The Gospel of Faith that Requires Works
We have all heard that we are saved by grace, and not by works.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
By grace we are saved. Saved through faith. Not our doing, but it’s the gift of God. Not result of our works, our doing. But James says its not just faith, you need works too!
But James says differently:
James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
James is Gospel in action. It’s primarily talking about real faith that produces actions as opposed to false faith that produces nothing. The proof of the person is the fruit of the Spirit, Jesus said. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? (Matt 7:16)
James 2:14-26 writes that if you see someone poor and lacking in daily foods, and merely comfort them by words without giving them food (actions), then James calls that faith by itself without works is dead. That will be correct and it doesn’t contradict the gospel, or Paul’s theology of gospel saved by faith & grace, not by works. Paul is talking about the way to salvation is by faith. But James is talking about the fruit of such faith for salvation must produce fruits, otherwise its false faith, and never is really saved. There is no contradiction.
V18-19 shows very succinctly that James is a Gospel in action because he says “Show me faith apart from works, and I will show you faith by my works”. That’s the key words here “faith apart from works”, that’s the problem of a gospel faith without the fruit or works. James is arguing that faith workout works is dead, and how true is that? It doesn’t contradict Pauline theology of you shall be saved by faith alone as said before. James is challenging fake faith. He is all about faith with works. One must understand that James is not saying that you are to be saved with faith and works, but he is saying after you are saved by faith , you must show your works, which is in line with Paul’s grace theology too.
James even says that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone quoting the like of Abraham justified by work. He offered up Isaac, Rahab when she acted to send messengers away. What James is saying that true justification is by faith alone for salvation of course, but that faith needs to be validated or proved by the result of that faith which is the fruit or works. That’s why he said you need to be justified by faith and works and not faith alone. This sounds confusing, but the sequence of it all, and in the spirit of what’s he saying, James is a gospel that shows fruit.