Faith and Works
Are Paul and James contradicting each other? The answer is No.
Paul and James are talking to two different groups of believers. Paul was dealing with Jewish believers who were trying to force gentile converts to keep all of the law of Moses in order to be justified. Therefore, Paul responded to this by saying that people can’t earn salvation; rather, it comes as a free gift from God (Ephesians 2:8).
However, James is dealing with new converts who have come into the church believing that since they’re justified by faith, obedience doesn’t really matter. In order to understand James, we need to read the verse that follows verse 21: “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:22).
Faith, then, produces works. How? The word “perfect” in this sentence means complete. When used in the sentence, it means Abraham’s works by faith were made manifest, that is, they gave evidence to his faith. In other words, his actions proved he was justified! Thus, we are saved by faith alone but faith will manifest itself in good works.
True Faith Leads to Good Works
The Bible is filled with references to how important good actions are. It’s not a sin to do good—it’s not wrong to stop sinning. Paul writes, “Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid” (1 Timothy 5:25). This passage shows us that the deeds of the saved are evident because they are good. You’ll know a saved person by his fruits (Matthew 7:16). 1 Timothy 6:18 reiterates the same truth, “That they do good, that they be rich in good” deeds.
Also, the Paul apostle adds, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). By his own power man cannot produce good deeds. It is important for him to be spiritually re-created in Christ before he can bring forth the good works God purposes he shall bring forth.
By a change of the will, intentions, and purposes the privilege and duty of witnessing by good works become possible (Matthew 5:14–16). The good news is that the Lord has provided the means for the believers to produce good works (Philippians 4:13). “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21 also John 15:16).
Paul stresses the importance of good works, “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, [and] sincerity” (Titus 2:7). True faith includes every activity in which a man can do as his thoughts are surrendered to the will of God (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Only those who honestly choose to be known as God’s children will earnestly permit God’s Word to do its function as set forth in 2 Timothy 3:16. By adhering to Biblical instruction, believers will be known by all as men of God. “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:17). Notice that the same person who wrote the above verses is the apostle Paul who has written our starting verse Romans 3:26.
In His service,
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