Understanding James
Faith and Works

When dealing with someone who holds to works-salvation, they will almost always bring up James 2:14-26. This passage in no way contradicts Paul or the rest of Scripture dealing with God's "free gift" of salvation. James is merely speaking to those believers who - once saved - then choose to "rest on their laurels", so to speak, and make little or no attempt at good works.

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul speaks of how we are saved by grace through faith. When this is shown to someone like a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness, they often then turn to James chapter 2, which they suppose bolsters their case for faith + works = salvation. However, James is not contradicting Paul in Romans. Below is a side-by-side comparison of the two, showing the harmony between faith and works.


1. Deals with justification "before
God" (Rom. 4:1,2).

2. He speaks of faith because God alone can see faith in the heart.

3. He draws his illustration from Gen. 15:6, wherein the conversion of Abraham is recorded. Paul refers to Abraham's justification by faith alone. Thus he is dealing with Abraham's justification.
4. Paul's key phrase is "before God."



1. Deals with justification before men. (See 2:14 - "though a man say"; 2:18 - show me", "I will show you"; 2:24 - "you see").

2. He speaks of a living faith which produces works in the outward life of a man which can be seen and examined by other men (2:14, 17-20).

3. He draws his illustration from Gen. 22:1-19, where, after being a believer for many years, Abraham is asked to give evidence to everyone of his love and faith in God. James refers to Abraham after he was justified. Thus he dealt with Abraham's sanctification.

4. James' key phrase is "show me" (1:18). James could not see faith if it was not manifested by works.

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