James 2:20-26 Devotional Commentary

Faith: Devotional Commentary for June 21-27

James 2:20-26 (NASB)

This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.

2:20-26
20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?
22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;
23and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God.
24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
25In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

These are profound truths. These are enduring words, the Word of God.

Most probably, James might be still thinking of some of the holdouts who seemed to be unconvinced by his teachings. He calls them foolish—unwise in the things of God—and asks them why should the vacuity of a hollow faith be proven any further? It is self-evident that a fruitless faith has no appreciable spiritual value. Every good and perfect gift including faith is from above, from God our Father. Any gift given by the living God ought not to be listless.

Still speaking to holdouts and detractors, James draws the attention of his audience to the source that is absolutely reliable and is commonly known to him and his audience, the Word of God. He appeals to the biographical records of two heroes of faith—Abraham and Rahab—to substantiate the essential truth of his teachings. He urges his audience to carefully consider Abraham's and Rahab's acts of obedience flowing from their genuine faith. Two faithful believers whose faith was manifested through their acts of obedience.

Abraham obeyed and responded to God's call by faith when God called him to leave his native land and his kindred and go to a place where He would show him. Even though he had his doubts at times, Abraham believed God and accepted His promises by faith. But James focuses on Abraham's action of unreserved obedience which ultimately proved his faith. Even God testified to that. Abraham believed God's covenant and His assurances and never looked back.

He put his son of promise on the altar to offer him as a sacrifice to God just because God asked. He also believed that God will still fulfill His promise through the son he was about to sacrifice just because God is faithful, just because God keeps His promises. Abraham knew and believed that God is faithful and trustworthy to keep His promises. Once the authenticity of Abraham's faith is proven, God stopped Abraham from slaying his son of promise and provided a substitute.

Abraham's faith was justified—proven or confirmed—by what he did. His faith was alive in his actions. Indeed, he was proven faithful by his actions, by his obedience, by his work of faith. His work was the expression of his faith. His actions were the fruit of his faith. His obedience was motivated and accomplished by his faithfulness. Abraham was a man of faith. His life showcased his faithfulness. Therefore argues James, Abraham's faith was justified by his works—proven or confirmed.

James says the same about Rahab. Rahab consented to help Joshua's messengers because she believed that God had given the land to the children of Israel. She had faith in God that His people would spare her and her family when they possessed Jericho. Even though her lies and harlotry were not condonable, Rahab acted by faith in God trusting that His people would return favors. The scarlet thread by her window reflected her faith, reminding the advancing army that a woman of faith was waiting to be rescued from God's judgment upon the land. Rahab consented by faith to hide the spies of God's people. Rahab's faith was proven by her obedience to help. She was willing to risk her life because she had faith in God.

In conclusion, James rests his case by comparing a fruitless faith to a lifeless body. He says faith without works is as dead as a body without breath, without soul. A professed faith which is not alive through its fruit, actions, or works is a mere declaration. It is empty because it is without substance, form, or any semblance of perceivable liveliness. Abraham's faith was true and active and God counted it as righteousness.

Notes/Applications

From start to finish, Abraham's life is a story of faith, faithfulness, and obedience. When God called him to leave his native land and his kindred and told him to go to an undisclosed location, Abraham packed up and followed God's direction. He did not just declare his faith in God. He acted by faith. He obeyed.

The point before us is not how well faith blends with work in our lives as Christians. Faith and work are inseparable aspects of one wholesome thing, faith. Faith does not need work to exist. Nor does work require faith to validate its function in human affairs. Faith is not earned by work. It is a gift from God, and is therefore, the way of life for the Christian.

Faith is much more than one's confidence or determination to pursue an objective or accomplish a feat. It is the agency by and through which we commune with God our father through the mediation of the Holy Spirit. Beginning with our salvation, God teaches us to lean on Him and abandon our old ways. So we walk by faith and live by faith, leaning on God in all our ways. In other words, faith characterizes our new life with an actively progressive growth in our relationship with our Father, our Redeemer. That means every aspect of our sentiments, emotions, will, behavior, and activities are driven and governed by our faith-relationship with God our Father.

  • Through faith, we receive salvation by Grace.
  • By faith, we trust.
  • By faith, we walk.
  • By faith, we work.
  • By faith, we serve.
  • By faith, we receive.
  • By faith, we give.
  • By faith, we make peace.
  • By faith, we proclaim good tidings.
  • By faith, we testify about God's incomparable gift of new life in Christ.
  • By faith, we hope.
  • By faith, we anticipate.
  • By faith, we help the needy among us.
  • By faith, we look to God for everything.
  • By faith, we worship and glorify God.
  • By faith, we seek to please God.
  • By faith, we persevere to the end through our pilgrimage.
  • By faith, we rise, move, and have our being in Christ.
  • By faith, we rest in His redemption.

Since faith pervades every aspect of who we are and what we do, it is the fuel that runs the engine of Christian life. Naturally then, it follows that the works that we do must be traceable back to our actions and decisions of faith. A genuinely saved Christian cannot substitute one's faith by a hollow pretense of empty declarations. Faith does its works to glorify God and to bless others. That is our privilege. That is our reward. Faith: the bridge that keeps us connected.

Here at Practical Christianity Foundation we believe that God has mercifully extended His Grace toward us and has given us His living and Holy Word to guide us in our journey in this world. We count it privilege to come alongside you and minister to you through prayer and the sharing of God's living and holy Word. Please contact us if you have any questions concerning your faith and journey as a Christian.

We encourage you to frequently visit our website where you can find weekly devotional readings and helpful blogs.

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James 2:20-26
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