“But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-- and shudder!”
(James 2:18-19 ESV)
The issue of faith and works, and their role in salvation, is one that’s troubled the church for centuries. The conflicts surrounding this issue have been numerous. And it’s something with which believers continue to struggle today.
Some say that works alone are enough for salvation. They say that by simply being a good person we are saved. Others say that faith and works together provide for us salvation. They insist that, along with faith, works play a role in our salvation. And still others say that it’s by faith alone we are saved.
According to Scripture, we’re saved by the grace of God alone through faith alone. Our salvation is not something of which we are deserving, nor is it something we can earn. It’s a free gift of God bestowed upon us as we trust in Jesus Christ.
This, however, does not mean that works are unnecessary. It doesn’t mean that, because we have faith, we’re able to live as we please. We find that a genuine faith cannot be separated from works.
In the previous passage, James told us that faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. In other words, works are a necessary result of our faith. They are necessarily produced by our faith. And if this product is not present, neither then is faith.
This is the point James makes above. One person cannot claim to have faith while another has works. Works apart from faith are meaningless. And so too is a professed faith without works.
“I will show you my faith by my works,” James says. His works provided evidence of his faith. And the same is true of us. They demonstrate the faith that resides within the heart.
Even the demons believe in God, he points out. Even they know that God exists. Even they believe that God is God. Yet, none of us believe they are saved. We do not believe they are saved because they do not receive him as their God. Even knowing his power, they actively oppose him.
The same principle applies to us. Many people profess faith in the Lord. They acknowledge that he is God. Yet, even though this is true, they continue to oppose him. They continue to live for sin. They continue to live in a state of rebellion against him.
If this is true of us, we are not saved. A true faith in Christ involves repentance. It involves a turning from our sin to the Lord. It brings forth the new life God has provided us.