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What Does James Mean When He Says “Faith Without Works is Dead”?

Core Christianity / Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier
The Truth Network Radio
June 9, 2022 6:30 am

What Does James Mean When He Says “Faith Without Works is Dead”?

Core Christianity / Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier

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June 9, 2022 6:30 am

Episode 985 | Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier answer caller questions.

Show Notes

Questions in this Episode

1. Should we treat nominal Christians as unbelievers or as members of the body?

2. Is requiring the King James translation only a form of legalism?

3. What does “faith without works is dead” mean? I’ve also heard some people interpret this as meaning that your faith in Jesus Christ isn’t useful to anyone if you don’t have works. I believe that we are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ and I’m confused about how “faith without works is dead” fits into that.

4. Can Christians join fraternal lodges that have secret rituals and rites?

5. How do we engage with those who say they’re Christians but live ungodly lives?

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Core Question – What’s the Difference Between Justification and Sanctification?

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What does James mean when he says faith without works is dead? That's just one of the questions we'll be answering on today's edition of CORE Christianity. Hi, this is Bill Meyer along with Pastor Adriel Sanchez, and this is the radio program where we answer your questions about the Bible and the Christian life every day. Our phone lines are open right now.

We'll be taking calls for the next 25 minutes or so. We'd love to hear from you. Here's our phone number.

It's 833-THE-CORE. That's 1-833-843-2673, and we're open to questions on pretty much any topic that has to do with the Christian faith, so give us a call. You can also post your question on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts, and you can email us with your question at First up today, here's a voicemail from one of our listeners named John. Hi, Pastor Adriel and Bill Meyer.

I just want to say enjoy the podcast. I want to follow up on a question you answered a couple days ago on someone who is caught in open sin. I think the specific question was relating to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. One thing I'm struggling with is how to put that scripture into practice in light of living in a nation that is incredibly nominal. I think it's over 50% of people in the United States of America profess to be Christians.

I don't know the percentage that actually attend church. So I'm wondering, would you distinguish between how to relate to maybe a believer in a church who is caught in open sin, won't repent, and say someone who's maybe a nominal Catholic or Protestant or Evangelical, whatever, and how would you kind of navigate those different areas? Do we approach that differently, or is it the same sort of like, shun, do not associate, so on and so forth?

Thanks. John, that's just an excellent, excellent question, and I would say that the answer is yes, we do approach that differently. Now the reason this is even a question again is because of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5, where he talks about judging those within the church. He says in verse 9, Those inside the church whom you are to judge, God judges those outside. Now, okay, so right there, I think what he says there, those inside the church, I would distinguish between, you know, nominal Christians or Catholics, people who don't go to church, really don't understand the gospel. And if you ask most people on this tree, because I think you're right, 50% of people say, yeah, I'm a Christian, I think that's what I believe, but if you ask those same people what is the gospel, they wouldn't be able to answer that question. Frankly, if you ask a lot of people in church that question, tragically, what is the gospel, they'd have a hard time answering that question. But I would distinguish between those individuals who I would still engage, and people outside of the church who are just nominal Christians, I would say, yeah, I want to spend time with that person.

I want them to understand what the gospel is and embrace it. So there's opportunity here, whereas I would see somebody different who's maybe a member in the church, in the church, a brother or sister in the church, they've taken the membership class, they've been a part of the worshiping community, and then all of a sudden they begin to drift further and further away and start to engage in sinful behavior very openly, very outwardly. That person, I think, is the person that Paul has in mind in 1 Corinthians 5, and in that situation, then he says, don't even eat with that person. And again, the idea here with this sort of distancing yourself from the individual is not to be cruel, is not to be cold. You're trying to help this person to see that they're living in a way that puts their soul in peril. I mean, you're in danger, spiritually speaking. What you're doing is destructive to yourself, to the people around you, and you don't see it. And I can't just continue to eat with you and hang out like everything's fine while you're diving headlong into sin and turning away from Jesus.

I just can't do that. And so that's why we do it. The hope with church discipline is always that restoration would come, that healing, that repentance would come. And so I would distinguish between someone in the church who's a member of the church who begins to live in this way, and in that case, distance yourself, Paul says. And I would distinguish that person from the person who's just a sort of nominal, you know, they say they're a Christian, but maybe that means that they went to church decades ago, or they asked Jesus into their heart at some conference or whatnot. But they really don't understand the gospel, have never been a part of the worshiping community, and just aren't Christians. They might say I'm a Christian, but it's very clear this person is not a believer. And in that situation, I would say, hey, let's engage that person.

