"Faith Without Works Is Dead"

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Last Updated on May 24, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 171

Context: James, variously identified as the apostle James, son of Zebedee, the second apostle James, often called "James the less," and James, the brother of Jesus, speaking as the head of the Church in Jerusalem and writing moral instructions to the twelve tribes, teaches the efficacy of prayer, the goodness and perfection of God, and the qualities of compassion and sinlessness in true religion. Stressing the importance of an active rather than a passive life, he considers one of the long-standing problems of the people–the role of faith versus works. In proving his argument, he cites Abraham as one of those whose lives exemplified the importance of both faith and works, neither of which alone, he feels, is sufficient for justification:

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

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