The blunder that many make is joining sides on the faith vs works requirement for salvation and not allowing Scriptures to speak. The faith only group will take verses like Gal 2:16 and Rom 3:28 and try to give a twisted meaning to Jas 2:24. The works requirement will take James and give a twisted meaning to the faith only verses. So, what is the truth? The problem with both sides is they don’t discern properly.
All the scripture verses that do not hinge on works are actually referring to “works of the law” – which produces “righteousness of the law”.
(Gal 2:16) Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
(Rom 3:28) Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Faith and Works
And the verse that hinge on works and faith is actually referring to the righteous works mentioned by Christ.
(Jas 2:24) Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Context of “faith” by Paul & James (using Gen 15:6)
- (Rom 4:2-5) For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath [whereof] to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abrahambelieved God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
- (Jas 2:21-24) Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
The book of Romans (actually, Paul in all his letters e.g, Rom chapters 2, 3; Gal 2:16; Phil 3:9) refers to “works” as “works of the law”. The faith mentioned by Paul is same as the “living faith” mentioned by James using the above Abraham example mentioned by both authors.
Discern the works
The work James mentioned as an example:
(Jas 2:15-16) If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be [ye] warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what [doth it] profit?
Which is exactly what Christ said:
- (Matt 7:19) Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them
- (Matt 25:31-46) … And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed [thee]? or thirsty, and gave [thee] drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took [thee] in? or naked, and clothed [thee]? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] not to one of the least of these, ye did [it] not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Can anyone reject Matt 7:19 and Matt 25:31-46 which are the words of Christ as works? Looks like Christ Himself is asking us do works, otherwise, we will be cast into fire. John the baptist also preached the same in Luke 3:9-11.
Works of the Law vs Righteous Works
Unless you properly differentiate “works of the law which is our righteousness” (which are not required), from the “righteous works which is His righteousness” (which is required for our salvation), you will not be able to discern this works vs faith differences and you might easily fall into faith only trap without having His righteousness. It is true our righteousness are filthy rags as in Isa 64:6- which is why Christ had come to reveal His righteousness and teach us what He expects. How long are you going to say that our righteousness are filthy rags and not ready to follow His sermon on mount to seek and follow His righteousness?
Thief on the Cross
Did thief on the cross do any works? This is also one of the questions put forward by “faith only” believers.
(Luke 23:39-43) Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? “And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Firstly, he not only rebuked the other thief but preached to him to fear God even at that situation in pain. Secondly, he humbled by acknowledging the punishment he received for his sins and also acknowledged the sinless nature of Christ. Thirdly, he prays to Christ to remember him in His Kingdom. He would not have asked if he didn’t have faith in Christ and in His Kingdom.
- Had fear of God: (Ps 85:9a) Surely his salvation [is] nigh them that fear him;
- Humbled: (Jas 4:6) But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
- Had faith in Christ: (Eph 2:8) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:
We see that the thief not only had faith or believed, but humbled and feared God. We also see that he showed his living faith by rebuking the thief to fear God even in that painful situation. In all the comfort I have today, I had never rebuked anyone to fear God. How much more is the “works” that this thief did? True faith always accompany with works and it is this living faith which we do and show along with the grace from God received though our humbleness, we are saved, just as the thief was saved.
If you separate works from faith to have faith only, then that dead faith as in Jas 2:20 and Jas 2:26 cannot save as in Jas 2:24.
James is not speaking about claims of faith but “specifically” speaking about people “claiming of faith without works” and declares it as dead. The works James mentions is the righteous works which Christ taught and not referring to works of the law.
(Jas 2:17-20) Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Dead faith (with is without works) along with grace cannot save him. If you want to believe it can, you can only do so after tearing of pages of James from the Bible.