Understanding James 2:14-26

Q. In James 2:14-26 he questions whether someone can be saved without works, that faith is best displayed by works, twice that faith without works is dead and useless, that a man is justified by works and not faith alone, that Abraham was justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac at the altar.

Personally I have always believed in Ephesians 2:8,9 “that we are save by grace through faith and that not of ourselves, it’s the gift of God not of works lest any man should boast.” And as you have said in the past (correct me if I am wrong) that it is what we believe and not how we behave that saves us. Is that right?

A. Notice that James 2:14 says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”

I believe the phrase “claims to have faith” casts doubt on the person’s sincerity. James was saying that for people who are truly saved, good works will become an automatic part of their lives.

First of all, the Holy Spirit will prompt this, and second these works become our demonstration of gratitude for the free gift of salvation. If James 2:14-16 means self generated works must be combined with faith to attain or keep our salvation it would stand in direct conflict with several statements by Jesus, who clearly said eternal life comes from belief alone (John 3:16, John 6:28-29. John 6:37-40) and Paul who was even clearer in saying that works are not a part of the salvation equation (Romans 4:4-8, Ephes. 1:13-14, Ephes. 2:8-9, 2 Cor. 1:21-22).

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