What Does It Mean That Faith Without Works Is Dead?
The statement “faith without works is dead” means that true faith in Christ always produces good works. In James 2:26 we read, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
The context of this verse is found in James 2:14-26. In these verses, James is rebuking those who claim to have faith in Christ but don’t show it by their good works. He says that faith without works is useless and that good works are necessary to prove the genuineness of our faith.
In verse 14 James writes, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”
In James 2:14-26, the he gives several examples of how faith without works is dead.
First, James says that even the demons have a kind of faith (James 2:19). But their faith does not save them; instead, it condemns them. Why? Because they don’t have corresponding works to prove the genuineness of their faith.
Second, James says that Abraham’s faith was proved genuine by his works when he offered up Isaac on the altar (James 2:21). His works demonstrated that he had a true faith in God. Abraham believed God could raise Isaac from the dead.
Third, James says that Rahab’s faith was proved genuine by her works when she hid the Israelite spies and helped them escape (James 2:25). Her works demonstrated that she had a true faith in God. Rahab believed God could help her and the Israelites defeat their enemies.
Fourth, James says that a person’s faith is proved genuine by his works when he helps a brother or sister in need (James 2:15-16). When we see someone in need and do nothing to help them, it shows that our faith is not genuine.
The bottom line is that faith without works is dead because it is not a saving faith. A true faith always produces good works. Therefore, if we want to know whether our faith is genuine, we should look at our works. Do they reflect a true faith in Christ?
Aren’t We Saved By Faith Alone?
Of course, this raises an important question. Yes, faith without works is dead. But aren’t we saved by faith alone? Are we justified by works or are we justified by faith?
The answer is that we are justified by faith alone, but not by a dead faith. James is NOT saying that we are justified by faith plus works. He’s saying that we are justified by faith alone, but the kind of faith that justifies us always produces good works.
When we trust in Christ alone for salvation, our faith is credited to us as righteousness (Rom. 4:5), just as it was when Abraham believed God. This means that we are justified before God because of our faith in Christ. But our justification is not based on the works that our faith produces. Rather, it is based solely on the fact that we have put our trust in Jesus Christ.
Our good works do not save us. They are the fruit of our salvation. They prove that we have been truly saved.
Therefore, when James says that faith without works is dead, he is not saying that we are justified by works or even faith plus works. Rather, he is saying that a true faith always produces good works. A faith that does not produce good works is not a saving faith; it is dead.
This is why James can say in James 2:24 that we are justified by faith plus works, and then in James 2:25 that we are not justified by faith plus works. In the first instance, he is speaking of justification before men. In the second instance, he is speaking of justification before God. Justification before men is based on faith plus works. Justification before God is based solely on faith.
Therefore, we are justified by faith alone, but not by a dead faith. A true faith always produces good works. This is the biblical teaching on justification.
Saving Faith Is Accompanied By Works
James tells us that faith apart from works is dead. On the other side of the coin, the apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of the spirit in us.
Galatians 5:22-23 reads, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
This means that when we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit begins to produce His fruit in our lives. This fruit is not the result of our own efforts. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
The apostle Paul goes on to say in Galatians 5:24-25, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
In other words, as we walk by the Spirit, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit. This is what it means to live a Christian life. It is not something we do in our own strength. Rather, it is something that God does in and through us by His Spirit.
Therefore, a saving faith will always be accompanied by good works. As we walk by the Spirit, He will produce His fruit in our lives. This is the biblical teaching on sanctification.
Why Do Good Works Matter To God?
If we are saved by faith alone, why do good works matter to God? Several very important reasons.
- Good works glorify God. When we do good works, people see God at work in us and give Him the glory.
- Good works prove that we have been truly saved. As James says, faith without works is dead. If our faith does not produce good works, it is not a saving faith. It is a dead faith.
- Good works are the evidence of our love for God. If we truly love God, we will obey His commands (John 14:15). Good works are the proof that we love God.
- Good works bless others and build up the body of Christ. As we serve one another in love, the body of Christ is edified and strengthened.
- Good works will one day be rewarded. Jesus said in Matthew 25:14-30 that He will reward His people according to their works. This does not mean that we are saved by our works. Rather, it means that our works will evidence our salvation, and they will be rewarded accordingly.
Therefore, good works are important to God because they glorify Him, prove our salvation, evidence our love for Him, build up the body of Christ, and will one day be rewarded.
Bible Verses About Faith Without Works Is Dead
James 2:14-15 – 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.
James 2:17-18 – 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 what I do.
Galatians 5:6 – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
1 John 3:7-8 – Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
1 John 3:10 – This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”
Q: What’s the meaning of the scripture “faith without works is dead?”
A: The meaning of this scripture is that faith alone cannot save you. Good works are necessary in order to be saved.
Q: What are some good works that we can do?
A: Some good works that we can do include serving others, sharing the gospel, and living a godly life.
Q: Why are good works important to God?
A: Good works are important to God because they glorify Him, prove our salvation, evidence our love for Him, build up the body of Christ, and will one day be rewarded.