Text: James 2:14

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?”


This verse has been misquoted by some people and used this to proved that works indeed can save. Unfortunately, looking at the whole passage, we can see more in it than just by reading 1 single verse. Today, we will be learning faith evidenced by action.

Can Good Work Save? (v.14)

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?”

This seems to be a little controversial because some people quoted this passage as one proof that works indeed can save and or at least essential to salvation. However, in order to see things in this passage clearly, we need to disect it one by one, point by point.

First, we need to see the first part of the argument. James used the word “if” which again signifies a condition. “If a man claims to have faith…” Which means that when a man says that he has faith “but has no deeds” then it is completely useless. This is the reason why James asked the second question, “Can such faith save him?”

The misconception of this passage runs only with the second question. If one will only look at the second question separately, then he will really suggest that “salvation” is by works. In contrast to this idea, when one concentrates at the first question which is the setting of the argument, then it is clear indeed that the faith that is being talked about here is at the very beginning, questionable.

If we on the other hand, plainly accepts that works can save, then it will be in contradiction to what the Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9, ”For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. Not by works so that no one can boast.”

Is Faith Alone Without Action Useful? (v.18)
James argument continues. Here he is already making a comparison between faith professed and faith being shown through actions.

Please do noticed the tone of James in the passage that we are reading. As you can observed here, he is again pointing out to those who claim to have faith. Claiming to have faith is not wrong. But claiming to have faith with no evidence or what so ever that can be seen as an evidence of faith is useless.

It is important for each man to practice what he professed. There is no such thing as “follow what I say, but do not follow what I do.” Only the world do that. The Bible continously speaks that we are to follow Christ, not only his commands, but also what he did. Christ is the perfect example of a real discipler. He does what he preach. He preached all about humility in the sermon of the mount, and exemplified it by his coming to the world. He preached to love our enemies and giving the other cheek when someone slaps it, and he did gave his whole life for God’s enemies.

Is there any use of our faith if we do not do what we profess?

“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead.” (v.17)

The funny thing about here is that James is continously giving illustration for us to better understand his point. James says sarcastically; “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” Sometimes, the demons are even better because the demons fear God all the more than humans.

How Does A Man Can Be Justified (v.24)
Starting at verse 20 up to verse 25, James again cited illustrations and this time he uses Biblical illustrations about Abraham and Rahab.

Abraham knows about God, and probably exemplified in loving God. The fact, that the angels visited them in their house and talked to them just like ordinary men, and was told by them about God’s promise, is already a sign that Abraham would have lived a righteous life. Let us say that Abraham is known to be a godly man, but right now, God is asking Abraham to give his only child back to the Lord in a form of burnt offering.

God is not only asking Abraham to dedicated Isaac just like what we are doing sometimes. God is asking Abraham to offer Isaac as a burned offering to God. Please do note that no father would ever like to kill his own son. But faith is measured in our obedience to God. And such action made him the father of faith.

Rahab did the same thing. Jericho is about to fall and she knows it. She knows that it won’t be that long that the Israelites will take over Jericho. And she had the opportunity to have mingled with the spies. Instead of turning them over to the authorities of Jericho, she hid them and let them escaped. God’s order is to destroy Jericho to the ground. And guess who has been spared? Rahab and his family because he was considered righteous by helping the people of God.

The passage is very clear. “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

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