James 2:24 Vs Romans 3:28 – Are We Justified By Faith Or By Works?
Are we really justified by works or by faith? If we are justified by faith, does it really matter what we do? can we be saved by what we do (our deeds or works)?
These and similar questions are among the questions Christians ask on a daily basis.
I have laid this popular scriptural verses side by side hoping that the Holy Spirit will shed His light of understanding in our hearts as we begin on this journey to understanding what the scripture says about faith and works.
Of a truth, we are saved by faith in Christ Jesus.
It is not possible for anyone to be saved by his own works by the fulfilment of the law.
As James puts it in James 2:10-12,
10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.
So you see that it is impossible to be saved by law.
If you indeed keep all aspects of the law but break one, then you’ve become a law-breaker hence, a transgressor of the law.
The righteousness of man is like filth compared to God’s standard of righteousness.
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
But we do know that the wages of sin is death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – (Romans 6:23, NIV)
Now if we all have sinned and the wages of sin is death, then we all deserved to die.
Christ to the Rescue
God in His infinite mercy, and loving kindness did not wish for us to perish however, so He sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to pay the atonement/ransom for our redemption.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
You see, the criterion for our redemption, is believing in the saving work of Christ.
“…that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:10)
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
Christ promised that He, together with the Father and the Spirit will live and dwell in, and manifest Himself to those that love Him.
But how can we prove that we love God? What is our token of love for Him? What is the evidence or substance of our love?
It is by keeping His commandments.
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him (John 14:21)
But what is this commandment that we must keep to prove that we love God?
It is the commandment of Christ Himself summed up in one. The commandment of love!
Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)
So you see beloved, this is how to prove that we love God. The entire scripture is summed up into this singular commandment of love. All the words of Christ are summed up in love. Love is the greatest of the three that stand forever.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
How can we prove love to our fellow man without charitable deeds. Charity is so connected with love that some biblical texts use them interchangeably, or use charity in place of love instead.
This is exactly what the apostle James spoke about in his epistle in James 2:14-24:
Faith Without Work Is Dead
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
You see, Abraham was justified by faith, and that faith was accompanied by his work. Because Abraham had faith in God, he did not withhold his only son from God, believing that, He who gave him Isaac, can still do more and greater things.
That was the evidence of faith at work.
“For God so loved the world that He gave…”
You see, how did God show that He loves us? He gave us His only begotten Son.
If the evidence of our faith is love, and love is charity, and the same love or charity is practical, then it means that we are justified by faith, which must be made manifest by our works or charitable deeds.
Righteousness Through Faith
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from work of the law” – Does this Paul’s statement in verse 28 contradict what James said in verse 24?
If the evidence of our faith is love made manifest through charity and against love there is no law, are we then justified by law if we make evident our faith through love?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25)
Dearly beloved, it is evident from the foregone that we are not only justified through faith, but are justified through faith which is made manifest in our charitable works of love.
The two must go together, and can not be separated.
Therefore, it is clear as we maintain that faith without work is truly dead!