That is what I have been led to address. It is said twice in James the same wording is used both times in the Greek. So here it goes:
James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Faith – pistis – faith, belief, trust, confidence; fidelity, faithfulness.
In the pure Greek meaning of the word “pistis” it has the actual and passive sense of “trusting” and “worthy of trust.”
Paul placed “pistis” or “faith” at the core of theology. We must remember that Paul was originally a Pharisee and had persecuted early Christians before his encounter with the risen Jesus. To quote from the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (NTD) –
“Primarily, it is acceptance of the kerygma, i.e. subjection to the way of salvation ordained by God and opened up in Christ.”
Trust me “kerygma” threw me for a loop also, so we need to understand that as well:
Kerygma (from the Greek word κήρυγμα kérugma) is a Greek word used in the New Testament for “preaching” (see Luke 4:18-19, Romans 10:14, Matthew 3:1). It is related to the Greek verb κηρύσσω kērússō meaning, literally, “to cry or proclaim as a herald” and used in the sense of “to proclaim, announce, preach”.
So to Paul this was the key element of his teachings. Pure faith and belief in God and that His Son is Jesus Christ.
Works – labor, action, deed
a) Labor – Noun – work, especially hard physical work. Verb – work hard; make great effort
b) Action – the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim; a thing done; an act
c) Deed – an action that is performed intentionally or consciously
I wish to look more deeply in the word “action” especially the “process of doing something” and “an act.”
When you hear the wording “process of doing something” you think of an endeavor. Something that takes a great deal of time to accomplish.
Now “an act” that is where I really which to delve:
One of the meanings of act is defined as “behave in the way specified.”
But where is a type of behavior specified for Christians? The answer is the Bible. So our labor, our actions, and our deeds must work within the specified nature of the Bible.
So faith in God through His Son Jesus leads us to follow the teachings of Christ and His disciples, which is the Bible. Meaning we must follow and adhere to what is written within these letters and that we are to repent of our sins and strife to become a true reflection of Jesus Christ.
If we do not follow the Bible than it is “dead.”
Dead – nekros – (a) adj: dead, lifeless, subject to death, mortal, (b) noun: a dead body, a corpse. Per the NTD in this particular case it could infer “lifeless” or “lifelessness.”
Lifelessness – 1. Having no life; inanimate; 2. Having lost life; dead; 3. Not inhabited by living beings or capable of sustaining life.
So even though you are walking about and have faith, but do not follow the teaching of the Bible and call that which is a sin a sin and refrain from it you are incapable of eternal life and so are dead in the eyes of God.