A Faith Without Fruit

Bible Book: James  2 : 14-16
Subject: Faith; Fruitlessness; Christian Living; Faith, Proof of
Series: James - Wagers

George Sweating, in his book on James, "How to Solve Conflicts," told the story of Blondin, the great tightrope walker. While performing on a cable across Niagara Falls, he asked his audience, "How many believe I can walk across this tightrope pushing a wheelbarrow?" To which the people cheered loudly. "How many believe I can push the wheelbarrow across the cable with a man in it?" Again, there came a loud response. Blondin then pointed to one of the most enthusiastic men in the audience, and, said, "You're my man, now get into the wheelbarrow!!" Needless to say, the man made a quick exit.

A Faith With No Fruit is the focus of James 2:14-26. There is much debate in religious circle, today, about faith and works. This is perhaps one of the most controversial passages in the Bible. However, this debate between faith and works is age-old. There are two apparent views concerning this: one overemphasizes faith while forgetting works, while the other overemphasizes works while forgetting faith. The problem arises when people fail to make a distinction between the requirement for salvation, and the result of salvation! The Bible repeatedly, and plainly teaches that salvation is by faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ. However, the Bible also teaches that true faith will always result in good works.

Thus, James isn't referring to a FAITH WITH WORKS, but a FAITH THAT WORKS!! He isn't contradicting the Apostle Paul's discussion on this subject, nor is he overemphasizing works, he is merely informing that if a person really has the goods of salvation, there will some fruit to back it up. Thus, in these 12 verses, he defines for us "A FAITH WITH NO FRUIT!"


It is very easy to see that James meant business when he addressed this problem. Unlike Paul's day, when men tried to be saved by obeying the law, James wrote from another perspective, to those who professed to be saved, yet displayed no fruit to back up their faith. Thus, in these verses, he demonstrates that that kind of faith is a false faith, and:


James seeks to define the principle of a faith with no fruit. He is not speaking of one who has faith, but one who claims to have faith. He's putting the emphasis on a false claim, rather than a real faith. He's contrasting what a person claims to have, and what he really has. He's really saying, "Just because a man claims to have faith, doesn't mean that he does."

We're not Christians just because we say we are. There are many claims, but not many convictions. Many profess, but not many possess! A lot of confusion comes in the question, "..can faith save him?" lit.(in orig. text): "can that faith save him?"

He's referring to the faith that is evidenced by words, and not works.SAVE(lit.): "to achieve salvation"

PICTURE: of the day of judgment.

Thus, the principle he seeks to define is that just because a man says he's a Christian, doesn't necessarily mean that it will stand up when we stand before God. We also see that:


In these verses, James again uses a very vivid, and practical illustration.

ILLUSTRATION: If a fellow believer, a brother or sister, is in need, and you do nothing to try to help them, is that real faith?

Again, he's not implying that God will save us if we help the needy, or feed the hungry; but, that if one truly has genuine saving faith, they will display that by compassion for others.

Just passing by and saying, "Have a nice day, be careful, stay warm, I hope you find something to eat," is not an indication that a person has genuine compassion.

"Genuine Compassion comes from a Genuine Conversion!!"

ILLUSTRATION: Luke 10:30-37----Story of the Good Samaritan

A priest, and a Levite(one of the priestly line) passed by the beaten man. A man, who all we know about is that he was a Samaritan, went to where he was and "..he had compassion on him."(v. 33) You see, the first two men were men who wore the title of faith, but the Samaritan was the only one who demonstrated his faith.

Thus, James' focus is not on works for salvation, but salvation that produces works. We also that:


After define the principle of faith, and displaying the proof of faith, he now delivers the point about faith. Just as saying "Good luck" to a man who needs food doesn't relieve his hunger; so, too, faith by itself, unaccompanied by action, is dead. Simply put, faith without doesn't do you any good.

Again, we are saved by faith plus nothing, but a faith that produces no fruit is not a genuine faith.

Hawkins: "If there is no fruit, then there is no root!"

The things that confirms, and displays our faith is our fruit. c.f. Matt. 7:20—"Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."

"Fruit is the outward behavior of an inward belief!"

ILLUSTRATION: Just as lawyers cannot try a case on hearsay, they need evidence, the cold, hard facts. So too, as Christians there ought to be some evidence to prove that we're saved.

ILLUSTRATION: I once heard the question, "If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"

James is saying if faith has no works, then it is just faith by itself, and it is a dead faith.

John Calvin: "It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone!"

Thus, James tells us in these four verses, that a Faith With No Fruit is a False Faith!


James continues this discussion by not only telling us that a faith without fruit is a false faith, but also a futile faith. In these two verses, James gives us:

A. THE ARGUMENT (v. 18a)

We get the picture that James is involved with another person in discussion about their faith. One is saying, "Your Christianity majors on what you believe, mine majors on what I do!" In a nutshell, James is saying that "Talking about faith is just Talk!" It is futile just to talk about it. But, we not only see the argument, James also gives us:

B. THE ANSWER (v. 18b)

James answers the other person's claim. He's saying, "You show me your faith without any fruit, and I'll show you my faith by my fruit." Again, remember, that James is not saying a person is saved by good deeds; but, that a person who is saved will have good deeds.

