Jesus, by being neither a sinner by nature nor behavior, went to the cross and perfectly satisfied God’s demand for justice and His desire to love us, making His sacrifice on our behalf acceptable to God. I believe that I am saved on that basis. But if Church Age believers don’t have to give evidence of their faith like pre-church and post-Church believers do, then why does James 2:17 tell us that a faith without works is a dead faith? Isn’t James saying that unless we give evidence of our faith, then it is a dead faith? Does dead faith mean unsaved?
It’s all a matter of cause and effect. I think James 2:17 tells us that true faith will manifest itself in good deeds, so our works are the effect of our faith. It’s not that we have to give evidence, it’s that the evidence will present itself. It’s true that we’re saved by grace through faith, not by works (Ephes. 2:8-9). But someone once said, “If what you believe doesn’t result in action it’s doubtful you really believe it.”
But that doesn’t give anyone else the right to demand evidence of our salvation to see if we meet their expectations. We don’t have to prove anything to anyone because the only One who matters already knows.
I see James 2:14-17 as a call for periodic self evaluation. Are we seeing evidence of our faith in our behavior? If not, why not? Are we not listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit? If we can’t hear Him, it’s not because He isn’t speaking, it’s because we aren’t listening. That means we’re tuned into the world around us and not to Him. It’s time to adjust the dial.
Dead faith doesn’t always mean unsaved, but it does always mean a fruitless life. Jesus said, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22).
Remember, salvation is not a fruit bearing event in our lives. It’s what we do after we’re saved that determines whether we’re being fruitful, and because it’s so easy to be distracted by the things of this world, periodic self evaluation necessary to keep us on track.