Which verse is right?
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? James 2:14
THEY BOTH ARE! Both are authoritative Scriptures so they, of course, must be right! Should this be a bone of contention? Is there any disagreement in these two verses?
All the Churches of Revelation had works, even the Church at Sardi, (though their works were imperfect).
Yet Abraham was moved by faith.
And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Genesis 15:6
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. Romans 4:2
Just look at the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11.
Faith in God motivated Noah to build the ark. He wouldn’t have done it without FAITH.
As St. Paul proclaimed in a continuation of Ephesians, the very next verse:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; Romans 2:13
St. Paul therefore agrees with St. James!
The fact is that faith motivates.
THE CONTEXT IS LOVE
This whole passage of James 2 is in the context of helping the poor and needy. If someone is hungry, and one doesn’t help his brothers, one is not loving their neighbors as oneself. Rahab also helped the spies! (v25)
This type of false “faith” will not have the proper good works that flow from a heart that operates in love.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5
The fruit of the Holy Spirit should be flowing in some one with true faith.
You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (v.24)
True faith comes with the good works attached! The Holy Spirit who is now in us compels us to do the good works! You cannot separate God from good works! So you cannot separate faith in God from good works!
Notice that verse 14 says “if someone says he has faith”. Maybe this “someone” here is being deceitful. There are too many anti-christs out there!
And why is this passage there in James 2?
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! James 2:19
It seems like an odd passage to put in, but I believe it is referring to this false “faith”!
This person may SAY that he has faith, but he could be outright lying! OR he just doesn’t know what it is like to have true faith! However, false “faith” would not produce the love-imbued works that are indicative of the Holy Spirit residing within believers.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. Romans 8:7-9
This is very important: “he is not His”!
This means that a person who willfully practices these sins repeatedly and continually may not have the Spirit of God abiding in them:
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5
Note the word: “practice”. This is continual. It’s not a one-time thing. Oh, Christians coud fall into a trap of adultery or any such sin because of the weakness of the flesh. However, the Holy Spirit would convict them of that sin (or they might die prematurely).
But how can one engage in witchcraft or continuous idolatry and have the Holy Spirit within one? How can one be continually abusive of children and have the Holy Spirit residing in him?
False “faith” is dead without the Holy Spirit!
For just as the body apart from spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (Berean Literal Bible) James 2:26
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5
False “faith” may be in your head but not in your heart. Do you have knowledge of the LORD but you are not committed to Him?Do you have an actual relationship with the LORD Jesus Christ?
For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:10
False “faith” may sometimes be seen in mindless routine and prayers done by rote. But do you offer sincere prayers to the Father in heaven? (Sometimes real believers fall into this trap, too!)
Compare these passages:
And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7 (Our LORD Jesus spoke this!)
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16b
False “faith” may be done for prestige, for power, for popularity. But are you really connected to the LORD Jesus Christ?
Everyone who has true faith will have the works because the fruit of the Spirit of God dwells in that person. Faith comes and then the good works, because time is often required, follow. Faith precedes the good works. But faith and good works are in the same package of the Holy Spirit!
I heard a recent story of a man who sold marijuana. He was so convicted by the Holy Spirit that he threw down his big bag of dope and trampled upon it. Faith preceded the good works by just a little bit.
I realized when my soul was saved that my salvation was secure but I didn’t realize that I needed to stop doing the Buddhism as I thought of it as ‘scientific’ principle, crazy as that was! Then I realized that this was idolatry and ceased. Faith preceded that work by about a week.
Sometimes it takes a long time to get someone to stop a repetitive sin. It is done out of habit. But Christians will sooner or later be free of addictive sin. Faith preceded some of the works by maybe years. God is patient and we should be as well. We need to encourage those with addictive sin. Try using Scriptures that relate to a particular problem. (Maybe you will need to use this prayer for a spirit of bondage and other demonic spirits that interfere with your Christian walk!)
One thing is sure: true faith will yield good works!
This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. Titus 3:8
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Heb 11:6
For just as the body apart from spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (Berean Literal Bible)
So both St. Paul and St. James are right!
“Our good works do not generate righteousness, rather our righteousness in Christ generates good works.” – Martin Luther