Faith Without Works is Dead

Why is Faith Without Works Dead?

Answer: James says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Faith without works is a dead faith because the lack of works reveals an unchanged life or a spiritually dead heart. There are many verses that say that true saving faith will result in a transformed life, that faith is demonstrated by the works we do. How we live reveals what we believe and whether the faith we profess to have is a living faith.

James 2:14–26 is sometimes taken out of context in an attempt to create a works-based system of righteousness, but that is contrary to many other passages of Scripture. James is not saying that our works make us righteous before God but that real saving faith is demonstrated by good works. Works are not the cause of salvation; works are the evidence of salvation. Faith in Christ always results in good works. The person who claims to be a Christian but lives in willful disobedience to Christ has a false or dead faith and is not saved. Paul basically says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. James contrasts two different types of faith—true faith that saves and false faith that is dead.

Many profess to be Christians, but their lives and priorities indicate otherwise. Jesus put it this way: “By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them. 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 in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:16–23).

Notice that the message of Jesus is the same as the message of James. Obedience to God is the mark of true saving faith. James uses the examples of Abraham and Rahab to illustrate the obedience that accompanies salvation. Simply saying we believe in Jesus does not save us, nor does religious service. What saves us is the Holy Spirit’s regeneration of our hearts, and that regeneration will invariably be seen in a life of faith featuring ongoing obedience to God.

Misunderstanding the relationship of faith and works comes from not understanding what the Bible teaches about salvation. There are really two errors in regards to works and faith. The first error is “easy believism,” the teaching that, as long as a person prayed a prayer or said, “I believe in Jesus,” at some point in his life, then he is saved, no matter what. So a person who, as a child, raised his hand in a church service is considered saved, even though he has never shown any desire to walk with God since and is, in fact, living in blatant sin. This teaching, sometimes called “decisional regeneration,” is dangerous and deceptive. The idea that a profession of faith saves a person, even if he lives like the devil afterwards, assumes a new category of believer called the “carnal Christian.” This allows various ungodly lifestyles to be excused: a man may be an unrepentant adulterer, liar, or bank robber, but he’s saved; he’s just “carnal.” Yet, as we can see in James 2, an empty profession of faith—one that does not result in a life of obedience to Christ—is in reality a dead faith that cannot save.

The other error in regards to works and faith is to attempt to make works part of what justifies us before God. The mixture of works and faith to earn salvation is totally contrary to what Scripture teaches. Romans 4:5 says, “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” James 2:26 says, “Faith without works is dead.” There is no conflict between these two passages. We are justified by grace through faith, and the natural result of faith in the heart is works that all can see. The works that follow salvation do not make us righteous before God; they simply flow from the regenerated heart as naturally as water flows from a spring.

Salvation is a sovereign act of God whereby an unregenerate sinner has the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” poured out on him (Titus 3:5), thereby causing him to be born again (John 3:3). When this happens, God gives the forgiven sinner a new heart and puts a new spirit within him (Ezekiel 36:26). God removes his sin-hardened heart of stone and fills him with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit then causes the saved person to walk in obedience to God’s Word (Ezekiel 36:26–27).

Faith without works is dead because it reveals a heart that has not been transformed by God. When we have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, our lives will demonstrate that new life. Our works will be characterized by obedience to God. Unseen faith will become seen by the production of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22). Christians belong to Christ, the Good Shepherd. As His sheep we hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:26–30).

Faith without works is dead because faith results in a new creation, not a repetition of the same old patterns of sinful behavior. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

In Christian † Love, Susan Osten

by “Got Questions”

Parable of the Sower

On this earth are billions of people who have never, even once, heard God’s Word from the Bible spoken to them. There are millions like that just in America alone. Probably right in your neighborhood are people with no hope, with seemingly unsolvable troubles, going through terrible trials, yet who have never heard the powerful answers God has for them. I want to encourage you to determine personally to be one of Jesus’ faithful “sowers [who] sow the word.” People’s lives and eternity are in the balance.

Mark 4:3-14, KJV …Behold, there went out a sower to sow… [8] And other [seed] fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred… [14] The sower soweth the word.

“The sower soweth the word,” said Jesus. And that Word of God, He said, produces fruit, “a crop.” The Lord is telling us in these parables to share His Word with people, and it has the potential to bear fruit in their lives and to lead to an abundant harvest.

Matthew 13:1-23 (KJV)

1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.

2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

He has commissioned us to be seed-sowers. The field is the world, Jesus said in another parable (Matthew 13:38). Christ’s command that we be sowers of the seed of His Word in all the world, is an early hint at His later Great Commission: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). It’s similar in Luke 24:49, where Jesus directs His disciples into ministry in which “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

In God’s Love and † Grace, Susan

Excerpts from Pastor Jim Feeny’s sermon entitled “The Sower Sows the Word. You Can Too and Harvest a Crop.”