Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


James 2:18

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Yea, a man may say … - The word which is rendered “yea” ( ἀλλὰ alla) would be better rendered by “but.” The apostle designs to introduce an objection, not to make an affirmation. The sense is, “some one might say,” or, “to this it might be urged in reply.” That is, it might perhaps be said that religion is not always manifested in the same way, or we should not suppose that, because it is not always exhibited in the same form, it does not exist. One man may manifest it in one way, and another in another, and still both have true piety. One may be distinguished for his faith, and another for his works, and both may have real religion. This objection would certainly have some plausibility, and it was important to meet it. It would seem that all religion was not to be manifested in the same way, as all virtue is not; and that it might occur that one man might be particularly eminent for one form of religion, and another for another; as one man may be distinguished for zeal, and another for meekness, and another for integrity, and another for truth, and another for his gifts in prayer, and another for his large-hearted benevolence. To this the apostle replies, that the two things referred to, faith and works, were not independent things, which could exist separately, without the one materially influencing another - as, for example, charity and chastity, zeal and meekness; but that the one was the germ or source of the other, and that the existence of the one was to be known only by its developing itself in the form of the other. A man could not show that he possessed the one unless it developed itself in the form of the other. In proof of this, he could boldly appeal to anyone to show a case where faith existed without works. He was himself willing to submit to this just trial in regard to this point, and to demonstrate the existence of his own faith by his works.

Thou hast faith, and I have works - You have one form or manifestation of religion in an eminent or prominent degree, and I have another. You are characterized particularly for one of the virtues of religion, and I am for another; as one man may be particularly eminent for meekness, and another for zeal, and another for benevolence, and each be a virtuous man. The expression here is equivalent to saying, “One may have faith, and another works.”

Show me thy faith without thy works - That is, you who maintain that faith is enough to prove the existence of religion; that a man may be justified and saved by that alone, or where it does not develop itself in holy living; or that all that is necessary in order to be saved is merely to believe. Let the reality of any such faith as that be shown, if it can be; let any real faith be shown to exist without a life of good works, and the point will be settled. I, says the apostle, will undertake to exhibit the evidence of my faith in a different way - in a way about which there can be no doubt, and which is the appropriate method. It is clear, if the common reading here is correct, that the apostle meant to deny that true faith could be evinced without appropriate works. It should be said, however, that there is a difference of reading here of considerable importance. Many manuscripts and printed editions of the New Testament, instead of “without” (works - χωρίς chōris), read “from” or “by” ( ἐκ ek), as in the other part of the verse, “show me thy faith by thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.”

This reading is found in Walton, Wetstein, Mill, and in the received text generally; the other (without) is found in many manuscripts, and in the Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, English, and Armenian versions; and is adopted by Beza, Castalio, Grotius, Bengel, Hammond, Whitby, Drusius, Griesbach, Tittman, and Hahn, and is now commonly received as the correct reading. It may be added that this reading seems to be demanded by the similar reading in James 2:20, “But wilt thou know that faith “without works” ( χωρὶς τὼν ἔργων chōris tōn ergōn) is dead,” evidently implying that something had been said before about “faith without works.” This reading also is so natural, and makes so good sense in the connection, that it would seem to be demanded. Doddridge felt the difficulty in the other reading, and has given a version of the passage which showed his great perplexity, and which is one of the most unhappy that he ever made.

And I will show thee my faith by my works - I will furnish in this way the best and most certain proof of the existence of faith. It is implied here that true faith is adapted to lead to a holy life, and that such a life would be the appropriate evidence of the existence of faith. By their fruits the principles held by men are known. See the notes at Matthew 7:16.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Those are wrong who put a mere notional belief of the gospel for the whole of evangelical religion, as many now do. No doubt, true faith alone, whereby men have part in Christ's righteousness, atonement, and grace, saves their souls; but it produces holy fruits, and is shown to be real by its effect on their works; while mere assent to any form of doctrine, or mere historical belief of any facts, wholly differs from this saving faith. A bare profession may gain the good opinion of pious people; and it may procure, in some cases, worldly good things; but what profit will it be, for any to gain the whole world, and to lose their souls? Can this faith save him? All things should be accounted profitable or unprofitable to us, as they tend to forward or hinder the salvation of our souls. This place of Scripture plainly shows that an opinion, or assent to the gospel, without works, is not faith. There is no way to show we really believe in Christ, but by being diligent in good works, from gospel motives, and for gospel purposes. Men may boast to others, and be conceited of that which they really have not. There is not only to be assent in faith, but consent; not only an assent to the truth of the word, but a consent to take Christ. True believing is not an act of the understanding only, but a work of the whole heart. That a justifying faith cannot be without works, is shown from two examples, Abraham and Rahab. Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Faith, producing such works, advanced him to peculiar favours. We see then, ver. 24, how that by works a man is justified, not by a bare opinion or profession, or believing without obeying; but by having such faith as produces good works. And to have to deny his own reason, affections, and interests, is an action fit to try a believer. Observe here, the wonderful power of faith in changing sinners. Rahab's conduct proved her faith to be living, or having power; it showed that she believed with her heart, not merely by an assent of the understanding. Let us then take heed, for the best works, without faith, are dead; they want root and principle. By faith any thing we do is really good; as done in obedience to God, and aiming at his acceptance: the root is as though it were dead, when there is no fruit. Faith is the root, good works are the fruits; and we must see to it that we have both. This is the grace of God wherein we stand, and we should stand to it. There is no middle state. Every one must either live God's friend, or God's enemy. Living to God, as it is the consequence of faith, which justifies and will save, obliges us to do nothing against him, but every thing for him and to him.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Show me thy faith without thy works - Your pretending to have faith, while you have no works of charity or mercy, is utterly vain: for as faith, which is a principle in the mind, cannot be discerned but by the effects, that is, good works; he who has no good works has, presumptively, no faith.

