"Now what use is it, my brothers, for a man to say he 'has faith' if his actions do not correspond with it? Could that sort of faith save anyone’s soul?" (James 2:14)
And without reading any further into the famous "faith & works" section of James' letter, we have to stop right there, because THAT'S THE WHOLE QUESTION FOR US. The question of faith and works has everything to do with what we believe really happens because of "faith" at the level of the individual soul. Or let me put it to you this way: There was a real living person named Jesus, a man from Nazareth in Israel, who lived 2,000 years ago, in the midst of the Roman Empire.
Now what does that have to do with your soul?
(Insert you and I having coffee or talking on the phone this week, right here, because I'd really like to hear you answer that question.)
I think the reason we get into so many arguments and confusions about the "faith & works" question is because we don't really know what we actually believe about "faith." The true Christian faith - at least the one the first believers lived and died for - is that repentance and belief lead not only to salvation, but also to Jesus now living His life inside of you. And imagine questioning whether Jesus Himself would be able to show works and actions like... Himself! I truly dare us to have His presence inside us and to try and stop Him!
Really, the "faith & works" question should be a moot point for us, if we really believe the things we say we believe about Jesus, our soul, and the work of the Holy Spirit. (And I'd encourage you to read the rest of James 2 through the lens of His indwelling: it changes the whole scope of the argument entirely.)