14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
The Bible has many tests for validating authentic faith.
John the Baptist: But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father…. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:7-10 ESV)
A claim of faith does not make someone spiritually alive. John challenged the Pharisees and Sadducees’ faith claim because their lives did not show evidence of repentance.
Genuine salvation is by grace through faith, and it is evident by transformed living—turning from sin and to righteousness.
Jesus: 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25 ESV)
Belief alone does not save anyone. Belonging, trusting, and surrendering to Jesus is essential along with belief. James makes this point, too, writing, 17 …Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! (James 2:17, 19 ESV).
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22 ESV)
Jesus repeatedly stated that authentic faith is evident by the fruit of living. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:16-20 ESV)
The writer of Hebrews: Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14 ESV)
Someone who strives for peace with everyone is a person transformed by the Prince of Peace. Similarly, being set free by Christ from the judgment of sin and the domain of sin is evident in our pursuit of holiness. John MacArthur notes, “A profession of faith that produces no sanctification is dead faith. We must clearly and forcefully counter the deception and delusion that knowing and accepting the truth about Jesus Christ is equivalent to having saving faith in him.”
Salvation is not a result of works, but works are always the result of genuine salvation. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV) 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17 ESV)
Jesus and the New Testament writers emphatically declared that a person deceives himself and others if he merely believes the facts about the gospel and is not demonstratively transformed by them.
The teachings of the Apostle Paul and James are complimentary of one another. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:28 ESV)
The unsaved should not think that works will save them, and the saved should not believe that works are not a product of genuine salvation
Genuine faith is more than professing words.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (James 2:14 ESV)
Genuine faith is compassionately active.
15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 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? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:15-17 ESV)
Genuine faith expresses righteous works.
18 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. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? (James 2:18-20 ESV)
Genuine faith includes works that glorify God and encourage others.
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 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. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 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? (James 2:21-25 ESV)
For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:26 ESV)
An in-depth study of the book of James.