Why is faith without works dead?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

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Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
James says, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26). Faith without works is a dead faith because the lack of works reveals an unchanged life o...

July 01 2013 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

Stringio Vincent Mercado Supporter Skeptic turned believer, Catholic, father of 3
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

c.f. James 2:14-24

September 24 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini James Kraft 74 year old retired pipeline worker
Most all believers do good works. So do unbelievers. The difference is, one does good works to bring glory to themselves, and others do good works to bring glory to God. One is an outward show, the other is from the heart toward God. It can be really hard to tell one from the other. Only God can see our hearts.

The one brings selfrighteousness and pride, and the other is done from humility towards God because of what He has done for us. 

We probably all do a little of both. Jesus said without faith it is impossible to please Him. When we do good works because we are walking in the spirit we glorify God. When we do good works in the flesh we are glorifying the flesh.

Faith without works is dead, but works without faith is just as dead. It is part of our old nature to try to make ourselves look good instead of glorifying God. 

On the one hand, Jesus said to let our light shine and let others see our good works so they will glorify God, On the other hand, Jesus said to not do our good works to be seen by men or we will loose our reward. It is a good thing we are saved by grace.

We should go ahead and do good works taking no thought one way or the other of ourselves. When we leave self out it Glorifys God.

January 17 2016 6 responses Vote Up Share Report

20200222 172923 L.S. James Artist
Just as man’s redemption from sin hinged on the Messiah, a sinner is saved from infernal damnation solely by faith in Christ alone. It is not faith and baptism, faith and Eucharist, faith and works, faith and Church or any other concoctions. It is faith in Christ alone that saves: sola faith. 

But can a sinner evoke Godly faith? Faith in faith is idolatry. Faith is intellectual yet experiential. If faith resides in God alone then faith need come from God. Faith to believe is therefore the unmitigated gift of God to whom He wills. 

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life…And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” (John 6:63, 65)

Were works of righteousness ever a prerequisite for sinners to be saved?

Fact is, the sinners that Jesus had come to call and justified by faith led colorful lifestyles! But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7). 

Eternal security is therefore God’s gift to those He has drawn by His irresistible grace. God even predestined the elect, that is, He chose us in Him before the foundations of the world (Eph 1:4-11; Rom 1-8). Our preservation to the end is guaranteed by the perfect seal of Christ at Calvary. This then is the grace of God: just as Abraham was justified by faith in believing El-Shaddai in lieu of paganism (Joshua 24:2, 3), likewise the sinner that repents and believes The Christ of God (Luke 9:20). 

That faith and repentance are intrinsic components in salvation, faith alone guarantees eternal security. Jesus Himself made this explicit when He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:50). 

So what then saves man?

Stripped of sacraments, morals and hype, what defines the saint is faith - a believing, saving faith in The Christ of God (Luke 9:20). What more, this faith is vested in a covenant with God that includes its irrevocable perks. Give the Lord His due then, the preservation of the saints rests on the laurels of Christ alone: For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous (Rom 5:19). 

Fallen man - utterly corrupt in thought, word and deed - need realize that his highest intrinsic good is still soiled in sin or simply dead works (Heb 9:14). Make no mistake then, Christ alone has preserved the pilgrim to present him holy and blameless at the Judgment Seat for an accounting to God and rewards, not condemnation. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior (Jude 24, 25).

May 28 2014 6 responses Vote Up Share Report

Image41 Ezekiel Kimosop
This phrase naturally takes us to James 2. The teaching that faith without works is dead is quintessentially a defining mark in the theology of the Epistle of James. It is also informed by one of the most controversial doctrines through the church ages. 

During the first and second century it was rejected by some early church theologians who thought that the letter was unspiritual because they believed it taught faith by works in contradiction to Ephesians 2:8-9 which teaches “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” The famous church historian Eusebius noted that the Letter of James was among the letters that were disputed by some church leaders. He adds that and many writers had apparently declined to quote from it. 

