Today’s text opens with a moving story of four men seeking Jesus to help their paralytic friend, only to find themselves unable to reach the Lord for the crowd. Desperate and undeterred, they removed the roof from the house where Jesus was teaching and let down the bed in His presence. Verse 5 begins with, “When Jesus saw their faith.”
Just last weekend, I saw an article titled, “Faith is never alone.” I didn’t read it nor did I notice the author. I suspect, (but I could be wrong), the author was going to use James 2 to show that genuine faith always manifests itself in a visible response, described by James as works. Sometimes the statement is made, “Faith without works isn’t faith at all, or isn’t real or genuine faith.”
I think this is a misunderstanding of what James wrote and of what John wrote in his gospel account. First to James’ statement.
The text under consideration in James is 2:14-26. The text does not teach that faith without works is not faith at all. It teaches that faith without works is ineffective to save. Verse 14 makes this clear. James describes this faith as “dead” (vv 17, 26). This simply describes its lack of efficacy, not its lack of existence.
Also, twice in this text, James is clear that faith alone is insufficient to save (vv 14, 24). The doctrine of salvation by faith only is taught and believed by millions, despite being patently false.
Also, in John 12:42-43, the apostle makes clear the fact that some of the rulers believed in Jesus but would not confess him for fear of the Pharisees, concluding, “for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” Again, there is no question as to whether these possessed faith in Jesus. The problem was that their faith wasn’t sufficient to overcome their fear of the Pharisees and withstand the opposition of their peers.
The Bible is clear. A faith that saves is a faith that works/obeys. James showed how both Abraham and Rahab were saved by faith, but not by faith alone. Both manifest their faith through their obedience.
The same type of faith is required of men today (cf Mark 16:16; Luke 6:46).