14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (ESV)
James asks a very important question in verse fourteen. The question itself illustrates that it is possible to have a faith which will not save you. The answer one gives is vitally important. James asks whether or not a person’s faith, which is not accompanied by action, can save him. In other words, if someone says he is saved, but he does not have actions that demonstrate it, is he really saved? As you read through this section, it becomes obvious that James’ answer is no, this kind of faith does not save. Can a person who claims to be saved, really be saved if he does not reach out and meet others’ needs when he becomes aware of them? Does just believing in your head and knowing factually that Jesus is God and that He died and rose again enough to get you to heaven? According to James, no it isn’t (18-19). Is he saying then that we are saved by our works? No! He uses Abraham and Rahab to illustrate that works do not save you, but that if you really have saving faith, you will demonstrate it by the way you live. Faith is manifested by the way you act. What do your actions tell you about your faith?
Observation: What do I see?
Interpretation: What does it mean?
Application: How does it apply to me?
Implementation: What do I do?