James Chapter 2, verse 26: “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
This passage uses 2 examples of works that show a living faith: Abraham and Rahab. In both cases, the act, or “works” of Abraham and Rahab was a single event. Specifically, placing Isaac on the altar, being ready to sacrifice him, and letting in the spy’s and protecting them.
Why is it that God “Justified” both by a single “works” act? This question flies in the face of the typical analysis of this controversial passage. We know from other passages, such as Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (NASB).” There are many other passages that assure us that salvation is by faith.
So what is James saying? Is he contradicting Paul? No, he is not. He is talking about a living faith, verses a dead faith. Knowledge about something is a dead faith. The demons have full and total knowledge about Jesus and the plan of salvation, and yet, they are not (and cannot be) saved. They cannot be “made alive to God” by their faith. Alive to God means your faith is saving faith. It means your lineage has been uprooted from Adam, and plugged into Christ, the New Man. It means your heart of stone has been replaced with a heart of flesh. It means you have been given a new, living Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit of God lives in you. You have been crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, and resurrected with Christ (in spirit – in the future, in body, as well). You are hidden in Him as he sits at the right hand of the Fatther. You are a New Creation.
Do you not know that this means you cannot any longer be a couch potato with your faith? You cannot. It is alive in you. You have made a crucial act of faith – your “works” – to invite Jesus into your life. And the result will definitely be other works, but that is not the point of this passage. This passage is talking about a faith that is a decision, an invitation, a response, vs. knowledge about. Listen to Andrew Farley’s explanation: