The Book of James – Dead Faith or Saving Faith

Today we delve into James 2:14-26. A passage that begins with a question that we can all use to self-reflect on. “What good is it to have faith but no deeds?

In Hebrews 11:1 we read that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” We hope in Christ and our certainty is in our salvation through Him. The promise of reconciliation with God was followed through with the cross to make that reconciliation a reality for those who believe in Him.

Our Faith/ our intellectual acceptance of certain truths, if not followed through with deeds that evidence the spiritual reality of our salvation and the process of our sanctification, truly reflect genuine saving Faith? As James questions – “Can such faith save him?” True faith saves and is reflective of a changed heart because of the presence and grace of God.

Scripture states we are a new creation in Christ – what change has the grace of God brought about within you? If our actions are not reflective of the faith we claim to have, is that even considered Genuine Faith.

We have a saviour whom we can cry out to, depend, lean and turn to. But a true litmus test to the effect that grace has on us is often best seen in the way we show love and care for others, not in words alone, but the sacrificial kind that goes beyond comfort and self and just cares.

James proceeds to give us an example 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? 

This example points out that if we have the means to help another and yet all we offer is empty words, in what way are we reflecting the faith that God asks us to have, that tells us to love our neighbour as ourselves. The story of the good Samaritan comes to mind (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus gave us this example, reminding us what caring for another should look like, the Samaritan came across someone in dire need, no previous acquaintance, no personal benefit, but only compassion for another made in the image of God.

In verse 17 we read “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” A dead faith is a useless faith, neither doing good for the one who claims to proclaim such faith nor does it reach out effectually towards another giving a taste of the love they can experience with Jesus.

James then goes on to explain ways in which we can justify deedless faith.

Verse 18-19 “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”

James denies the possibility of true faith and deeds existing independently of each other. In our times today, we can be quick to say, I just do things my way and this is the way I express my faith and we can justify our own way of being a Christian.

If we reduce our faith to only chatter, claiming the right doctrine and theology and but do not put our flesh to the test by living it out, James reminds us that all we accomplish is the same as that of the demons. The demons too acknowledge the presence of one God, they have the right theology. But does that knowledge impact their actions? Does that knowledge lead them away from their sinful ways?

James then delves into the Old Testament and gives us two contrasting but powerful examples, Abraham and Rahab, they both illustrate the same point, of faith substantiated by action. Abraham was willing to offer Isaac on the altar, when God tested his obedience. The very same promise of a child, that Abraham stepped out of God’s timing to try and have. His actions then did not reflect the trust that he showed later. But we see Abraham grow to have such faith. We can grow too, to have faith that does not fall short in action.

Rahab, although well know for how she helped those spies, was not an epitome of godly living as a prostitute. But her story reminds us that we can start somewhere, our mistakes do not need to define our future call to live for God.

God did not hold Abraham’s earlier shortcomings to grow him into a stronger faith and nor did Rahab’s earlier actions make what she did in obedience to God any less important.

James writes in verse 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”  

Faith that saves produces good deeds. The grace of God can change a lifeless faith to a life-giving faith. It requires a surrender of self and desire followed by intended action.

Let’s compare the rich young ruler and the tax collector Zacchaeus. The rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27), desired to follow Jesus, but he could not substantiate his claims to want to live for Jesus with his actions of letting go of His riches which was his stumbling block in following Jesus.

But Zacchaeus, what did he do, Luke 19:8-9 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.”

How does your faith move you to obey God? These words by James are not to stir guilt within that drives action nor does it contradict the truth that we are saved by grace alone and not our works, but encourages us to look within our hearts and reflect with honesty if our actions live up to what we believe in. May the Lord show us where we are truly at, so that we can lay it all before God and genuinely seek to grow in our faith, that is not in mere words alone and as such dead but a saving, lifegiving faith.

God Bless.

