PENTECOST 15 (PROPER 18), SEPTEMBER 5, 2021 Theme: Saving faith in Christ
Text: James 2:1–10, 14–18 Other Lessons: Isaiah 35:4–7a; Psalm 146; Mark
In the Name of the Father…Amen.
The Epistle Reading serves as our sermon text for today.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray:
Forgive me, Lord, for looking at the face and not the heart. May Your name,
spoken over me in my Baptism, be glorified in my life as I serve Your
Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God the Father through our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Never judge a book by its cover.”
“Treat all people with fairness, equality, and justice, no matter their
social or economic standing.”
“Do not act as the broken, unbelieving world does.”
That is how James starts out in the Epistle today.
Truth be told, we transgress these codes of Christian conduct all the time.
Much sorrow, hurt, and sadness ensue.
We are constantly prone to make snap judgments about the people around us,
based on their outward appearances and what we perceive them to be
saying—if we’re listening at all.
Time is such a precious commodity, and we simply don’t want to invest our
energies to dig really deep, understand our neighbors’ needs, become
involved, and get straight to the heart of the problems (or joys) that
We “faithful” Chris-tians have too many perplexing challenges of our own to
And we rely on our faith.
Yes . . . that’s it (or so we think): our “faith” ultimately will carry us
through, even if we look the other way along life’s journey amidst our
neighbors (Luke 10:31–32).
But James aptly reaches in and breaks up this cozy self-assuredness,
bluntly asking a really tough self-examination question about such a
“faith,” absent of the confirming evidence of good works: “What good is it
Such a “faith” as this—faith without good works, operating chiefly within
the realm of your interior—is not good for your neighbor.
Many of your neighbors are overlooked because they don’t display those
characteristics that attract your attentive favor verses 1–4.
Playing favorites based on outward appearances is the way of the world.
The foreigner and the disabled Mark 7:24–37 are often the last people we
“see” living in our midst, because we assume they can’t do anything for us.
We frequently seek a quid pro quo! You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours!
God never practices such selfish favoritism (1 Corinthians 1:27–29), and he
expects the same of those who fear, love, and trust in him above all things
(cf Leviticus 19:15).
The Lord calls upon us to Repent of such behavior !
What markers in your life point to faith in and worship of celebrity fame
What fantasies do you entertain that “life would be so much better” if only
you could “live like them” or gain from a relationship with those who have
prestige, possessions, influence, power, or money?
In whom or what do you place your confidence, other than the work of
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Repent!
B. “Is this your ‘faith,’ absent as it is of God-pleasing works?”
James asks of Christians everywhere and at all times (not just those of
congregations dispersed among the Gentiles of the first century) this
Without the inescapable evidence:
the good works that inevitably emerge and accompany a genuine faith that
grasps the Gospel of Christ alone for forgiveness, life, and salvation
then what good is that kind of “faith” verses 15–16?
Faith with no evidence is a false, dead faith:
and don’t let anyone offer you the comforting lie that such a dead faith
counts for anything. In fact,
2. In the end, such a dead, good-works-absent “faith” will be of no benefit
to you verse 14, 17; Matthew 7:21; 25:41–46.
Such a dead faith is simply not compatible with the identity:
the new life of the resurrected Christ
bestowed on you at the baptismal font,
where, by divine grace, you became an adopted child of God, a brother of
James, the brother of the Lord Jesus.
A dead, inactive faith disavows the unity of Christ’s living body, now sent
into the world to reflect the Savior’s love, a “love to the loveless shown
That they might lovely be” (LSB 430:1; cf verses 8–9).
Such a false, dead faith cannot stand up to the judgment of God, because
once the Law is broken at one point, it is broken on all points (verse 10).
What counts is genuine, living, active faith:
faith continuing at work in the present time among the faithful through
love (Galatians 5:6). And this,
3. The faith of Christ (his faithfulness to his goal, his faithful
fulfillment of the Law on your behalf) and your genuine faith in him (faith
in the Gospel, faith bestowed by him) triumph over sin and death and bring
forth fruit God desires in works pleasing to him.
Christ is the icon, the pattern, of God’s grace and love in mercy,
especially to those whom the world considers to be out-siders and
worthless, for you.
Jesus is the ultimate “outsider.”
“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” John 1:11.
He was made flesh to suffer rejection and humiliation, even to the point of
death on a cross, for you.
C. He is the one who fulfilled the royal law perfectly for you.
Verse 8 of our text declares:
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall
love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.
James pushes the refrain: “What good is it?”
What good is it if you were to keep the whole Law (as if that were
possible!) and yet commit just one sin?
What good is it when a lip-service-only faith is accompanied by nothing in
the way of active love or works of mercy toward one’s neighbor in need
We love being treated to eye-popping, heart-stopping performances in sports
arenas or concert halls.
But spectacular efforts can be ruined by just one instance of “falling
Over the course of a game, a pitcher can record 20 strikeouts or a
quarterback can throw for 450 yards—but nobody will remember such
accomplishments, if it was on the losing side because of the home run given
up or the interception thrown at the critical moment.
An opera can move us to goose bumps or even tears, but if the soprano
cracks on her high note in the climactic aria, the audience deflates and
that’s all we’ll be discussing at the exits.
When we realize we’ve “blown it completely” with not just one but an entire
catalog of sins:
and are sinking in the depths of utter despair and ruin
we turn to the one and only Savior, who has unconditionally loved us to and
through his cross to his desired end: forgiveness and eternal life.
Rejoice, dear saints of God, for Your Living, Saving Faith in Christ Will
Inevitably Overflow with His Good Works, and these works will be seen in
you, to the glory and praise of Christ’s holy name forever. Amen.
Let us pray:
By Your Spirit, grant me true faith, Lord, that Your name might be
glorified through me. Amen.
2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and
minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
In the Name of the Father…Amen.