You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
James clearly links faith and works together as inseparable with his example of the body and the spirit. Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so too, faith without works is also dead. This is because faith continually contributes to our spiritual growth, which in turn produces godly works in the life of the Christian. To help our understanding we can state this another way. And that is, in order for us to obtain spiritual maturity every believer must reach the point of obedience to God. And obedience to God naturally puts a desire within our hearts to do the works the Lord has called us to do. Works which are pleasing to God and further the kingdom of Christ. Thereby demonstrating our faith and calling as bondservants of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As James closes this chapter he uses the word “justified” which is the Greek word “dikaioo.” This word has a dual meaning depending on perspective and usage. In one instance the word can mean to declare someone innocent (or righteous) as in a court proceeding. And in another instance, it can refer to the demonstration of existing righteousness. So in reality, these two perspectives are different sides of the same coin as it were. It only depends from which perspective we are viewing the believer. In Paul’s case he’s looking from God’s perspective as we are declared innocent by the blood of Christ. As Paul tells us we are declared righteous by God because we receive the imputed righteousness of Jesus based on His work for us on the Cross of Calvary. And in James’ case he is looking at the believer from the human perspective which sees the works performed by the believer. And from that perspective which is evidenced by the works people can see, onlookers then agree that our faith is indeed a real faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.