Let's have them over for dinner. Let's spend time together to try to bring them into the church in truly understanding the gospel. And so thank you again, John, for your very thoughtful question. And may God give you wisdom as you engage the people around you in your life.

Great explanation. Thanks for that, Adriel. This is Core Christianity with Pastor Adriel Sanchez. We'd love to hear from you. If you have a question about the Christian life, maybe something that's going on in your personal life.

You're kind of trying to navigate how to walk it out, how to walk out your faith during your current circumstances. We'd love to hear from you. Here's the phone number. It's 1-833-843-2673.

That's 833-THE-CORE. Let's go to Greg calling in from Illinois. Greg, what's your question for Adriel?

Yes. We attend a Baptist church from our pulpit. The King James Bible is preached, but we are not a King James only church. We have also been involved in a Christian school, and our administrator this year was King James only, and there was just lots of strife because of that. And I just, I got questions about, seems like legalism to me that they're dealing with here.

Yeah, Greg. I mean, so there are Christians out there who think that the only translation that you can use is the King James Version of the Bible, the authorized version of the Bible, and they'll say it's the one that God preserved supernaturally for our use. And these other translations, they don't meet the same standard.

I mean, I disagree with that. I think ultimately, we believe that the original autographs, we say that the original writings of the apostles and prophets, they were inspired. And we have manuscripts of those, I mean, hundreds and thousands of manuscripts based off of the originals, and we do the work of what's called textual criticism to get a clear understanding of the biblical text, and I think we can be confident in the scriptures. There's different translations like the NIV, the NASB, the ESV, which is the one that I use, the New King James or the King James Version. They have different strengths and sometimes different weaknesses, but I think generally speaking, you're going to be okay with any one of those, and I think it's helpful to use different translations at times if you have a question.

Oftentimes, at least in the ESV that I use, for example, if there's a question of textual criticism or interpretation with regard to the manuscript evidence, there'll be a little footnote that you can look at there. I encourage people to use, if you're not going to study Greek and Hebrew and go to seminary and do all that, and I don't think that you have to in order to benefit from and read the scriptures and receive them as the authoritative word of God for you, but if you're not going to do that, I encourage people to use a handful of different translations as you're studying the Bible and you're digging into the scriptures, and I think that's a blessing that can be a benefit to you, but when people say, well, you have to use this one, this is the inspired version, I just think there's really no serious justification for that, and sometimes it can be legalism, Greg, and maybe an indication that there are other issues there with a church that also takes such a strong view on other translations. You have to use the King James Version of the Bible, and so, yeah, that would give me some cause for concern, and it sounds like it's given you some cause for concern as well. These are the kinds of things I think that we don't need to divide over. It's so unfortunate in the church. Oftentimes, we're not focused on the core doctrines of the Christian faith, but we're getting in arguments and dividing over, you know, well, you used the ESV, and that's a really big problem in my book, and so I think we just have to be careful here that we're not doing that, and that we're focusing on the main thing, and I hope that you will do that with your family, brother. Thank you for your question, and may the Lord bless you guys.

Great question. Thank you so much for calling in. This is Core Christianity with Pastor Adrian Sanchez. Summer vacation is here for a lot of kids, and families will be on the road, and families looking for something to do, and we actually have a great idea to help your kids get into the Bible this summer.

Yeah. As you plan trips with your family this summer, be sure to continue to go to the Lord, to continue to study scripture even as you're taking a break from work and getting away, maybe going to the beach or going to the mountains, and we made a brand-new resource for you to help you get into the Word and to encourage each other as a family. It's called Ten Verses to Memorize as a Family This Summer. It's a free resource that doesn't just give you important verses, I think, of the Bible for you to memorize with your family, but also gives you some explanation of those verses, thinking through what they mean for us, why it's important for us to memorize these texts of scripture, and so get ahold of this resource. Again, it's free, and it's over at So should we do it from the King James, thus saith the Lord, or should we do it from another verse? I mean, if you want it to sound real fancy, the King James, I mean, that's how you know you're really serious when it comes to prayer, as you're saying, you know, using the old King James English.

Yeah, that's right, that's right, yes. Okay, you can find that by going to forward slash offers and look for Ten Verses to Memorize as a Family This Summer. Great, wonderful free resource for you. We'd love to get into your family's hands this summer, so please take advantage of that. Well, we do receive voicemails and emails here at Core Christianity, and you can feel free to leave us a voicemail anytime or email us.

