James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

18 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.

19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.


MEMORY VERSE: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. —Ephesians 2:10


CENTRAL THOUGHT: Salvation by faith, which is begun by a divine work wrought by God in the heart, convicting and persuading and creating faith in us, is not accomplished by works of righteousness that we have done, nor are we justified by the works of the law; however, Christ, dwelling in our hearts by faith, works in us the true works of righteousness, and these good works are proof of our faith, making it perfect or complete.




James 2:17 “Dead, being alone”: is dead in itself. “The faith that does not produce works of charity and mercy is without the living principle which animates all true faith, that is, love to God and love to man” (Clarke’s Commentary).




It would appear that James was refuting the apostle Paul’s teachings that a man is not justified by the law (the Mosaic law) but only by faith. I believe it can be proven that the two teachings were not at odds with each other, but were rather balancing each other and were written to counter the extremes of those who would take either “faith” or “works” too far.

There were heresies on both sides of the issue. The Gnostics (later termed Antinomians, or anti-law) did not accept the Old Testament moral law. The Pharisees attempted to bind the ceremonial confines of Moses’ law upon the Christians. Paul, in Romans 2:13, actually taught similarly to James. “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” James admonished, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).

Paul’s definition of “faith” was trust in the grace of God as revealed in the atoning death of Christ; a living trust in a living person. By “works” he meant dependence upon outward legal observances. James’ definition of “faith” in this chapter was that intellectual belief of religious truth; barren orthodoxy. He said the intellectual belief held by devils in the one, true God even caused them to tremble. We recall the magician, Simon, who was recorded as being a “believer” who was also baptized. Later he was rebuked as having a heart “not right with God.” By “works” James meant the acts which spring from true, living faith or its fruits, an identical teaching which Paul put forward in Galatians 5.

Both Paul and James refer to Abraham. Again, we can find agreement when we consider the entire body of teaching, especially when we consider Hebrews the eleventh chapter where faith resulted in Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and others acting upon their faith in obedience. James emphasizes obedience as he refers to Abraham offering up Isaac, which caused God to exclaim, “Now I know…”

“‘Seest thou how faith wrought…’ Here is a proof that faith cannot exist without being active in works of righteousness. His [Abraham’s] faith in God would have been of no avail to him, had it not been manifested by works; for by works—by his obedience to the commands of God, his faith was made perfect—it dictated obedience, he obeyed; and thus faith had its consummation. Even true faith will soon die, if its possessor does not live in the spirit of obedience” (Clarke’s Commentary).

Paul’s joining of the two—faith and works—in Ephesians 2:10 shows the true balance and frees man from falling into self-righteousness. “It is God.” We were never saved by our works, and we will never, by ourselves, keep saved by our own works. We cease from our works, surrender to Christ Who lives through us, and by that living faith and trust which works through the motivation of love, prove our faith by obedience and deeds of charity and kindness.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck




  1.  “Can Faith Save Him?” What is your answer to James’ question?
  2.  Give: How does the example in verses 15 and 16 show what kind of works James is talking about?
  3.  Abraham’s Offering of Isaac: Where does Paul also mention this proof of Abraham’s faith?
  4.  Works and Fruit: Paul speaks of the fruit of the Spirit; James talks about works. Do they mean the same thing?




We are faced with the same debate over these scriptures in today’s religious circles. Many times it is hard to discern the balance between “law” or “works” and “grace” or “faith.” Efforts to obey God are being scorned as “legalism,” while proponents of “messy grace” are being applauded and their best-selling works followed by the masses.

It is true—we could fall into the category of those mentioned by Jesus who stand before Him at the end, saying, “Lord, Lord” and holding up their religious standards and charitable works as their proof of being His, when in reality, He has to say, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23). We can rigidly hold to outward forms of righteousness while neglecting acts of love and charity to others, running a great risk of having Him say to us at the judgment, “Depart from me” (Matthew 23:28 and 25:31-46).

“True faith alone, whereby men have part in Christ’s righteousness, atonement, and grace, saves their souls; but it produces holy fruits, and is shown to be real by its effect on their works…We see then how that by works a man is justified, not by a bare opinion or profession, or believing without obeying; but by having such faith as produces good works” (Matthew Henry).

Let us “make every effort” to enter into the rest from our own works; where once we depended upon our own righteousness to “be right” but have now submitted ourselves unto the righteousness which is of God by faith. Let us allow Him to both will and do in us after His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). As we learned in an earlier lesson that our faith was generated by believing in the revelation of God’s love, may we now allow that faith to continue to work by love. Let us seek to glorify Him—not ourselves—before the world, that they may behold our good works and pure, honest conduct; fruit that comes from abiding in Him.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck




I trust I shall never forget the account of Bro. Ostis Wilson sitting with his dad on his deathbed. His dad was also an effective gospel minister who had made many sacrifices and labored faithfully in the Lord’s vineyard for many years.

Bro. Ostis asked his dad how it looked for him. His dad simply replied, “I believe that by the merits of Jesus’ shed blood I will be saved.” I believe this to be the true spirit of humility and love we need.

Paul asked the question, “What do you have that you did not receive, and why do you glory, as if you had not received it?” It is God Who gives us the mind to work; it is He Who gives us the willingness to do; it is He Who has given us skill and gifts. It is He Who gives us life and breath, and it is He Who has created us.

Jesus said in Luke 17:10, “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” An amazing verse of song put it this way:

“Could my tears forever flow, could my zeal no languor know,

These for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone:

In my hand no price I bring, Simply to thy cross I cling.”

My dear brother and sister in Christ, you are so precious! Let us work on—toil on— being constrained and motivated by the love of Christ.

—Bro. Bob Wilson