“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20).
Many an individual claim they’re saved yet continue in their same sinful lifestyle without any visible change. We aren’t God, we can’t see into the hearts of others. We can only see visible outward signs that give us any indication whether or not a person is a believer. James says without works faith is dead.
Our works are the result of our love for God and they should come instinctively after conversion. As believers, born from God we should be passionate, even driven, by a desire to please God and to give our lives to Him.
So how do we know whether or not our faith is dead? Honestly, a professing believer who is living a lifestyle contrary to God’s will may not even care whether or not their faith is dead. Our faith in Jesus Christ needs to be a living faith. It’s not to be misplaced out in the world somewhere; it’s placed in a living God. What does that mean, living faith?
“If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:15-17).
Jesus tells us to love one another but if we show no compassion toward others, or very little for that matter, or if we can’t seem to get motivated enough to help our fellow man then our faith may very well be dead.
Many Christians are non-participants in God’s plan for humanity. They just aren’t interested in fulfilling God’s commandments. What that means is even though they’ve made the statement that they’ve repented of their sins and asked for forgiveness, and say they’ve asked Jesus Christ to be the Savior of their lives, there’s no visible change between their current status and their pre-conversion state.
This is where James chapter 2 comes into play in all our lives. If there is no visible difference in a person’s life after the conversion experience?
After conversion Christians should begin to look at the world with an entirely new perspective. As we become more and more familiar with God’s Word we begin to see the evil that’s been surrounding us much more clearly. We begin to eliminate the baggage we’ve been carrying and are then free to pursue God’s will for our lives.
By baggage I mean being stuck with the mindset of mass accumulation, such as materialism. Even attributes such as self-reliance, pride, haughtiness, etc., are all hindrances to our relationship with God. These hindrances should be significantly reduced at some point after conversion so a believers life will become completely devoted to adhering to God’s will.
Now that our blinders have been removed we need to tell others about our new relationship with God, and the saving grace only obtained through Jesus Christ. This becomes our works which God has ordained as a part of our new life in Christ.
All of our works need to bring glory to God and it should be our good pleasure to help others to come to the saving knowledge of the Gospel of Christ. The truth is the world has been blinded, and because of our new ability to see the truth we can play a big part in God’s plan just by witnessing to the lost. The Holy Spirit will do the rest by removing the blinders of all those who want to see the truth.
Our conversion/rebirth puts us forever in the hands of Jesus Christ, and as such it’s essential that our actions and even our conversations produce good works. The more we grow in our Christian walk the more we will accomplish for the kingdom of God, and we will continue to grow as we study His Word and give ourselves wholly to Him.
All believers are admonished to spread the Gospel. The commandment wasn’t meant for just a select few. So, do we spread the gospel as commanded? Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ is a huge part of what James is speaking about as works. You see, works is doing what God wants of us, and even commands us to do. Please don’t misunderstand; James admonition of works based faith. James is speaking of a believer’s life after justification.
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12).
This is another easily misunderstood scripture verse. Paul’s statement of “work out your own salvation” means that after conversion we need to be diligent as we go about our Fathers business. Continuing day by day in God’s will, and working out our own salvation is God’s will for our lives. It’s obedience to God that Paul is speaking about. Again, works aren’t what saves us, but works will certainly follow our born-again experience.
We should see evidence of works in every area of believer’s lives. We need to activate the awesome salvation God freely gave us. By activate I mean we are to involve ourselves with sharing God’s gospel, activate it.
Paul, like James, is actually bringing the same concept into view, albeit a slightly different approach, but both approaches are completely complementary of each other. If there is no activity in a believer’s life, activity associated with spreading the Gospel, feeding the hungry, basically showing others the love of Christ, then as James explains, our faith is dead.
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
God has given us an awesome advantage over the lost in that He has allowed those who follow Him to see things the lost cannot. When believers read God’s inerrant word they are blessed with understanding, and they gain insight into God’s nature.
A believer’s advantage is that he or she now know God, and since we know God and we know what He expects of His own, we must train ourselves to do the works He has assigned to us. Occasionally believers fail to be attentive to God’s will and must be admonished to continue to seek His will. Faithful mature believers will apply themselves to accomplishing that task.
Many reading this commentary will conclude by this point that I am advocating salvation through works. No, I’m not. Not at all. God offered His Son to die for our sins. We accept His free gift and are then justified through our faith.
“The just shall live by faith,” Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38.
And in Habakkuk 2:4 we’re told “The just shall live by his faith.”
Clearly we live by faith, we promote the gospel through and by our faith, and we exist as believers by faith through God’s grace. Once we have the Holy Spirit sealed within us we are completely secure in God’s hands.
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
What we do after our becoming justified (born again) for God’s Kingdom is what James considers as works. We are adhering to God’s will by following His commands. If believers aren’t interested in following all of God’s commands, well then James says our faith is dead.
James’ admonition that faith without works is dead isn’t a contradiction of the other scriptures that plainly state we are saved by grace through faith:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2: 8, 9).
But what he is saying is once we’re born of God our works will be the natural progression in a believer’s life. What you can take away from all this is if a person shows no interest in following Christ even after conversion then they are probably living a lie.
On the other hand there are many who do a ton of works thinking that’s what puts them in a right relationship with God. No sir! Get right with God first then the attitude of working for God’s kingdom will manifest itself in your life like rivers of flowing water.
James and Paul aren’t saying anything we don’t already know. To believers, doing the works of God is a blessing. Being works oriented is our biblical manifesto. Works are simply our marching orders. A truly born again believer “in Christ” will find no drudgery in following God’s will. As we go about our daily routine it is a natural occurrence for believers to be the light of Christ. Simply put, works are the believer’s pleasure and as such their accomplishments are assured.
Jesus tells us that not everyone who calls Him Lord is in line for any inheritance:
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
Doing the will of the Father, the Son tells us, is essential for admittance into the kingdom of heaven.
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matthew 7:22).
Here we see that many will say they did many wonderful works for the Lord but as we’ve already learned works aren’t what saves us.
“And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23).
Faith without works is dead and faith in Christ is what we need for salvation. Jesus makes it plain to all those who have eyes to see and ears to hear how we enter Heaven. It’s a yes, a done deal, for all those who have placed their faith and trust in Him. All those who do the will of the Father will be saved. What is the will of the Father?
“Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29).
We see from all this that faith and works are associated in that one is dead without the other. It’s plain what kind of Christians we are if we remain in our comfort zone and never embark on a path that involves adhering to God’s will.
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).
James tells us that without works our faith is the same as demons who believe and tremble. Such a faith cannot save anyone, because there is no verifiable works that would naturally accompany a saving faith. Where faith abounds there is the fruit of the Spirit which is always accompanied by works.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit”(Galatians 5:22-25).
What kind of faith do you have? Are you one of those James addresses whose faith is dead or are you alive with the Spirit of God and following His commands? We should all give it some serious thought.
God bless you all,