I will show thee my faith by my works - My works of charity and mercy will show that I have faith; and that it is the living tree, whose root is love to God and man, and whose fruit is the good works here contended for.

Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 279

By obedience the people were to give evidence of their faith. So all who hope to be saved by the merits of the blood of Christ should realize that they themselves have something to do in securing their salvation. While it is Christ only that can redeem us from the penalty of transgression, we are to turn from sin to obedience. Man is to be saved by faith, not by works; yet his faith must be shown by his works. God has given His Son to die as a propitiation for sin, He has manifested the light of truth, the way of life, He has given facilities, ordinances, and privileges; and now man must co-operate with these saving agencies; he must appreciate and use the helps that God has provided—believe and obey all the divine requirements. PP 279.1

As Moses rehearsed to Israel the provisions of God for their deliverance, “the people bowed the head and worshiped.” The glad hope of freedom, the awful knowledge of the impending judgment upon their oppressors, the cares and labors incident to their speedy departure—all were for the time swallowed up in gratitude to their gracious Deliverer. Many of the Egyptians had been led to acknowledge the God of the Hebrews as the only true God, and these now begged to be permitted to find shelter in the homes of Israel when the destroying angel should pass through the land. They were gladly welcomed, and they pledged themselves henceforth to serve the God of Jacob and to go forth from Egypt with His people. PP 279.2

The Israelites obeyed the directions that God had given. Swiftly and secretly they made their preparations for departure. Their families were gathered, the paschal lamb slain, the flesh roasted with fire, the unleavened bread and bitter herbs prepared. The father and priest of the household sprinkled the blood upon the doorpost, and joined his family within the dwelling. In haste and silence the paschal lamb was eaten. In awe the people prayed and watched, the heart of the eldest born, from the strong man down to the little child, throbbing with indefinable dread. Fathers and mothers clasped in their arms their loved first-born as they thought of the fearful stroke that was to fall that night. But no dwelling of Israel was visited by the death-dealing angel. The sign of blood—the sign of a Saviour's protection—was on their doors, and the destroyer entered not. PP 279.3

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Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 355

The kingdoms of this world have not yet become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. Do not deceive yourselves; be wide awake, and move rapidly, for the night cometh, in which no man can work. Do not encourage students, who come to you burdened for the work of saving their fellow men, to enter upon course after course of study. Do not lengthen out the time for obtaining an education to many years. By this course they suppose that there is time enough, and this very plan proves a snare to their souls. Many are better prepared, have more spiritual discrimination and knowledge of God, and know more of His requirements, when they enter upon a course of study than when they graduate. They become inspired with an ambition to become learned men, and are encouraged to add to their studies until they become infatuated. They make their books their idol, and are willing to sacrifice health and spirituality in order to obtain an education. They limit the time which they should devote to prayer, and fail to improve the opportunities which they have had to do good, and do not communicate light and knowledge. They fail to put to use the knowledge which they have already obtained, and do not advance in the science of winning souls. Missionary work becomes less and less desirable, while the passion to excel in book-knowledge increases abnormally. In pursuing their studies, they separate from the God of wisdom. Some congratulate them on their advance, and encourage them to take degree after degree, even though they are less qualified to do the work of God after Christ's manner of instruction than they were before they entered the school at Battle Creek. FE 355.1

The question was asked those assembled: “Do you believe the truth? do you believe the third angel's message? If you do believe, then act your faith, and do not encourage men to continue in Battle Creek when they should be away from that place doing their Master's business.” The Lord is not glorified in this procrastination. Men go to Battle Creek, and receive a far higher idea of their capabilities than they should. They are encouraged to take a long, protracted course of study; but God's way is not in it. It does not have a heavenly endorsement. Precious probationary time will not permit of long protracted years of drill. God calls: hear His voice as He says, “Go work today in My vineyard.” Now, just now, is the time to work. Do you believe that the Lord is coming, and that the last great crisis is about to break upon the world? FE 356.1

There will soon be a sudden change in God's dealings. The world in its perversity is being visited by casualties,—by floods, storms, fires, earthquakes, famines, wars, and bloodshed. The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power; yet He will not at all acquit the wicked. “The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.” O that men might understand the patience and longsuffering of God! He is putting under restraint His own attributes. His omnipotent power is under the control of Omnipotence. O that men would understand that God refuses to be wearied out with the world's perversity, and still holds out the hope of forgiveness even to the most undeserving! But His forbearance will not always continue. Who is prepared for the sudden change that will take place in God's dealing with sinful men? Who will be prepared to escape the punishment that will certainly fall upon transgressors? FE 356.2

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Ellen G. White
Faith and Works, 12.2

While true faith trusts wholly in Christ for salvation, it will lead to perfect conformity to the law of God. Faith is manifested by works (The Review and Herald, October 5, 1886). FW 12.2

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Ellen G. White
Faith and Works, 52.2

The faith in Christ that saves the soul is not what it is represented to be by many. “Believe, believe,” is their cry; “only believe in Christ, and you will be saved. It is all you have to do.” While true faith trusts wholly in Christ for salvation, it will lead to perfect conformity to the law of God. Faith is manifested by works. And the apostle John declares, “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). FW 52.2

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