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James 2:14-26 – Faith and Works

Summary

Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.

Analysis

In an imaginary dialogue, the author argues against the false impression that it is possible to conceive of faith apart from faithful action in the world. Faith and works belong to a unified perception of the gifts of God through wisdom, which is intensely practical. God's gifts are purposive, and God's purpose is that the world be loved through those who are given birth through the implanted word as the "first fruits of creation." When it comes to the word of truth, there is no such thing as "hearers only"; there are only those who are "hearers and doers" (see James 1:22-23). To be any other is to be those who forget what God has created them to be. For James, even to speak of faith without its "completion" in works is "senseless" (verses 20, 22). The argument is sealed by the illustration of two "friends of God" whose faith was exhibited in righteous action, Abraham and Rahab (verses 23-25).

James 2:14-26

Faith without Works Is Dead

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters,* if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. 20Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith without works is barren? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. 23Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, and he was called the friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? 26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.

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10 February 2011

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