James 2:20 But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Can you see how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
In the preceding block of scriptures, James turns his attention to obedience to God. In verse 22 James writes that by Abraham’s works his faith was made perfect. They translated the word “perfect” from the Greek teleioó, which means reaching it’s final end (Thayer’s Lexicon). It could therefore read, “by his works, faith was made such as it ought to be.” It conveys the idea that Abraham functioned more perfectly in faith by his works of obedience. Faith is always perfect but believers do not function in faith perfectly until they obey God—especially when he commands them to do something difficult such as sacrifice their promised child.
James 2:24 You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Verse 24 is a strange statement. How is that a man is justified by works? What works? Faith works or works of faith. Although Rahab the harlot did not have knowledge of God yet she was justified by her works of faith. And made it into the linage of Jesus. Now examine Luke 17:5-10.
Luke 17:5 And the apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith. 6 And the Lord said, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this sycamine tree, Be plucked up by the root, and be planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
Notice that Jesus never addressed the subject of an increase of faith. There are no degrees of faith. Faith is faith and believers either have faith or not. Five times in the Gospels Jesus told the people and his disciples that they were of little faith. In them Jesus did not mean that they had a little bit of faith, he meant they were operating in very little faith or trusting too little in him. They translated “little faith” from the Greek oligópistos, which means of or functioning in little faith, trusting too little (Thayer’s Lexicon). “Little-faith” also describes someone dull of hearing the Lord’s voice, or disinterested in walking intimately with him. In two verses of the Gospels Jesus referred to someone as having “great faith.” Great faith refers to amount of faith in which they functioned, for faith (trust) in God is used very little or greatly. Believers either function in their faith a little or greatly. Jude 20 explains that one builds them self up in faith praying in the Holy Spirit. He does not say that faith becomes greater, but one becomes more proficient in faith when praying in the Spirit. Jesus therefore does not answer the question about increasing their faith. Instead he points them to a life of servitude. To be continued.