“But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
James now takes up in verses 18-20 the subject of the evidence of genuine faith. This is further elucidating 2:14,16. We cannot say to the financially poor, “Move on, help yourself,” and at the same time maintain a dynamic faith.
But someone will say,
For the third time James uses a situation where someone claims something but does the opposite. When someone says, “It does not matter much what one believes but only how he behaves,” this undermines the principle of faith. The antithesis is also true, genuine Christian talk is always consistent with genuine Christian walk.
“You have faith, and I have works.
James introduces another objector to his proposal that faith without works is dead. In this diatribe, we understand that the quotations to follow are James’ response to the objector. The Greek does not include quotation marks making it debatable as to when the quotation concludes. Probably the best interpretation is to include these quotations for the entire verse, that is, the objector makes the statement of the entire verse.
Show me your faith without your works,
It is difficult to prove the dynamic of one’s faith without works. The word “show” means demonstrate, exhibit. How can anyone put their faith on display except by what they do? We manifest, prove and evidence faith by works. God justified us (Ro 8:33) meritoriously by Christ (Ro 3:21-25) mediated by faith in His finished work (Ro 5:1) and verified by works. Our works are not the ground of our justification but the demonstration of our justification. The plant produces flowers but the plant existed before the flowers.
and I will show you my faith by my works.”
James throws down the gauntlet by showing that faith produces works. Faith is more than an academic exercise. It is rest in God’s promises and provisions.
A dynamic faith cannot exist without works but faith is at the base of works. However, works are the necessary sign of genuine faith. We know that a person has genuine faith by what comes out of his life. However, not all Christians maintain good works so Titus has to challenge them to maintain good works
Ti 3:8 “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.”
The Christian must maintain his Christian walk (Ga 5:16-17) and can be filled or not filled based on his volition (Ep 5:18). Divine production is not an automatic issue for the Christian that is why Jesus commanded his disciples do what they need to do (Jn 13:17).
We cannot keep a dynamic faith from producing something.
Reformed teachers after John Calvin popularized the idea that the evidence of sanctification must be present before a person can have full assurance of justification. John Calvin never held this view but was a departure from his teachings.
Our assurance comes from the Word of God and not from the presence of good works. We know by the “testimony” of Scriptures:
1 Jn 5:11-13 “And this is the testimony [the testimony is the Word of God]: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
We know that we are saved by the promises of God:
Jn 5:24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
Jn 20:30-31 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
Some branches of the vine do not bear fruit (John 15:2, 6) yet they are part of the vine. Carnal Christians will pamper the flesh.