The concept of faith is one that has been understood differently by individuals across the globe. The author of this article explores the concept in immense depth with reference to various views on the concept.1 writing of the article was sparked off by the publication of The Gospel According to Jesus, a document exploring the role of the gospel in bringing sinners to accept Christ’s authority in their lives through their actions.
This elicited different reactions from the reads of its contents. Most of the critics’ views were dependent on the different perceptions people have of faith thus driving the author to analyze it deeper.1 One of the respondents, Corris viewed faith as a complete trust in Jesus Christ and not just a mental assent.2 instead of arguing whether faith is a belief or a mental assent, focus should be on the distinctiveness of faith and unbelief according to Scriptures.3 The scriptures provide answers to all questions about what true faith entails. According to McArthur, the epistles warned against the pretense exercised by believers in the churches in the name of true faith, yet their actions were vile.
In his writings, James stated that many believers can be fooled into thinking they have true faith when they do not. He taught that this is not merely the belief in Christ’s teaching and hope for eternal life. Faith should be evident through an individual’s actions.4 True salvation can only be achieved by grace and faith; these enable a believer to be obedient to the Scriptures and carry out good deeds.
1. McArthur, John F. “Faith According to the Apostle James.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 33, no.1 (1998): 13
2. McArthur, Faith, 14.
3. Ibid., 15.
4. Ibid., 16.
Many only listen but do not practice true faith. James discourages this by stating that hearing without obeying is self-deception. He describes such a person as one who looks at himself in a mirror and immediately forgets when he goes away.6 A person with faith pays attention and understands the teachings which he later applies to his life.7
He notes that achieving this is a difficult task for most believers. They know what is expected of them but are unable to carry this out. The church leaders have a responsibility of reminding them of the importance of practicing true faith and rewards that come with it. This motivates believers that when they fail, they can strive to maintain this faith according to Scriptures.8 This challenges both practicing believers and the non-believers that walking in faith is hard, but the challenges can be overcome. He wants against the proclamation of self righteousness by believers. They should not strive to perform religious ceremonies, liturgy, and rituals yet their hearts are vile. This is an insult t the true meaning of belief and a deception of the heart.9
5. McArthur, Faith, 17.
6. Ibid., 18.
7. Ibid., 19.
8. Ibid., 20.
9. Ibid., 21.
Religion is meaningless without genuine faith in the teachings it promotes. According to James, true religion is undefiled and pure; a religion; that is expressed through acts of kindness and love such as helping orphans and the needy. In the book of James 2, he condemns those who practice wrong values.10
It is the ability to have and understand faith that sets us apart from other creatures. An individual who truly believes in Jesus Christ and Biblical teachings will be easy to differentiate from false believers through his actions. Through faith, a believer understands the supernatural existence of God which cannot be seen.11
James emphasizes on the need for active faith in order to acquire eternal salvation. When someone is in need, we should not merely console them with words but strive to help them; faith with action saves faith without action is dead.12 The author uses logical illustrations such as the fact that a man whose clothes are on fire believes water in the pool will put out the fire but, this is only exhibited when he decides to jump into the pool.
10. McArthur, Faith, 22.
11. Ibid., 23.
12. Ibid., 24.
13. Ibid., 25.
James urges believers to avoid being deceived by those who claim righteousness yet do not practice it.14 They should acknowledge the power of faith and be able to sacrifice all they have for the sake of it, just like Abraham and Rahab. His teachings were similar to Paul’s who also emphasized on the need for faith with actions. True faith should bear fruits.15
In the publication, Zane Hodges challenges beliefs based on James 2 that have existed for centuries. Hodges claims that warnings made by James in the Scriptures were not meant for the false believers but for the genuine ones to uphold their faith and not stray. The author argues against this view; James’ use of the word ‘brethren’ did not mean he directed his writings to believers only, but also to all who associated with the churches.16
Subsequently, Hodges claimed James wrote about temporal salvation aimed at saving a believer’s life and not the soul. This is contrary to several parts of the Scripture which focus on saving the soul through belief such as in 1 Peter 1:9 stating that the product of true faith is the salvation of the soul. In James’ writings, he speaks of the soul, and there exists no direct focus on the saving of one’s life only.17 Thirdly, Hodges argues on whether true faith can die through the use of the analogy in James 2:26. The comparison between faith to the body and works to the spirit is used to provide a clear illustration on the importance of nurturing a believer’s faith through his actions.18
14. McArthur, Faith, 26.
15. Ibid., 27.
16. Ibid., 29.
17. Ibid., 30.
18. Ibid., 31.
According to Lenski, James did not mean that faith cannot exist without works but that works make it grow. It already exists through the realization of Christ’s love and is nurtured by spreading the love to others. James does not intend to scare people but to make them understand the need for faith with action. His use of the phrase ‘dead faith’ served to convince his Jewish readers who perceived a corpse as a source of defilement, filth, and uncleanliness. This made them understand why it is crucial to avoid dead faith.
In his conclusion, the author acknowledges James’ ability to explore the issue of active and passive faith.19 He states that theology should not be built on the rituals but on faith as stated in the Scriptures. This faith should demonstrate a believer’s love for God and others. He criticizes the views of writers like Hodges who contradict the clear views of James.
19. McArthur, Faith, 32.
This article focuses on the concept of faith as an assurance of things believers hope for and a conviction for those not seen according to Hebrews 1:1. According to the author, it is the assurance that should form the foundation of believers’ actions. McArthur analyzes the need for faith through deeds with the belief that rewards will come to those who not only listen but act in obedience to the word and in showing compassion to others.
He explores the nature of false believers who proclaim faith yet commit evil deeds. According to him, there is no gain in deceiving oneself because true faith is evident through a believer’s actions and not words alone. He backs his view with several quotations from James’ epistles to the churches and other books in the Bible.
Through the use of familiar illustrations based on daily life activities, the author demonstrates the importance of active faith. This is evident through his elevator and swimming pool examples. He also compares the views of Paul and James on the issue of faith. He analyzes the views of other authors such as Zane Hodges, Lenski, and Michael Cocoris and compares them to his own vies thus achieving a comprehensive analysis. He clearly makes his stand on what he terms as true faith according to the book of James.
McArthur, John F. “Faith According to the Apostle James.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 33 (March 1990): 13-34