Check my previous post on Matthew 3 and the reference to the WCF chapter on Good Works.
James 2:14 Gill
What doth it profit, my brethren,…. The apostle having finished his discourse on respect of persons, and the arguments he used to dissuade from it, by an easy transition passes to treat upon faith and works, showing that faith without works, particularly without works of mercy, is of no profit and advantage:
though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? it is clear that the apostle is not speaking of true faith, for that, in persons capable of performing them, is not without works; it is an operative grace; it works by love and kindness, both to Christ, and to his members; but of a profession of faith, a mere historical one, by which a man, at most, assents to the truth of things, as even devils do, Jas 2:19 and only says he has faith, but has it not; as Simon Magus, who said he believed, but did not.
Can faith save him? such a faith as this, a faith without works, an historical one, a mere profession of faith, which lies only in words, and has no deeds, to show the truth and genuineness of it. True faith indeed has no causal influence on salvation, or has any virtue and efficacy in itself to save; Christ, object of faith, is the only cause and author of salvation; faith is only that grace which receives a justifying righteousness, the pardon of sin, adoption, and a right to the heavenly inheritance; but it does not justify, nor pardon, nor adopt, nor give the right to the inheritance, but lays hold on, and claims these, by virtue of the gift of grace; and it has spiritual and eternal salvation inseparably connected with it; but as for the other faith, a man may have it, and be in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity; he may have all faith in that sense, and be nothing; it is no other than the devils themselves have; and so he may have it, and be damned.
James 2:17 Gill
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. It is like a lifeless carcass, a body without a soul, Jas 2:26 for as works, without faith, are dead works, so faith, without works, is a dead faith, and not like the lively hope and faith of regenerated persons: and indeed, such who have no other faith than this are dead in trespasses and sins; not that works are the life of faith, or that the life of faith lies in, and flows from works; but, as Dr. Ames observes (b), good works are second acts, necessarily flowing from the life of faith; to which may be added, and by these faith appears to be living, lively and active, or such who perform them appear to be true and living believers.
(b) Medulla Theolog. l. 2. c. 7. sect. 35.
James 2:26 Gill
For as the body without the spirit is dead,…. This simile is made use of to illustrate what the apostle had asserted in Jas 2:17 that as a body, when the spirit or soul is departed from it, or the breath is gone out of it, is dead, and without motion, and useless; which the Jews (d) express in like manner, פגר גוף בלא רוח, “the body without the spirit”, or “breath, is a carcass”.
So faith without works is dead also: a vain thing, useless and unprofitable, can neither justify, nor save, nor prove that a man is justified, or will be saved.
(d) Ohel. Moed, fol. 15. 1.
Paul likewise makes it clear that even our study enables us to good works.
All Scripture Is Breathed Out by God
2Ti 3:10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,
2Ti 3:11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.
2Ti 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
2Ti 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
2Ti 3:14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
2Ti 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Yet it is actually true faith, given by God that does save.
Rom 1:15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
The Righteous Shall Live by Faith
Rom 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.