It's like asking, what good is it to have a driver's license if you can't drive? The answer is: None~! It's like asking, can that kind of phony faith save? The answer is: No~! We are justified by faith alone, but not by the faith which is alone. Genuine, saving faith is accomplished by faith; it is not found in the empty wastes of hollow words.
- It is not indifferent but involved. Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? [James 2:15-16] In one way or another, most of us have been that needy person and can still remember the empty platitudes we received instead of real help. The proof of genuine faith is missing - real food and real clothes. Echoes... If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. [1 John 3:17-18]
- Genuine faith is not independent but in partnership. In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. [James 2:17] Faith and works go together like a horse and carriage. You can't have one without the other. Dissolve the partnership and faith dies. Faith was never designed to dwell alone, separate from the partner that proves its existence.
- Genuine faith is not invisible but on display. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. [James 2:18]
- Genuine faith is not intellectual but from the heart. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder. [James2:19]
This person's defense against not having any works is to hide behind an impressive knowledge of God's Word. James said that the demons have their religious facts straight, but they're still demons. We can know all the religious facts we want, but until we believe in Christ, we're no more Christian than the demons.
There is one interesting between the intellectual friend and the demons; the demonic tribes tremble at the thought of God but the dead faith of the religious intellectual doesn't produce even that much of a reaction. James is not ridiculing having an intelligent faith; rather, he's mocking those religious intellectuals who love to debate religious truth but have no plans whatsoever to commit themselves to following Jesus Christ.
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? [James 2:20]
If you take away the element of application, you're left only with mere intellectual assent, which neither glorifies God nor helps the person who possesses it.
Two commendable Old Testament Examples:
Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, " Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?
Both evidenced the same kind of faith.
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. [James 2:26]
Where there is separation there is death. Without works, faith is nothing but a corpse, void of vitality and useless to everybody but the undertaker.
James isn't saying that our salvation is dependent on our works. Nor is he trying to make us produce more works out of guilt or fear. He's only questioning those who claim to believe in Christ but whose lives never show any evidence of that faith.