How does James illustrate faith and works? 

Author: BibleAsk Team


James – Faith and Works 

James teaches that faith which is accompanied by works is proof to genuine conversion and the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer that yields to God. Like Paul (Romans 4:1–25; Hebrews 11:4–39), James sets faith at the center of justification and illustrates its importance by citing the notable works of justified individuals. And the apostle gives two examples – one of a Jew and the other of a Gentile.  

Abraham  

James stresses that Abraham’s works were evidence to the truthfulness of his faith. Before the birth of Isaac, God promised the patriarch that he would have many descendants (Genesis 15:1–5). This prophecy depended upon the birth of a son to continue the family name. And Abraham believed that God’s promise would come true even though he was still childless in his old age (Genesis 15:6). And for his faith, God declared him righteous.  

After Abraham got Isaac, God asked Abraham for an act that would seemingly destroy the original promise to make Abraham a great nation. But Abraham still trusted the wisdom of God and obeyed His command. God tested Abraham’s faith by calling on him to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice. As the patriarch engaged in the “works” preparatory to the offering, he gave full proof of the genuineness of his faith (Genesis 22:5–13; Hebrews 11:17).  

Abraham’s faith, as expressed in his “works,” received God’s approval for the second time (Genesis 22:15–18), as in the first time of justification (Genesis 15:6). Faith and works cannot be separated in a true Christian experience. When the test came to Abraham, his works provided proof that his faith was right. He was declared righteous because he trusted God’s word and joyfully accepted the promise of a Redeemer (Galatians 3:6).   

Rahab  

While Abraham was known for piety; Rahab (Joshua 2 & 6) was known for immorality. Unlike Abraham, who exercised his faith for many years before the offering up of Isaac, Rahab was new in the faith. Rahab risked her life and the lives of her family to be with God’s people and she demonstrated her faith in Israel’s God by her willingness to save the lives of the Israeli spies. If she had confessed faith in the God of Israel and yet had not hidden the spies, her faith would have been false and dead.

Both Abraham and Rehab proved their faith by forgetting their personal safety and by casting their lots with God’s children. There was nothing dead about either Abraham’s or Rahab’s faith or that of any of the other heroes of faith, who are listed in Hebrews 11. By faith they all obeyed.  Thus, James illustrated that the most respected and the most hated alike found justification through a faith that worked. 

Today, nominal Church members who are without working faith that reflects the fruits of the Spirit in their lives, are as dead bodies. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Without works, genuine faith does not exist. Mental agreement may exist without good works, but not working faith, which teams up with God’s plan for man’s salvation.  

In His service,  
BibleAsk Team 

Leave a Comment