James 2:26 is one of the most misunderstood texts in the bible, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (NKJV).
This verse is often a reminder of the fear that permeates many of the professed Christian churches. I have heard many sincere ministers counsel their church members that the good news of justification means nothing if it does not inspire obedience to the laws of God. This type of thinking leads to guilt and frustration instead of grace and peace. The good news of the gospel is that salvation is free for those who admit their imperfection and accept the perfection of Christ on their behalf. Genuine faith produces actions consistent with these Christian beliefs.
I had a science teacher who would ask questions to the entire class during review for a test. He would ask a question from the text book, look out over the classroom, and wait for a response. His favorite response to the student who attempted to answer the question was, “Would you bet your life on it?” This caused many of my classmates to second guess their answers. By asking this question the instructor taught a lesson that many will never forget: You don’t genuinely know something unless you are willing to stake your life on the answer. As faith-filled Christians we have staked our eternal destiny on what we know is the truth.
Christians who claim they believe in the free gift of salvation do not go around claiming others are not Christians for failing to measure up to a particular standard of righteousness. Christians who believe in the merits of Christ as their only means for salvation are not anxious and worried about salvation. A professed Christian who stands in constant judgment over the salvation of other Christians are by their actions revealing they do not truly believe in salvation as a free gift.
When my wife cooks a meal, I have faith that she did not slip some poison into the food. I know that belief is genuine because I don’t think twice about eating the meal. If I claim to believe the food is safe, but feel anxious about eating it, then my faith can be brought into question. James is not saying that we have to live up to a certain standard of righteousness to prove our faith, but He is reminding us that our actions need to be consistent with our beliefs.
What does God expect of those who claim Him as Lord and Savior? “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent’” (John 6:28-29).
If someone accused you of believing the free gift of Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Do you only know about Jesus, or do you have genuine trust in Him as savior of your eternal life? Are you merely hoping for salvation at the second coming of Jesus, or are you positive that your name is already written in the book of life? Would you bet your eternal life on accepting the free gift of salvation, or are you holding back? If the demons are trembling at their fate, then why shouldn’t we be full of the grace and peace of Jesus Christ?