Faith And Works

by E.L. Anglin

Today a friend and I discussed a very popular passage of scripture from James, chapter 2. It came up during a conversation about justification by faith. As I led my friend through Romans 3 he stated, "But faith without works is dead" and then went on to classify baptism as a work. Below is my edited response.

So how many works do I need to do to prove my faith is valid? Why stop at baptism?

So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:17 (New Living Translation)

Is baptism a "good deed?"

Now someone may argue, "Some people have faith; others have good deeds." But I say, "How can you show me your faith if you don't have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds. James 2:18 (New Living Translation)

Good deeds (works) are the evidence faith is authentic. They don't produce faith. They aren't of the same substance of faith. They are the fruit of faith.

Baptism is a confession (fruit) of faith. The gift of tongues is a supernatural product of faith.

But can baptism or the gift of tongues be classified as "good deeds?"

No, because in the preceding verses it's clear that James had something else in mind.

Here are the verses leading up to the "faith without works" verse...

14 Dear brothers and sisters, what's the use of saying you have faith if you don't prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can't save anyone. 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, 16 and you say, "Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well" -- but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, it isn't enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn't show itself by good deeds is no faith at all -- it is dead and useless. (New Living Translation)

James clearly states exactly what kind of works (good deeds) show that faith is real.

Are you feeding, clothing and by extension loving those who express a need?

How do baptism, the gift of tongues or holiness standards qualify as good deeds? The first two are individual experiences which benefit the recipient, the third merely a lifestyle choice of no benefit to God or one's fellow man.

"Faith without works" refers to the way our trust in Jesus is expressed. It speaks to the fruit of our faith. James did not intend to say that faith IS works.

"By THIS shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13:35 (King James Version)


This writing is the copyright of E.L. Anglin and is reprinted on this site by permission. View all of his available articles here.


Page added February 12, 2015

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