James 1:14-24 says (NLT):
14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? 21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
Notice again verse 18:
“How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
It is sometimes difficult for me to separate faith from intellectual conclusion. It is very tempting for me to need to intellectually understand what I’m believing in. Yet, in this passage, James seems to address the difference between faith and intellect. If faith is simply a conclusion based on a logical progression of ideas, then it can be “shown” to others by directing them down the same logical progression. Assuming the other follows the same logic, they will come to the same conclusion. It is just a mental exercise and good deeds are irrelevant.
However, James draws and inseparable connection between the thing he calls “faith” and “deeds”. So much so that he says faith is un-showable unless it is shown through deeds.
So, using logic :), we must conclude that if faith can only be demonstrated by deeds and the intellectual faith I described above does not require deeds, the this type of intellectual faith must not be faith at all, but something else entirely if James is the authority for defining what faith is.
Since, James was the step-brother of Jesus and lived for years with the God-man witnessing what it means to live by faith, I think he’s got pretty good credentials for being an authority on this topic. Therefore, the intellectual faith I’m so tempted to adopt is false and worse – it is vain conceit.
So if faith is not the product of an intellectual argument, what is it? James describes faith here as a life-changing belief, a conviction that transforms. Simply put, if one does not show the acting out of one’s faith through deeds of mercy and kindness, that one has no faith at all. If he claims to have faith, but no deeds to manifest it, he is fooling himself and is deluded by his own pride. He does not really believe, nor is he convicted because he does not act.