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 by my works.” – James 2:18
James here, in our focus verse, is linking the ideas of faith and works with the purpose of laying out what real faith is. In the first chapter we read, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.” James 1:22-24. It is so easy to have an exalted opinion of ourselves. To think, I am a good person because I got to Church and bible studies, and I spend time in memorizing scriptures. Yes, these are good things, but are we doing what it says? The act of hearing the word without doing what it says is a way of deceiving ourselves. We think we are in better shape than we really are. We are not acknowledging the truth about ourselves. And so, we need to be the doers of the word. Paul made this clear when he said, “for it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the Law who will be justified.” Romans 2:13. And that was the mistake that the Jewish people were making. They thought, ‘well, we have the law of Moses.’ Paul said, No, that isn’t enough. You have to keep the law of Moses.
Now, we come to chapter two. In this section, many think Paul and James are in conflict regarding their teachings. Paul teaches that salvation is through faith, faith alone. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10. Then James asks, can faith save? The answer is yes, faith can save. But it takes a true faith. We must ensure the faith we have is real. For when we do it will be manifested by our works. In other words, to just say you have faith is not enough, for faith on its own is useless because it is a dead faith. “In the same way, faith also, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” James 2:17. No one is really walking in faith if there are no works associated with it. If we are truly walking in faith, our works are going to be manifested to the world, showing our faith to be alive and real.
James then gives an example of what he was telling them. “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,’ yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? In the same way, faith also, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” James 2:15-17. What profit is there if a man says he has faith, and he doesn’t have works? Can that kind of faith save him? No, it can’t. If a brother or sister is naked, or is destitute of daily food, and you say to them, depart in peace, be warmed, and filled; but yet you don’t give them any clothes or food; what good are our words? They can’t make themselves warm or take away their hunger. Under these examples of nakedness and hunger, he comprehends all the calamities of human life, which may be relieved by the help of others as food and raiment contain all the ordinary supports and comforts of life. How many people today will only be casual friends, where the most you can get out of them are, ‘God bless you, Christ help you.’ They can’t fill their stomach without works, for words only are useless. Just as faith without works are useless.
Now we come to our focus verse. “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 by my works.’ James 2:18. It isn’t only the declaration of our faith. It’s the declaration of our faith that has something behind it. And the proof behind it is the works we do. Again, the works don’t save us. They only prove that we have true faith, and this does save us. And if we don’t have works that are corresponding to what we are declaring, then we do not have saving faith, just the declaration. Simply verbal affirmation is not enough, and it never will be.
Pastor Chuck Smith, who founded Calvary Chapel before his death in 2013, put it this way. “Now a lot of people made mistakes, going forward, and saying the sinner’s prayer and then going away and living the same kind of life doing the same kind of thing. They say, “Oh yeah, I was saved. I went forward and I said the sinner’s prayer.” No, no, the sinner’s prayer isn’t going to save you. It is a living faith in Jesus Christ that brings about actual changes in your life and the proof is in the works, the proof of your faith. Your works have to be in accordance, in harmony with what you are declaring to be true.”
Now, I want to encourage us all to examine our lives and see if there is any time we profess faith without works, which is the validation of our faith. If you find this, then pray that God will help you make the changes needed to make it right. God loves us and is ready to help us through this. The question that is most relevant is, are we ready to change?
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, President and Founder of True Devotion Ministries.