Here's an email we received from one of our listeners named Hunter. He says, What does faith without works is dead mean? And I've heard some people interpret this as meaning that your faith in Jesus Christ isn't useful to anyone if you don't have works. I believe we are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, and I'm confused about how faith and works is dead fits into that. You're right that we are saved by grace through faith. I mean, that's what the Apostle Paul says very clearly in Ephesians chapter two. You said that some people say, well, you know, when you say I have faith, but I don't have works, it's basically useless for everybody else around you.

I mean, that's kind of the point that James is making in James chapter two. In the beginning of verse 14, he says, What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? Can that kind of faith, you know, the kind of faith that is just empty, if you will, no works, doesn't change a person? If a brother or sister, he goes on to say, is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled without giving them the things needed for the body.

What good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Then he goes on to say in verse 26, actually, For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. Now, I think the way I unpack this is works are different from faith. I mean, in fact, actually, if you just think of verse 26, you know, where James draws this analogy between faith and works and the body and the spirit, we're talking about two different things here. Faith is not works.

And one of the big problems, I think, out there in the church today is that people confound those two things. They talk about faith as if it was a work, which at the end of the day undermines the very gospel. We're not saved by our works, but saving faith, true faith in Jesus Christ, shows itself as true faith by works. You know, when we believe in Jesus Christ, we receive him for our justification.

Faith is not a work. It's an empty hand that receives the grace of God freely. It's a gift of the Holy Spirit. But that free gift that we receive, right, the spirit of God living inside of us, justification, that spirit, the Holy Spirit is going to continue to work in us, both to transform our wills, both so that we would work to serve the Lord. And that's what's happening in the Christian life. We call it sanctification. And so there's no contradiction, I think, between James and Paul, the apostle Paul, who makes it very clear that we're justified by faith alone.

I think James is talking about essentially not justification before God, but the way other people around, you know, our brothers and sisters showing forth the legitimacy of our faith. You know, we got a question earlier, somebody calling in about nominal Christianity, you know, people who just say, oh, yeah, I believe in Jesus. But their faith in Christ really doesn't, I mean, you can't tell they believe in Jesus.

Nothing has changed. That's a serious problem. And I would say that that's just not true faith. That's not a real understanding of who Jesus is and what he's done for you, because true faith does exhibit itself in works, in a life gripped by the grace of God. Of course, we, you know, we still sin every day and thought word and indeed, we're never sinless this side of heaven, but we are growing in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ and God promises to work in us and to sanctify us. And so that's the reality for the justified. And I think that's what James is getting at in James chapter two. Thanks for that question.

Very helpful explanation. Thanks so much for that, Adriel. This is Core Christianity with Pastor Adriel Sanchez. Our phone lines are open if you have a question about the Bible or the Christian life.

Maybe you have some doubts about the Christian faith or maybe you're struggling in some way. We are more than happy to take your call. Here's the number. 833-THE-CORE.

That's 1-833-843-2673. Let's go to Paul in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Paul, what's your question for Adriel?

Hi, Adriel. My question has to do with fraternal organizations like the Masonic Lodge. There's a particular person in my Bible study that's part of a group called the Odd Fellows. So I was just curious if by any chance if you knew anything about this group, if it would be considered as dangerous as the Masonic Lodge, that a Christian maybe shouldn't be involved in it, if you knew anything about it. But I realize that you may not know too much about it as I'm having a hard time finding information on it.

Hey, Paul. Thank you for that question. I think that I would say two things about these kinds of organizations. One, with regard to the Freemasons, I've heard people say, well, boy, they're all about doing good and acts of charity and service and even this idea of a higher power. So in that sense, aren't they good is just kind of the similar thing to Christianity or fits right in line with Christianity.

But my concern is when you have organizations that just are this sort of nebulous spirituality, do good and yes, there's a higher power. Let's derive some principles from the Bible, from Scripture. All of us are kind of worshiping the same God in different ways. I think it comes off as relativizing the truth because Christianity isn't just about morality and doing good and believing in a higher power.

It's about the God who has broke into human history, if you will, to redeem his people in a very specific way by sending his son into the world to die for our sins so that we might have eternal life. And apart from that message, the message of the gospel, we're lost. And so any organization, I think, that relativizes that message or says, well, that's not the most important thing, I would have serious concerns with that. Are we focused on individually in our own lives as Christians on the truth of God's word and of the gospel?

