An active (functional) faith attitude is that which generates unconditional obedience to the higher authority of the Godhead. Anything less puts one’s faith in the category described by James as “dead” faith (James 2:20). The believing “devils” spoken of by James did not have an obedient faith, rendering it unacceptable. Jude 1:6 teaches that they, through their disobedience to God, deserted their proper dwelling place, resulting in their placement in “everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” James used those insubordinate devils as an example of what lies in store for those who have faith but have not added works (obedience) to their lives.
The concept of an obedient, working faith is soundly supported by scripture. Paul began and ended the book of Romans with the idea of the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 16:26 ASV). He spoke of the Thessalonians’ “work of faith” (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11). Jesus Himself stated that belief (faith) itself is a work: “This is the work of God, that ye believe.” (John 6:29). The whole purpose of James chapter two is that “faith by itself, if it does not works, is dead.” (James 2:17), that “by works faith was made perfect” (James 2:22), and “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26). Incidentally, all that is meant by works is obedience, so one can easily understand this principle by simply substituting the word obedience for the word works.
Hebrews chapter eleven, sometimes called God’s Hall of Faith, lists a number of individuals who perfected their faith through the works of obedience. Moved by conviction in their hearts, each and every one of them worked God’s will toward a faith that was validated by their efforts. In so doing, they left examples for God’s people of all time to follow.
Faith is absolutely necessary for our salvation (Hebrews 11:6). But, it is a comprehensive term which includes many things. Belief is faith assenting. Repentance is faith turning. Confession is faith speaking. Baptism is faith submitting. The Christian life is faith living. Therefore faith is inextricably linked to obedience. One cannot have either belief alone or obedience alone and live a pleasing life before God. Acceptable Faith is the product of belief AND obedience.