A sinner is only saved by his faith if he obeys. I have had “faith only” people explain to me that the book of James is emphasizing faith that works AFTER salvation. They explain that faith for salvation has no works. This is an error.
James is most definitely talking about active faith in the Christian life. But consider this that there is only one kind of faith that saves. The faith that keeps you saved is the faith that got you saved. The faith that God looks for is always responsive to the word of God before you.
Look at James 1:18. It says we were brought forth, birthed, fathered, born through the word. So what’s the connection between the two? James says God brought us forth, and the indirect object is “by the word”. In other words, there can’t be any “bringing forth” without the word. If a sinner is to go from being lost to “brought forth”, the word must have it’s say in the matter; i.e. the word must be obeyed. The word of truth, both the hearing and obeying it, is indispensable to being born anew by the Father. It’s His plan. This means that in the book of James, even the threshold and initial salvation isn’t without works.
Compare James 1:18 with 1 Peter 1:22,23. Peter says in verse 22 that obedience to the truth leads to a purified soul. And in verse 23 Peter says that through the living and enduring word of God you are born again. Again, as with James 1:18, Between being lost and being born again/purified is the obedience to the word of God. This explains further what James means by being brought forth by the word.
Therefore, faith that saves is faith that is obedient to the living and abiding word of God. So there is only one faith that saves. It is always obedient. James may be primarily talking to those already saved and the necessity of obedient faith, but understand that faith to be saved is obedient faith. If you are lost and are confronted with the Gospel, in faith you obey the Gospel and are saved, Romans 1:5; 16:26. And if you are saved and confronted with the word, in faith you obey and do good. There is only one faith that is always obedient to the word that confronts you. Put your faith in God and do His word, and God will proclaim that your faith saved.
God bless you. Dan Mayfield