What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James in this section of scripture is now giving us a practical lesson on what it means to practice the “Royal Law of Love.” What James proceeds to tell us is that if we truly love Jesus, if we truly have love for others because of our love for Jesus, then we have a living faith! If we are truly followers of Jesus, then we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who changes our hearts and minds through God’s work of spiritual growth called “sanctification.” Which means we have a living faith because of the active work of the Holy Spirit in us. And a living faith in Jesus is a faith which is not dead. Our faith is a living faith that cannot help but to involve itself in acts of kindness and love toward others and toward God. In addition, it’s a faith which produces a strong desire for the word of God. In other words, a genuine faith produces genuine results and changes in behavior. And that’s what James is talking about in these passages. A true Christian is one who has been changed by their relationship with Jesus, because they have accepted Him by faith as their Lord, Savior, Master and God.
Our faith in Jesus and our love for Him, brings about changes within us, which are pleasing to God, helpful to others and evident in our day to day life. Moreover, this is a faith which is concerned with spreading the Gospel of Christ. That’s why James is asking a question in verse fourteen, and though rhetorical in nature, its implications are overwhelming. What James is implying is that a faith that is devoid of love, devoid of any outward expression of compassion or mercy, devoid of a love for God, His word and those in need, cannot be a saving faith. This is because the Christian faith is a living and active faith which restores lives broken by sin. A faith that brings joy and hope to those who were lost and without hope. Therefore, real Christian faith in Jesus cannot be a dead faith and it cannot exist without changes evident in our behavior! And therefore any proclamation of faith which does not bring about a change in one’s life is a dead faith. It’s a faith without the ability to save and it’s a faith, which is not based on grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus. This is because real faith cannot exist without the presence of works of love. Works which stem from a heart given over to the Lord and the result of the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification in the life of the believer.