“Justified By Faith Alone” Vs. “Faith Without Works Is Dead Explained”

James 2:20–24, Faith without works is dead. (See notes at Rom 3:28; 4:2.)James is referring here to the works of faith, not the works of the law. No man can live a good enough life to be saved by his Torah-obedience or the works of the law (Rom 3:20, 28; Gal 2:16; 3:11). 

At the same time, faith in Elohim is more than just mental ascent—“a knowing in your heart.” It has to be backed up by action (and we’re not talking about the works of the law). For example, when Elohim told Abraham to leave Babylon or to sacrifice Isaac, he obeyed by leaving that country and moving to Canaan. 

Moreover, many were healed in Yeshua’s ministry because they had faith in the Master and backed that faith up with corresponding action, which was the evidence of their faith. This faith-action continuum had nothing to do with Torah-obedience per se, but had everything to do with “putting your money where your mouth is” by backing up your faith or belief with action. 

It is this kind of faith that James is talking about here, and this in no wise contradicts the teachings of Paul who said that no man is justified by the works of the law. When Paul declares in Ephesians 2:8–9, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of Elohim, not of works…,” he was correct and not opposed to James. What’s more, Paul goes on to say in verse 10, “For we are [Elohim’s] workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works…that we should walk in them.” These good works (i.e. obedience to the Torah) are the fruits, evidence or proof of our salvation and are the works that back up our faith. 

So, in summary, the Bible teaches that we need the faith (a heart that believes and wants to obey Elohim) to lead us to salvation, as well as the works of faith after we have received Elohim’s free gift of salvation as evidence that we are saved. This fact in no way contravenes the reality of salvation by grace through trusting belief in Yeshua the Messiah, which is apart from the works of the Torah-law.

 

Between “Devil” and “the Deep Blue Sea”?

Exodus 14:13–15, And Moses said. The first four statements that Moses makes in these two verses presupposes the four fear responses the Israelites would naturally have had when pinned between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea.

  • To those who wanted to commit suicide by fleeing, and since there was nowhere to go, fleeing meant certain death either by drowning in the sea or by Pharaoh’s army, Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation [Heb. Yeshua] of YHVH.” 
  • To those who wanted to go back to Egypt, Moses said, “The Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see no more.” 
  • To those who wanted to fight, Moses said, “YHVH will fight for you.” 
  • To those who wanted to just complain, or even to pray about their plight, Moses said, “Hold your peace.” 

When faced with similar impossible situations, we typically have the same responses as that of the children of Israel, when all we have to do is to stand still in faith and wait on YHVH to supernaturally deliver us. But there’s more. Faith isn’t passive. It’s active. This is where the fifth statement—this one made by YHVH—comes into play. 

YHVH command the Israelites to “Go forward” in faith! YHVH expected Moses, the leader, to lead the way. YHVH told the Israelites to confront their fears including the fear of death and to step into the Red Sea. Only when the people’s leader stepped forward in faith and placed his foot into the Red Sea did the sea part and the deliverance of YHVH became evident.

Note what Moses told Israelites in this first statement: “Stand still and see the salvation [Heb. Yeshua] of YHVH.” As already noted previously, the pre-incarnate Yeshua the Messiah was the Messenger of YHVH who was with the children of Israel in the fire cloud positioned between the Israelites and the Egyptians. When Yeshua the Messiah is in your camp, there is nothing to fear! This was a lesson in faith that the Israelites had to learn—and one we have to learn as well. Let’s not forget the words of the apostle:

I can do all things through Messiah which strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through [Messiah] that loved us. (Rom 8:37)

What shall we then say to these things? If Elohim be for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)

Exodus 14:13, Salvation. The word salvation here is the Hebrew word Yeshua. Think about this for a moment in light of the context in which this word is found in this story, and the implications for our own lives when we’re confronted with difficult situations.


 

Are we walking by faith or by sight?

Exodus 6:9, They did not heed…because. When our eyes are totally focused on our circumstances and we fail to acknowledge Elohim in all things (Prov 3:5–6), and be thankful to him for all things (Eph 5:20; 1 Thess 5:18), we will fail to see the higher and grander purposes he is working out in our lives for his glory and for our blessing.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrew 11:1)

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7)


 

Do you see and believe, or doubt and mock?

Luke 1:41–45, When Elizabeth heard. During this greeting, Elizabeth had a spiritual encounter that helped her to connect the dots to understand what was going on in YHVH’s divine plan for John and Yeshua.

