There is a fascinating and frankly blunt discussion of faith found in the book of James. James, in the second chapter of his writing, shares a fundamental reality regarding faith. That reality… it is known by its action not simply its words. Now James had already begun this thought back in James one when he challenged his readers to, “be doers of the word and not healers only.” James was compelled to further establish this reality in chapter two.
As James sets up his discussion he sets up three forms or concepts of “faith.” Two of these concepts are not profitable and the third is a profitable saving faith. Consider these concepts James puts before us.
Concept 1: Faith is merely belief.
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” – James 2:14-17
This a faith in word, but not in deed and as James says, it profits nothing.
Concept 2: Faith with emotion, but no action (fear in this case).
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? – James 2:18-20
This faith is a belief that is even moved to emotion, but it also is a dead faith. We might even make particular note here that James compares this kind of “faith” with that of demons. Obviously this is not a saving faith.
Concept 3: Faith that works is a saving faith.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. – James 2:19-23
This is a faith that is perfected in its actions and one that is associated with justification.
What James is pleading with us as readers to understand is that God wants us to live and do the things He has placed before us. Are we to believe? Yes! Should we be emotionally invested? Absolutely yes! But we must put that faith to work in living out the things of God, otherwise it is profitless and dead.
“Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,” (Hebrews 10:24) for that is the fruit of faith!