Saturday, April 09, 2022

Faith Without Works Is the Only Faith That Justifies and Saves

Faith without works is the only faith that justifies and saves.

It's not a big secret that I believe Paul and James disagreed on the issues of justification and salvation. After all, we did a 21-part series about this on our podcast in 2020-21, where we talked about the evidence that we see not only in James' epistle, but also in other NT writings (including Acts and Paul's epistles) that point to James believing in and preaching salvation and justification by faith and works mixing together, whereas whenever Paul writes about justification or salvation, he writes about it as being by the blood of Jesus, by faith alone, apart from works.

One of the easiest contrasts that is plain to see is when James asks the question, "What does it profit if a man says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?" (James 2:14) After giving a regular-life example to show his belief that faith is dead if it doesn't have works, and then examples of a work that Abraham did and a work that Rahab did in addition to their faith, he concludes, "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." (James 2:24) And yet Paul plainly states, "To the man who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." (Rom 4:5) Not only does Paul not mix works in with faith in order to justify or save a person, he explicitly states that it's the person who does not work who is justified. You see this throughout his epistles.

Now, you may have some other interpretation of James' words in James 2, and of his actions in Acts 15 (where he OK'd the idea of Gentiles not having to keep the law, but not so much for the Jews), and in Acts 21 (where he told Paul to deny that he taught that people didn't have to keep the law of Moses), and Paul's words about him in Galatians 2 (where Peter had no problem eating with Gentiles, but suddenly became fearful and withdrew from them when James sent men there). If you have another way of seeing James, that's fine. We don't need to part ways or squabble over it.

But somehow we have to make it clear that the gospel that saves - the good news - is that God has given the gift of justification, righteousness and salvation to those who believe - completely apart from works. The faith that justifies and saves is faith apart from works. According to Paul, faith without works is FULLY ALIVE (!), because this faith - faith without works - is the only faith that saves. It is faith, apart from any work, through which man is saved and receives the free gift of justification and righteousness. According to Paul, if a work is added to faith, a person has something to boast about - "but not before God." (Rom 4:2).
"Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." (Rom 4:5)

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