Faith? Works? Or Faith And Works! : James 2:14-26

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or a sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well”, but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the alter? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”, and he was called “the friend of God.” See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route? For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.   James 2:14-26  

Last week we heard James command us, “So speak and so act…” which is a great lead in to the Holy Spirit’s teaching on faith and works.

He compares faith without works to expressions of sympathy without giving any help, which is totally useless. In the same way, a faith that exists without works has absolutely no value. In verse 18, James warns us not to you the excuse, “You have faith and I have works.”  This is not the way it works (no pun intended). Just as works alone cannot save us, neither can faith alone (verse 24).  

What is it with us? Don’t we have some good ole American sayings like, “Actions speak louder than words,” and  “Put your money where your mouth is,” and  “All talk and no action”, to describe a deficiency in someones personality? How then can we ignore this deficiency in our spiritual lives? It makes no sense at all and this is what James’ argument is. For he goes on to give us the examples of Abraham and Rahab and how their obedience demonstrated their faith, by putting it into action. That’s the kind of faith that justifies us before God, the faith that expresses itself in works.

There is a danger here. Just as faith alone is a false concept, if we place more emphasis on works to measure our spirituality, this is false as well. As Jesus warns us in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:22) “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you: Away from Me you evildoers!'” Although this verse is in the context of false teachers, we can see by the example given that we can “do” and not be “known.”

There must be balance. And I will continue to teach this until Jesus returns; this [justification, salvation] is a both/and teaching (faith and works together) not an either/or teaching (faith apart from works). Take some time to study it, from Genesis to Revelation, you will see the same theme; “They overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev. 12:11)  sounds like both/and to me!

So this week, let us determine to do as James commands us; demonstrate our faith to one another, from our works. We don’t want to be “all talk and no action” in our Christian lives do we?

May the Lord bless our efforts and increase our faith!



16 Responses

  1. It is wonderful to read like minded writing. It is unfortunate with all of our committes that we talk so much and do so little.


  2. Thank you for your comment Curtis. I look forward to reading your blog!

  3. Tim ~ Thanks for the visit to my site. When I read your post, it reminded me of something I wrote not too long ago. Here’s a blurb. Action is what we are called for. Not just talking about it, not just planning it and not just having meetings about it. WE ARE CALLED TO ACTION! Let me say that again. WE ARE CALLED TO ACTION! James hit the nail on the head when he talked about a brother or sister who is without clothing or food and we say to them “I wish you well; keep warm and well fed”. James asked, “What good is it”. I say, that is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard of”. The sad part is that we hear it all the time and it sounds like this, “I’ll pray for them”.

  4. “There must be balance. And I will continue to teach this until Jesus returns”


    Good words on finding the balance. It is an active faith that the Bible teaches. Active faith requires action AND faith. It is so easy to see a weakness in someone else and think we have to teach “works” to balance what they’re teaching, or we have to teach “faith” to balance someone else. When we do that, we lose balance and are not accurately teaching the Word of God.

    As Mike pointed out, so often Christians give the glib response, “I’ll pray for you”, but many times don’t even do that — let alone take the necessary step of doing what God’s equipped them to do in meeting the need. We ought to pray. AND we ought to do what God says is required in reaching out to show our faith is living.

    Thanks for the sound teaching and encouragement. Keep on teaching!

  5. Mike, I know! Ain’t that the worst. To brush someone aside with an, “I’ll pray for you,” when you are almost certian they don’t mean it. I don’t even like to use the pharse, though I have to sometimes, just for that reason. I appreciate the visit and the comment.

    Tom, you know I don’t know why balance is such a hard thing for us. I’d never thought of it being tied into our tendency for sin. But for us to be out of balance in the first place, is part of the consequence of “the fall”. And I don’t necessarily think of prayer as no-action, though often times it is used as a cop-out. So yes, I agree that we should pray and DO what Christ is calling us to do.

    Thanks guys for the comments and the encouragement that they give.
    To God be the glory!

  6. Tim –

    Keep writing man! I love reading your blog as a weekly devotional!

    Grace and Peace.

  7. Thanks Joe! I appreciate that!
    God bless!

  8. As far as saying “I’ll pray for you” just for that reason, is interesting. There’s a time and place for everything the saying goes; and I too refrain from saying I’ll pray for someone, even if I’m going to. I think the best time to let someone know that you’ll be praying for them is when that is all you can do because there’s nothing else you can do, it’s out of your hands.

    Maybe the best thing is a prayer for ourselves asking God to guide us in ways we can help. IOW, if someone is in need we’re probably the answer to a prayer that been that’s been said already.

  9. Richard, you bring up a great point! How many of us have missed an opportunity to be an answer to prayer for someone in need?
    I’ll ponder that one for awhile!

  10. Tim,

    This is one of my FAVORITE topics and you put it so well! I simply don’t see how anyone can miss this very simple and very explicit message in Scripture.

    Awesome post, once again!

    Have a blessed weekend!


  11. Thanks Amber. You know for years, I missed it too. But by God’s grace, He’s allowed me to see this simple and yet profound teaching.
    When I was writing and researching this, I thought I remembered this was one of your favorite topics.
    I hope you and the kids, have a blessed weekend as well!

  12. Tim – Thanks for the commentary on faith/works. The best way I have heard it put is that it isn’t faith or works, but faith that works. Abraham believed God. Later on we see him receiving the covenant of circumcision (consecration to God) and offering his son as a sacrifice. As a result of his faith he engaged himself in good works. May it be the same with all who believe.

    God bless.

  13. This was wonderful. I must ask though, do you have a microphone in my vents? I think I have said “Actions speak louder than words” about 15 times in the last week. O.K. I screamed it.

    For awhile, I thought that the only postings was your story…then you tell me you have a weekly blog and BAM here it is.

    And I love the person that brought up, “I’ll pray for you…” and realized it was as much help as a hole in the head. When someone says that to me, I actually expect them to put in a Petition for a Novena at a Convent. That is what I do, and I don’t ever let them know.


  14. BAM! Here I am. Thanks for letting me “mike” your vent! Just that one week, and I’ve got enough to blog about for years and years! 🙂
    Blessing to you, Girl!

  15. Do not wait for the perfect moment, for perfection, but with humility and love walk forward towards others, reach out and give from your heart. No more excuses, no more words. As we all know, witnessing an action will travel farther than any amount of words!

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