...the churches of Christ salute you! Rom 16:16

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home The Light Articles from 2010 Salvation by Faith Alone?

Salvation by Faith Alone?

E-mail Print PDF

A Study of James 2:14-26

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

Does it profit, does it do any good to claim faith in God but live dis­obediently to His commands? Can faith alone (faith without works) save him? James now proceeds to introduce a series of common-sense proofs, illustrating God will not save apart from works of obe­dience.

15  If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

A child can understand this suc­cinct illustration-such conduct profits not one thing; the hungry are sent away yet hungry, the na­ked still unclothed. Thus, he de­duces...

17  Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

As James' illustration is clear, so, he says, is it's application-faith alone is dead,

18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

"I have faith!", with­out appealing to works, prove it. But this is impossible. In the meantime, I say that I also have faith in God. but will proceed to prove it to you by my works of obedience to Him.

19  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

Talk is cheap. It is nice to say "I believe in God, " but what good is an imprisoned faith, a faith that hides itself, a faith that does not obey. The devils have this sort.

20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

If you really want to know the truth, faith without works is a corpse.

21   Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

OK, here is another illustration to show faith without works is use-less-the story of Abraham and Isaac.

22  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was aim made perfect?

Can't you see that Abraham's faith, before he obeyed, was in­complete, but when his faith joined with obedient works, only then was his faith made perfect (complete).

23  And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the "friend of God.

When was the Scripture fulfilled that described Abraham as righ­teous?... when he obeyed (v.22). Only then could he be called God's friend.

24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

You see that don't you?...that God's servant  is justified only

when he obeys and never by faith only.

25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

But in case you missed the point, James illustrates again with Ra­hab. Remember how she was justi­fied by doing what she was told (works) and not by simply saying she believed in Israel's God.

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Here is the clincher. We know that when the spirit leaves the body, that body is dead. That is exactly how it is when one has faith but no works of obedience to give life to this faith. Such a faith is just as dead as is a body without the spirit. The longing to please God and the obedience it generates is the spirit that gives life to faith.

Dear reader, do you understand these verses? They are unmistakably clear. Our eternal destiny depends on whether we accept God's will that a believer's faith absolutely must joined with the works of faithful obedience (Heb. 5:8-9).

"But doesn't the Bible say in Ephesians 2:8-9, 'by grace are ye saved through faith...Not of works, lest any man should boast'?" Abso­lutely! We are_ saved by grace. We could never merit salvation by law keeping, but that does not mean we need not obey God. It does mean "so likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are com­manded you, say, We are unprofit­able servants: we have done that which was our duty to do"-thus, salvation IS by grace (Luke 17:10).  The passage says "Saved by grace hrough faith, " but notice it does not say "by grace only" for this would eliminate faith, nor does it say "by faith only" for this would eliminate grace. 1 Peter 3:21 says we are saved by baptism, but it does not say we are saved by baptism only.

What then does verse 9 mean, "Not of works, lest any man should boast"? Because the Bible and common sense teach, "as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also," we can be certain verse 9 is not saying it is unnecessary to obey God (works) to be saved.

Luke 17:10 teaches, and this verse also, that we are saved by grace, and could never earn salvation, could never merit being saved simply be­cause we kept x-number of laws. We are saved, "Not by works of righ­teousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us..." (Titus 3:5). Verse 9 is saying we cannot earn salvation. But faith, apart from works of obedience ac­complishes nothing. James chapter 2 proves this. Neither do works, apart from faith, avail anything. But faith working by love meets God's ap­proval because in this is our faith made perfect (Gal. 5:6, James 2:22).

This harmonizes with the next verse of Ephesians 2 where the apos­tle goes on to say, God has "created us in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. " Not works of human merit (goodness performed where God owes us salvation), but works of obedience, works God has ordained, works God has specified, such as alluded to in Matthew 7:21: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the king­dom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."

"For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his an­gels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works" (Mat­thew 16:27).

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (Revelation 20:12).

"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24). -Jerry



Our Friends

User Login