WHEN FAITH AND LOVE CANNOT SAVE
James 2:14&17 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and not works? Can faith save him? Even so faith, that hath not works, is dead being alone.
The question James asked in the last part of verse fourteen is, Can faith save him? The answer implied in this question is - No! Faith alone cannot save. In this verse, as well as the entire chapter 2, James is stressing that faith alone will not be rewarded with eternal life in heaven. For faith to save, and lead one to salvation, it must be accompanied by a holy, obedient life that produces good works.
True faith is active. Faith begins when one hears the gospel of Christ, and believes what it says. Paul told the Roman Christians that ...faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10-17). What we read or hear are words. When the gospel of Christ is presented, by preachers and teachers, we hear their words. When we read and study the bible, we see words. Understanding and believing these words we hear and read is essential to faith. These words explain God's plan of salvation, and how it may be attained, but it does not assure salvation. Although necessary, mankind cannot be saved by merely obtaining knowledge of, and believing, God's word.
James introduced this fact, in the first chapter of this epistle, by stating that we deceive ourselves if we believe that faith alone can bring salvation. As James 1:22 says, But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only. James concludes this thought in verse 25 by referring to the doer of God's word and saying, this man shall be blessed in his deed. God requires more than knowledge of his will; believing God's word is not sufficient. God's plan of salvation requires more than faith; faith must be accompanied by works in order to be acceptable to God.
The human doctrine that faith alone can save, was evidently gaining popularity at the time James wrote this epistle. The same doctrine of error is still being taught, and believed, in Christian denominations. God, in His wisdom, saw fit, both then and now, to refute this doctrine. As we strive for eternal salvation, it is essential that we understand that there is no profit in faith alone. Likewise, there is no profit in works alone. The doctrine that God wants us to read, hear, understand, and believe, is that both faith and works are necessary for eternal salvation. A faith that cannot save is faith without works. Such faith is unprofitable.
To further establish this doctrine, consider the example the apostle uses in the following verses. If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (James 2:15-16). Love, like faith is necessary for salvation. 1 John 3:11 says this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Also, like faith, love without works is unprofitable. Verse 17, of this same chapter, tells us that the love of God does not dwell in the person that fails to share his blessings with others that are in need. The example James uses, tells us that words of love are not enough to satisfy the needs of our fellow man. Words do not warm the body nor do they satisfy one's hunger. For love to be acceptable to God, it must be demonstrated in acts of charity.
Merely professing your love for God and your fellow man is not sufficient; neither is a belief and confession of your faith toward God. Both love and faith must be demonstrated by works, for them to be acceptable to God. After using the example of love without works, James says that faith without works results in the same judgment. Neither is profitable. James concludes this thought by saying that faith, like love, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Faith and love alone are unprofitable. They are necessary but, when alone, will not lead to eternal salvation. We are deceiving ourselves if we think the profession of our faith and love are sufficient. Faith and love cannot save unless proven and confirmed by charitable works!