What about Faith vs. Works?

by Matt Paulson

Question: What about Faith vs. Works?

Answer: Faith vs Works - a quick and simple explanation

James 2:22 is addressing a worldly way to show our faith to others who watch us operate as a church. We know this because he says "Pure religion is…to visit the fatherless and widowed," (James 1:27). The Apostle Paul is explaining faith as God sees it.

"What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?* 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin," (Romans 4:1-8).

Now, let's see how James looks at a dead faith without works:

"What doth it profit, my brethren [target audience=church], though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? [that faith is a false or a DEAD faith] 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my [true] faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only [a false faith]," (James 2:14-24).  

James is saying that a person with dead faith will walk by the hungry because he or she is not really saved. When a Christian feeds the hungry, that is how he or she shows others that he has a real faith. On the other hand, the Apostle Paul says that Abraham was not justified by his works because his works do not justify him "before God," (Romans 4:2). This is a true faith that God sees apart from works.

What does Romans 4:1-4 say?

“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? 2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness,” (Romans 4:1-4).

True faith will be enough for God. However, to the church, faith is revealed in our efforts. Thus, there is no contradiction between the book of James and the book of Romans.






About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.