152 Were James and Paul fighting over works versus faith or were they actually in agreement? WHAT DO YOU SAY?
Can we believe both Paul and James when it comes to the subject of works? On the surface, WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE CONTEXT, it looks like there could be a conflict. In fact this is why some people try to create an argument between James and Paul usually picking Paul as being correct. The problem with this scenario is that there was no disagreement between Paul and James in the Bible. And for those of us who believe the Bible, properly understood, in context, does not contradict itself, there is a problem. If James is wrong and Paul is right there is a contradiction in the Bible. We are in effect throwing the book of James out of the Bible. Now we can see why Martin Luther, called James “a book of straw.”
I had one person say to me there is nothing having to do with justification and Salvation in James chapter 2, so we can totally disregard any thing, James has to say when it comes to justification. We only need to believe Paul. The problem with this scenario (to his surprise), James 2 does use the language of justification and salvation.
There was a question in which I did not understand for years. I could not understand why the Bible would speak for works in some places and against works in others. And when I discovered the answer to this question; I thought that I alone (brilliant me) had come to understand something that no one else knew. Little did I know! It is all in the CONTEXT.
As a hint to answering the faith works question, I suggest reading Acts Chapter 15, the Jerusalem Council. There were people from Judea suggesting you must be circumcised in order to be saved. Peter spoke against circumcision; “Why then are you putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10-11)? And so the issue was settled once and for all and for all time; Peter had spoken.
Yes, it was settled, but the controversy did not go away because there were still Jews who insisted on it. In fact so large was the issue that Paul had Timothy circumcised to make it easier to work among the Jews; “On account of the Jews in that region Paul had him circumcised” (Acts 16:3).
We yawn today when we hear the word the circumcision in a Bible reading because it doesn’t mean anything to us. No one is insisting you must be circumcised in order to be saved. At the time of the apostles it was a huge issue and it would be a reason not to convert. Paul in his extreme frustration says; “Beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision...“(Phil 3:3). “Would that those who are upsetting you might also castrate themselves! “(Gal 5:12). And so even though the issue of circumcision was settled at the Jerusalem council, the battle went on.
But, are we not talking about works? What has works got to do with circumcision? The people from Judea were insisting “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). “It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic Law” (Acts 15:5).
Peter in direct response in Acts 15 said circumcision was not necessary and Paul was affirming Peter when he said in Romans: For we consider that a person is justified by FAITH apart from works of the law (Rom 3:28). Now the obvious question is this. Isn’t Peter speaking against circumcision and Paul speaking against works? Note that when Paul speaks about works of the law, circumcision is in the context.
For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Does God belong to Jews alone? Does he not belong to Gentiles, too? Yes, also to Gentiles, for God is one and will justify the circumcised on the basis of faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Rom 3:28-29). So now we can see that Paul is not speaking against good works done in love. He is saying we are justified by faith apart from works of the law and specifically names circumcision. He is dealing with the same issue that was dealt with in the Jerusalem council. And so now we know that Paul is speaking against works of the law (circumcision) and not good works.
So now the question remains, what was James speaking about when he used the word works; See how a person is justified by WORKS and not by faith alone (Jm 2:24). Is he speaking for the works of the law (circumcision), or is he speaking for good works done in love? Please note that in the context, James is speaking about good works. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead”(Jm 2:14:17).
When Paul speaks against works it is not good works, but works of the law and (circumcision) is in the context. When James speaks for works he is talking about good works and lists among other things feeding and clothing the hungry and so Paul and James are not at odds with one another. They are talking about two entirely different things.
• THE APOSTLE PAUL SAYS:
For we consider that a person is justified by FAITH
apart from works of the law (Rom 3:28).
CONTEXT: works of the law, circumcision.
• THE APOSTLE JAMES SAYS:
See how a person is justified by WORKS and not by
faith alone (Jm 2:24).
CONTEXT: good works, feeding and clothing the hungry
When James speaks of works with faith and when Paul speaks for faith apart from works, they are actually speaking about two different things, therefore we can believe both.
Please note on the subject of good works, Paul is in sync with James and believed in good works as well.
• “By your stubbornness and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God, who will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works" (Rm 2:5-7).
I have a friendly suggestion for those of us who like to discuss the faith works issue; include the context. It just might end the argument before it begins.