James’ teaching on Faith seem to contradict what Paul teaches about Faith. I want to answer this question as we our study of James brings us to James’ familiar statement in chapter 2. “Faith without works is dead.” Is James contradicting what Paul writes in Romans, Galatians and other passages which indicate that we are saved by faith alone?
Scoffers love to discredit the Bible. We should know how to answer them.
Understanding FAITH is important for 2 reasons:
1- our eternal destiny rests on whether or not our faith is real.
2- Real faith is the only thing that can transform our lives.
If you compare Let’s look at The Appearance of a Contradiction between James and Paul on Faith.
“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,” (Romans 3:28–4:5, ESV)
“Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 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. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 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?” (James 2:20–25, ESV)
Both passages use the words faith and justification. Both speak use Abraham as an example. But there is clearly a different emphasis in what James is saying and what Paul is saying.
As we compare these two passages, we begin with a presupposition. God Does not Contradict Himself. We base this presupposition on our knowledge of God as the Bible reveals him. This is not a circular argument because we are discussing the nature of God. If he God, then we can trust the book he has given us. Our deeper study of the book will confirm whether or not our presupposition is correct.
God is perfect
His WORK is perfect. ““The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4, ESV)
His WAY is perfect. “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (2 Samuel 22:31, ESV)
His WORD is perfect. “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30, ESV)
God is the SOURCE of Scripture. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV)
A Perfect God cannot/ would not provide us with a flawed book
Critics love it when they think that there are contradictions in the Bible. But as it has been said, “Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them!”
Answering Critics is important
1. One contradiction would destroy the credibility of the entire Bible
2. One contradiction would weaken our confidence in God
Is there a Contradiction?
There is an question to be answered. Let’s examine this together.
1. James and Paul knew each other. “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.” (Galatians 1:18–19, ESV)
2. James defended faith alone. “And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.” (Acts 15:12–13, ESV)
3. Paul warned against false faith.
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1, ESV)
“I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.” (Galatians 5:3, ESV)
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV)
4. James writes to exhort Christians to examine their faith.
5. Paul writes to explain the essence of faith.
Notice the following comparison:
WORKS When Paul speaks of works, he is speaking about the works of an unbeliever that cannot save (Eph 2:9)
When James speaks of works, he is speaking about the works of a believer that are produced by salvation. (James 2:21)
FAITH When Paul speaks of faith, he is speaking about the act of trusting in the work of Christ for salvation from sins. (Eph 2:8-9) When James speaks about faith, he is speaking of the ongoing evidence of salvation that faith produces. (James 2:18)
ABRAHAM Abraham was justified when he believed God’s promise (Rom 4:10-12)
Abraham’s faith was made evident when he offered Isaac (James 2:21)
There are Two applications of Justification.
Greek, like English can have the same word mean different things.
Right and right (turn right, be right)
Lying and lying (deceiving and laying down)
Tip and tip (tip of the pencil and what you leave for the waitress)
To illustrate this, Kim’s cousin is a missionary to Taipai and is learning Mandarin. In Mandarin, words can mean something entirely different depending on the inflection. She was hiking with some friends on a hot afternoon. Trying to impress her Taiwanese male friend, she said in Mandarin, “It is really hot and it is making us sweaty!” Her friend picked up the pace and jumped out in front of her. When she finally caught up with him, she repeated her Mandarin conversation. “It’s is really hot and it is making us sweaty.”
Her Taiwanese girlfriend pulled her aside and warned her that she just said, “It is really hot and it is making us sexy!” Similar words. Quite different meaning!
PAUL is using Justification to refer to faith in Christ.
JAMES is using Justification to refer to the evidence of faith
There is no contradiction, only a fuller picture of faith.
Don’t use James 2 to promote LEGALISM
Don’t use Romans 3 to promote DISOBEDIENCE
Examine your faith. Is there fruit in your life that verifies that your faith is at work?
James is not alone in his teaching that true faith is made evident in a changed life.
JAMES. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17, ESV)
JESUS. “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.” (Luke 3:8)
PAUL “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6, ESV)
PETER. “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,” (2 Peter 1:5–6, ESV)
How about you. Is there evidence of a changed life? If not, then evaluate your faith and give your heart completely to Christ. Trust him by faith. Allow him to work in your life and help you to be a new person in Him.