2:14-17 Verse 14 is an often quoted verse, "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?" Of course, that faith can save him! What a silly question. I see the question as one to provoke thought, stating what "someone" said falsely. I do not see the big wah-hoo over this verse. It is easy. First comes faith and then comes faith in action. This is not a "which comes first, the chicken or the egg," scenario. Faith is born and good works follow. Never ever is good works required to get into heaven. Only faith. Sola fide. Faith alone. Only faith in the good work that Jesus Christ did for me on the cross. "Believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." (Acts 16:31) There is a saying, "Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone – it has good works with it." Scripture interprets scripture: Ephesians 2:9 "not by works, so that no one can boast."
It is our faith that produces fruit (good works) in me. Can one do good without faith? Sure! It happens every day. People without faith in Christ do good things too! These verses are not about doing good but rather about my motivation behind that good deed. This verse is similar to Chapter 1 in James in that it is something for me to utilize to test my own faith (and not to concern myself with judging the faith of others). God already knows my faith. He gave it to me. However, I am only human and need the more tangible and each time I do a good thing for another because Christ first loved me, then I have a tangible evidence of my faith to which I thank God. It is really nothing I do, but that contagious love of God that spills out of me onto others. If my heart is not working in this way, then my faith without deeds or works may be near dead and need a little revival!
During the reformation, this passage was controversial because some interpreted it to be justification through faith and works (synergism). Incorrect interpretation makes it seem that James and Paul conflicted in doctrine.
***Paul is interested in the root of justification • James is concerned about the fruit of justification
2:15-17 This is a great example of a lack of faith in action. Just telling a needy person to "go and be blessed" is merely words, but putting the food in their tummy and the clothes on their back is faith in action. What good is it to just say you have faith if actions do not prove it? Spirituality does not just exist in the "not seen" heart realm. Faith transforms more than just thought. Take that sentiment and do something with it! This would be like thinking about putting money into a savings account and then 6 months later expecting it to have grown. Can the thought alone make it grow? How could it have grown unless I actually put the money into the account? Such silliness. I have to put my faith in the bank and let it grow! Ah! Just talking in faith does not mean I have faith. Doing in faith is an indicator I have faith. Stop with the lip service!
This parallels Jesus' teaching about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:35-36.
These verses make me consider another common phrase, "God moves when you move." So God needs me to do something so He can do something? I think not! He can do whatever He wants even without me! He is all-powerful (omnipotent)! When I'm down and out and stumbling in overwhelming stress unable to move, God is still doing what He does all over the earth. If God tells me to move this way and I move another, God can turn that into good as well. He does not need me to move. However, these feet, hands, and mouth of mine do move for God because of my faith. Why do I think too much about where I am to move and what path I am to choose? He created my workmanship beforehand (Ephesians 2:10). My job is to be devoted to them: "those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works" Titus 3:8