Verse of the Day Devotion. James 2:18
“But someone may well say, “You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith is proven by work.” – James 2:18
James here is laying out an argument that our faith is seen through our works. He starts with two questions. “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” James 2:14. The ‘good’ or ‘benefit’ of faith without works in the first question then becomes a question of salvation in the second. He brings out a specific example. “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed, and be filled, and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” James 2:15-16. These two verses apply to the original question in fourteen, for he uses the same question. ‘what use is it’ which ties them together. John in his first letter gives the same idea but with a specific answer. “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed, and truth.” 1 John 3:17-18. The question ‘how does the love of God abide in him?’ at the end of 17 is rhetorical. The answer is essentially, it cannot possibly dwell in him. Theologian Adam Clarke states. “Hardheartedness and God’s love never meet together, much less can they be associated.” John, later in his first letter, makes this idea clear. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 john 4:7-8. Then we read in the next verse. “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” James 2:17. This verse introduces the moral aspect of this idea. He in essence is saying that faith by itself without love for others is a dead faith, for the love of God is not present in us.
James then asks another question, which I believe he may have heard from a doubter in the faith. In our focus verse we read, “But someone may well say, You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith is proven by work.” James 2:18. Here, the doubter is disconnecting faith and works. We see this today as well. Some will say, ‘there are some in our church who go out and do good things like feeding and clothing the poor, but for me I go to church to prove my faith.’ I have heard this on several occasions. They believe that some have the gift of faith while others have the gift of works. They may say, “It’s fine for you to have your gift of works and that you care for the needy. But that isn’t my gift.” James then gives an answer to the doubter. “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God.” James 2:19-23. He tells them that they believe in God, and that God is one in three persons. But demons believe this as well and are condemned. Mental belief is one thing, spiritual belief is quite another. Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness, but through the proof of his work of taking Isaac with him and putting him on the alter to be killed, he proved this faith was perfect. He had faith that Isaac would come back with him. “And Abraham said to his young men, Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you.” Genesis 22:5. Note the words, ‘and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you.’ He had faith that Isaac would come back with Him, and therefore acted accordingly. And James closes this section with, “You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.” James 2:23.
Too many Christians believe that if they have faith, at least their definition of faith, they are saved and they do not need to do anything else. But what God is calling for is a faith that proves itself by acting accordingly, by doing the works that show the love of God for all is manifested in us. Without this, our faith is worthless and actually dead.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.