Explore the Bible
November 4 2018
James 2:14-26 (HCSB)
The book of James was a severe stumbling block for Martin Luther. For Luther Abraham and Rahab being “justified by works” was incongruent with the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. He called it “an epistle of straw.” This expressed his convictional opposition to the Roman Catholic dogma of salvation through works. Some theologians agree that the Apostle Paul’s theology was in opposition to James’ theology. They entirely miss James’ point. James was not contradicting the doctrine of salvation by faith. He wasn’t even dealing with the issue of salvation. James was teaching that works give evidence to genuine faith.
Paul’s theology was salvation by grace through faith and not works (Eph. 2:8-9). James’ theology was a faith that saves expresses itself in works (James 2:14 18). Paul agreed with James about works because he said we are saved or created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10). Paul was confronting legalism being spread by the Judaizers. They taught Christians needed to keep the law. James was confronting license or easy believism which advocated no works at all.
Genuine faith produces good works in the believer’s life. A survey of the book of James reveals many works that genuine faith will produce: endurance perseverance under trials moral life humility obedience to Scriptures compassion for the needy impartiality love for your neighbor actions according to Scripture showing of mercy control of the tongue righteous conduct peace-loving gentleness patience and truthfulness in speech.
James said that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Characteristics of dead faith are an empty profession compassionate talk with no action and shallow conviction (James 2:14 15-17 18-20).
Both Paul and James made it clear we will be judged on the basis of what we have done. Jesus did too (John 5:28-29). Our salvation should express itself in good works for which we were created to do.