Summary: How does James present faith and works?

When reading James, we must understand that works of the law (Romans 9:32; Galatians 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10) are not the same thing as good works of obedience to Christ (Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Timothy 6:18; Titus 2:7, 14; 3:8, 14). How does James present faith and good works? Is Christianity about doing?

You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. (James 1:22 CEB)


For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (James 1:23-24 ESV)

Does the law of liberty involve doing?

But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:25 KJV)

What are some good works that define the Christian religion?

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27 NASB)

Some translations avoid the word “works” but it’s the same Greek word. Let’s see one such translation and insert the word “works” where it was avoided. What does a lack of good works prove about our faith?

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds [works]? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action [works], is dead. (James 2:14-17 NIV)

Other translations seem to directly contradict the idea of sola fide or faith alone.

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (James 2:17 KJV)

The idea of “faith alone” can be understood as a dead faith without good works of obedience to Christ, and disagrees with James. Is faith alone or is a living faith one that results in good works?

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 NASB)

Does belief by itself help the demons?

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:19 NIV)

What kind of faith has no accompanying works, a living or a dead faith? Can faith truly be alone?

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:20 NKJV)

Was Abraham justified by a faith that went to work? Do works then perfect faith?

Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith worked with his works, and by works faith was perfected. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. (James 2:21-23 WEB)

Is faith truly alone, invisible and only internal, or does it become outwardly visible by the works we do?

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24 ESV)

Is Rahab another example of a faith that went to work?

And in the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by a different route? (James 2:25 HCSB)

Some fellow Protestants falsely accuse our Catholic brothers of salvation by works, but that's either a misunderstanding or an outright lie. Does James solve the dispute? Can we really separate faith from good works?

Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works. (James 2:26 NLT)

James teaches that we must be doers of the word, doers of the work. We must have a faith that is accompanied by works. We must show our faith by our works, and by works faith is perfected. Faith is dead without good works. What good things does your faith prompt you to do? You decide!

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