Vol.IX No.VII Pg.3
September 1972

Faith Made Perfect

Dan S. Shipley

Not all faith is saving faith, as the Bible clearly illustrates. John writes of certain Pharisees who believed on Jesus but would not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue (Jn. 12:42). Through James, God informs us of a faith that is without works (2:14-26) and calls it a dead faith. Dead, not in the sense of being non-existent, but in the sense of being non-productive. In v.19 this kind of faith is likened to the faith of demons: Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well, the demons also believe, and shudder. The demons do believe— even to the point of trembling— but not to the point of obedience. So, no matter who owns it or why, God teaches that this faith without works is a demon-like faith.

In addition to being dead, this demon faith is without profit because it is nothing more than words without deeds. Its worthlessness is illustrated in v. .15, 16 where it offers mere words to those who desperately need food and clothing. Words of comfort and encouragement are appropriate at times, but not when offered as a substitute for deeds. Like, for instance, when the ladies visitation committee came calling on a sick sister. Marching right through her unkempt house, past the dirty dishes and unmade beds, past the piles of dirty clothes they came to her bedside where all chatted for a few minutes (mostly with each other), then excused themselves with these comforting words: We do hope you get better— be sure and call if theres anything we can do for you!. With that they marched out to minister elsewhere. What doth it profit??

What is the profit in a faith that is not functional and that cannot be demonstrated? . .show me thy faith apart from works, and I by my works will show thee faith. (v.18). Works show faith; what one does (or fails to do) is a reflection on what he believes. This is clearly demonstrated in the case of the Thessalonians who became ensamples to all believers in sounding forth the word of the Lord. Of them Paul says, in every place your faith to God-ward is gone forth... (1 Thess. 1:8). They showed their faith! So did Abraham: Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect. (Jas. 2:22). The faith that was reckoned for righteousness in Abraham (Rom. 4) was made perfect (i.e. complete) by works. If Abrahams faith was incomplete without works, how much more the faith of others? No, Paul and James do not contradict. When James teaches justification by works he speaks of works that proceed from faith. When Paul teaches justification by faith he speaks of faith that is accompanied by good works. This is the faith that worketh by love, Gal. 5:6.

In view of this, it should be remembered that the demon-like faith of Jas. 2 can never be saving faith. The faith that blesses, saves and justifies is always Abrahamic faith; the kind that is made complete by works. Such is the faith to be rewarded with eternal life in Jn. 3:16 and through which salvation comes by the grace of God in Eph. 2:8. Saving faith and good works are interdependent and inseparably bound by Divine truth. God bids, show me thy faith.