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Show me your faith apart from your works

Posted by on May 30, 2012 in discipleship | 12 comments

Show me your faith apart from your works

Faith is one of the most pervasive terms in Scripture. From Genesis to Revelation, people are called to have faith, they demonstrate their faith, or they are rebuked because of their lack of faith. In many instances, “faith” is the difference between the children of God and the enemies of God, between the righteous and the wicked. But what did the authors of Scripture mean when they used the term “faith”?

The English term “faith” carries a range of meanings from trust and confidence to adherence to a set of religious principles. But, in Scripture, faith tends toward the former meaning: a strong trust or confidence in someone. In particular, faith is concerned with trusting or having confidence in God.

In verb form, translators often use the English term “believe.” Unfortunately, this term also has a wide range of meanings. Today, the term “believe” is often used to indicate a mental assent or agreement. Again, though, it may be best to think of “believe” as trusting God to do what he says he will do.

In Romans, Paul begins his letter by contrasting the difference between the righteous and the ungodly or unrighteous. But, what makes someone “righteous”? He quotes the prophet Habakkuk in saying that the righteous person is the one who lives his or her life by trusting in God. Notice that the primary verb in this statement is the verb “live.” Paul’s focus is not on a set of beliefs about God or facts about Jesus, but instead he focuses on a person’s life as a demonstration of trusting God. The righteous person is the person who trusts God as he or she lives day by day.

Certainly, the idea of trusting God includes knowing some information about God. It is impossible to trust God without knowing something about him. However, the opposite is not true. It is also possible to know much about God and, yet, not trust him. Throughout the Bible, faith in God is tied to active response to him. For this reason, James is able to state, “Faith without works is dead.” Those works, then, are actions that are taken in response to God; actions that demonstrate that someone trusts God.

In the same way, Paul clearly states that works alone is not enough to save anyone. As he wrote to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV) While some have suggested that Paul and James contradict each other, that is not a necessary conclusion. In fact, both James’ statement and Paul’s statement work within the understanding of “faith” as trusting God. Those who are saved trust God, and those who trust God are saved. Similarly, those who trust God will demonstrate that trust by their actions, their works. Someone with this kind of faith will also have works. Someone without works does not have that kind of faith.

The connection between faith and works and the connection between James and Paul is clearer when Ephesians 2:10 is considered along with Ephesians 2:8-9: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

Jesus used the metaphor of “fruit” to describe these kinds of works – that is, the kinds of righteous deeds that result from living a life of trusting God. He told his disciples, “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:16-27 ESV) Just as a fruit tree bears only a certain kind of fruit, so people living by faith in God (or not living by faith in God) will demonstrate a certain kind of “fruit” through the actions in their lives. The “fruit” does not determine the type of tree; the type of tree determines the “fruit.”

The actions in a person’s life, then, demonstrates to the world whether or not that person is trusting God. Certainly, stating creeds or singing praises or other types of speech can be a portion of those fruits. But, in Scripture, the primary “fruit” indicator is the loving action demonstrated toward other people, especially people who (apparently) do not deserve that love.

Or, to put this in James’ words, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18 ESV)


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-30-2012

    Good post
    Or, to put this in James’ words, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

    I see the key here is which one produces the other, and thus fits flowing together.

    Does works produce Faith? Does a tree branch produce the fruit hanging on the branch?
    The tree branch cannot produce fruit in and of itself. The tree branch can only abide in the tree, and thus the tree can produce fruit in and through the branch. So the branch can only bear the fruit that was produced in it and through it.
    We are the branches John 15
    So true faith in God through Jesus is the same as a branch abiding in the tree, and much fruit is produced unto life everlasting.
    But if you the branch do not abide in the tree, no real fruit will be produced, the branch is dead without the vine (Jesus), and then their is no cultivator (Father)

  2. 5-30-2012

    Now works cannot produce faith, for when the branch grunts and groans, whining, crying, it is not trusting in the vine(JESUS) to produce fruit from the cultivator (Father and Holy Ghost). It is out on a limb on its own not understanding that it does not have the ability to produce fruit. his flesh is seperated from the tree of life.

