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.

James 2:18


James says ‘the proof is in the pudding.’

He quotes from a misguided person who says “this guy over here has faith, while I have works” as though the two are meant to be kept separate from one another.

To that James interjects: Show me what faith can do without works! He demands the faith-only gentleman to put his money where his mouth is. He knows, of course, that faith can do nothing without works.

He adds: I will show you my faith by my works. Notice that James isn’t interested in showing works without faith. He knows the truth, and thus he offers to show the power that faith conjoined with works can bring. Faith on its own is unseen. In fact, faith on its own is just an idea; it isn’t even a real thing. When faith ignites an action, however, that is when faith is seen. But it’s only seen when it is applied through works.

How sad that so many religious people hold to the idea that one can have salvation by faith without works. One can’t have anything by faith without works. Now, to that a critic will point to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians when he says that we are “saved by Grace through faith and not of works…” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And of course Paul is right, and so is James. The two are not contradicting each other. Instead they are simply discussing two different things. Paul was discussing works of merit; we can not earn our salvation (it is of Grace). James is discussing actions that faithful men undertake by the command of God. If I obey God, I’m not earning anything. I’m the servant not the Master. Thus I am saved by Grace, not by any works I did. But James is also right in that my faith—if it is not motivated to do the works of obedience commanded of me—will remain dead and worthless.

In other words, it’s apples and oranges.