Show Me Your Faith! (James 2:14-19)

First Baptist Church

“Show Me Your Faith!”

(James 2:14-19)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

February 4, 2018

Introductory Comments:

Well, it’s good to be back in the book of James.

James has been speaking about the need to be a genuine Christian; to not only profess the faith, but to live it.

This series in James is called, “Living the Faith.”

In chapter 2, James has spent some time pointing out the necessity of being consistent in our faith; to follow the law of God, across the board; not just to pick and choose which parts of God’s law we want to obey.

Now, James comes to this famous passage about faith and works; one that many of us know well.

Some people have struggled over the ages with what James says in this passage compared to other parts of the Bible which speak about being saved by faith alone; primarily the writings of the apostle Paul.

We will see as we go through this passage that James and Paul are not contradictory, they are complimentary.

Let’s look at the passage together.

Read the Passage

Read James 2:14-19

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe—and they shudder.

Let’s pray together.


This morning we will explore four examples of faith that James mentions.

Believe it or not, I found four examples in this passage 😀.

Let’s see, first, . . .

I. An Example of Worthless Faith (vv. 14-16) [on screen]

James immediately asks these three questions which set up this entire discussion.

First, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works?”

Second, “Can such faith save him?”

Third, “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,’ but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?’”

All three of these questions are rhetorical; they have an obvious answer!

These are all examples of worthless faith!  Faith that will indeed be unable to save anyone!

James is continuing his theme that claiming to have faith is not enough; we must really have genuine faith.

Notice that I’m saying “claiming to have faith.”  James says, “if someone claims to have faith.”  Faith alone is indeed enough to be made right with God, but only if it is genuine faith; genuine faith that is demonstrated by our good works.

You see, Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.”

Paul and James are both correct.

In J. Vernon McGee’s commentary, he says, “Paul and James do not stand face to face, fighting against each other, but they stand back to back, fighting opposite foes.”

Paul is addressing those who think they can earn God’s favor by carrying out good works. James is addressing those who think they can follow God without living changed lives that are demonstrated by good works.

Illustration: It’s sort of like this. Being a football player does not make you a member of the University of Alabama football team defensive line. However, you cannot be a member of the University of Alabama defensive line without being a football player.

Good works do not make you a Christian. However, James is saying you cannot be a genuine believer without a changed life.

James is not saying that these works will replace our faith. They are not a substitute for faith; they are the result of faith, they are the evidence of true faith!

It is by grace alone, through faith!  Real faith!  Not words, but faith!

There is a demand for genuine action, genuine good works, genuine godly living. Professed faith is not enough. Real faith is what we need.


Let us not move too quickly from these verses and only discuss the meaning of James’ discussion of faith and works.

Let’s also look at the actual example that James give us.

In this we see an example of useless faith.

We see someone wishing someone well but doing nothing to actually help them.

Notice that this faith in words only is not only unhelpful to the person who is in need, but it is also unhelpful to the person who is claiming the faith as their own.

James says, “Can such faith save him?”  Again, the implied answer is “no!”  This is useless faith for everyone involved!

Just to say you have faith does not make you right with God.  Pretending does nothing to help you in the eyes of God!

You must have genuine faith in Jesus Christ!  Faith that changes you. Faith that gives you compassion.  Faith that leads to a deep love for God, a committed love for the church, and a sacrificial love for others.

Faith without works is no good, it cannot save.

We must understand this!

Next, we see . . .

II. An Example of Dead Faith (v. 17) [on screen]

Let’s look at verse 17 again.

17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.

James says “in the same way.”  That is, just as it is worthless to wish someone well but make no effort to help that person, so also, faith without works is dead.

This adds another layer of worthlessness to this faith.  It is not only no good, it is not only unhelpful, but it is dead.

That’s bad, right?


Illustration: One may have an old washing machine that doesn’t work well, it’s not very useful, it’s not the best in the world, but at least it works. However, to have a dead washing machine. That’s not good for anything but to put out in a field and shoot for target practice. A dead washing machine is not really a washing machine, it’s a cubical hunk of junk.

In the same way, dead faith is not really faith!

Faith without works is dead

That’s James’ point.

Forget about dead faith being useful to those in need or to the possessor of the faith, it’s good for nothing!  It’s dead; expired; useless; done!

Someone will say, “Pastor, I thought we were saved by faith alone!”

Amen, we are. By faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone.

