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Autopsy of a Dead Faith

June 7, 2012

My wife and I do not watch tons of television at home, but one of our favorite genres of television programs is the crime drama. At the opening of virtually every episode of every television crime drama is the discovery of a body. During the show they always take the body to the morgue so the medical examiner can determine the cause of death. To do this, the medical examiner performs what is commonly called an autopsy. In its most simple terms, an autopsy seeks to determine why the person is dead. In the following text, James writes about a faith that is as dead as the bodies on those crime shows. He does not just tell us that there is a faith that is dead; he describes it so we can see what makes it a dead faith.

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works. (James 2:14-26, New Living Translation)

I believe James identifies three characteristics of a dead faith. Next week, I will identify and share a few brief thoughts on those.

Do you see the same three characteristics as me? Comment below.


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