In his commentary on James, Douglas Moo commented on the “dead faith” that James mentions in James 2. “James, in other words, is arguing that the kind of faith he has just described [James 2:14-16] is ‘not merely outwardly inoperative but inwardly dead’” (p. 126). It is clear from the context of James 2 this kind of faith is a dead faith and that kind of faith is not pleasing to the Lord.
I would like to take the phrase he used and rework it for a particular application: outwardly operative, but inwardly dead.
There are a great many people who demonstrate a kind, affectionate heart that results in good deeds. We can’t help but to notice that a great many people volunteer at Habitat for Humanity, get involved in civic clubs for the express purpose of helping the community, contribute to food banks, become involved in Scouting, etc., etc. It is easy to see that such things result in many good works getting accomplished.
It is unfortunate, however, that those involved in these many good things actually try to use these “good things as entry tickets into the heavenly realm. That which they have done to benefit the community or individual is used as works of righteousness offered to God in order to enter the “pearly gates.”
A study of James 2, on the other hand, helps one to understand two components in one’s salvation: works and faith. The kind of works that James speaks about is that which corresponds to Ephesians 2:10. The kind of faith in view is more than a mental assent to God’s existence and “don’t do wrong by anybody.” This kind of faith is a dead faith; it is not faith that comes from God (Romans 10:17; 2 Corinthians 5:7), but a faith that has its origin in one’s thinking.
On the other hand, if one wants to be justified by the works he does (James 2:24), then let us first be justified by our faith (Hebrews 11:6, 1). That kind of faith is an obedient faith (cf. Luke 6:46), and the works to be justified by are the works (commands) of God (1 John 5:3). Those who come to God must believe that He is and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. Do you seek that kind of faith? RT