Faith Without Works Is Dead Commentary – The Truth About James 2 And What Works Really Means
Faith Without Works Is Dead – What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Here’s the truth about what kind of ‘works’ and ‘faith’ James is talking about. The Answer: James says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26). It’s about real faith versus fake faith.
The Religious Deception: James 2:17 says “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” Religion tells us James is talking about Christians who are not on fire with lots of works and puts fear in believers leading them to think God is measuring our performance to determine if our faith is real. The idea is you better get out there and do more so God will be pleased with you. Get the truth behind this verse with easy-to-understand commentary that explains the meaning of ‘faith without works’.
The Truth From a Grace Perspective: In this video, you will discover that James is addressing unbelievers. In James 2 verse 14 James asks “can that faith save him” and while religion seems to overlook that strange question, it’s only a question that would be asked about a non-believer, whose faith would not produce the type of works that God is interested in. James goes on in that same chapter to give only two examples of works, and interestingly enough he uses an example of Rehab, a prostitute that the bible only tells us about one work she had. She hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. If this were really about Christian works why would James choose a prostitute with only one work? Answer – She believed God was real. That one work was enough to save her and make her right with God.
Faith Without Works is Dead – James 2:17
Did you know this is actually written to non-believers?
Today we are to talk about this verse found in James 2:14 which reads “if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?”
This verse is often cited to force more works on Christians. It’s the ‘do more be more so you can prove that you are a Christian’ doctrine. But like many misused verses, the problem is the context in which we see it.
So let’s work through this and see what’s really going on here. But first, let’s be clear, we’re not saying Christians don’t have works. In fact, we do. But some will have many works, and others only a few. Some will give their time, some their money, and others just kindness and love. The problem is when we use James 2 as a teaching tool to get out a measuring stick and compare how much works we have, and then try and debate when it’s enough to really be okay with God. This verse is often used to keep you on a treadmill of more works. You can keep running, but you never get anywhere.
A good starting point is to notice how this teaching flies in the face of the Apostle Paul’s teaching.
[Romans 4:4-6] 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
[Romans 3:27-28] 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
If that’s not enough, we can see how it compares to the teaching of Jesus as the Pharisees approach him and ask what kind of works please God. Keep in mind, these guys were all about works, and watch how Jesus takes works, plural, and turns it into a work, singular.
[John 6:28-29] 28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
Religion teaches us that this verse found in James 2:14 as meaning Christians must have ongoing works to prove faith, which flies in the face of Paul and Jesus’ teachings.
Paul tells us we are justified and made righteous APART from works.
So either James totally contradicts Paul and Jesus, or we have misunderstood the true meaning of this verse. Here’s what’s really going on.
You see, this message from James is about an unsaved person. The question James asked was “can that faith SAVE HIM?”, not ‘is he a good Christian’. Now STOP here! Do you see it? This person is NOT saved. James is asking if this person’s faith is not real, then can it save them! So it’s not about Christians on a treadmill of do more be more to prove salvation, but rather it’s having real faith that saves us. In other words, it’s talking about TRUE FAITH that comes with a decision, a work (not lots of works), and remember that we just saw that even Jesus Himself said that believing is a work. James 2:9 tells us even the demons believe. So if demons believe and Christians believe then what’s the difference? The difference is Christians made a real decision for Jesus, and we see the chapter conclude with two examples illustrating that this is a ONE time WORK that is tied into a decision from faith that produced a single action concluding with them being made righteous because of their FAITH. And before you go on thinking these were big works, wait until you see the second example of works James gives us.
[James 2:21-23] Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM “BELIEVED” GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,”
How many times did Abraham offer his son? This was single work showing that Abraham believed God, and that work accredited him as righteous.
Now it gets really good. Check out the 2nd example James gives of works. He uses an example of a prostitute who had one work in her life, and all she did was open a door. Really James? If doing more and being more is so important that why would you pick such a lousy example? The answer is because it’s not about the kind of works that requires ongoing effort. It’s about a single work that shows faith and saves us. The prostitute opened a door to help spies escape because she really believed their God was true, and therefore was made righteous.
[James 2:25] In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
Rahab believed God was real, and her only work was that she made a decision to “receive the messengers” and she was immediately made righteous.
So you see, truly “believing” is a work, and this kind of “work” James refers to is perfectly in line with Paul’s teaching and what we learn from Jesus. God cares about real faith, and he’s not asking us to get out our legal pad and measure our volume of works to see if we are doing enough. One decision, one work, made righteous one time, once for all. Amen.
So in the same way that Rehab opened the door to receive the spies because she believed God was real, and the question we need be asking is ‘have we opened the door of hearts to Jesus to let Him in‘? That’s the kind of work God loves. I leave you with this verse:
[Hebrews 11:6] And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
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Faith without works is dead commentary | BOOK OF JAMES | NEW TESTAMENT | | faith without works is dead | saved by faith for good works | show me your faith without works | Salvation is by faith alone