    Now when one trusts, abides, relaxes, then the tree of life produces in you and through you unto other branches wanting to be grafted into the kingdom through abiding in the tree of life, and end in resting themselves as you are rested from work as God has since the foundation of the world.
    True faith (abiding) in Christ (the tree of life) produces the works needed to bring in the sheep. For again it s not you doing it it is God through you.
    If works produced faith then The branch would have something to boast about. But the branch cannot produce any real fruit. But the branch can appear to produce fruit and it is all fake. So you shall no the differance when you abide you will see the others that do not abide and you will see the fake fruit hanging on their branch and know it is not of Christ, even though it claims it is.
    Being in Christ you will be as wise as the serphant, yet harmless as a dove. For when love has gripped you God’s love through Christ, and you see when you are mad that you just plain and simply can’t hurt another, and if you do you are sad over it, for your old flesh got in the way that has not yet died in your belief system. This is where a good tree that has gripped you the branch cannot produce bad fruit. This is why your Spirit testifies with God’s Spirit that you are one in Him, and God in you.

  3. 5-30-2012

    This is a beautiful illustration, “True faith (abiding) in Christ (the tree of life) produces the works needed to bring in the sheep.” In the harlot church, the fruit that is born is from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and bears fruit unto death. This fruit is obvious to all who care to see it. May who’s livelihood or comfort depends on the imposter, look the other way.
    Alan, Indeed, love beyond our human capacity, is the fruit from abiding in Jesus, the tree of life.
    Wonderful post!

  4. 5-30-2012

    Marc, thank you as long as Christs’ people are being set free that is the purpose, for that is what Christ came to do. Set the captives free. So many of us get caught up under the law, not just the law of Moses any law and thus we are taken captive, and get stressed out. Also the other way we get caught up is in trying from our selves to get others to see what you or I see. And it is not yet time for those others to see. But God says HE (God) is able to get his servants to become able to stand. The whole chapter of Romans 14 is very eye opening when the Spirit of God reveals it to you. Paul in there said I know and am convinced that all things are clean of itself. Therefore it is what we do with whatever we have been given that keeps it clean from God’s perspective not man’s. God himself is able to make his children stand, so I can get out of the way, and only state truth without fighting

  5. 5-30-2012

    Good post and glad you wrote it. As always you worked through the matter biased only by the scriptures.

    I am writing on this very topic today.

  6. 5-30-2012

    The word ‘trust’, as commonly used today, also may not carry the full meaning of biblical faith. You can trust God for one thing but not another, or you can trust God to a degree, but not fully. It’s hard to think of a single word that would suffice. Perhaps a phrase would do better, such as ‘fully rely on’?

  7. 6-1-2012


    No, good works do not produce faith (or trust) in God. However, faith in God will produce good works. If there are no good works, then there is no faith… or as James said, “Faith without works is dead.”


    I’ve always been surprised at the “fruit” that God has produced. It is rarely (if ever) anything like something I would expect.


    Thanks! Hopefully, I’ll be able to read your post soon.


    You’re right. Whether we use the word “faith” or “trust”, we will have to define it, like I’ve tried to do here.


  8. 6-1-2012

    Yes, i agree Alan. So can I produce the good works I know it can’t produce faith. so then can I still produce good works from my faith?

  9. 6-4-2012


    Obviously, the Holy Spirit produces good works through you as you submit to him. However, as we read in Scripture, you can hinder the work of the Holy Spirit by refusing to submit to him. In that case, you are hindering his work of producing fruit in you.


  10. 6-4-2012

    100% agree, tha this why it is vitally important to die daily to the flesh and this world. Telling truth in all matters. I am not worthy, no one is. Only Christ is worthy, and yet he even said to the rabbi why call me good for only God is good? So I say stay submitted to God through your recreated Spirit in the Holy Spirit. Know you are born again. Start saying thank you for God will show you this, in God you are a brand new creation, old things are past and the new is beautiful. Quit fighting like men, and you will see the differance. There is worldly love and there is God love. this is what the believer will discern and act accordingly but not in madness in truth

  11. 6-10-2012

    This was a great post Alan, I read it when you posted it and then went back and dug for it this morning. I hope you don’t mind, but I used some of your points this morning to tie together a bible study for today. I remembered what you wrote and after reading it again, I realized it would be a big help. Thanks.

  12. 6-10-2012


    I’m glad that you found this post helpful. I hope it led to alot of great discussion about the nature of trusting God.