No passage in all of Scripture has been so misunderstood as James 2:14-26. “Faith without works is dead” is used again and again by those who would add works to salvation as their proof text. Most Christians don’t know how to explain James 2:14-26; therefore, when those who teach falsely use James to prove their point, seldom does anyone ever refute them. Christians need to know the answer.
Do you know how to explain James 2:14-26? Not being able to explain this passage will hinder your effectiveness as a Christian witness. So often the lost will object to the true gospel message by saying, “Faith without works is dead.” If you cannot explain this phrase, then you will make no further progress with the one to whom you are witnessing.
A new twist, also false, is to say that if you do not have works that you have no faith and, therefore, you are not saved. Many Christians have been confused and robbed of their assurance of their salvation by this presentation. Works are subtly added to the plan of salvation by this misteaching on the book of James.
First of all, James was written to the saved. James was written to the believers. Notice the phrase “my brethren” in James 1:2, James 1:16; James 1:19; James 2:1, James 2:5; James 2:14; James 3:1, etc. James writes to persons who are already saved and the subject is not how to be saved but the Christian life and how to receive rewards in heaven. James is writing to those who are “born again.” “Of his own will beget he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures (James 1:18).” The question is not loss of salvation (which is impossible: see John 6:37,39), but the loss of reward. Blessing, not salvation, is what is promised to the doer of God’s work in James 1:25.
Salvation is also without exception “the gift of God.” “For the wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).” Look at Ephesians 2:8, 9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Read Romans chapter Five where salvation is called God’s gift six times.
James 2:14 talks about “profit”. Profit is something earned-something deserved. Salvation cannot be earned and is not deserved. Paul uses the same word “profit” in I Timothy 4:8 where again the topic is reward. “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
James is speaking of the Judgment Seat of Christ (II Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10; I Corinthians 3:11-15) where reward, gain, profit, treasure or the loss of it is determined. James is saying to a believer that has faith but no works that his faith will not save him the embarrassment, regret, loss of reward that he will experience at the judgment seat of Christ (the judgment of a believer’s works for reward or loss of reward).
How do we know that James is speaking of the Judgment Seat of Christ? The context of James demands that interpretation. Notice James 2:12. “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.” This could only be referring to the judgment of believers at the judgment seat of Christ. In James 2:14 we find no believer will be saved (exempted) from the believer’s judgment of works. No works will bring about no reward (profit). See II Corinthians 5:10.
Death in the Bible always is used to mean “separation”. Physical death is the separation of the spirit and soul from the body (See II Corinthians 5:8). The “second death” is the separation of the spirit and soul from God, in hell forever (See Revelation 20:14). Knowing this definition of death, let us examine the phrase “faith without works is dead.”
Knowing death speaks of separation and not cession of existence, let us look at James 2:26, “For as the body with the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” If I were to die physically, my body would drop to the ground but my spirit would go to be with the Lord. “Absent from the body, present with the Lord (II Corinthians 5:8).” Would I still be alive? Yes, I have eternal life. But my body would not have any vital signs and would not display any life at all, yet I would be present with the Lord and very much alive.
In the same way, James says, “faith without works is dead.” What does he mean? Works are to faith what the body is to the spirit. The body displays the life of the spirit. Work displays faith. The only way I can display that I am alive is with my body (movement, pulse, etc.). The only way that I can display that I have faith is by my works.
If I have no works, does that mean that I have no faith? NO! NO! NO! That would be like saying that if I die physically, I would no longer exist. The truth is that I have eternal life, so though I may lose my body, I am still very much alive. If you have faith but no works, you simply cannot demonstrate to another that you have faith. That is the point James is making when he says, “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 (James 2:18).”
To be effective, to be able to demonstrate our faith, and to earn rewards, we must have works.
James speaks of justification by works before men. Paul speaks of justification by faith before God. Dr. C. I. Scofield makes the following observation in the Scofield Bible: “(These are two aspects of one truth). Paul speaks of that which justifies man before God, via: faith alone, wholly apart from works: James of the proof before men, that he who possesses to have justifying faith really has it. Paul speaks of what God sees-faith; James of what men see-works, as the visible evidence of faith. Paul draws his illustration from Genesis 15:6, James from Genesis 22:1-19. James’s key-phrase is ‘ye see’ (James 2:24), for men cannot see faith except as manifested through works.”
James teaches salvation by faith without works in James 2:23, “…Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness…” This is a quote from Genesis 15:6 where Abraham gets saved. James 2:21,22 is an illustration from Abraham’s life forty years after he was saved. It illustrates, or proves Abraham’s faith to others. “Seest thou” James 2:22. In plain English this is saying that you can see by Abraham’s willingness to slay Isaac that he had faith.
Salvation is “not of works” according to Ephesians 2:9. “Not of works” means “Not of works.” Works have no part in our salvation. Jesus Christ finished the work of salvation on the cross. We can be saved only by trusting His finished work on the cross. We can be saved only by trusting His finished work on the Cross. Why not trust Christ as your only hope of heaven? Then choose to serve Him and receive blessings, rewards, treasures in heaven, profit for eternity.
- Written by Dr. Hank Lindstrom
The moment you put your trust in Jesus Christ, God who can read your mind knows, saves YOU and gives you the Gift of God, eternal Life.
You do not need anyone to pray over you, or pray for you, because this is between you and God in heaven. Because of your new trust in the shed blood of Jesus Christ you are now a child of God. Before you trusted in Jesus, God was your creator but now and forevermore he will be your father.
You are saved in a moment of time, because you are trusting in the true Savior now, not working your way to heaven day by day which is not even possible.
