Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. Verse 17 (NIV)
My father and older brother regularly quoted this verse to me when they thought my Christianity was too “emotional.” Actually, this is also one of my favorite verses. This verse challenges those who sit on the sidelines and expect God to do everything. They tend to be the people that complain the most when things are not going their way.
While recognizing that salvation is completely a gift from God, including the faith necessary for believing in Jesus as Savior, the Reformers were sometimes troubled by James’s teaching about faith and actions.
I was surprised to learn at Bible College that Martin Luther was so adamant about justification through faith alone, that he doubted the book of James even belonged in the Bible because of its emphasis on actions and faith. But other Reformers maintained the importance of grateful actions as an outworking of one’s faith and a proof against hypocrisy. They believed this showed that James delivers a clear and authoritative word from God.
Some commentators use this phrase, that may help us to grapple with the balance of faith and works; “Faith is the beginning of obedience, and obedience is the completion of faith.” That resonates with Ephesians 2:10, where Paul, after teaching that we are saved by grace through faith, adds that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” In other words, a natural response to the Spirit’s work to bring us to faith in the loving God is to respond by showing thanks to God through good works and by sharing his love with others. So good works are a natural outcome of faith.
Proof of our growth as Christ followers is how we use our gifts, talents, and resources to help others. In what ways are you showing God’s love lately?
Father, you have provided our salvation in Jesus. Please help us also to show your love and share your good news with others always. Amen