Are we receiving God's word as it's meant to be received as God's authoritative revelation for us that should direct our steps and guide our lives? And so that's the first thing and one concern that I have with organizations like this. The other piece is, first and foremost, we love our families. God has called us to love our families. And then the local church, this body that we're a part of united to brothers and sisters in Christ through holy baptism, through the blood of Jesus.

And that's the other thing that I'm not saying it's a problem with being a part of your bowling league or whatnot, that kind of thing. But I wonder if for some people, association with these kinds of groups and societies doesn't take precedent over even their Christian faith. And again, part of that gets back to the relativizing of a minimizing of the truth of scripture, of the centrality of the gospel, of the importance of the local church. And so those are the questions that I would have for an individual is what is your focus?

And who are you primarily as a believer when united to Jesus Christ, a part of the body of Christ? Those are, I think, some of the key questions to ask. But as you say, there's a lot of mystery associated with these groups.

And I just personally, I mean, would avoid it. And so I appreciate your question. Hope that you can have some good conversations with this brother who's in your Bible study, maybe get some more insight.

And at the end of the day, what you want to do for the both of you is just be rooted in the scriptures and have that be the priority, the priority of the gospel and growing together in the body of Christ. Thanks for that, Adriel. This is Core Christianity and our phone line is open. If you've got a call, got a question about the Christian life or how to walk in the faith on a daily basis, here's the phone number. It's 833-THE-CORE. By the way, we're going to be recording a second program today after our live program ends.

So you actually have about thirty five minutes or so. If you got a question, weren't able to call in during the live show, feel free to call in during the next thirty five minutes at 833-843-2673. 833-THE-CORE.

Let's go to Johnny in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Johnny, what's your question for Adriel? Well, I kind of have a problem with you've kind of addressed this, you know, but I just wanted your input on what you felt about this. People saying that they're Christians and that they're eternally secure, but they don't act like Christians. They just do whatever they want to. They say, well, I can do what I want to because I'm secure.

And I just wanted your feelings about these people saying they're secure and they don't even act like they're Christian. Yeah, it's a huge problem, Johnny. And you're right, we've talked about it a little bit, but it's such a big issue.

I think that's one of the reasons that it keeps on coming up. And there is this sort of false theology out there of this, I don't know what you mean, easy believism. You sort of make a decision for Jesus and you get your fire insurance and then you go and live however you want. And, you know, you die and boy, you're getting to heaven just because you accepted Jesus into your heart, even though you lived in rebellion to him your entire life. And so I would say if a person truly believes in Jesus Christ, they have eternal life. John says that in 1 John 5. When we believe, we receive Christ for our justification.

That's not something that's undone that God takes away. The issue is I think there are a lot of people who think they believe or say they believe, but it's just sort of what we might call a historical faith. They believe in Jesus like they believe that Abraham Lincoln existed. They're not trusting in Christ for their justification and the forgiveness of their sins. And the evidence of that is they just love their sins still. They don't care about Jesus. They're looking for, you know, some kind of a ticket to heaven, that kind of a thing, but they could care less about who Christ is, what Christ has done to put away their sins. Instead, they're just going to continue living the way that they want to live and maybe trying to use Jesus. Well, Jesus is not going to be used in that way.

He came to serve us and to save us, and he washes us from our sins. And should we continue in sin that grace may abound, Paul says in Romans chapter 6, by no means. Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 says, Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you, he says to the Corinthians, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. As Christians, we're going to continue to struggle with sin throughout our entire life. And it's obvious, you read the book of 1 Corinthians, I mean, yes, Paul can say to them, such were some, you used to be some of these things, but they continued to struggle.

He says that they're fleshly. They had these divisions within the church in Corinth. There were these issues of sexual sin, sexual immorality. So there were significant issues, but there's a struggle because the Spirit of God lives in us and convicts us of sin and is drawing us closer to Jesus, to God through the word. And so, you know, I think we want to be vigilant.

We want to be wise here. And we're talking to somebody who's just saying, Oh yeah, I believed in Jesus, but I, you know, live however I want. I think we challenged that and say, is that what it means? When you say, I believe in Jesus, what do you mean by that? Who is Jesus?

What did Jesus do for you? I think that's so key. I think that that's so important. And so when we miss that, I think many people are led astray and they're led to believe that they can reject Jesus their entire life. But maybe they said a prayer at some point and everything is going to be fine. No, they're in for a rude awakening, so we call them to repentance and to true faith to receive Christ for salvation and for the forgiveness of their sins. When you contact us, please let us know how you've been encouraged by this program and be sure to join us next time as we explore the truth of God's word together.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-07 09:16:25 / 2023-04-07 09:26:41 / 10

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