My blog is where I post things I have learned through my own personal Bible study. Join me in digging deep into the Word to find the gold hidden inside. And feel free to email me if you think there's a theological error in any of my posts or if there's a topic you want me to cover in my next post.
Faith and Works #1: What Does It Profit?
3 years ago.

James 2:14-26 is a power packed bunch of verses, full of controversy and inlaid with gems of wisdom. It will take several blog posts to cover these verses, titled "Faith and Works", yet I am excited about finally being able to dig deep into this mysterious chapter. Today's blog post is titled "What Does It Profit?" and is founded upon James 2:14-16:

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?

Basically it seems to say "If you don't have works, then your faith is useless and you aren't saved." But is that really the case? It appears to be contradicting Ephesians 2:8-9, which states that salvation is by grace through faith alone, and not through works!

How can we reconcile these two seemingly contradictory passages? Before we try it, let us dig deeper into this passage, lest we erroneously misrepresent the Scripture.

Let us take firstly the first question of the passage, found in James 2:14: "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?" In other words, what use is your faith unless you work it out? You may have faith, but how are you using it to benefit those around you? Don't let your faith be something that just sits on a shelf collecting dust, that you take up and quickly dust off on Sunday mornings for church. As Christians, we are "created in Christ Jesus for good works" (Ephesians 2:10) not to earn our salvation - that we could never do, save by the blood of Christ - but for the purpose of using our faith, making a difference in the world because of the change wrought in us through the Holy Spirit, to the ultimate goal of bringing others to Christ!

"Can faith save him?" For as the previous question states, it is no profit to a needy person to simply believe that they will be given what they need, as verses 15 and 16 state - "[if] you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" (verse 16).

Faith alone, and prayer for the needy, although powerful and effective, yet as James 5:14-15 says, unless someone acts - actually prayers for him, and anoints him with oil in the name of the Lord.

In Acts 3, did Peter and John walk by the lame man and had faith that he would eventually be healed? Not at all! He said "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." And what happened? He took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength! After that, the once lame man leaped up and entered the temple, praising God.

So now we can see that these verses do not contradict Ephesians 2:8-9, but rather they deal with how we, as Christians, should do the good works "that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

How can you serve others today? How can you show them that us Christians are different, that we are ready to clothe the naked and feed the hungry? Let us all remember the words of our Lord when He said in Matthew 25:40: "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."