The Testimony of Three Witnesses: Faith Without Works is Dead!

I once had a testimony that the Mormon Church was true. When I discovered that my testimony was false I went searching to find the true church. I spent almost nine years between Mormonism and Christianity and met people from all different kinds of faiths. I discovered many people with a strong testimony in their church. I even met Atheists, Shamans and Agnostics with strongly held “faith” that what they believed was true. What I quickly realized is that the sincerity of a person’s “testimony” doesn’t necessarily mean that what they testify is true. It just means they have “faith” in something.

Through all my searching one thing I clearly believed was that I had to do something to live eternally with Heavenly Father. In the back of my head I always remembered that “faith without works was dead”. What I never knew is that these two teachings aren’t the same thing. It was exciting when I discovered that James’ point isn’t “how” we are saved, but how to identify real faith when we see it. He claims that what uniquely identifies a “faith” in the one true God is that it is alive! Faith is a gift from God placed in a person’s heart by the Holy Spirit. At that moment a person crosses over from spiritual death to being born again into a new spiritual life (John 5:24). Just as a newborn baby moves and breathes, someone with faith in God will do works—they just can’t help it! James emphasizes his point by saying that faith without works is like a dead body without a spirit. Even if someone claims to have a testimony of faith, if works are absent, that faith isn’t a true faith, its dead.

James uses three witnesses to make his point—himself, Abraham and Rahab. He uses the actions of these three witnesses as proof that a living faith always produces works. His first witness is himself. He contrasts his own life of both faith and works with that of a man who claims to have faith, yet has no works. His outward visible actions prove his testimony of faith.

Through Abraham’s witness, James gives us the vital key that faith comes first, and then works automatically follow. Because faith is living, like a living creature; it naturally produces the “fruit” of works. Similar to an apple tree bearing the fruit of an apple, a living faith will bear the fruit of good works, naturally and without being forced. Good works are merely proof that faith is present. Abraham’s willingness to offer Isaac on the altar was one of many actions that evidenced his faith. His actions were the “fruit” of his faith and proved his faith true. Because his faith was alive, his works followed. It was not his works that made his faith alive.

We read that Abraham’s actions fulfilled a scripture from Genesis: “Abraham believed God and it was imputed unto him as righteousness”. Here James clarifies that a person’s faith gains him righteousness and not his works. Abraham had been declared righteous by God many years before he proved his faith by his works, even long before Isaac was born! Abraham’s works did not make him righteous; his faith had already done that. Abraham’s works were merely evidence that he had already been made righteous by God.

The third witness is Rahab the harlot (who hid the spies at Jericho). Her strong faith and written testimony are found in Joshua: “for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above and in earth beneath”. Her life is a vivid example of how a woman had faith and then acted on it. Not only did she risk her life by rescuing Joshua’s spies, she lived the remainder of her life in Israel; got married and became the mother of Boaz, Jesse’s Grandfather and King David’s Great Grandmother.

In the Book of Mormon (Ether) we read about the testimony of a different group of three witnesses. These men were prophesied to one day declare to the world the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. But these three men all left Mormonism. Their lack of action is evidence that their faith was dead, their testimony false.

But, this was not all they claimed in their testimony. They also testified that one day they could be found spotless because of their own works. They testified: “And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ.” This testimony shows that they didn’t know what James knew and taught about Abraham: a person is found spotless in Gods eyes through their faith, and not their works!

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