However Eusebius himself quotes James 4:11, 5:3 and affirms that it was Scripture rightly attributable to James whom he calls the “holy apostle”. Origen later quotes from this letter too. The ISBE adds: 
Origen seems to be the first writer to quote the epistle explicitly as Scripture and to assert that it was written by James the brother of the Lord. It appears in the Peshitta version and seems to have been generally recognized in the East. Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianzus, Ephraem of Edessa, Didymus of Alexandria, received it as canonical. The 3rd Council of Carthage in 397 AD finally settled its status for the Western church, and from that date in both the East and the West its canonicity was unquestioned until the time of the Reformation. 

Martin Luther rejected the Epistle on the basis that it was an “epistle of straw, destitute of evangelical character". Luther’s view was largely informed by his theology of justification by faith alone and hence his finding that James was advocating justification by works. His thinking was specifically that James 2 was opposed to Paul's doctrine of justification by faith not works (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Fausset’s Bible Dictionary however observes that the two letters view justification from distinct standpoints and that they in fact harmonize and mutually complement each other's definitions. 

The dissenting theologians, in their haste to dismiss this letter, gravely misunderstood the principal message of the letter and failed to capture the context of the passage in which James 2:17-20 lies. James spoke against the profession of a dry faith which produces no beneficial works or fruit worthy of the believer but he certainly never implied that works were the basis of justification. 

The point is that a genuine believer who professes his faith in Christ should manifest good works which naturally flow from such faith. Thankfully the letter was finally accepted and taken into the cannon of Scripture by the church fathers having recognized its divine message, its timeless spiritual principles and its harmony with rest of the body of scriptures.

September 02 2014 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Sena Gapaise
I am in total agreement with all the above comments. They are all very refreshing and to the point. 'Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ' (Romans 10:17), so genuine faith in God comes from hearing, embracing, and believing in the words, promises and deeds of Christ. 
Furthermore, 'John 15:5 (KJV) says 'I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing'. So by believing in Christ we become attached to Him so we bear much fruit, which will be evident in our daily actions (good deeds). 
So to summarize, 'hearing of the Word of Christ' (Bible) gives birth to 'Faith in Christ', which naturally results in a person doing good deeds that flows from a meek heart that seeks to glorify God alone.

February 18 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Stringio Joe cattani
Salvation comes from the grace of God. It enters our hearts through the door of faith in Jesus Christ. James was trying to tell us that both sides of the door must be in agreement, they must match. The why we act, conduct our selves, behave, must be in agreement, or match what we believe though the teachings of Jesus Christ. 

It is liken to a man who wants to water his flowers, We open the faucet, which is representative of Gods grace, the water, which is representative of our good works, travels through the hose, which is representative of our faith. The water comes out the opposite end and sustains the flowers with life giving nourishment. 

If, for whatever reason, the water does not come out the opposite end, or just drips out, we have a defective hose and it is of little value to you or the flowers or to God.

May 04 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Ari Ariel HaNaviy Messianic Jew and Torah Teacher with Messianic Congregation 'The Harvest'
I am a firm believer that genuine faith will always lead to genuine fruit and genuine works:

Jam. 2:18
“…show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (Also see Eph. 2:10)

Faith and faithfulness are both important concepts worthy of careful study in order to properly understand how the Bible emphasizes how one vindicates the other. Tim Hegg of TorahResource.com explains the Hebrew and Greek noun and verb cognates this way: One of the major difficulties we encounter in our discussion of “trust,” “believe,” and “faith/faithful,” is that there is no corresponding verbal form of “faith” in the English language. We have no way of saying that one “faithed” or that someone is “faithing” in God. Yet in both the Hebrew and the Greek the word group expressing the concept of faith also contains a verb cognate. For example, the Hebrew verb (‘aman), “to be supported” from which we derive the verb “to believe,” has the corresponding noun (‘emunah), which means “faith” or “faithful.” Likewise, the Greek verb (pisteuo), “to believe,” has the corresponding noun, (pistis), which means “faith” or “faithful.” Unfortunately, many English readers do not realize that “believing,” “having faith,” and “being faithful” all derive from the same word group whether in the Hebrew or the Greek.

