““I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5)
I brought up this scripture because I think it is the perfect illustration for faith and works. This scripture hits three main points that I will cover in this session.
1. Faith, abiding in God, trusting in Him, and believing in Him enables us to be saved by God. Through our salvation we become branches of the vine.
2. Favoritism, the branch cannot bear fruit unless it is part of the vine and the fruit cannot be produced if there is no branch to be produced from. The branch and the fruit are both vital; one cannot function without the other.
3. Fruit, the branch without fruit will be cut off. The purpose of a branch is to bear fruit.
There are three “F”s that break down faith and works, they are: faith, favoritism, and fruit.
Verses 2:14- 17
The first “F” is Faith.
Faith is belief in the word of God and acting upon it.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James2:14)
So the question he is asking is... can a branch that produces no fruit still be a part of the vine? The answer is clearly, no. The scripture in John 15 tells us that the branch that produces no fruit will be cut off.
James is referring to the person who claims to have faith but it is just “The empty name of boasted faith, contrasted with true fruit-producing faith.” This is the person who is only saying that they are saved or believer in Jesus Christ but have failed to apply that wisdom given through the Word and have not produced any fruit in their lives.
“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? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:15-17)
We are meant to be God’s instruments.
- In our compassionate hearts, as a result of applied wisdom in our lives, our faith becomes active. The person that has true faith actively seeks to be used as an instrument of God.
- Yet, the person that says be warmed and filled without giving them anything is a defective tool. In their ill-expression of God’s love, they are not exemplifying what Christian faith should look like! They are not seeking to be used by God and they are not seeking opportunities to do things for God. Their faith is inactive. It is lifeless. It isdead.
The second “F” is Favoritism.
God does not desire us to show favoritism with people and neither does he want us to show favoritism with faith and works either.
You cannot favor faith over works or works over faith. It is the same concept as a branch and fruit, they cannot function separately. You cannot grow the fruit without the branchas well as a branch that does not produce fruit is useless.
“But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” (James 2:18-20)
To separate faith and works is to favor one over the other; if they are not in unity then they lose their point.
For example, when you use latitude and longitude to find a specific location on the globe... you have to have the coordinates which requires a degree from both the latitude and longitude. Now, I myself am not some genius when it comes to understanding the ins-and-outs of geography and I won’t pretend that I am. However, I do know that there is no point found if latitude and longitude does not exist. You cannot find the point if you have latitude and no longitude and you cannot find a point if you have longitude but no latitude. The two cannot operate separately. Likewise, faith and works are useless and have no point if they are not in unity.
The third and final “F” is Fruit.
Fruit is the result of applied wisdom in the Christian process. Fruit is the evidence of a changed life, and it is shown by works. In a sense fruit = works.
In James 1:27, where it says that true religion is to, “Visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” This scripture wasn’t saying that the goal of true religion is met by doing good things and being a good person. No! In fact, that would mean that works are the goal of Christianity. What James is actually saying is that works are a result of meeting the goal of Christianity. The goal of Christianity is to be Christ-like, to share the good news, and Jesus’s love. It is to be a witness through your faith and to testify by our actions.
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:21-24)
Abraham was justified by God because of his faith in God. However, his faith became evident when he produced the evidence of faith by offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice. See, God always knew Abraham’s heart because God can see the true state of our faith. God wanted Abraham to demonstrate his faith through his works. Abraham produced the fruit that God desiredbecause he set an example of what faith looks like for generations to come.
“And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”(James 2:25-26)
Abraham was a Jewish, rich man with good reputation. Rahab was a gentile, poor woman with the reputation of a harlot. There could not be two people more opposite from each other. However, they both produced the fruit that comes from active faith and God viewed them in the same righteous light. What a beautiful thought. They were both branches of the vine, producing fruit and acting as witnesses of God.
Though faith is unseen except by God himself, we do works to exhibit Faith at work within us.
The branch has no purpose if it does not produce fruit. Through faith we have become a part of the vine yet, if we do not produce the fruit we are useless
Fruit is the evidence of faith at work.
“Concentrated” - Applied with all one’s attention; wholly directed toward one thing, intense.
Where is your concentration directed? If it is directed on the things that will ultimately lead you astray... you will never be able to produce the fruit that God desires of you.
Furthermore, how concentrated is your faith? Faith that is concentrated is strong.
How do you have “Concentrated” faith?
- You keep your concentration on the things of God.
- You read the word
- You exhibit a compassionate heart.
- You strive to control your tongue.
- You desire a clean life (free of immorality).
- You work towards the goal of having Christ like character.
- You pray consistently and ask for Faith when your faith is weak!
- You repeat the process.
As a result of applying this wisdom, you will be a witness of God’s character. You will be a living testimony of faith that you will show through your actions. You will bear the fruit that God desires. The level of concentration in your faith is made clear in itsevidence.
Remember: The demonstration of your faith is based on the concentration of your faith.
Dear Lord, we thank you for the God that you are, that you would let me be a part of the vine! Please help me to be a branch that bears fruit. When my faith is weak I ask that you supply my faith and sustain me! Help me to be a witness of your love and show the evidence of my faith. I pray that I am genuine. Help me to concentrate on you. Lord, help me live a life that shows your character.
Open my eyes to your will and my ears toward your wisdom;
Open my arms to the needy and my heart to your Kingdom.