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First Comes the Root, Then the Fruit

As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in Him (Colossians 2:6). How do we receive Christ? We receive Him by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8).  The Christian life is to be lived by faith alone. We are to walk (one moment at a time) by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). I’ve often asked God to allow me to see. Faith does not need to see. It is not blind faith, because we trust the One who guides us even in the darkness – one step at a time.

God has given to every believer a special task to accomplish for His glory. This is what James is teaching (James 2:14-20). I call it our faith-work!  James immediately gave two clear illustrations that saving faith will be productive. He used Abraham’s offering of Isaac his son on the altar (James 2:21). Abraham had already received life before God by faith (Genesis 15:6). The object of Abraham’s faith was the Lord Jesus Christ. He believed in Jehovah. Jehovah of the Old Testament is Jesus Christ of the New (John 14:9). Abraham’s faith righteousness becomes the pattern for all of us(Galatians 3:5–13; Romans 4:1–5; James 2:23).

But what about Abraham’s faith-work? God had promised Abraham and Sarah a son. Abraham grew old and Sarah was barren. After trying to help God help them, they finally had to rest all their hope in God. If Isaac was to be, then God alone must make him happen. God responded by miraculously giving Sarah a son. No child could have ever been treasured more.

God then asked Abraham to do something incredible. He asked him to make an offering, not of an animal but of his most cherished possession: his son. What? This seemed completely irrational from man’s view, but Abraham had learned to trust totally in the Giver and not in the gift. He realized that as long as he had the Giver, he could never lose the gift.Abraham rose early in the morning, took Isaac, and departed to do what God had instructed him to do. Evidently there was no reluctance, and there were no second thoughts.

Just before Abraham was to take his son’s life, God miraculously stepped into the picture and spared Isaac (Hebrews 11:17). God said that He knew that Abraham feared Him (Genesis 22:12). In Abraham’s mind, he had actually taken the boy’s life. Abraham’s offering of Isaac was his faith-work. It was the work that God had planned for him to do long before Abraham was born (Ephesians 2:10). Abraham and his son walked together down that hill that day. In Abraham’s mind, Isaac had died and was now alive. What a beautiful picture of the resurrection! Wow! That work confirmed that his faith was genuine (James 2:14). The act of offering Isaac did not justify Abraham before God, but offering Isaac was clear evidence that Abraham had truly learned to trust in the Giver of life (James 2:22; Genesis 22:12). Amazing!

James continued with another illustration: Rahab the harlot (James 2:25). Rahab also illustrated that saving faith is productive faith. The Jews had left Egypt, winding their way to Canaan. They came to a small bump in the road called Kadesh Barnea. There they had a committee meeting. They decided to send twelve spies into Canaan to see what they were up against. In the city of Jericho, some of the spies were discovered and the authorities attempted to capture them. A harlot named Rahab hid the spies, sparing them from certain death. God amazingly used this woman, a harlot of all people, to preserve the entire Jewish nation. This was her faith-work (Hebrews 11:31). There is no written record that Rahab had ever believed in the Lord as Abraham had, but obviously she had. Why? Her faith-work proved it. She hid the spies because she had believed in the Lord. Her work revealed that her faith was a living faith in the living God. The seed of the Word of God in her had produced fruit after its kind.

Both James and Paul were right! Personal faith in Jesus Christ is the root of our salvation, our faith-work is the fruit. God leaves us in this world to produce fruit for His glory. First comes the root, then the fruit. God’s faith-work is proof that the seed of the gospel has been germinated in us. God has foreordained it to be so. Our work may not be giving to the poor, as in James’s day. Attempting to recognize the faith-work in our life or in the life of others is futile. We are never given the responsibility to become fruit inspectors. God alone knows when, where, and how our faith will become productive. We see this divine formula being played out through the list of faithful believers found in Hebrews 11. The writer of Hebrews said that faith is the substance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1). This hope becomes the evidence of things not seen. Stay safe and stay tuned.


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