Summary: To prove that Biblical faith is an obedient, active faith; thus, Christians must “show their faith by their works.”

Faith and Works: Complimentary or Contradictory?

Text: James 2.14-26

Thesis: To prove that Biblical faith is an obedient, active faith; thus, Christians must “show their

faith by their works.”


(1) There are those who would contend that “faith alone” is what saves an individual.

(a) Martin Luther made famous those words in reaction against RCC.

(b) The strange thing about those words is that the only place where they are found, Biblically speaking, is in James 2.24 in which James states, “Not by faith alone.”

(c) Thus, Luther disliked and tried to discredit the epistle of James.

(2) Still, what is to be of passages that “seem” to express the idea of faith alone?

(a) “Therefore being justified by faith […]” (Rom. 5.1).

(b) “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2.8-9).

(c) Well, what is to be said about those passages that express that faith alone is not sufficient?

(1) “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven” (Matt. 7.21).

(2) “And why do you call Me, Lord, Lord, and do not what I say” (Luke 6.46).

(3) Is there a contradiction in the ideas or do they complement each other?

(4) Let us see what James tells us.


I. The Illustration of the harmony of faith and works (James 2.14-16):

A. James notes the case of someone in need and that just wishing that the person in need would not do the one in need any good.

B. We see this in terms of helping others.

1. It is easy to say the words and not mean them.

2. Actions speak louder than words and demonstrate what we truly mean.

a. That is precisely what the Lord Himself taught us by saying, “If you love me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14.15).

b. The point is that we do what we mean to say.

II. The Explanation of the harmony of faith and works (James 2.17-20):

A. James explains it clearly, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead being by itself” (James 2.17).

1. How do you know if someone has a true faith in God (v. 18)?

a. James tells us that the way to know is to judge what the person is doing.

b. Likewise, in order for us to show men that we have true faith, then we must live it.

2. If it is just the mere acceptance of valid facts without a proper response to them, then the demons are “saved” (James 2.19)

B. The best definition of faith I’ve heard is “a joyful trust in the Lord conjoined with obedience.”

1. The “works” in no way take away from the unmerited grace extended to mankind by God Almighty.

a. This point is undeniably clear: God loved us “while we were yet sinners” (Rom. 5.6-8).

b. We do not do anything to earn our salvation.

2. Nevertheless, the “works” is first the acceptance of the free gift and then second the continually proper response to that gift.

C. Therefore, “faith without works is useless” (James 2.20).

III. The Application of the harmony of faith and works (James 2.21-26):

A. James utilizes two illustrations to help bring home this point.

1. First, he discusses Abraham.

a. Abraham was “justified by works.”

(1) “Justified” is from edikaiothe, which means “to pronounce or declare one to be just” (Woods 143).

(2) Still, the preposition “by” (Greek, ex, “out of”) demonstrates that “it was out of works that he was justified, not by means of works” (144).

b. Abraham “believed God.”

(1) Obviously, belief and works goes hand in hand.

(2) Neither works alone nor faith alone is how one accepts and responds to God’s gift, but rather a combination of both aspects, which, in the true sense, are inseparable.

2. Second, he discusses Rahab.

B. The overall point is that you cannot have one without the other (v. 26).

C. What does that mean to us today?

1. It is not enough just to say the words.

2. We must walk the walk.

3. We may judge how much we believe God by examining how much we do what He says.

4. Do we have to be perfect?

a. No, because that is why Christ came in the first place.

b. No, because we do not do what we do in any effort to earn our salvation.

c. No, because we are to give our best as a response to God’s giving His best.

(1) Our best, at times, may be far from perfect.

(2) Nevertheless, we strive continually (cf. 1 Cor. 15.58).

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