Saving Faith Defined
James, Paul and all great teachers in churches agree on the three elements of authentic faith. God-given faith includes content, assent, and commitment:
Content: The gospel message focuses on the person and work of Jesus Christ. He carried out the Father’s will in His earthly ministry in dependence on the Holy Spirit. The eternal Son of God also became fully man. He lived without sin, died on the cross for our salvation and was buried. He was resurrected three days later. He ascended and sends the Spirit to indwell believers, and He will come again.
Assent: New life empowers our assent in the content, “I agree the gospel is true. The triune God worked salvation for me!” New creatures in Christ commit to this assent through faith. They follow Jesus to become like Him through the Spirit. Authentic faith is God-given faith. God reveals the content of our faith and generates new life to agree with and live by what is true. Does this truly describe your life?
Commitment: Have you woken up to the reality of moral filth James describes? The overwhelming sights, sounds and smells of suffering, death, devastation and loss are everywhere. James says believers overcome moral pollution by being consumed with the glory of Jesus. Believers’ greatest goal is sharing this truth – Jesus saves! Commitment to long-term, self-sacrificing, loving service to our neighbors is required.
Saving Faith Demonstrated
James echoes Jesus’ teaching to believers from the Sermon on the Mount. James’ words cut to the heart. Since the Spirit gives truth and guidance for becoming Christlike, James calls believers to act. In these verses, James urges readers to, “take note, be quick, be slow, get rid of, and to humbly accept.” Consider how doing God’s Word in God’s way in the following three areas brings about humility, impartiality and compassion:
Controlled speech: James teaches the value of speech like no other biblical writer. James had denied and ridiculed Jesus Christ’s claim to be God until after Jesus’ resurrection (1). So, James knew words could cause much suffering. Here, he gives a simple equation – words spoken in anger never produce God’s righteousness. Jesus warned that angry words prove murderous desires are at work in our hearts (2).
Righteous life: How are we to live? God calls believers to “get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent.” God’s Word exposes our problem with moral corruption. God also offers the solution – turn to Him in faith for cleansing from sin. James says the Bible works like a mirror. It shows us our true condition. If believers see their sin without turning from it through God’s power, they act as fools of a worthless religion.
Believers are also to resist entering into sin or enjoying any aspect of its presence in the world. This command calls for honesty and responsibility. Believers cooperate with the Spirit and obey God’s Word to help others and to resist sin. This cooperation makes it possible to “keep oneself” from being polluted by the world.
Care of the needy: Faith is “true religion” when believers enter into others’ suffering to give the love of Christ. This sacrificial investment for God’s glory is how Christ came for us. Orphans and widows represent the lowest ranks within greedy societies. When we care for the truly needy, nothing can be expected from them in return.
The terms translated “religious” and “religion” in 1:26-27 refer to reverence or fear of God shown through our conduct. God sees the motives of our hearts. He sees authentic faith – “true religion” – at work whenever believers express their heartfelt joy for their salvation through acts of service.
When believers joyfully submit to God, they are not deceived. God is God, and His people are grateful and dependent on Him for life. Their relationship becomes increasingly evident in their words, temperament, integrity and priorities to serve others, especially the needy.
1.James’ series of commands challenges believers to live out their faith. Which commands capture your attention, and why?
2. How is Bible study affecting your attitudes and actions in circumstances you are facing this week?
3.Which of James’ words about prayer expand your understanding and motivate change?
1 James’ unbelief: John 7:5
2 Angry words: Matthew 5:21-22