by the Rev. Larry Wilson
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
"Talkative" faith—faith that's all talk ("someone says he has faith") and no walk ("but does not have works") is not saving faith ("Can that faith save him?"). No. Instead, it's like cheap talk. "If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?"
Taking our cue from the Golden Rule, turn this around. What if you are such in dire straits that you finally swallow your pride and go to your well-heeled brother for help? What if he's in a position to help with ease, but instead he says, "I really feel for you. I hope it all works out. Best of luck to you," and then he shuts the door in your face? "What good is that?" No good at all!
"So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." Genuine saving faith will always be accompanied by corroborating works. Accordingly, if you don't have the fruits, then you don't have the roots. Equally, if you do have the roots, then you will have the fruits.
The reason is that the absence of fruit is evidence that the heart is unchanged, unregenerated. Consider this exchange between Talkative and Faithful from Pilgrim's Progress:
TALKATIVE. I thought we should have had a great deal of talk by this time.
FAITHFUL. Well, if you will, we will fall to it now; and since you left it with me to state the question, let it be this: How doth the saving grace of God discover [evidence] itself when it is in the heart of man?
TALK. I perceive, then, that our talk must be about the power of things. Well, it is a very good question, and I shall be willing to answer you. And take my answer in brief, thus: First, Where the grace of God is in the heart, it causeth there a great outcry against sin. Secondly…
FAITH. Nay, hold, let us consider of one at once. I think you should rather say, It shows itself by inclining the soul to abhor its sin.
TALK. Why, what difference is there between crying out against and abhorring of sin?
FAITH. Oh, a great deal. A man may cry out against sin [as a matter] of policy, but he cannot abhor it but [except] by virtue of a godly antipathy against it. I have heard many cry out against sin in the pulpit who yet can abide it well enough in the heart, house, and conversation [behavior]. Joseph's mistress cried out with a loud voice, as if she had been very holy; but she would willingly, notwithstanding that, have committed uncleanness with him. Some cry out against sin even as the mother cries out against her child in her lap, when she calleth it slut and naughty girl, and then falls to hugging and kissing it.
TALK. You lie at the catch, I perceive. [I see you asked a trick question to trap me.]†
There's nothing tricky or entertaining about it. Your eternal destiny is at stake. Are you born again?
† John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (Oxford World's Classics paperback, 2003 edition), pp. 79–80
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