The way I see it, faith and faithfulness function as two sides of the same coin, in that they are both precious in God’s eyes. Don't misunderstand me. I am NOT saying we are saved by works. Perish the thought! I am saying genuine faith will lead to genuine faithfulness. Righteousness can be defined in two ways: "behavioral righteousness,” actually doing what is right, and "forensic righteousness,” being regarded as righteous in the sense (a) that God has cleared him of guilt for past sins, and (b) that God has given him a new human nature inclined to obey God rather than rebel against him as before. Millard Erickson stated, "Sanctification is a process by which one's moral condition is brought into conformity with one's legal status before God.”

Faith without works is dead, because genuine “faith” will always lead to “faithfulness.” If we give the word faith its Semitic background, as we should, we can never divorce the sense of “faithfulness” from the meaning of “agreeing with the truth” or “being convinced by the truth.” To put it another way, the Apostles never envisioned a situation where someone was accredited as having genuine “faith” but whose life did not evidence “faithfulness.” Torah is God's teaching to men about righteousness—what it is and how it behaves. The true believer (anyone who is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb) does not do in order to become. He does because he is what God has made him—the righteousness of God in Messiah. Thus James writes, "…I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:18)

September 04 2015 1 response Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
Here's an illustration expressing the relationship of faith and works:

Watch a short video about Blondin's amazing feats here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lii9j95tqIw&feature=related


In the summer of 1859 Charles Blondin daringly tightrope walked 160 feet above Niagara Falls. Not once, not twice but several times back and forth, between the US and Canada.

He rode across on a bicycle, once in a sack, once he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet!

On the 15th of July Blondin walked backward across the rope to Canada and came back pushing a wheelbarrow.

Blondin even pushed the wheelbarrow across blindfolded. Afterward, he shocked the crowd by asking for a volunteer! They had all been amazed at his feats but now he was asking for a volunteer to go across with him!

It is reported that he asked:

“Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?” The crowd was quick to reply YES!

But when he asked, “who will get in the wheelbarrow?”, no one replied. (Later in August of 1859, his manager, Harry Colcord, did ride on Blondin’s back across the Falls. Though some accounts say it was his mother [Source])

This story of Charles Blondin shows us what faith really looks like. The crowd had watched his incredible feats. They said they believed, but their actions proved that deep down, they didn’t.

We can say we believe in God. However, true faith is when we believe God and put our faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus has carried many across to Heaven’s gates. He can be trusted!

This illustration has been adapted from https://www.creativebiblestudy.com/Blondin-story.html

Faith in Christ brings life (John 3:16), and where there is life there must be growth and fruit. Three times in this paragraph, James warned us that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17, 20, 26). —Wiersbe

April 20 2019 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini John Appelt
In interpreting James 2:14-26, that speaks about “dead faith,” some claim this means salvation is dependent on both faith and works. Works are said to be proof of one having been justified. 

But the whole passage has nothing to do with eternal salvation. James was writing to believers, “born from above,” James 1:16-18, “my brethren,” James 2:14, how to deal with earthly situations. They were to show their faith despite the many trials coming their way. They were redeemed, but they needed to continue to be doers of the word, not hearers only. In fact, the book is about practical and wise living.

One problem in interpreting this passage is determining the definition of “save,” James 2:14. The natural reaction is to think of it as eternal salvation when it actually means deliverance in the physical realm, as James 1:21 and 5:19-20. Faith is required to be delivered in times of trial. And faith that does not preserve life in others is lifeless. 

The imagined dialogue in James 2:18-20, often misconstrued, supports this idea of living by faith. The person, who scornfully objects, 18-19, poses two impossible things, that belief is made visible by one’s actions, and actions make one’s beliefs visible. This person proves his point by saying demons also believe but it is obvious they do not do good, but tremble at the truth they know. Their creed hardly matches their conduct.

James responds to the objector by asking if he wants to understand that faith without works is dead, James 2:20. He then gives two examples of works done by people of faith. Abraham had already believed, Genesis 15:6, but here he was tested in his faith when he offered up his son Isaac, James 2:21-24, Genesis 22:12. He believed God had the power to resurrect, Romans 4:17-19, Hebrews 11:17-19. This righteous action was credited to his record of faith. His obedience proved the mature faith of Abraham, the “friend of God,” John 15:14.