BY(lit.): gr. 'ek' "emerging out of"

Thus, James is saying that good works come from being genuinely saved.

ILLUSTRATION: There are many good moral people today who give to charity, are involved in the PTA, and are good upstanding citizens. Yet, that bears not one iota on the fact of them every being genuinely birthed into the family of God.

Blanchard: "The point is not that the presence of fruit proves the presence of faith, but the absence of fruit proves the absence of faith."

ILLUSTRATION: Two men who were in a boat roaring down a river. The oarsman was a Christian, and he began to demonstrate the connection between faith, and deeds. He took one oar, and called it "deeds" and took the other oar and called it "faith." He took the oar of faith and began to row, but found that they only went around in circles. He took the oar of deeds and began to row, and found that again they just went in circles. Finally, he put both oars into the water and they began again to make progress.

The whole point of this distinction is not just to have a VERBAL FAITH, but a VISIBLE FAITH!!

James informs that the demons believe in God. They'll tell you of the existence of His deity, yet they've never been saved.

Thus, a verbal faith with no visible faith, and a faith without fruit is a futile faith.


In these verses, James concludes the discussion by telling us that a faith without is a fatal faith. In this discourse, he gives us:


DEAD(lit.): "not working, or idle"

James informs us again that faith with no fruit is dead, it is fatal. There are no vital signs, there is no pulse, it is dead. The implication is that the man who believes that after he's saved that he can live any way he pleases is a fool.

VAIN(lit.): "foolish, or empty"

PICTURE: Of an impostor posing to be someone he's not

The man being described here is a man "who has a lot to say, but little to show!" Thus, the man who says he has faith, but has no fruit is an empty, and foolish man and his faith is dead. . This kind of faith, which is accompanied by a lot of talking, and no walking is a dead faith, it is FATAL!!


James again offers two illustrations, from the Old Testament, to make his point for real, definite faith. We see the mention of:

1. ABRAHAM: the faithful patriarch (V. 21-23)

He uses a universal illustration here, so that those to whom he wrote could clearly get the picture.

James specifically refers back to Genesis 22, in the life of Abraham, thus showing us four truths about real, definite faith from Abraham's life, we see:

a. FAITH'S PRINCIPLE (22a) "..wrought with.."

James is not contradicting what he's previously said, but complementing it.

WROUGHT(lit.): "to work together"

SAME WORD AS Rom. 8:28—"all things work together for good…"

The principle is that Abraham's faith was active and working.

There was not one without the other; but, his faith and his works were working together, that faith's principle.

b. FAITH'S PROOF (22b) "by works..made perfect"

He is not implying that Abraham's faith was defective until Mt. Moriah. He's saying that his faith wasn't revealed until that time, it was then made "perfect."

PERFECT(lit.): "consummate, or bring to maturity"

PICTURE: Of a wedding day, when the bride and groom consummate their vows

ILLUSTRATION: My commitment to my wife, Kim, didn't have a flaw in it, it was just made visible the day we got married.

James's point is that the "proof of faith is in the pudding," when the test comes.

A.W. Tozer: "Faith isn't trusting God while the sea is still. Faith is trusting God when the storms come.!"

c. FAITH'S PROMISE (23a) "Abraham believed.."

James, here, makes mention not of Genesis 22, but of Genesis 15:6. At that time Abraham believed the promise from God to make him the father of many nations. This was thirty years earlier, long before Moriah, so it wasn't him offering up Isaac that improved his justification before God. But, on Moriah, his faith in god's promise was clearly demonstrated. In Genesis 15:6, Abraham believed it, in Genesis 22, he showed it

d. FAITH'S PRIVILEGE (23b) "the friend of God"

This is the climax of a definite faith is the privilege it brings. Because Abraham believed, and demonstrated his faith in God, God gave him a distinct privilege, and title. So, we too that enter into a relationship with Him, can become friends. You see, the privilege of faith, is not only that we can share things with Him, but that He can share some of his things with us.

2. RAHAB: the former prostitute (v. 25)

In contrast to Abraham, Rahab was known for her immorality rather than her morality. She was a outsider, and rejected by society. Yet, James shows that just Abraham's faith and works worked together, so did Rahab's faith. Rahab came to faith before she hid Joshua's spies.

c.f. Joshua 2:9—"..I know that the Lord your God hath given you the land.."

Joshua 2:11—"..for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above.."

Thus, she wasn't saved because she took the spies in, that was merely proof of her faith. She proved her faith by her fruit. As a result, she went from the "Hall of Shame to the Hall of Fame!"

ILLUSTRATION: Rahab married Salman. They had a son named Boaz, who had son named Obed, who gave birth to a boy named Jesse, whose boy was named David, from which the lineage of Christ descended.

In verse 26, James reaffirms what has already been discussed in great detail. That just as the body cannot exist without the spirit, neither can faith exist without works. A faith without works is a FATAL FAITH!


In the ancient world, someone who would find a person who appeared to be dead would hold a mirror up under the person's nose. If marks appeared on the mirror, then they knew the person was still alive. If no marks appeared, then they knew the body was dead.

In much the same way, James puts the mirror God's Word under our nose. If the marks of works appear, then faith is alive. However, if no marks of works appear then our faith is without fruit and it is a FALSE FAITH, a FUTILE FAITH, and a FATAL FAITH!!