For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:26)
There are few things as satisfying and encouraging as seeing a fruit tree bowed down with an abundant harvest. It may well be the farmer’s daughter in me, but fruit trees always speak to me of growth, health, vitality, and hope for the future. It’s little wonder that the Bible so often uses the analogy of a fruit tree to illustrate a productive, mature Christian living the full life of abundance in Christ. This particular metaphor is contained within our verse for today which so clearly defines the evidence of life or death in our lives. Faith without works is like a fruit tree without fruit. It simply has no real inherent value.
Faith without works denies the fundamental purpose of life in Christ.
No fruit farmer worth his salt will ever simply plant a fruit tree ‘just because.’ Every tree planted has an inherent purpose – to bear fruit. There is always an expectation that every tree will provide a harvest, and that is the reason for their existence. A farmer plants a fruit tree because he intends it to produce fruit, not because it looks good or provides shade. The same is true for every believer. Our purpose is to bear fruit – fruit which manifests in our lives as good works. Faith without works means that our purpose in Christ remain unfulfilled.
A good farmer will feed, nurture, prune, and shape his fruit trees, and God does exactly that to each ‘tree’ in His orchard. He knows down to the smallest detail what each tree needs, and He knows exactly the kind of fruit that is expected. Everything He does works towards this purpose, because fruit it food. It feeds ourselves and it feeds others. Our fruit – good works – are intended for the good of others. Our good works are one of the ways God releases blessings to others, and faith without works means that there is no harvest to sustain His kingdom.
God Himself has made provision to enable us to avoid a life of faith without works.
Jesus speaks of Himself as the vine and of us as the branches. The Bible tells us that we have been ‘grafted in.’ This is a powerful truth that sweeps aside all our excuses. Grafting is a common technique that ensures healthy growth and fruitfulness. The principle is simple – the fruit-bearing scion is grafted into a strong and healthy root-stock. It is the root stock that anchors the tree and provides the nutrients and the support, leaving the branches to bear the fruit. If we find ourselves in a place of faith without works, we need to honestly examine whether we really are grafted in.
The question is whether the graft ‘takes,’ and fruit is the evidence that it has. In other words, if we are firmly grafted into Christ, the root stock, fruit must follow. It is the evidence of the certainty of being successfully grafted in. This grafting process is God’s way of making provision for us to bear fruit. We don’t have anchor ourselves. We don’t have to sustain ourselves. Jesus does all that, and provides us with everything necessary to bear abundant fruit according to our purpose. For a committed believer firmly secured in Christ, faith without works is an impossibility.
Faith without works contradicts the truth of ‘inherent harvest.’
A fruit tree contains inherent harvest – simply a term to describe the truth that bearing fruit is simply what a fruit tree does. It’s created to bear fruit, and it contains everything required to do that. Nothing else is expected, and it’s not something the tree has to work at, plan, study for, or decide to do. Bearing fruit is inherent. It is what the tree is and does. Faith without works, on the other hand, is like a fruit tree that has lost its inherent harvest. It no longer lives for what it is created to be and do, and it is simply another tree.
As the body of Christ, our inherent harvest is to bear fruit for the kingdom of God. While God may require us to study and experience certain things or gain knowledge, these things are rather like the fertilizer or compost a farmer would feed his trees. The purpose is not to acquire them but to enable u to bear fruit. Faith without works is dead because it looks to absorbing what it can for its own gratification without looking to it inherent harvest purpose.
Faith without works is as good as being dead.
In Revelation, Jesus has some harsh words about those who are lukewarm – He will vomit them out of His mouth. The implication is that lukewarm might as well be ice cold, because it serves no purpose. A farmer will ruthlessly remove any tree that doesn’t bear. If we aren’t living our purpose, if we live a faith without works, we’re of as little value as the tree which looks good but produces nothing. It might as well be dead for all the good it provides.
The comparison is very plain. If we are alive in Christ, we will bear fruit that proves it. It’s not something we have to think about. It’s the natural outworking of being grafted into Him who is the source of life. If good works are absent, our faith in Him is in question. It’s dead faith. Absence of fruit mean absence of life. There is no grey area here. It’s one or the other. Faith without works is essentially faith which takes. It looks at the blessings God has freely given and absorbs them without giving anything back.
This is completely contrary to life of Christ, who gave everything for the harvest. If we’re truly alive in Christ, truly grafted in to the eternal root stock, truly surrendered to Spirit that fills us and imparts that life, we will bear fruit. We will live for the benefit of others. When Christ lives in us, we cannot help but manifest the fruit. If we don’t, our faith is not in Christ but in what we imagine Christ to be. Dead faith will slowly decay and crumble away. Real faith brings life, and the fruit which in turn gives life to others.
Forgive us, Lord, for any fruitlessness in our lives. Release Your life-giving Spirit in us, graft us securely in You, and help us to willingly and joyfully yield to our purpose in You. Guide us into those good works that You have already prepared for us to walk in and strengthen our faith, so that we may bear abundant fruit to sustain and feed Your people without thought to ourselves.