True Faith’s Top Benefit James 2:14-26

Can my faith save me?


That’s the heart-stopping question James asks in this week’s passage.

Now, don’t be confused. James believes that faith is central to our salvation. Look back at James 2:1, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (my italics). We are saved by faith, as Paul says.

But James wants to uncover the false faith that might be hiding under all our faith talk. Why is true faith harder than false? Because it’s costly.

But the benefits are mind blowing.

True Faith Benefits Those Around Me

To help us see both the costs and the benefits clearly, James gives us 4 examples to consider–two positive and two negative.

  1. the needy brother who isn’t helped (2:15-16)
  2. the believing demon who isn’t comforted (2:19)
  3. the sacrificing father who receives back his son (2:21-23)
  4. the courageous harlot who rescues the spies (2:25)

James knows that we learn from both negative and positive examples. What doesn’t true faith look like? What does it look like?

There’s another dimension to his examples, however. Commentator Alec Motyer points out that true faith is beneficial in two directions–both towards God and towards man.

Take the horizontal examples of 1 & 4. The poor brother or sister is given words of blessing, but no tangible help. He leaves the encounter just as cold and hungry as when he came. Contrast with the two spies. They came to Rahab tired, hungry, and needing refuge. Her faith provided them with safety, provision, counsel, and ultimately success in their mission.

True faith is very costly, but very fruitful. It helps people.

True Faith and the Vertical Benefits

In examples 2 & 3 James turns to the vertical dimension of our faith. True faith is costly, taking God seriously by submitting to his will. But true faith also gives astonishing benefits.

The demons know and believe the facts about God. They can recite any creed you throw at them. But they will never willingly submit to God’s rule. Does their faith bring them freedom and joy–in a word, save them? No. They tremble. God is their judge, not their savior.

Abraham, on the other hand, not only believes God (Genesis 15:6), but submits to God’s will, as it was revealed to him verbally in a dream (Genesis 22:1-14). His costly action–taking Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him–shows not just that he believes God exists, but that he obeys, trusting God to be good and faithful to his promises.

What was the benefit of his costly faith? Isaac’s deliverence? God’s faithfulness proved? Yes and yes. But even more than that

“…and he was called a friend of God.” James 2:23

True faith is costly. But true faith brings the greatest benefit–the pinnacle of our salvation.

Friendship with God.

True Faith At the Cross

There was another time a father was asked to sacrifice his son. Would God provide a lamb at the last minute to spare this son, too?

No, this Son was the Lamb. This Father had to suffer the unspeakable anguish Abraham was spared. There was another time a father was asked to sacrifice his son.

Why did these two have to suffer this great cost? For us. To purchase all of our benefits–a salvation that doesn’t stop at forgiveness, but goes on to make us friends with God.

The eternal friendship between the Father and the Son was broken so that you and I could enter the circle of their love.

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