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But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18)
Here James is using a literary device, a figure of speech in which the speaker uses a quotation and then addresses the quotation. This someone (τις tis) is a supporter of James. He, the “someone” [supporter], is talking to another person that is an opponent to James’ position, who believes that only faith is needed. So, someone says, “You have faith and I have works.” Now, either James or someone replies, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” The response clarifies that the one claiming to have faith alone has no proof that his faith even exists. Thus, he does not have real faith that leads him down the path of salvation. (Matt 7:13-14; 24:13) His imagined faith would be a motionless pretense. The one claiming to have faith without the need for works needs to verify his claim, which is impossible because he has no real evidence. On the other hand, James and someone involved in this discussion have actions to prove that they have genuine faith.
The faith here stated by James, and someone, is the fundamental faith in Jesus Christ and is indispensable for a Christian. What are the works that one would have to see to evidence its genuineness? The actions resulting from having genuine faith would entail all areas of the Christian life. The Christian will be doing the will and purposes of the Father. (Matthew 7:21-23) “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians. 10:31.
Again, taking another look at this verse, James makes the statement, “will say you have faith, and I have works.” Some may claim that they do not need any faith to do good works. This was the issue with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day: it was all about knowing the law of God and interpreting it, but they never applied it to their lives. In fact, Jesus said to them in John 5:39-40, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness about me. And yet you do not want to come to me that you may have life.”
James uses the word show twice, signifying that showing one’s faith through actions is the only way true faith is authenticated. Someone or James says, show me your faith apart from your works. In other words, faith without works is impossible because faith is only known through works. Faith is not divided separately between works and faith, but instead, they are inseparably linked together. James asks the reader here to show them faith without works because he knows that it is impossible to do. Anybody could claim that he believes in God and yet has a wicked and evil heart, and still can affirm verbally that he loves God. As far as it goes with just a verbal affirmation, it produces no evidence of faith being true, although they can deceive themselves into thinking they have faith. For this reason, James, in essence, says, I will show you my faith by my works because works are the only way to evidence the authentication of faith. Good works cannot save you; one has to have good works because it demonstrates who he is, a truly born-again Christian with genuine faith.
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