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Read Introduction to James


“But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”


But do you want to know,

James calls for definite acknowledgment of his previous point.  Many men do not want to know the truth because it is palpable that the principles of God’s Word will change their lives.  This is a challenge to the will.  Some people prefer to be ignorant of God’s principles because they think that their ignorance will deny the reality of the Word.  They are like the proverbial ostrich that likes to stick his head in the sand. 

James will proceed to show them cases of Old Testament believers who lived by dynamic faith (2:21f). 

O foolish man,

The idea “foolish” denotes unemployed, idle, with nothing to do, barren, yielding no return, unproductive.  James calls his opponents “foolish” because they do not produce anything.  Their lives are void of effect. 

that faith without works is dead?

Faith in God without good works is useless.  James explains what he means by “dead” in verses 21-23.  If there is dynamic faith, works will flow from them. 

Some manuscripts have the word “idle” for the word “dead.”  If this text is right, then the idea is that their faith does not affect their lives.  The faith that has no power over our lives is useless unless it changes our lives.  A corpse does not do anything or produce anything; it just lies in the grave.  We know where it is located, but it does not do anything. 


An inoperative faith is dead to any purpose of God. 


Inoperative faith does not have the power of God.  We can talk about helping the poor, but until we do, our faith is inoperative.  Our faith is good for nothing. 

Dynamic faith cannot remain idle; it is always on the move.  It will inevitably produce something.  A profession of faith that does not change a person is useless.