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Epistle of James 2: 18-26 (NIV)
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”, and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
The Apostles’ Creed begins:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, …
To this point, somebody from any of the three monotheistic faiths might possibly give assent to this ancient Christian statement of belief. But if we then add, “God’s only Son, our Lord”, assent likely would cease.
We may believe in something but that does not necessarily entail putting full, unreserved trust in that thing. Consider the cry of the impure spirit which possessed a man in Capernaum’s synagogue on the Sabbath: “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1: 24). The impure spirit recognised Jesus, believed that Jesus was the Holy One of God but remained totally opposed to Jesus even though the impure spirit could not avoid Jesus’ absolute authority.
James made a similar point in the passage quoted above: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (verse 19).
Believing on its own is not enough. Returning to consideration of the Apostles’ Creed, we may believe Jesus to be “God’s only Son” but, if we have not accepted him as “our Lord”, we allow that there are other people or other things in our lives that take precedence over the lordship of Jesus Christ.
If Jesus is truly “our Lord”, then all that we think, say and do will be pleasing to him; it will be in total accord with his will for us, corporately and individually. Our faith in Jesus Christ, faith that is the inevitable consequence of having him as Lord of our lives, will manifest itself in words and deeds that are a testament to his love.
The Apostle Paul has taught of the need for such faith. He wrote to the Christians in Rome (10: 9), “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Paul recognised that it is the Holy Spirit living in us that enables us to have such faith: “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12: 3b).
We pray for the Holy Spirit’s indwelling always so that we may hold such faith and show it through our words and deeds.