ustified by works or by faith?

Question: Does not Paul in Romans 3:28 contradict what James writes in James 2:24? Paul says "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." James says "Ye see then how a man is justified by works and not by faith only."

Answer: This is not a new question. Martin Luther battled with this to the point of almost rejecting the Book of James as inspired. The context of these two portions of scripture will give us the answer. Paul is talking about being justified by keeping the law. He rightly concludes that man cannot be saved by keeping the law. There would be two major problems being saved by law. First man cannot keep it. Secondly, if he could it doesn't provide or promise forgiveness and eternal life.

These two things man needs to be saved. James is not speaking about the "works of the law" at all. He is simply showing the true nature of faith, namely, that it works. It is not faith and good works but a faith that works. The two examples he gives make this clear. In
James 2:21 he gives Abraham offering up his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God as the evidence of his faith. Now this was not works of law or even good works of a moral or social nature. It would have been absolutely sinful for him to have done this on his own. But God, testing him in this way, displayed his faith in action.

The other example James gives in
James 2:25, is that of a woman whose morals were anything but good. She just never had any good works. She is Rahab, the harlot. By her actions of receiving the Jewish spies and sending them out another way so they could return safely to their company, she is said to have been justified by her actions. The words "believe and faith" are often verbs in the Bible. These are grammatically, action words. This is what James is saying.

Faith has activity to it. it shows itself by actions. In
James 2:26 he says, ".so faith without works (action) is dead." It is useless. The true nature of faith is not intellectual, but has to do with the will. It is not merely giving a mental assent to a fact; but it goes beyond that and acts out the facts. It is not the actions or works that save, nor the faith; but the object on which faith rests. In salvation it rests completely on the word of God and the sacrificial work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Don't trust your works or your faith to save you, but trust Christ alone.

Harold Smith

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