What does James 2:22 mean?
ESV: You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;
NIV: You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
NASB: You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;
CSB: You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete,
NLT: You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.
KJV: Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
NKJV: Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
Verse Commentary:
James continues to make the case that genuine faith in God always leads to the believer obeying God. Having a false faith, one which is only intellectual, or pretended, results in a person not doing what God has called us to do. Having an actual, trusting, saving faith results in that believer participating in good works.

As seen in the previous verses, James's words complement Paul's teaching that we are saved through faith by God's grace. Both James and Paul agree that those who are saved through faith inevitably end up doing good works. The two, faith and works, cannot be separated. Only faith saves, a point James never questions. However, saving faith is the kind of trust which results in good works. Those who lack works prove that they lack saving faith.

James cited the example of Abraham's obedience to God, even when commanded to sacrifice his only son Isaac. He trusted God all the way through the moment where God said "stop," in Genesis 22. James asserted in verse 21 that Abraham was justified by his actions. Based on context, James is referring to a different kind of "justification" than Paul uses in passages such as Romans chapter 4. According to James, Abraham's faith saved him, but his actions—his works—demonstrated his faith in God. In this verse, James makes that all the more clear: Abraham's obedience showed his active, working faith.

In fact, his obedience completed, or "perfected" his faith. The Greek word is eteleiōthē, which literally means, "to carry through to the end," or "to complete." As James has been saying, the natural result of saving faith is good works. Works don't cause saving faith, but saving faith causes good works. Those with saving faith in God will act on that belief.
Verse Context:
James 2:14–26 makes the case that how one acts—their ''works''—are a sign of the kind of ''faith'' they possess. So-called-''faith'' which doesn't lead a person to participate in good works is not a saving faith; it is a dead thing. It is pointless and meaningless to believe, or ''wish,'' a poverty-stricken person to be well, if such an opinion leads to no action. In exactly the same way, James insists that it is not enough to mentally agree about certain facts of God. If what a person believes about God does not lead them to act accordingly, then their ''faith'' is not saving faith. It is merely opinion. James never says that faith is not essential for salvation. He never claims works are required to obtain or keep salvation. He is, however, crystal clear that truly saving faith cannot be separated from the evidence of good works.
Chapter Summary:
Genuine saving faith in God leads to good and loving actions: ''works.'' In chapter 1, James discussed the importance of acting on the words of God, not merely hearing them. Favoritism to the rich over the poor demonstrates a lack of faith. In fact, this is a sin. Following up on these ideas, James insists that ''faith'' which doesn't result in good works is dead. Such belief is merely intellectual agreement. It is not trust, or true, biblical saving faith. James doesn't deny that belief in God is essential to salvation, nor does he claim that works are necessary to obtain salvation. Rather, he makes the case that works are to faith what the breath is to the body: a sign of life. A ''faith'' without works is like a body without breath: dead.
Chapter Context:
In chapter 1, James taught that a saving belief in God changes how a Christian looks at trials in their lives. It affects where they turn for help, and who they credit for good. Believers hear the Word and do it. In this chapter, James insists that our faith in God should keep us from showing favoritism to the rich and powerful on earth and should provoke us to love our poor neighbors as ourselves. He also makes the case that so-called-''faith'' which does not result in works, is not saving faith, at all. Despite controversy, this does not clash with Paul's view of salvation by grace alone. James refers to good works as an expected outcome of salvation, not the source of it. In the following chapters, he will continue to show what a life of genuine faith looks like.
Book Summary:
The book of James is about specifically understanding what saving faith looks like. How does faith in Christ reveal itself in a believer's life? What choices does real trust in God lead us to make? Those are the questions James answers. Most scholars believe the writer was Jesus' half-brother, a son born to Joseph and Mary after Jesus' birth. James may not have come to believe Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection. Eventually, though, he became one of the leaders of the Christian church in Jerusalem. This is possibly the earliest-written of all the New Testament books, around AD 40–50. James addresses his letter to Jewish Christians scattered around the known world.
Accessed 5/26/2024 5:20:59 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV, NKJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.