2:17 faith by itself . . . is dead. When Luther and the Reformers insisted on the formula “Justification by faith alone,” they meant to insist that justification rests upon reliance on the merit of Christ alone. The “alone” does not mean that the faith exists alone without any subsequent fruit of obedience. Luther insisted that saving faith is a living faith. “Dead” faith does not mean a faith that has perished. Rather, the image suggests a faith that never had any true life in it. A dead faith cannot make one alive, cannot “save your souls” (1:21), and is therefore false and useless.