If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
The Simple Illustration
A poor believer came into a fellowship, without good clothes and in need of food. The person with dead faith saw the need, but he didn’t do anything to meet the need. All he did was say a few words.
James 2:16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
So the person went away as hungry and naked as he came in! Food and clothing are basic needs whether saved or unsaved.
1 Timothy 6:8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
Matthew 6:31–32 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Believers have an obligation to help others in need.
Galatians 6:10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
James asked the question in verse 14, “Can ‘this kind of’ faith save him?” John answers this question very well:
1 John 3:17–18 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
We are saved by faith unto good works. But, if the works or deeds are absent, is there any faith?
The Simple Answer
Again the question surfaces: “Can that kind of faith save him?” What kind? The kind of faith that is never seen in practical works. The simple answer is no! “Any declaration of faith that does not result in a changed life and good works is a false declaration.” James calls this dead faith.
Faith (if it hath not works) by itself … is dead. “Just as professed compassion without action is phony, the kind of faith that is without works is mere empty profession, not genuine saving faith.” According to John Calvin, “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.”
By itself. True saving faith can never be by itself: it always brings life, and life produces good works. Dead faith has only an intellectual experience. In the mind, one knows the doctrines of salvation, but has never submitted to God and trusted Christ for salvation. He knows the right words, but doesn’t back up his words with his works. Faith in Christ brings life (John 3:16).
Where there is life there must be growth and fruit. James warns us that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17, 20, 26). Beware of a mere intellectual faith. No man can come to Christ by faith and remain the same. No more than he can come into contact with a 220-volt wire and remain the same.
“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).
Dead faith isn’t saving faith. Dead faith is counterfeit faith.
Pastor Chance Strickland
Harpeth Baptist Church
Kingston Springs, TN