1. The Foundation of Salvation | Mankind is saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus + Nothing = Salvation, Romans 5:1-2.
2. The Proper Role of Good Works | Those who are truly saved will keep God’s commands and have a life of good works. Faith in Jesus + Obedience = Good Works, Ephesians 2:8-10.
3. Some Common Errors:
(a) Works Salvation: Salvation is half faith and half good works, Faith in Christ + Good Works = Salvation.
(b) Sinning Saints: Good works are not necessary in the Christian life, Faith in Christ – Good Works = Salvation, Hebrews 10:26.
4. The Necessity of Good Works | Good works are not necessary to be saved, but are necessary to display one’s salvation and prove one’s faith genuine.
5. Key Statement | Faith without works is dead, James 2:17.
Breakdown of the Passage
v. 14, James challenges the false belief that Christians can live a Christian life without following Christ commands, John 14:15 & 1 John 2:4-6.
vs. 15-16, James gives the example of trying to help a brother or sister in need and only giving them “well wishes” is a shallow confession without action and is worthless.
v. 17, The most important statement in the text is given, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead;” thus proving that faith must have action to be considered valid and genuine.
v. 18, Faith and deeds are placed against each other in the mind of the skeptic who believes faith without deeds is still valid. Thus, James points out to the skeptic the only way to validate faith is by action and deeds. Example: How would one validate the claim made by someone, “I am a professional basketball player?” By the deeds of the person in a basketball game.
v. 19, James makes the point clear by stating that demons believe in God but are not saved. Thus, shallow affirmation does not justify someone, but obedience in the confession is needed. Example: To profess, “I’m in the Army,” can only be really true if the one who confesses it obeys the rules of the Army.
v. 20, James again rebukes the shallow confessor as being “foolish,” because they don’t obey God’s commands and demonstrate their faith.
vs. 21-23, James then gives the example of Abraham having faith and how he acted in obedience by being willing to sacrifice his son. Thus, Abraham’s faith was validated by his obedience to God’s commands.
v. 24, James declares that a person, “is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” This statement is not meant to contradict Paul in Romans 5, but rather clarify that true faith has validating action in obeying God’s commands.
v. 25, James gives another example of Rehab, showing that her faith was demonstrated by acting in obedience to God by hiding the spies for their safety.
v. 26, The section ends with the conclusion, “faith without deeds is dead.” Therefore, the statement made in verse 17 is proven true by the two examples and is left for the reader to accept as God’s Word.
Therefore, the following is true from James,
1. The Foundation of Salvation: Mankind is saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus + Nothing = Salvation.
2. The Proper Role of Good Works: Those who are truly saved will keep God’s commands and have a life of good works. Faith in Jesus + Obedience = Good Works.
1. Have faith in Jesus for salvation, Romans 5:1-2.
2. Have faith in Jesus to obey His commands (i.e., “good works”), Ephesians 2:8-10.