“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 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 2:17-18)
The epistle of James was probably the first epistle written. It was written only about 10-15 years after Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection. It was written by Jesus’ brother James who became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Many have misinterpreted his epistle as a call to salvation through works, but James never says that. He reveals that if you have only faith, but fail to manifest your faith in works then you may have never been saved in the first place. Your faith is dead and virtually useless. The natural progression of the Christian faith is to feel the convicting and drawing power of the Holy Spirit of God, act upon that drawing power by repenting of your sin and asking Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, professing your faith in public, and then you will be filled with the Holy Spirit and compelled to clean up your life, change your attitude and serve the Lord and your brothers and sisters in Christ – works. Works or acts that demonstrate your faith are the natural progression of your faith after you are saved and Born Again.
In James verses 21-25, James reminds the readers that in the Old Testament, Abraham and Rahab were justified by works and faith, and in the old covenant that was possible. They obeyed the law (works), obeyed God and did what He asked according to His will (works), sacrificed animals to cover their sins (works), and had faith in God. So, they were saved by God’s grace through their faith and works. The new covenant, abolished the need to justify yourself through works. The new covenant is accomplished by grace through faith alone, because Christ accomplished all the works necessary for our salvation. He lived a sinless life, taught and shared the gospel, cared for and ministered to all people without regard for their socioeconomic status – always treating everyone exactly the same as everyone else – and then he suffered a cruel brutal death as a once and forever sacrifice for us, redeeming us through his substitutionary willing sacrifice. All the work or works necessary for our salvation have been accomplished, so our salvation is by grace through faith alone. As my pastor would say, “We are saved by grace through faith, plus nothing, minus nothing.”
James was emphasizing our need for works, but understood that our works were a direct result of our salvation, not a requirement for our salvation. Works can’t save you; they are a direct result of the Holy Spirit within you compelling you to serve the Lord in everything you do. If you are Born Again, you will want to serve the Lord in everything you do, whether it’s tying your shoe, baking a cake, doing your job to the best of your ability or joining in the fight to get biblical principles and the Ten Commandments back in our public schools.
Do everything you do in prayerful dedicated service to our Lord, but first things first, you must first be saved by God's grace through your faith in Him.