James 2:14-26: Why is Faith Without Works Dead?

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I was very young when I learned about God. My parents raised me in the church and I attended a private school. As students, we went to church every day of the week.

Since then I have come to know Jesus personally. When I look back on those days, all I can remember is having a “works-based” faith. I thought that “works” would get me into heaven.

As I’ve come to know Jesus personally, I’ve learned that “works” will not get me into heaven. The Bible tells us that faith without works is dead but what does that really mean?

“For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:26 ESV

Faith without works is dead

What Does God Say About Faith Without Works?

Let’s first look at what faith means. The dictionary says that faith is having complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

The Bible tells us that if we have faith in Jesus as our Savior, we will be saved. We need true faith in Him to be saved. Many people (I get a lot of emails about this) believe there is more required for salvation but that actually contradicts what the Bible teaches.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

So why do we need “works”? The truth is that we don’t need “works” to be saved. The beauty is that when you have true faith in Jesus, it will produce “works”.

Many call themselves Christian but their lives do not reflect Christ. Remember that God is the only one who knows the heart of man (Romans 8:27) so it isn’t our place to determine their salvation.

“Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:17-20 NIV

True faith will produce good fruit and false faith will produce bad fruit. False faith is dead and doing “works” will not be a ticket into heaven. True faith will produce “works” out of obedience to Christ.

Free Faith printable is available on my free Bible printables page.

The Truth about Faith Without Works

I spent half of my life believing that “works” would get me into heaven. I’m so thankful that the Holy Spirit prompted me to research my faith.

It’s easy to never look into what you really believe. We end up believing what people say rather than looking to the Bible ourselves. Having faith without works was a big problem for me. My view of salvation was totally distorted.

I’m going to share my personal experience about my “works-based” faith. This isn’t intended to point any fingers or for me to boast. It’s intended for me to reflect on my past. Here are some things I was doing because I thought “works” were my ticket to heaven.

I just want to clarify that all these things can be good works from true faith but they can also be bad works if your heart is in the wrong place.

1. Being Perfect

I learned from this one pretty quickly because I couldn’t be perfect. The problem was I didn’t understand forgiveness. I had a distorted view of the Bible (I never read it on my own) and I never got to experience the freedom of forgiveness.

Instead, I would get mad at myself and try harder and harder to be perfect. It’s funny because I was trying to achieve perfection from a worldview that definitely was the wrong view. Money, possessions, status, etc. mean nothing to the Lord.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

I was storing my treasures on earth which is a good indication that my faith was dead. My heart was in the wrong place and my work was for the wrong reason.

2. Going to Church

As I mentioned above, I attended a private school and I went to church with my class every day that I attended school. It became routine and really didn’t mean anything to me.

As I got older I continued to go even though I hated it. The doctrine I was taught said I would go to hell if I didn’t go to church. It required me to go once a week and I didn’t get anything out of it. I was so worried about going to hell so I continued to go.

As I grew in true faith in Jesus, I learned that church is not a requirement for my salvation. My salvation is based on my faith in Christ alone (John 3:16). That means I won’t get into heaven just because I attend church and I won’t go to hell because I don’t attend church.

It’s important to remember that the Church is important. It’s not about the attendance or the building. It’s about fellowship with other Christians.

We as Christians have been blessed with different gifts of the Holy Spirit and we need to come together to use those gifts to glorify the Lord (1 Corinthians 12:14-20)

True faith in Christ should create a desire for His Word. It’s possible that you haven’t found the right church but there are other options available like Bible studies for men, Bible Studies for women, or even free online Bible studies. All these areas allow you to fellowship with other Christians and glorify the Lord.

3. Giving Money

I remember having the idea that all my church wanted was money. I never understood what it was used for but I gave money because I was afraid of going to hell. I also remember my grandma watching church on TV and they were always asking for money.

The truth is that the church should be using the money to further God’s kingdom. I learned that when I became a true Christian. Tithing is a personal decision and we need to be praying about what God wants from us in that area.

Above all, God loves a cheerful giver and we need to give from our hearts in obedience to Him. The amount you give is a personal decision and should be done cheerfully. Tithing and donations are not a requirement for salvation.

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 KJV

4. Helping Others

I have always had compassion for people for as long as I can remember. The problem was I started helping other people and I was looking for some type of recognition.

It wasn’t until I truly came to know Jesus that I got rid of that need for recognition. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether or not to bless others these days because there is so much deception.

I have come to a place with the Lord where if someone needs a blessing, the Holy Spirit will prompt me to bless them. I trust that the Lord will use that blessing for good.

Serving others should come from the heart and we shouldn’t expect anything in return. Don’t feel bad if you feel like you need recognition. It’s just your flesh rising.

Simply pray and ask God to help you give without recognition and he will give you a warm feeling of obedience in your Spirit which is the best reward. Our reward is in heaven not here on earth.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1 NIV

Understanding Faith Without Works is Important

Hearing the phrase “faith without works is dead” is heavy. You may think “works” are required for your salvation but that is false. If you are struggling in this area, I would encourage you to analyze your faith in Jesus.

Are you living for Him? Are you allowing Him to be glorified through your life? If the answer is “yes” then start analyzing your motives for the “works” you are performing.

Are the “works” for you or are they to further His kingdom? If the “works” are to further His kingdom then you are on the right track.

Our purpose in this world is to glorify God. He gives us everything we have and we need to be good stewards of those things. Praising Him and glorifying Him through all those things should be our mission as Christians.

I’m praying that this article has helped clear up any confusion you may have about “faith without works”. Our time here is short and pleasing Him with true faith should be our ultimate goal.

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