James 2:26 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

James 2:26, NIV: "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."

James 2:26, ESV: "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead."

James 2:26, KJV: "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

James 2:26, NASB: "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead."

James 2:26, NLT: "Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works."

James 2:26, CSB: "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead."

What does James 2:26 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Here James completes his case for an often-misunderstood teaching. His point is that genuine faith in God naturally leads the believer to participate in good works. This isn't a particularly radical idea, even from a non-spiritual point of view. If we actually believe that God is truly God and that He has saved us through our faith in Christ, why would we not obey Him? Our deeds don't earn our salvation, but what we do proves whether or not we really have saving faith.

James drives the point home here with one last illustration. James makes a clever word-play here, similar to one Jesus uses in John chapter 3. James claims that a faith without works is just as dead as a body without pneumatos. This Greek term can mean "wind," which is a euphemism for breathing, or it can mean "spirit," or even capital-S-"Spirit," meaning the Holy Spirit. The wordplay is key to seeing how serious James is about the implications of this teaching. A body without breath is dead. A person without "the Spirit" is spiritually dead. James ties together a lack of breath, a lack of spirit, and the presence of death with the concept of a works-less faith.

Bodies which don't breathe are dead. In the same way a so-called-"faith"—whether in the form of religion, or family identity, or intellectual knowledge—that is not accompanied by good works is not a living thing. It's dead. The spiritual implications are clear; works-less faith is not saving faith.

Good works can take many forms. In this chapter, James emphasized the good works of Christians loving each other as we love ourselves. He specifically emphasized meeting each other's physical needs. He has also stressed obedience to God.

James's teaching, for all the debate it generates, can be summarized briefly: We are saved by faith, and saving faith produces good works. Those who lack works prove that they lack saving faith.