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The Price of Profit (James 2:14-17)
Sermon Notes
Sunday, 30 March 2014 00:00


03-30-2014 The Price of Profit James 2:14-17

Review: James has just concluded his second subsection under the “swift to hear” section of the body of his letter (Note the outline and bicycle illustration on the back). He did so with a reference to the Judgment Seat of Christ (2:12-13) and the exhortation to speak and act in light of that coming day of accountability. He especially encouraged us to show mercy to others so that the Lord may be free to show us mercy on that future day. Next note that the “slow to speak” section (3:1-18) begins with a reference to the Christian teacher’s stricter standard for judgment at the Judgment Seat of Christ (3:1). In light of these contextual facts, would we not expect James to also be referring to us living in light of that coming day of accountability in 2:14-26?

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Our Christian walk will not be profitable if we do not apply the truth we have believed.

1. James’ Crucial Question (2:14)

Remember, James is a book about the walk of the Christian, not the way one receives eternal life.

14 What does it profit, my brethren, 16 what does it profit? Will my Christian life be lived in such a way that it is profitable both for others in the here-and-now, and for me, from an eternal perspective?

James asks a leading question that expects a negative answer in 2:14b, and it could be translated as follows: “Faith cannot save him, can it?” (The implied answer: “No.”)

How does James’ statement here in James 2 square with Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2, where Paul states that we are saved by faith and not by works?

In Ephesians 2 Paul is referring to salvation/deliverance from being a spiritually dead person to being made alive with Christ (2:5), which is by grace through faith, not of works (2:8-9).

James is referring to a believer’s faith in the implanted/inborn Word of God, and his message is that we must apply the Word (do it, obey it, add works to our faith) if our lives are to be saved from the deadly effects of sin, from loss of fellowship, blessing and ultimately eternal rewards.

James is not questioning whether or not their faith is “real” faith. He is questioning how their Christian lives will become profitable if they do not add works to that faith.

2. James’ Case in Point (2:15-16)

Just as there is no economic profit without work, neither is there spiritual profit as God’s child without adding works to our faith. Just as there was no profit, advantage or gain for our needy brother or sister, nor will there be profit for us. Jesus will say, “Well done,” not “Well believed,” to rewardable believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ! Just as when we figure a business’s profit and loss sheet, we are talking about real money, so also James’ readers have real faith and the question at hand is one of profit and loss, both now and at the future Bema.

James’ Conclusion (2:17)

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. It is not going to be profitable.

Does a dead faith mean a fake faith? Is a dead battery a fake battery? Is a dead person a fake person? To say something is dead implies that it was once alive and active. To revitalize and make faith profitable again, add works! That requires a price in terms of time and effort, etc. Eternal life is free, but as believers, our work (doing the Word) is required to gain the profit of a “Well done, you were a faithful servant in this case” at the Judgment Seat of Christ.






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