In today’s passage, we read about faith and works. James follows his charge to the Church abroad to “show no partiality” (James 2:1, ESV), or favoring some people over others, with describing a dead faith. This “faith” is one that is not evidenced by works. James presents a hypothetical situation where one sees someone without food or clothing and does not help them, but only wishes them well. He argues that this person who did not help his fellow man has a dead faith. Faith without works is dead.
He even goes as far to say that “we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone” (v.24). The ESV says “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
Right after reading this, you might be thinking to yourself, “Aren’t we saved by grace? I thought that’s what Christianity is all about!” And you would be right!
What we must consider is what kind of “faith” is James talking about? James is showing a “faith” that isn’t really faith at all. If our faith does not produce good works in us, then it is a dead faith.
We are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. We must wholeheartedly affirm this truth. There is nothing we do or have done that can earn our salvation and right standing with God. It is only by the grace of God that we are saved. But what proves our faith? Our good works. Look at Ephesians 2:8-9, one of my favorite passages of Scripture:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (ESV)
But what comes immediately after in Ephesians 2:10?
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV)
Those who are in Christ have been saved by grace through faith, but you have been created, in the 2 Corinthians 5:17 sense, for good works. A faith in Jesus that does not produce a heart of love towards God and others is a dead faith, and our good works evidence a true faith. Good works are only the evidence of a person with a heart changed by God after being saved by grace. In the words of our Pastoral Ministry Apprentice, Graham Withers, “the fruit proves the root.” The fruit (love for God and for others) is evidence for a heart that has been rooted in salvation by grace through faith. This passage serves as a great warning to us who know we are saved by grace through faith to examine the fruit of our lives.
Take a good look at your life today: Does the fruit prove the root?
By: Lucas Taylor — West Campus Pastoral Ministry Apprentice