Rahab was also justified by works. Although she had already placed her faith in the Lord as indicated in Joshua 2:9-11, she, by faith, hid the spies and directed the searchers to look elsewhere, James 2:25-26, Hebrews 11:31. By her actions she rescued her own life and that of her family from destruction.

The works of Abraham and Rahab evidenced the vitality of their faith. It is the opposite of dead faith, which is not an empty or pretended profession of faith, but the absence of living by faith in the Christian life. 

James clearly illustrates in James 2:26, that just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead. The body without the spirit is no longer alive as it once was. So also, faith without works is no longer alive as it once was. However, James encourages these believers to show their faith and do good works, especially in actively aiding their spiritual sisters and brothers. They are to keep their faith alive and dynamic.

September 06 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Larry Truelove
While I do not know of a single verse that says true saving faith will automatically result in good works, there are many which exhort believers to do good works. (Eph 2:10 is an example)

I believe James 2 is exhorting believers to do good works. Such good works are more practical and useful. (James 2:20).

August 31 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Justin Hale
Many Christians forget that the New Covenant is actually a 'legal contract' with GOD that frees us from the old 'law of sin and death' and brings us into the new 'law of liberty.' Christians are not 'lawless' people, just free from legal blame. Brother James is describing how that contract actually works. 

In any contract there must be a 'meeting of the minds' for it to be valid and in force. We are not 'saved by grace through faith' until GOD 'confirms' that we are. We cannot simply inform GOD that we have 'agreed' to His terms and just assume that He acknowledges this.

Our part is to 'believe that Christ was resurrected,' and to confirm this by spontaneously confessing this with our mouth from out of that 'deepest well' within us known as our 'heart,' (Romans 10:9).

That is one 'side' of the contract---OURS. 

The other 'side' is GOD's confirmation that this has actually happened. He does something 'through us' in response that no other source of inspiration is willing to do. 

That is what the apostle James is describing here when he speaks of 'works.' These are 'confirming works' done by GOD revealing that He is now our 'new Source of inspiration.' 

James even reminds us that the 'other' sources like demons actually have a form of 'faith' too because they certainly believe that GOD exists and that Christ was risen, only they recoil and shudder in fear at the thought, (James 2:19). 

James is describing a 'Christian conscience' when he illustrates someone not merely 'wishing' someone well, but actually providing for them directly to meet their basic needs from out of his own resources, (James 2:16-17).

This 'new conscience' is the other 'side' of the holy contract we are making with GOD. It confirms that the contract itself has been successfully entered and that a true 'meeting of the minds' has occurred.

The 'proof' has actually become the basis of all Church canon law and ecclesiastical law so that Christians everywhere can easily 'confirm' their own regeneration. This 'proof' is very simply stated by the Holy Spirit and referred to as the 'essentials':

“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from sexual immorality, from which if you keep yourselves, you will do well." (Acts 15:28-29).

Our new Christian conscience can be easily recognized by these basic things:

1) We are repulsed by, or feel guilty for interacting with any object, (especially food), that was produced by 'other' sources of inspiration, since these 'idols' always kill, steal and harm in their production. Modern people simply call this 'human sacrifice' the 'price of progress.' There is ALWAYS a way to produce the same objects or foods WITHOUT 'sacrificing' anyone;

2) We are repulsed by raw blood and feel guilty for any lifestyle bringing us in direct contact with it, including ingesting it, or any violence, sexuality or even medicine requiring 'intimate' contact with it;

3) We are also repulsed by 'strangulation,' including poisoning or any other similar process of death robbing life without shedding blood, including animals killed in this manner for food or other uses;

4) Finally, we are repulsed by the beliefs, viewpoints and lifestyle of the 'prostitute' (Biblical Greek: 'porneia'), which also happens to include all of the above activities only applied to our sexuality. In that world, you will notice that 'arousal' is often attained by simulated images of the above.

While a genuinely regenerated Christian may find themselves deceived into participating in these evil works, the 'proof of salvation' is not in their ability to avoid them, but in the response of their conscience to them. 

That 'proof' is GOD's 'works,' (not ours), fulfilling His 'side' of the contract and confirming that our spontaneous confession of belief in Christ's resurrection is, in fact, both valid and in force.

February 11 2023 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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