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Why Does James Say Faith plus Works are needed for Salvation?


Once you understand why James 2:14ff says something different, you can understand how faith alone saves. James taught Judaism same as did Jesus during His earthly ministry. Works were essential to obtaining blessings. The entire Mosaic Law was based upon blessings for upholding the law and hard times for not upholding the law. A gentile could only be saved by coming to God via a Jew. All nations were to be blessed as a result of Israels blessings. Keeping the law was imperative. This Jesus
Himself taught as is evidenced by the rich man asking Jesus what he must "do" to go to heaven. You will recall that Jesus told him to keep all the law. I chuckle at how Jesus kept His calm when the rich man replied to Jesus that he has kept all the law since birth. Imagine that. Anyway, this is what James (Jesus' half-brother) was rooted in. James, like Israel, was not set free from Jesus later teachings.

You may recall that before Jesus was leaving the apostles, He told them that there was so much to say but not enough time to say all that He had to say. Much of Christianity follow and understand what was taught up until this point. After all, it is in red letters in the Bible. What part of Christianity fails to see are the additional teachings revealed by Jesus Christ from heaven through Paul, the apostle to the gentiles. It is here
that Paul writes in his epistles what was progressively revealed to him from Jesus Christ from heaven after Jesus' earthly ministry. The book of Romans makes it abundantly clear that salvation is by faith alone. This was a powerful tenant of the Reformation.

When Paul went back to Jerusalem to meet with Peter, James and John, it was said that they (the pillars) had nothing to add to what Paul had to teach, on the contrary... GAL 2:6 As for those who seemed to be important--whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance--those men added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary,...

James was still insisting on the old system of works. In fact, he sent two brothers along with Paul to make sure that Paul taught Acts 15:29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.

Paul had whittled down all the Mosaic Law still being promoted by James down to accepting for the sake of peace between the brothers those simple requirements. James was adamant about it. James was also the head of the church in Jerusalem. Peter was intimidated by James. Paul knew that for his message to be heard, he would have to "bend." He knew that he would eat or not eat certain food if it affected the faith of a brother regardless of his understanding that it made no difference.
Ergo, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. This is how Paul won over the greater number to Christ. Consider RO 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that
will cause your brother to fall.

RO 14:22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. Even Jesus during His earthly ministry turned away works in MT 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter
the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

What is the will of the Father? It is to belief on His only begotten Son. Here Jesus turns away those who try to enter heaven based on works they have done. Nothing we can do will earn us heaven, nothing except to do the only thing we can do without actually performing anything and that is to choose to believe.

Recall also that Jesus told Paul to no longer go to the Jew but only to the gentiles. At Paul's second and last meeting with those reputed to be powerful, James, Peter and John, they all agreed that James, Peter and John would go to the Jews and Paul would go to the gentiles. This is what Paul needed from the three as this is what Jesus had instructed him to do. The keeping of a certain "work" was no longer necessary for salvation but was an accommodation by Paul to obtain the greater understanding for Paul to be permitted by James, Peter and John to preach to the gentiles. This all occurs in the book of Acts.

If you will now consider Galatians 2:21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

And Galatians 2:16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

Works is NOT what saves us, it is faith in the shed blood of Jesus at Calvery. Faith alone as Paul teaches in Romans 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29 Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

Now, much of Christianity sees this as a contradiction to what James says about faith being dead without works. They chose to either believe that salvation is by faith alone following Paul or that salvation is by faith plus works following James. My friend, they cannot both be right as they are diametrically opposed. Here we fair well to heed 2Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Even though James says it himself, he came from an experience of law and remained rigid in it. Consider when James gives the example of Abraham beginning to sacrifice his son and associates that work with his faith for righteousness. James then hits the nail on the head and fails to recognize it when he says James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

James no sooner says that Abrahams belief (faith) in God is credited to him as righteousness when he claims to the contrary that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. His conclusion stems from his traditional understanding and not by the very fact he himself presents. 

The works James refers to are not works that LEAD to salvation, they are works as a RESULT of salvation that already cometh by faith. Are these works our works to be "credited" to us for salvation? No, these works come from God's Holy Spirit living within us (the saved) being performed by our saved bodies.

Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 NOT BY WORKS (caps mine), so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

As you can now plainly see from God's Word, salvation is NOT BY WORKS but rather the saved person is God's workmanship doing God's good works which He prepared in advance (before the foundations of the world) for us to do. So James refers to the works that God does through the saved by faith individual. These works are NOT credited to our salvation but rather are a result of our salvation by faith alone. Hence, James rightfully claims that faith without works is dead. These are the works of the already saved person performed by the Holy Spirit.

This seems like a long winded explanation but actually it is very short as much of God's Word testifies to this discernment. We pray this provides a seed for understanding.

Our salvation is by faith alone and that faith produces in us works that make our faith self evident.

Praise be to Jesus Christ!   


Text Box: Or Is Salvation by Faith Alone? Alone,

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