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Faith Without Works (Action) Is A Dead Faith (James 2:14-26)

Sermon on 23 April 2023 by Pastor Gaius


The book of James is very applicable in our lives. In chapter 2, we look deeper into the relationship between our works (actions)and our faith.


Faith without works is a dead faith

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. –James 2:14-17

Sometimes we are not sure how to help someone in need. Seek Him first. When we wake up in the morning, pray. Allow God to tell you what to do for the day. When the situation arises, the Holy Spirit will guide you. If a person needs help, we must address that need. In the example of the Good Samaritan, he provided shelter and oil for the person was robbed and beaten up. Conversely, there were others, people who knew the law of God, who did not help the man in need (Luke 10:31-32).

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. – Matthew 7:15-20

The fruit and the tree are aligned. There are consequences if there is no good fruit. When a seed is planted, you do not know whether it can grow well. Only when it flourishes and bears fruit can you tell that it is a good seed.

Works without faith is self-righteous

An example of a group who had works without faith is the Pharisees. They had actions only because they wanted to be in a position of respect by others.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. – Matthew 23:1-7

The Pharisees also viewed themselves better than others.

The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ – Luke 18:11-12

In another example, the elder sister Martha invited Jesus to her house. She was focused on serving, while her younger sister did not serve but listened to Jesus’ preaching. Martha had works without faith. She entertained negative thoughts of unfairness and scolded her guest.

But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” – Luke 10:40

In the example of the prodigal son’s brother, he was upset because he felt overlooked by his father. But he forgot that he always had his father.

but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. – Luke 15:29

If you do works only for yourself, you are a worker of lawlessness. Jesus will not know you.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:21-23

So what does God want from us?

Faith with works is a living faith

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? – James 2:18-20

We say that we believe in God. The devil also believes in God. The difference is that the devil does not want to obey God.

Abraham was called righteous by God. He had faith. When God told him he would have many descendants, he believed.

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. – Genesis 15:5-6

Then Abraham was tested. He was asked by God to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham obeyed, and the Lord stopped him and provided an animal sacrifice instead. Abraham not only believed in God’s might, he took action. Abraham was considered righteous because he had faith and works.

James also quoted another character – Rahab the prostitute. It might seem odd that she was counted as righteous, given her lowly status. This passage tells us that no matter what our status is, God considers us righteous if we have faith and works. There is no dead end as long as we turn back to Him.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. – James 2:21-26


We do not work to buy our salvation. We receive salvation through our faith. But once we have received our salvation, we would want to work. If we truly have faith in God and love God, we will want to do His commandments.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:8-10

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