The NKJV says, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone SAYS HE HAS FAITH but does not have works? Can FAITH save him?” On the surface it looks like James is teaching that one is saved by FAITH AND WORKS. In reality James is telling us that one that has genuine faith will indeed do good works. The man in question “says he has faith”; that is, he makes a “profession of faith in Christ,” but if there is no fruit in his life to give evidence of faith, his faith is a DEAD FAITH, as we in James 2:26, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.”

Now one may be thinking, “But James asks, ‘Can FAITH save him,’ so doesn’t that mean he does have genuine faith and that it’s not just a mere profession of faith?” Let me quote the NASB on this verse to answer that question: “What use is it, my brethren, if someone SAYS HE HAS FAITH but he has no works? Can THAT FAITH save him?” Do you see the difference in these two translations? There is one little word that is added in the NASB that makes all the difference in understanding this verse and that’s the word “that.” When James asks, “Can THAT FAITH save him?” he is simply asking, “Can THAT KIND OF FAITH save him.” Again, verse 26 tells us what KIND OF FAITH it is; it is a DEAD FAITH. It is so easy for someone to say, “I’m saved,” but if that profession isn’t followed by good works of some kind then it’s not a LIVING faith, but a DEAD faith.

Have you ever heard the saying, “We are saved by faith alone but not by faith that is alone?” That is what James is teaching us, for where there is a true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ it is not alone; faith produces good works! This truth is borne out in Ephesians 2:8-10, “For grace you have been SAVED THROUGH FAITH, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, NOT OF WORKS, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus FOR GOOD WORKS, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Is this not clear? As lost sinners we are saved by simply believing on the Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 16:31). Faith is the hand that reaches out to God and accepts His free gift of salvation through His beloved Son and the work He accomplished on the cross when He died for our sins. But the moment we accept that gift we are “created in Christ Jesus FOR GOOD WORKS.” God makes us a new creation in Christ by giving us eternal life and by giving us life He gives us the desire AND the ability to do GOOD WORKS. In fact, He has a life of good works all planned out for us, for verse 10 declares, “which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Now I think every believer would freely admit that we fall woefully short of doing all the good works God desires us to do, but that doesn’t take away from the truth that if we have truly been “saved through faith,” our faith in Christ will be manifested to others through GOOD WORKS. They can’t see the faith that is in our hearts, but they will be able to see our faith displayed through good works. That is what James is teaching us in James 2:14-26. I would encourage you to read that whole passage. (305.1) (DO)