What did James mean by "Faith Without Works is Dead" in James 2:17?
The following text is a transcript of the video below:
James is giving a valid principle that scripture often teaches, that you can't say you have faith if it doesn't manifest itself in works. But he wasn't saying that works are part and parcel of faith, or that works are necessary somehow to, that works become the genesis of faith or give rise to faith. It's just the opposite. Our good works are a fruit of our faith. So you don't produce faith through works, but the opposite is true. Our works are produced because of our faith.
And James is simply acknowledging that if our faith is living and real, it will bear fruit. It will bear the fruit of good works. And if it doesn't, then you don't really have any right to say this is faith or I believe. If what you claim to believe doesn't somehow affect the way you live, then what kind of faith is it? That's the question James is asking.
He's not, as some people might imagine, he's not contradicting or even arguing with the Apostle Paul. He's simply making a different point. The Apostle Paul was dealing with the question of what must I do to be justified before God? What is the instrument of justification? And Paul said it's faith alone. Not any work.
James was asking a different question. How do I demonstrate that my faith is real? What is the proof that I have authentic faith? How am I justified in the eyes of people who observe the way I live my life? And James's answer is, the only way your faith can be justified in the eyes of watching people is through your works. And so he was defending the necessity of works.
Paul was defending the exclusivity of faith. The truth that we're justified by faith alone. But that faith Paul would agree. In fact, he does agree with James. That faith, if it's genuine, will produce the fruit of good works.