Faith that Works
James 2:26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
There is a lot of misunderstanding linked to this verse. Many people use this verse to back up an argument for works based salvation.
It is said that Martin Luther once called the Epistle of James was, “an epistle of straw”. However, whilst he challenged anyone to reconcile James and Paul on the doctrine of faith, Luther did not continue in this belief.
Are James and Paul teaching different doctrines on faith?
The Apostle Paul writing to the Ephesians, makes it very plain that salvation is by faith alone apart from works.
Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
So, on the surface it seems that there is a contradiction between Paul and James. The question is, is it justification by faith, as Paul claims, or by works, as James seems to say?
In Romans, 5:1-2, Paul writes, "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God."
James seems to say just the opposite, "You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone." This appears to be a first rate contradiction.
The simple answer is that both are absolutely correct. There is no contradiction at all.
Paul explains it like this:
Romans 4:1 – 5 What shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.' Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.
Paul quoting from, Genesis 15:6 "Then he (Abraham) believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness."
The truth is, that faith without works is dead but works without faith is impossible.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
The Lord Jesus makes it very clear what true faith is, in: Matthew’s Gospel.
Many profess to be Christians but their lives and priorities indicate otherwise.
The operative word here, is a professor and not a possessor.
Jesus puts it this way:
Matthew 7:16–23 “By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers”.
James is absolutely correct when he says that faith without works is dead.
Works proceed from faith, works follow faith, they are the proof of faith. If a man says he has faith and does not produce works he is a liar.
James 2:4 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
What James is meaning here, is that a true faith will bring forth fruit in the form of works but if there is no evidence of works, then there is no saving faith. He is here agreeing with the words of Jesus.
You cannot hide true faith, it will produce good works, just like the fruit tree produces fruit, so the true believer will produce works of righteousness.
Someone may say, “but I do good works” and he may be correct.
However, works of what?
Works of righteousness or works of the flesh?
Well! This is where the verse applies, Hebrews 11:6 without faith it is impossible to please God.
Works of righteousness proceeds out of a regenerate heart, a heart that has been quickened by the Holy Spirit of God, a life that has been converted, transformed, saved unto good works.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
For someone to claim the they are Christians because they once raised their hand in a Gospel meeting or repeated a sinners prayer, or because they have always attended church, or because they claim they have never done anyone any harm, is not a valid statement.
Unless there is evidence of saving faith, in that there is produce of fruit in their life, it is not true faith.
True saving faith will always be accompanied by works of righteousness.
A profession of faith like this is an empty profession of faith—one that does not result in a life of obedience to Christ—is in reality a dead faith that cannot save.
This why every one of us that professes to be Christians should as the scripture says: Examine yourselves.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
We are justified by grace through faith, Ephesians 2:8, the works that follow salvation do not make us righteous before God; they simply flow from the regenerated heart.
So, the question is this, is James right or is Paul right, is there a contradiction?
The answer is no, there is no contradiction.
Without faith you cannot be saved and if that faith does not produce works of righteousness it is not true saving faith.
Though we are not saved by good works, yet we are saved to good works, as fruits and effects of saving grace, which God has prepared that we should walk in them, Eph. 2:10.
Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Is your life characterized by "doing what is right"? 1 John 2:29
If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
Are you obedient to the Word of God ? 1 John 2:3-5
3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:
Do you "walk the walk," not just "talking the talk"?
1 John 3:18-19 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;