By now, it is likely that Zechariah would have revealed to her the angel’s previous message (vv. 13–17). Now when the babe leapt in her womb at Mary’s arrival, and she was filled with the Spirit (a visceral experience), and then prophetic words came out of her mouth, this was evidence and confirmation to both Elizabeth and Zechariah of YHVH’s plans for their son.

YHVH has supernatural ways of conveying his divine will to his people, so that only people of faith will see and understand his ways and his plans for their lives. All others, unless confronted with visible signs and empirical evidence (as verified by logic, or observable evidence or experience), will dismiss these spiritual revelations and circumstances as delusion.

Even when signs and miracles occur, it is unlikely that the hard hearted unbeliever will even then believe YHVH. This was often the case with the children of Israel and many who saw the miracles surrounding Yeshua’s ministry.

In the face of supernatural occurrences, sadly and to their own detriment, the unbelievers usually resort to mockery and to scoffing ridicule. Those, on the other hand, who walk by faith and hear the voice of YHVH and know his ways of communication and will remain undeterred, will have their faith strengthened, and will follow Elohim wherever he leads them.


 

Ye shall reap if ye faint not!

Genesis 45:5, 7, 8, Elohim sent me. Joseph was sold into slavery at age 17, was freed from prison and made ruler of Egypt at age 30. After that, seven years of plenty followed, and then two years of famine had passed by the time he was reunited with is brothers. Only after 22 years in Egypt did Joseph finally figure out Elohim’s grand and wonderful plan for his life, and how it involved the saving of his family.

Had Joseph lost faith along the way, become embittered over his multiple misfortunes, and turned away from Elohim, the nation of Israel may have never been preserved.

Keeping one’s eyes on Elohim, and refusing to lose faith during the dark times of one’s life can yield some amazingly triumphant outcomes, as we learn from the life of Joseph.


 

Joseph’s Faith—An Encouraging Example!

Genesis 41:9–10, The chief butler spoke. Here the chief butler is recounting the events to Pharaoh of how he ended up in prison as if Pharaoh weren’t aware of these facts. It is quite possible that this was a new Pharaoh, and the Pharaoh who had put the butler in prison was now dead. If so, then this new Pharaoh was very young, since in Genesis 45:8 Joseph, who by now would have been at least in his late 30s, refers to himself as “a father to Pharaoh.”

YHVH’s timing is perfect. Do you have the trust in YHVH to believe that for your life? Had the chief butler remembered Joseph prior to this how would things have been different for Joseph? Would he have had the chance to interpret Pharaoh’s dream? Would he have returned to Canaan? How would the history of the nation of Israel been different? Would YHVH’s purposes have been fulfilled?

Genesis 41:16, Elohim. By this time, Joseph had endured multiple false accusations, murder attempts, enslavement and imprisonment. A man of lesser spiritual stature than Joseph might have lost his faith in Elohim along the way.

In this verse, what is the evidence that he hadn’t given up hope in his Heavenly Father, and that he had not lost sight of the dreams and promises that YHVH had made to him many years earlier?

As a form of witnessing, do you give honor to YHVH whenever you can—even to strangers as Joseph did? The fact that Joseph was able to proclaim his faith in front of one of the most powerful monarchs of his day is evidence of his strong and abiding faith in and fear of YHVH even in spite of years of mistreatment and false accusations.

Joseph is a powerful and encouraging example to the down-trodden of the world who have been persecuted for the their faith. It is possible to maintain faith in YHVH even in spite of dire circumstances, even as Joseph did.


 

What kind of faith do you have? Active, Passive or Presumptive…

Genesis 27:1–32, Rebekah and Jacob’s scheming. How often do we take matters into our own hands to “help” YHVH out in fulfilling his promises for our life. Where is the faith in that? (Read Psalm 37:3–7, 23–24, 34.) Analyze the actions of your life on the basis of these words. Consider the following concepts of faith:

  1. Dynamic or Active Faith: A person with this kind of faith knows when to move ahead and when to wait.
  2. Passive or Inactive Faith: A person with this kind of faith never moves, but always sits idly by waiting for things just to happen on their own.
  3. Presumptuous or Impetuous Faith: A person with this kind of faith always moves and never waits.

Which kind of faith did the faith heros of Scripture evidence? What kind of faith do you have?