Salvation by Faith without Works?

“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)

“You see then that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (James 2:24)

The single most polarizing issue in Christian Theology may very well be this one.This topic can ignite the emotions of the very elite. Some groups teach that the beliefs and writings of Paul contradict the beliefs and writings of James. How can this be? “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy3:16)

Allow me to respectfully consider another approach; For the sake of maintaining balance, let’s delay the natural tendency to defend our positions (whether they may be “with works” or “without works”), until we can better understand the perspective of each writer. The Apostle Paul (a chosen vessel of God), had personally experienced God’s grace in it’s purest and most impressionable form. He committed the remainder of his life to teaching others how the “works” of the old law had been replaced with a better covenant. (Hebrews 8:13) Paul certainly understood that man was incapable of introducing any form of “works” that could redeem even one soul from the guilt or the penalty of sin. He had learned that only the blood of Christ could do that. Paul was also convinced that the new covenant requires obedience. He taught that “obedience to the faith” was essential not only to his calling, but to everyone who would call upon his Master’s name. “By whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ. (Romans1:5,6)
“Obedience” has not always been fashionable in American culture. It seems that the nonconformist usually gets the spotlight in modern venues. The Apostle Paul never implied in any of his references to “grace” that the believer should have anything less than a total commitment to the “works” of believing (and doing) the will of God.
The epistle of James, (also inspired by God), shows that this writer was comparing two very different levels of personal faith; one that he describes as a “working” faith, and one that he describes as a “dead” faith. Like Paul, James never suggested that man should introduce human concepts or any form of  “works” which originate in the mind of man as an attempt to earn salvation. James was merely explaining how “working” faith is a faith that is submissive and obedient to the commands of God (whatever those commands may be) and that the main product of a “working” faith is obedience, (not to the commandments of men as in Mark 7:7), but to the”works” that Jesus has commanded us to do. James was certainly not defending the idea of keeping the old law that had been taken out of the way and “nailed to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14) James knew that the blood of Christ was the only sacrifice that could remove the guilt of man’s sin, and he was totally convinced (like Paul) that his Master expects obedience from every one who loves Him. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”(John 14:15)
” But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)










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