What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (James 2:14–18, NIV 1984).
My Musings – “Can such faith [with no deeds] save him?” On the surface, this sounds like an outright contradiction of yesterday’s musing – by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Is James (the half-brother of Jesus), promoting “a different gospel [faith plus works] — which is really no gospel at all,” that Paul condemns? Many, through the years, have seen such a contradiction. This included Martin Luther who said, “James’ Epistle is really an epistle of straw, for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it.” Or as Paul said, “no gospel at all.“
But there is no contradiction. Paul’s epistle of grace and James’ epistle of “straw” are in fact complementary.
Salvation result of grace – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV 1984).
Salvation results in works – “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV 1984).
In essence, a faith that does not result in works (not a result of works) was very likely not a saving faith (“can such faith save him?“). Such a person may claim to have faith, but if that faith does not produce works, it is dead (really never was alive). These works are “produced by faith” in Jesus. These labors are not born out of obligation, but are “prompted by love” that we have for our Master, our fellow heirs and the lost. Finally, all of this is inspired by our “hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3, NIV 1984).
My Advice – Do not think that your salvation is works based. Rather think that your works are based on salvation. Show your faith by what you do.