Q. Would you please explain James 2: 14-26? As Born Again Christians, the Holy Spirit leads us and inspires us to do good deeds. But, are these deeds or works compulsory for salvation? I believe we are saved by grace thru faith alone. I see many churches focused on works which seems to me to be more of a religious approach rather than a true faith and relationship with Jesus. James 2: 14-26 seems to imply that to be saved you must have both faith and deeds. Or is it implying that by his faith and being saved, a true believer shows his true faith with compassion and works by being led thru the gift of the Holy spirit?
A. The context of James 2:14-26 is the relationship between faith and works, and the conclusion is that true faith will manifest itself in a believer’s behavior. James used 4 very powerful examples.
The first one is a negative example involving a hypothetical believer who sees a brother or sister in desperate need but pretends not to notice. It’s a violation of the Lord’s commandment that we love one another, and indicates that the believer’s faith is not genuine. Such an attitude was shown in the Parable of the Good Samaritan where both the Priest and the Levite ignored the traveler in need. (Luke 10:30-37)
Next James showed that belief in God among the demonic horde was not sufficient to save them, because it didn’t result in a change in their attitude about their need for a Savior. They believe there’s one God because they’ve seen Him, but in their actions they rebel against Him.
Third is the case of Abraham, whose faith was so strong that he set about sacrificing his own son, believing that God could and would raise him from the dead (Hebr. 11:17-19) Abraham was justified by his faith (Romans 4:3) but when God called him he obeyed, making his faith complete.
And finally there’s Rahab, who defied her own leaders and hid the Jewish spies on the strength of what she had heard about the God of Israel. She did so in the belief that God would save her from the destruction that was coming on the city of Jericho. At the end, hers was the only house left standing. (Josh. 2 & 5)
It’s what we believe that saves us, not how we behave. (Ephes. 2:8-9) But as someone once said, “If what we say we believe doesn’t result in action, it’s doubtful that we really believe it. ” True faith will manifest itself in Spirit led work.