Our FAITH without WORKS is USELESS & INEFFECTIVE
December 17 Bible Reading: James Chapters 1-3
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
In the above passage, James tackles the important relationship between faith and works in the life of a Christian believer. Is faith alone sufficient in the life of a child of God? Or, should our faith be accompanied by our works, which is ‘faith in action’? Genuine faith will naturally produce good works; the two complement each other. Works are actions which follow the “royal law” of love (vv. 8, 15, 16). What James was implying is that our faith in Jesus Christ will demonstrate itself in our sincere love for others, which was what our Lord Jesus Christ had commanded His disciples in John 13:34, 35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
So, the obvious answer to the question posed by James “Can faith save us?” is that our faith without works cannot save us. Faith that yields no deeds is not saving faith. The New Testament teaches that we get justified when we have true faith in Christ, but thereafter, our faith should be accompanied by our works, which is evident to the world by the fruit we bear. On this subject, this was what our Lord Jesus Christ had categorically stated as well: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matt. 7:21).
Thus, James does not set faith against works, but rather discusses two kinds of faith: a dead faith and a saving faith. Saving faith is not simply an empty claim (vv. 14-17), but which produces an obedient life (vv. 21-26). James insists that a faith that does not result in good works cannot save, and gives three arguments in support of this truth:
- Faith without works is no better than words without deeds (vv. 15–17).
- Faith can be neither seen nor verified unless it shows itself in works (v. 18).
- Even the demons have an intellectual belief in God, but it does not lead to their salvation (v. 19).
In order to prove his point, James introduces two people: one has neither adequate daily food nor clothing, but the other has both but is not willing to share them. When the latter says a benediction to the former without actually helping him, it is of no use at all. Similarly, when Christian believers say empty platitudes without actually helping those in physical need, what doth it profit? How many words can fill a hungry stomach? What James is emphasizing is that we are not saved by a faith of words only but by that kind of faith which results in a life of good works. In other words, works are not the root of salvation but the fruit. Calvin has thus remarked: “We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.”
Thus, true faith and good works go hand in hand, and they are two parts of God’s work in us. Faith brings a person to salvation, and works bring that person to fruitfulness. Faith is the cause, works are the effect. What matters is not faith and works, it is not faith or works; rather it is faith that works! Our good works will affirm that our faith is real, and proves that truthfulness of our words. Thus, true saving faith is seen in activity, and it is something that motivates our life so that we think of others and serve them. That is exactly what Apostle Paul means when he writes that we “have been saved through faith” for “good works”!