality and the idea that without works faith is dead. What connects both of these topics together, I believe, is our faith in Christ and our response coming from that faith. The relationship of faith and good works is one that may be distinguished but never separated. A right understanding of works is crucial to understanding saving faith.
The Sin of partiality (vv. 1-13)
To make distinctions based on what we see, rather than what God has declared, is to show partiality based on nothing more than mere appearances. Such judgments are evil in their intentions, and sinful through and through. It exults ourselves above God, and denies his own judgments. Rather than act this way, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us not forget that our sin, any of it, sets us against God. Therefore, we should all love mercy above judgment – our mercy will vindicate us for mercy triumphs over judgment.
Faith without works is dead (vv. 14-25)
While the gospel alone will save us, and that outside of anything we do, faith must lead us into good works. Our lack of works demonstrates that there is a lack of faith in the provision of God. Rather, works are the evidence of faith, as shown in the examples of both our father Abraham and in Rahab the prostitute. Both were justified by their faith, but their faith was shown true by the works. Therefore, what proof of your faith do you have? Faith, without works, is dead.
Conclusion (v. 26)
“For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also, faith apart from works is dead.”
For the second time in two chapters, James has spoken of our faith in Jesus Christ and our right response to that faith. If we show partiality among individuals based on externals we have become judges with evil thoughts and have set ourselves against God. We should “love your neighbor as yourself,” which is our right response.
Good works do not merit salvation, only the merit achieved by Jesus Christ can justify a sinner. True faith is evident to other people only by what one does.