Dead and Useless Faith

SCRIPTURE: James 2:14-17

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.


Actually, the passage on faith and works goes through verse 26 but I thought that was too much to cover in one night. James can be easily misunderstood and a lot of folks have failed to see the true meaning of his discussion on faith. Martin Luther called James the Epistle of Straw and did not want it in the cannon. I am certainly no Martin Luther but years ago, the LORD gave me an insight that changed the entire complexion of the book. Little did I know at the time that thousands of others had gotten the same insight.

We tend to think competition and when we get to James, we think FAITH verses WORKS. We thing either or but it is not one verses the other. James is talking about Spurious [false] faith verses true faith, saving faith. His basic premise is that TRUE FAITH WORKS! A spurious faith is passive, dead, without energy, inactive, intellectual based and can be wordy. A spurious faith can be professed and even defended but it cannot be demonstrated.

James is not refuting Paul; he is not saying that salvation is by works. He is simply saying “Real, True, Saving Faith is alive, active and demonstrates its true character in Christian deeds. In Biblical interpretation: Rule one is to filter everything through the words of Christ and the second rule is “God does not contradict Himself” so keep studying and praying until you figure it out.

Salvation is definitely by Grace through faith. Paul said in Ephesians 2, For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. In Galatians 2 Paul says,  “Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.

  1. SALVATION must be of grace for all have sinned
  2. GRACE is not grace unless it is wholly grace. Salvation could never be GRACE plus WORKS. Such a combination would destroy pure grace and give man bragging rights. If I buy a new truck and I am short $100 and you give me that $100, this deed gives you bragging rights. You can honestly say, “Look at the truck Bro. Jack and I bought.”

James refers to spurious faith as ‘DEAD’ faith and he has good reason to do so.


James says, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

Talk can be cheap. In the case above, it took little effort to say these words but words alone can be meaningless, especially in such a case where a person is in need. We can speak words without spending money. We can speak words without making any sacrifices. As believers, we have the obligation to help those in need. Jesus said,  “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. [Matthew 7:12] He also said, Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” In Matthew 25 Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Paul said in Galatians 6:10, Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Never pass up an opportunity to do an act of kindness: it is a way to make your faith visible; a way to demonstration of your faith.

Possibly the most pertinent verse is found in Isaiah 29, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” Jesus quoted this verse in Matthew 15, adding a few words… You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’”

A faith that yields only lip service is not TRUE FAITH.


A car will not run without an engine.  There has to be a power source, an energy source or else you have a car that sits.  What good is a car that will not get out of the garage or parking lot. The Christian life is energized by the person and presence of Jesus Christ. Paul said is Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. In Philippians 4:13, Paul said, For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. There are ten words in English but in the Greek, there are only five–“Who gives me strength” is one word, endynamóō [to empower]. Christ is our dynamo, He is our power source. Note what Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God.”

Real faith is dynamic because the object of real faith is Jesus. Putting your faith in religion will leave you powerless when it comes to loving your enemies, or loving your neighbor the way you love your self.


By intellectual, I mean the head acknowledges facts but the heart never surrenders to the Saviors will. It is the kind of faith that demons have. A lot of people believe with their head but not with their heart. Intellectual faith acknowledges facts but it never surrenders the will. Million of people and all the demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died on a cross but they are not saved because they have never repented, bowed the knee and surrendered the will. This is why we have problems in churches, everyone is not willing to come to the altar. They fear the altar because they know it is a place of surrender. They know the bible [Pharisees], they know facts but they have never surrendered their will. They are serving God their way and that is called ‘Religion’.

All of you know Charles Swindoll but did you know he had a brother named Orville who was a Missionary to Brazil for some 30 years. Orville and Chucks dad was a professing Christian but the faith thing through him for a loop. He was a well organized man who always wanted his ducks in a row. He planned everything. On the eve of Orville and family [wife and couple of children] leaving for South America, they had supper at their parents and Chuck was also there. After eating, the women moved to the kitchen leaving Orville, Chuck and Mr. Swindoll. Chuck knew it was a matter of time. Sure enough Dad looked at Orville and said, “Your about to take your family to a foreign country, how much money do you have?” Orville said, “Dad, don’t worry, God will provide.” As if he didn’t hear Orville, his dad said, “How much money do you have in savings?” Orville said, “I don’t have any money is savings.” Dad…”How much do you have in your wallet?” Orville…”I do not have any money in my wallet.” Dad… “You are about to move your family to South America and you don’t have a dime to your name.” Orville pulls out a quarter and rolls it down the table to his dad…”I don’t need any money, God will provide.” Mr. Swindoll thought Orville had lost his mind when in reality, he had surrendered his heart. Orville had an energetic faith, an active faith, a daring faith. Chuck said he lived his life on the edge.


  • True faith is active, not passive.
  • True faith is alive and vigorous
  • True faith empowers, energizes
  • True faith works

Dr. Adrian Rogers was famous for saying, “If you faith doesn’t work, you better get one that does.” Dead, passive, intellectual faith will not get you to heaven. Authentic Faith is dynamic: its object is Christ and its energy is Christ.