2019-9-01 The Evidence of Living Faith

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          September 1, 2019

“The Evidence of Living Faith”
James 2:14-17

As we continue in our punctuated sermon series through James, entitled The Wise Life, we come to a place where the Lord, through James, His inspired penman, asks in effect for evidence for living faith in Him.  Before we address that issue, we do well to ask in general, “What is evidence?”  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines evidence either as an outward sign or as something that furnishes proof.[1]  In the practice of law, evidence takes two forms: direct (evidence obtained by observation) and circumstantial (evidence inferred from things observed).  The Lord’s claim in this text—and onward to the end of the chapter—is that works constitute the evidence that a person has living Christian faith.  Let’s examine this further after the reading of God’s holy Word in this place today.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

What good is a claim to Christian faith without accompanying works?  This is James’s Spirit-led question, ca. A. D. 45-48.  This question presents itself in every age—including our own.  James, led by the Lord, follows his question with a hypothetical example.  A brother or sister (that is, a fellow Christian) is poorly clothed and lacks daily food.[2]  A professing Christian responds to this presenting need in the following manner, “Go in peace.  Be warmed for yourself, and eat your fill,” yet provides nothing to foster these things in the needy.  The needy may feel temporarily cheered, and may receive further hope for provision for some other quarter, yet they remain under-clothed and under-fed.  The example now ended, James asks a second time, “What advantage is it?”  What does such a response from the well-supplied profit the ill-supplied?  The answer, unexpressed here, is, “No advantage.”  Then the Lord, through James, brings the big idea home: Faith, by itself, without works, is dead.  Such as so-called faith is not a living faith, because the Lord has declared it to be dead.  Such a faith is not a true faith, because works must accompany and follow faith.  If works be habitually absent, then saving faith well may be absent also.

The reverse is also true: Works themselves do not save.  The Protestant reformers, time and again, cried, “Sola fide”—“By faith alone.”  Works, in themselves, are in so sense meritorious toward our salvation.  Our salvation is by grace, through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Yet works are everywhere evidentiary for the Christian believer.  That is, they display living faith in Christ.  First, they do this to our own souls.  We behold works pleasing to God coming from us—and we marvel that we even do them, when once we hated them, and we marvel that God draws from us works of such blessing to others and delight to ourselves.  Second, these works testify to believers in Christ, both known and unknown to us.  They receive blessing from these works, to be sure, but the recipients of these works testify that they are done in the Name and in the power of the Lord.  Third, these works testify to a skeptical, often hostile, yet watching, world.  Those not in Christ—and, hence, under the dominion of a world system estranged from God and hostile to Him—do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit to testify that our works are from God.  Rather, because of the Lord’s general providence, even unbelievers have a lingering sense of what is good—and, when Christians do the good, they can at least acknowledge it, and at times they will rejoice in it.

Because God is good, He does good (Psalm 119:68).  Therefore, let us trust in the Lord and do good also (Psalm 37:3).  For now, let us leave no physical heed here present at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church—and, by extension, in the wider Church as we have ability—unmet.  For more specific examples and forms of good, listen to the next sermon in this series—likely to occur next week.

AMEN.

[1] The Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evidence (accessed August 30, 2019).

[2] The Greek word here translation poorly clothed (gumnos [gumnoV]) literally means naked—and it is the root of our English words gymnastics and gymnast.