- The context of verse 2:24 is James 2:14-26
- The 'thesis verse' is James 2:14, not James 2:18 (or even 2:24)
- James is speaking of faith "by itself," not "fake faith"
Given that, James is not speaking ill of faith itself in any way, rather the problem is when good works do not accompany the (already good) faith. Notice the language throughout: "has faith but does not have works," "faith by itself, if it does not have works," "faith apart from works," etc.
- When James says things like "show me your faith," what does that mean?
- What does James mean by the term "justify"?
- The example of Abraham being 'justified by works'
(a) James is referencing the famous event of Genesis 22, where Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac, yet in this very situation, it was God Who commanded Abraham to do this and it was to be done before God alone (always reference Gen 22:1-2, 9-12), which is why Abraham told his helpers to stay behind (Gen 22:5). If James were thinking as a Protestant here, he picked the worst possible example, for this is the anti-thesis of doing one's works before men. Rather, this is about being justified before God, the very thing the Protestant is trying to get away from.
(b) The event of Genesis 22 happened years after the event of Genesis 15:6 (which James also quotes). If James is trying to prove good works automatically flow from the person who has "true faith," he again picked the worst example, for here the prime example of a good work doesn't flow from Abraham for many years later! This can only mean the Protestant assumption again fails.
(c) If James were discussing the nature of 'true faith' versus 'fake faith', why did he use Genesis 15:6 as his prime example? Who on earth would dare question whether Abraham's faith was genuine or not? The text plainly says Abraham's faith found favor with God, who are we or anyone else to question the validity of this? Does Abraham really need to "prove" his faith is genuine? Hardly. Again, the Protestant case doesn't make sense.
(d) James 2:22-23 indicates Abraham's faith was "active with works" and "completed by works," and that Abraham's work (sacrificing Isaac) fulfilled a Scriptural prophecy encapsulated in Genesis 15:6. In other words, Genesis 15:6 doesn't stand alone, it's has a 'fulfillment'! And to buttress this, this is what the pre-Christian Jews understood as well. For example, in 1 Maccabees 2:52 (an Old Testament book Catholics accept as Scripture but Protestants reject) says: "Was not Abraham found faithful in temptation, and it was reputed to him unto justice?" In case you missed it, Maccabees describes the Sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham using the the exact same language ("credited to him as righteousness," "reputed to him unto justice") as Genesis 15:6, including in the Greek (LXX) translation! Many people don't know that.
- Understanding the meaning of James 2:24, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."
- A final but necessary detail: James 2:26, "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead."
- Does the Catholic reading of James 2:24 contradict Paul (in, e.g., Rom 4:2-3)?