We are saved by faith alone, but our faith will not stand alone; it must be accompanied by godly living.

It must be genuine faith, not faith in word only.

Anyone can claim to have faith, but it’s real, living faith that matters!  This faith alone is the kind that saves, and this faith is the kind that produces good works.

Am I beating a dead horse?  If I am, know that a dead horse is good for nothing. You must have a living horse. So also, you must have living faith. 😀


Let’s look at . . .

III. An Example of Living Faith (v. 18) [on screen]

James really just doubles down in verse 18 to make his point. Let’s look at it again.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works.

James paints this picture of an opponent to his argument saying that some have faith and others have works.

This is like saying some people are extroverts and some are introverts, or some are athletes and some are intellectuals, or some are white collar workers and some are blue collar workers, or some people enjoy grits and some are wrong 😀

James says, “No!  It’s not like that!”

James says we can put this to the test.  You show me your faith without works and I will show you my faith by my works!

Now, this reads a bit funny. But, the point is that James is saying, “I will show you real faith by my works.”

This is not a “to each his own” situation. We all must have genuine faith, and that genuine faith will be lived out by faithful obedience to the Word of God.

When Jesus changes us, we are changed for real!  Amen?

The works prove the faith.

Illustration: Can you imagine an arrogant young man standing on a basketball court and exclaiming that he can make five out of five half-court shots?  Well, there’s an easy way to settle this, right?  Step right up big boy and actually hit the shots!  Let’s see what you can do!

In the same way, James says, it’s one thing to say that you have faith, but you don’t actually demonstrate genuine living faith until you show a changed life with godly living.

Talk is cheap!  Actions speak!

Oh how convicting this is for me, and I hope it is for you!  We must live changed lives!


Finally, James gives us . . .

IV. An Example of Demonic Faith (v. 19) [on screen]

This is such a powerful verse. Let’s turn back to the Word of God.  Look at verse 19.

19 You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe—and they shudder.

What are the implications of this verse for us?

Listen, church: saying that you believe in God is not enough; saying that you believe in Jesus is not enough; even believing that Jesus can save you from your sins is not enough. We must have real faith!

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

You must believe in your heart.

You must have real belief, and that real belief is demonstrated by a changed life.

Belief that God exists is not enough. The demons believe in God.

In case you didn’t know it, we don’t want our faith lives to be compared to that of demons!

There shouldn’t be anything else that we want to be more unlike than demons.

Merely saying that we believe in God, or even actually believing in God is not what we are called to.

We are called to surrender ourselves to God and His ways!

We are called to be disciples who follow after Jesus!

We are called to forsake everything else and pursue a life of faith!

We are called to give our very lives!

Saying we have faith is insufficient and incomplete.

Concluding Thoughts:

Illustration: One preacher said, “If you look at a tree with apples hanging from its limbs, you know it’s an apple tree. What is on the outside is evidence of what is on the inside.  That’s what James is saying. Fruit in our lives is evidence of faith in our hearts. And if there is no fruit, there is no faith.”

The faith that James describes here is worthless, dead, and even demonic. We should fear this kind of faith!

Are works required for us to come to faith in Jesus Christ?  NO!

If we have genuine faith, will it be accompanied by godly works?  YES!

We are compelled by the love of God in our hearts to show love to our brothers and sisters in the church, and we are compelled to show love to others.

Let’s look now at our bottom line:

Bottom Line: Live lives led by living faith.  [on screen]


We don’t want dead faith!  We don’t want worthless faith!  We want living, genuine faith!


Here now is our weekly challenge:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Ask yourself, “Is my faith dead or alive?”  [on screen]

Simple question.

Is that washing machine dead or alive?

Is that horse dead or alive?

Is your faith dead or alive?


Next . . .

  1. Write down five evidences of living faith[on screen]

How do you know if your faith is alive?

Write down some vital signs.

Challenge yourself here.


  1. Go live it[on screen]

Don’t be a pretender.

Don’t believe only in words: like the demons.

Live your faith!


Jesus’ great love changes our lives!

Have you been changed by Jesus?

Come to Him today!

Follow Him forever!

(Gospel Presentation)

Come let me know that you want to follow Jesus!

(Closing Prayer)

Closing Song: Take My Life, Lead Me, Lord


Tonight we are meeting for our Souper Bowl Soup Fellowship at 5:30 PM.  We’ll gather together and have some soup, fellowship, and a devotion and then be done by 6:30.

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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