James and Paul on faith verse works


James always gets discounted and tossed aside in the debate over grace verses works.  Calvinist proclaim that works has nothing to with ones salvation.  Where as James uses our father Abraham as our example that faith without deeds is dead.  In fact he states that Abraham was not justified by faith alone, but that his works made complete his faith.  This goes completely against what Calvinist teach, but scripture is clear, faith alone doesn’t save if it is not accompanied by works, deeds, obedience or what ever you want to call it.

For more on this see yesterdays post Abraham / faith verses deeds.

The whole debate seems a strange one to me, as if there is two different, yet equally inspired gospels in scripture.  One from James and one from Paul.  James teaches we like our father Abraham our justified by our deeds, wherein Paul says, nope our hope is based solely on grace.  Or does he?

In the book of Romans, which the Calvinist think they have a corner on, Paul contradicts the doctrine of Calvin that says it is faith alone that saves us.  Speaking of God, Paul says He will give men what there deeds deserve.  Some by doing well, or obeying God if you will, will receive eternal life.  I am sorry, but eternal life is on a level higher than just rewards.  Eternal life is the hope of our salvation, to not die in the second death.  So Paul is not just talking about rewards here.  Others who do not obey the gospel will receive wrath. 

Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:[1]

Paul himself taught the Romans that works, doing good, obeying scripture leads to eternal life.  In fact it has to not just be mostly doing good but patient continuance in doing good.  That means not walking away from the works of deeds to receive eternal life but always remaining in that state of obedience.

Paul a just a little bit further down expounds on this principle of doing good, works if you will, by saying no one is justified simply by faith when he states that the doers of the law are those who are justified.

(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.  For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.[2]

Paul states, according to his gospel, that we will either receive eternal life or wrath based on our deeds, not faith alone.  Which is no different that what James says.  Paul shows how even the gentiles are justified without the benefit of the gospel when the do what God has written on their hearts.  Not by what they believe or have faith in only.  Now this has Paul’s signature on it if you will since he claims that this is his gospel.  And this in Romans chapter two, the area the Calvinist claim superiority of doctrine.  Hmm, go figure.

I don’t particularly buy it, but many think the writer of Hebrews was Paul so I will for conversation sake attribute it to Paul, since none of us really knows anyway.

Paul speaking of Christ taught that Jesus became the author of salvation to all that not just have faith in Him but obey Him.  Isn’t this an example of faith being completed by works?  If we do not put our faith to action what have we?  If we have nothing, then our faith needs our works to become what it needs to be in order to have effective faith.

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.[i]

Isn’t this at the heart of our gospel?  We must obey to show we are His disciples.  Isn’t it like James says, deeds complete faith, and faith alone is worthless.


[1] Romans 2:6-10

[2] Romans 2:13-16


[i] Hebrews 5:9

One thought on “James and Paul on faith verse works

  1. Pingback: Changing the debate « The Gospel According to the Gospel

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