In James 2.14-26, we find a distinction between genuine, saving faith and dead faith. Now the bottom line is this. It corresponds to what Jesus said. A good tree will bring forth good fruit, while a bad tree will bring forth bad fruit. Brother James tells us that a dead faith is one that acknowledges God with their lips, but their lifestyle is void of Christ glorifying fruit. He very pointedly says that even demons believe in God that way.
James tells us that any kind of faith that is void of good works is dead. Question, what does a dead person do? Nothing! Now, a dead religious person may know a lot of theology. They may be able to quote a lot of Bible verses. They may attend church service. But when push comes to shove, there is no evidence of regeneration or neighbor-loving, needy people-loving, Christ-like faith. Let’s let James speak for himself here.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Pretty clear, isn’t it? Now Paul would tell us that even good works void of the motive of love and the glory of God is a big zero. Let Paul speak for himself as well. “If I speak human or angelic languages but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
So does this mean that good works saves us? Absolutely not! For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast. The works that James is talking about are the fruit of genuine conversion. Profession of faith in Jesus minus fruit-bearing possession of faith is dead faith. Plain and simple. It is by belonging to Jesus and abiding in Him that we bring forth good fruit. Note that I didn’t say produce fruit. The fruit doesn’t come from us, it comes from Christ in us. Jesus puts it this way, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.”
So, we are left with a very important question. One upon which all eternity hinges. Is my faith dead, or is my faith a Christ-abiding, God-glorifying faith? The good tree will dwell in eternity with Christ forever. The bad tree will suffer eternity in hell. Reader, which kind of faith do you have? The fact that you are reading this is a token of God extending His saving grace to you. But when the goodness of God and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us — not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. He poured out this Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life. Trust Christ today as full and only atonement for your sin, and He will dwell in you and turn you into a good tree that is evidence of real faith. Today is the day of salvation!