Once saved you can never be lost, for any reason. This is because you were born spiritually the moment you put your trust in Him. Just like your physical birth which brought you into this human world, your spiritual birth gave you a new spiritual life that is permanent. You were born-again, made righteous and holy in Gods eyes. In fact you have the righteousness of God himself, your are sinless and perfect in God’s eyes now and that’s why you can enter into a perfect heaven.
My favorite saying is:
God will not save anyone who is trying to be saved, He will only save those who are trusting to be saved.
You MUST put ALL your trust in Jesus to be saved, trust in the blood that He shed on the cross, trust that He is God in the flesh, trust that He made the complete payment for your sins, not just part; He paid for ALL of your sins (past, present, and future)! Trust that He rose again from the dead after 3 days and 3 nights, and in return for this trust, He gives YOU Eternal Life. All false Christians put part of their trust in Jesus and part of their trust the Church and part of their trust in themselves. If you put 99.99% trust in Jesus and 00.01% in something else, you will go to hell. It must be 100% trust in Jesus and what He did and 0% in you or your church! This information in critical… (grace always cancels works!) You are going to hell if it’s by your works or you are going to heaven by Gods grace. It’s as simple as that.
So I guess the question comes down to who are you trusting. Are you trusting yourself to get to heaven by being a good person and giving lots of money to your church or are you trusting Jesus, the lamb of God, that was slain for the sins of the world to get you to heaven? You receive the Gift of God (Eternal Life) as soon as you stop trusting in yourself, your church, your synagogue, your mosque, your money, or any other works and put your trust in Him and Him ALONE, Jesus Christ, Yeshua, The King of Kings, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Alpha and Omega, the Mighty God.
False religions are everywhere and they will find you, the one true God and His plan of salvation must be found.
If all this makes sense to you and you would like to trust Jesus as your personal Savior right now then tell the Mighty God in Heaven of your decision to trust Jesus Christ as your only hope of heaven. Tell Him that you are no longer putting your trust in your actions, or your church, or your church membership, or in your money, or in your Rabbi, or in your synagogue or your Mosque but that you are putting all of your trust in Him and the shed blood of the cross to pay your sin debt. Thank Him for doing it for you! Thank Him for giving you the Gift of Eternal Life that He paid for with His life. There is no greater deed than that of laying down your life for another.
Will you trust Jesus as your Savior right now, the one who shed His precious blood on the cross of Calvary to pay for all your sins?
Lord, I admit that I’m a sinner & I don’t understand a whole lot about the bible, but I do believe that Jesus Christ died & paid for my sins in full, by His death & shed blood on the cross. I trust right now the He died for me, was buried & rose again from the dead and will live forever more. I trust Jesus Christ right now to save me, to be my savior, to forgive my sins & to give me the GIFT OF GOD Eternal Life. Amen
By reading this sinners prayer aloud, you are putting your trust in God and His plan of salvation. You are not saved by saying this prayer, you are saved the moment your mind made the switch from trusting in yourself to putting your COMPLETE TRUST IN JESUS CHRIST. That moment may have been five paragraphs up on this page or that moment may have been on another one of our pages. You will not feel any different, but you will be changed and changed for the better forever. Once you have trusted Jesus as your savior and received his gift of eternal life, this gift can NEVER be lost. You can NEVER go to hell for ANY reason. Your past, present and future sins were paid in full the moment you put your trust in Him. You are blameless and Holy in God’s eyes now and FOREVER. If you have eternal life today what kind of life will you have in five years? ETERNAL! What kind of life will you have in ten years? ETERNAL!! What kind of life will you have in 50 years? ETERNAL!!! God does not give probationary life or temporary life, His gift is ETERNAL LIFE! Thanks be to GOD!
Why be good, now that I am assured of going to heaven? Because God’s law of sowing and reaping still applies to you and me. You will reap what you sow. You will reap more than you sow and you will reap later than you sow. If you drink alcohol like a fish, you will reap a diseased liver. If you smoke like a chimney everyday, you will reap lung cancer. If you rob, murder, and steal you will reap a life in prison. You will reap what you sow. I guarantee it! Now that you are saved, when you do good things you WILL be rewarded here on earth and in Heaven. And when you do bad things you WILL lose rewards that God had planned on giving you here on earth and in Heaven. But you will NEVER lose your guarantee of going to heaven. That can never be lost for any reason!! You have God’s word that your salvation can never be lost for any reason. You did not earn salvation and you do not work to keep salvation! Eternal Life, salvation, being born again, becoming a child of God, was, is, and always will be the GIFT OF GOD.
Remember: If your not saved forever… you are not saved!
Why is this true you might ask? Because if a person is not sure that they are saved TODAY / RIGHT NOW it means that they are still trying to be the savior! They can’t be sure they are going to heaven because they don’t know what sin’s they may commit next week, next month or next year. We who have trusted in Jesus alone, can have comfort knowing that all our sins have been paid in full on the Cross of Calvary (past, present, and future sins). Jesus has already died for my sins so I don’t need to pay for any sin I have or will commit in the future because Jesus already paid the price in full with His blood. So called Christians who say that you can lose your salvation because of suicide or murder or falling away from the church don’t have a clue what the Bible says and clearly have not trusted Jesus ALONE!
Biblical Salvation is forsaking any other means of salvation but Christ and casting ourselves fully upon Him for eternal life.
The Gift of God, Eternal Life can never be lost once possessed for any reason. John 6:39 ” And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should LOSE NOTHING, but should raise it up again at the last day.” You have God’s promise that once you put your trust in Jesus you can never be lost for ANY reason whatsoever.
“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” Romans 11:29 Again, God is telling you that this Gift of God that you have just received is without repentance. He can never take His gift back for any reason, no matter how bad you get, or how bad your sins are it is not possible. God would have to cease to exist for that to happen because He cannot lie.