29 thoughts on “The Book of James – Dead Faith or Saving Faith

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  1. Actions should accompany our faith. Without actions, we will not make a difference. May the Lord give us wisdom, courage, and strength to take action as needed. Thanks Manu 🤗❤️

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  2. Manu, this is truly an encouraging post. I love what you said about, “True faith saves and is reflective of a changed heart.” Those words inspire and motivate us into action. I also appreciate the question you asked – “what change has the grace of God brought about within you?” Not only can this question help us to do better, but it can also help us to look back and reflect on how much the Lord has already done a good work within us. And then that in turn helps us to move forward confidently in our faith. May the Lord continue to mold us in this area, so that our faith can be seen in our actions. Thank you, dear friend! Great post! 🤗💜

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  3. To be a new creation in Christ, we need to grow more Christ-like. Christ was compassionate, kind, and willing to take the time to help the poor, sick, and downtrodden. Our good works show we are Christians. Great post, Manu! 💖💐✨🌺

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  4. Hello Manu, I always love the depth of your posts and reflections. I particularly like the way you stated, “True faith saves and is reflective of a changed heart because of the presence and grace of God.” That’s sooo powerful! Thanks for sharing this! I genuinely appreciate your obedience in sharing the word the way you do. Be blessed.

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    1. Thank you for saying that Heather. I know not everyone is super keen to read a post that exceeds a certain length, but the way I write is a reflection of how I study the word and I just stay true to that.

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  5. This is powerful but very provoking to me in the state of heart I am in right now. You say our actions should live up to what we believe in. Which is very true but very tough when a Christian is slapped by challenges that involves doing good. There are those who will never be satisfied with the little you can offer, there are those who you will go all in to help and then when your down time arrives, they assume as though you have never been there for them, then there are those who just want to take take and take and the day you don’t have you become an enemy. I have learned to be intentional about doing good and do it as though I am doing it to the Lord 🙏 thanks for the devotion.

    P/S:-Also noted that you have skipped some verses in James 1. You didn’t finish all the chapters but anyway as the Lord leads you sis. Only love 💕

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    1. My pastor always says we intend to do good and help but when flesh ( ours and others) comes into play everything becomes harder. But that is what challenges us to grow. I always remember that and it helps me remember my shortcomings and those of others too. Sometimes we have to draw a line and also remember that they have their own journey, you do not have to be closely intertwined in their journey and have boundaries for your sake. You have to look after yourself. But always prayerfully consider what needs to be done.
      With regards to the verses in James 1, I am not sure which verses you are thinking of. I have written covering the entire chapter. Let me know and I can better understand which ones you are talking about.
      Take care dear sis and I pray for the Lord to give you wisdom and discernment in how to deal with challenging relationships.

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      1. Thanks for sharing lessons from your pastor. That will go along way to help me in my journey of putting my faith to work. The verses I felt you didn’t handle are James 1:9-21….you touched on 1-8, then 5-8, then 22-27… But left out 9-21. You can correct me if I am wrong.

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      2. Hey sis, thank you for saying that.
        Regarding the verses you though I skipped, I did write on them. James 1:9-18 was tackled in Temptations and Pride in our position in Christ.
        And James 1:19-21 was tackled in Listen, speak and obey.
        You had a lot going on dear sis and that may be why you might have missed these.
        Take care and I hope that the Lord is filling you with His comfort and love as you grieve your grandmother.

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  6. I love the book of James for the very same reason your wrote about. I count conviction as sweet, as a gift from the Lord to keep us close to Him. Thank God for the James of this world, those who will call it like it is according to the Word. I remember in the beginning of my walk of faith trying to sort out James on my own, some of it was confusing. Thank God if we ask Him He will sort it out for us. Your post tells me He has done the same for you. Thank you for the post, God will use it.

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    1. I agree Betty, conviction doesn’t help us draw closer to Him if we choose to let it grow us spiritually.
      Yes, indeed He does teach us, sitting at His feet and learning is the best.
      Thank you Betty 😊

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  7. Thank you for sharing the Book of James with us. I always tell people “show me how you act and I’ll tell you what you believe”. Many times we say we believe but totally ignore obedience. Do we really believe?

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    1. Show me how you act and I will tell you what you believe – so true, what believe believe is seen in their actions rather than their claims.
      Thank you 😊

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