Faith Without Works is Dead: Exegetical Look at James 2:18-26 – Application

Author’s Note: This is the fourth and last post in a series on James 2:18-26. You can read the first post (Introduction) herethe second post (The Context) here and the third post (The Analysis of The Text) here. Thank you for reading!


In verse 26 we come to understand that faith without works is a dead faith. This means that this faith cannot and will not save us; we are not justified by such a faith. But to fully comprehend what James is saying here we take a cue from Dr. Alexander Stewart. In his article James, Soteriology, And Synergism he writes, “James’s understanding of ‘works’ (good conduct; putting away anger, moral impurity, and wickedness; speaking rightly; keeping oneself unstained by the world) is equivalent to obedience to God’s law and can be legitimately linked to modem theological discussions of sanctification.”[1]

According to Dr. Stewart, the definition of ἔργον is given by James in 3:13 and the contrast between hearers and doers in 1:19-27 is the crux of James’ teaching on faith and works.[2] The application for believers is that if there is faith, then our conduct must follow as evidence of that faith. In other words, we must be able to control our anger. We must “put away all moral impurity and wickedness.” We must “speak rightly” and not with a foul mouth or gossiping.  A believer must keep themselves from getting stained by the world. In other words, a believer who lives in constant habitual sin has a faith that is dead and decaying.

The believer must evaluate their life and compare it to the good conduct that James is writing about. If that type of conduct is not present in the believer’s life, then they should ask God for forgiveness and repent of their sins and ask for a true faith that will lead to a true salvation. Preachers must preach the grace of God to a dying, sin filled world, but they must not do it apart from the practical teaching between faith and works that James gives us in his letter.

 God has created us for His glory, as we see in Isaiah 43:7 where He says “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Sin entered into the world by one man and fractured man’s relationship with God. That relationship has been restored by one man by His sacrifice on the cross. A believer who accepts Jesus Christ as Savior has been saved to glorify God, as we see in 1 Corinthians 6:20. Here the Apostle Paul writes, “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

James 2:18-26 gives us the practical argument that faith without works is dead. Believing that we are saved yet not glorifying God by living out that faith in front of the lost people in the world is a dead faith. Believers must be about the work of God to showcase him to the nations so that they will say that truly our God is the one true God, the God of the universe, merciful and kind.

[1] Alexander Stewart “James, soteriology, and synergism.” Tyndale Bulletin (January 1, 2010): 299.

[2] Ibid., 299

About Peter van Brussel

Peter is the Director of For His Glory Prison Ministry. Peter holds a BA in Pastoral Studies from Southwestern College, a MA in Theological Studies, and a M.Div. from Liberty University. Peter is married to Niki, and has two children. He has been saved by grace and seeks to share the Gospel with those who have been forgotten.
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