It is impossible to have true, biblical faith without works. Faith will always produce action. This is why the Bible says that faith without works is dead.
We see this explained in James 2:14-26.
In these 12 verses, the apostle James mentions three times that faith without works is dead.
“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17)
“But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20)
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26)
Now think about this for a moment, James mentioned three times in just 12 verses that if our faith is not coupled with action it is not true faith.
He even went so far as to say that just as our body is dead without our spirit so also is our faith without action.
And the truth is this really is not that hard for us to understand and agree with because we act on things all the time that we believe.
For example, if you saw on your weather app or on the news that it would be snowing all day, you would dress accordingly. Or if you were standing in the middle of the road, and someone told you that a truck was coming, you would get out of the road.
You wouldn’t call these things faith and works but that is what they are. You are hearing something, believing it, and then acting on it. Not much different than what we are to do with the Word of God. [Related article: How to Act on Your Faith (Step-by-Step) and How to Activate Your Faith (Step-by-Step)].
Now it may be a little different because we’ve all seen a truck and we’ve all seen snow, so it may be a human faith and not a supernatural faith but the point is still the same; when we truly believe something that we’ve heard, we act on it. Every. Single. Time.
This is actually what the apostle James continues to explain in James chapter 2. He uses the example of Abraham who “believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).
James makes the point that Abraham didn’t just have faith and then sit around but that he actually did something. He offered up Isaac, his son, on the altar when God asked him to and then took his son off the altar when God revealed to him that it was just a test.
Not only did Abraham do this one thing but he also moved to a land his family had never been before, he changed his name from Abram to Abraham (which means “father of many nations”) before he even had a single child, he circumcised all of his servants and himself simply because God told him to.
The list can go on and on but Abraham certainly was not passive in his faith. He acted on everything that God spoke to Him, and the reason is that he believed in Him.
Even if you look at Hebrews chapter 11, which is the chapter of faith. You will find a huge list of examples of men and women who acted on faith.
In fact, once the writer gives the definition of faith in verse 1, he immediately gives examples of men and women of God in the Old Testament who had faith and acted on it.
“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (v. 4)
“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark” (v. 7)
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (v. 8)
Now, these are just three examples out of 15+ examples that the writer of Hebrews used but hopefully you get the point.
Every time the writer mentions these heroes of the faith, he says, “by faith they did X” which proves that faith is never passive but that it always involves action.
Can faith without works save you?
Faith without works cannot save you because the Bible reveals that faith is not true faith unless it involves action. If you confess Jesus as Lord but then never make Him Lord of your life then your confession is false because it was not rooted in true faith.
It is very sad that so many people who call themselves Christians claim to believe in Christ but yet they deny everything that He stands for with the actions of their life.
The convictions of your heart will guide the actions of your life. You can say with your mouth all day that you believe in Jesus and that you believe in the Gospel but if you have not chosen to walk away from sin and follow Jesus then you do not truly believe in Him as you claim.
The Bible says that the Gospel is “teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12) and that “everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19).
You see, the true response to the Gospel is not just faith, but faith with repentance (a.k.a turning from sin to Jesus).
This is why when Jesus went preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom He said, “Repent and Believe in the Gospel, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”
It’s also why when Peter was asked by the crowd, “what shall we do to be saved?” He responded with, “Repent and get baptized for the remission of sins and you will receive the Holy Spirit”
And it is also why the Lord Jesus said to the apostle Paul “I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ (Acts 26:17-18)
And that is also why the apostle Paul responded to this vision by declaring “first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” (Acts 26:20)
We cannot believe that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for our sins just so that we can continue to live in them. That is heresy to the max!
Jesus Christ died for our sins so that we could be forgiven and so that we could live out our lives free from the stain, the effects, and the actions of sin.
I’m not referring to perfection, but I am referring to a life of repentance and faith that produces holiness.
So I encourage all of you to live a life of repentance and faith because true faith does work. It may not work through the law but it does “work through love” (Galatians 5:6).
[Related article: How to Practice Faith in God (& What it means)].