In the first part of this topic, I covered the high level understanding of the doctrines of faith alone and faith with works. Now its time to study the teachings from the scriptures.
The Doctrine of Faith and Works
The justification by faith and works is the teaching that the Church of Christ (Iglesia Ni Cristo) and other Christians religion teach. These Churches normally have hierarchical form of leadership similar to the Catholic Church which is headed by Pope.
About The Epistle of James
The doctrine of faith and works was taught by James. Bible scholars believe James is not one of the twelve Apostles even there are two James out of the twelve Apostles The author identifies himself as “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” who is writing to “the twelve tribes scattered abroad” (James 1:1). the audience is generally considered to be Jewish Christians, who were dispersed outside of Roman Judea due to persecution.
The Justification – Doctrine of Faith and Works
In James 2:14, James teach faith without work is dead. His question is therefore demanding a negative answer.
James 2:14 (NKJV), 14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
James further expand what he meant that faith without works is not profitable.
James 2:14-24 (NKJV), 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
Clearly so far we can tell that James is teaching that faith must be coupled with works to be saved. But what is “works” mean and what is “save” means? James used the example of Abraham offering his son, Isaac. This example is about practicing faith, to live in faith by what you believe. Abraham believe what God asked him to do. It is not because he followed the instruction of God that he is saved. Apostle Paul explains:
Romans 4:2 (NKJV) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, BUT NOT BEFORE GOD.
So far nothing mentioned of works by sacrificing your time in many different paper work in the Church or do all kinds of different offerings in the Church.
James says, without a doubt,”works are necessary to be saved.” That is clearly what he says here. In the next topic we will cover the teaching of justification by faith alone from Apostle Paul. For now we can already say there is conflict in the scriptures between James and Apostle Paul. This is a problem….BUT IT SHOULD NOT BE. If you believe in the bible, if you believe the scriptures are inspired words of God, the scriptures must not contradict itself.
James is not discussing a doctrine of salvation which is based only on faith. James insists that works are necessary to be saved. To understand this better we have to learn the theme of the book of James found in
James 1:21 (NKJV) Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls
James is talking to Jewish Christians, telling them that they can save their lives from the damage that sin brings if they will walk in holiness. He has already warned them of the death dealing consequences of sin:
James 1:13-15 (NKJV) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
In verse 21, he suggests that the antidote to the kind of consequence spoken of in 1:15, is the life saving capacity of God’s Word.
James subject IS NOT TALKING ABOUT ETERNAL LIFE AND HOW TO OBTAIN IT. James is writing about preserving temporal life and the damage that sin brings to the life of a believer.
James 2:12-14 (NKJV) So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
James is asking, “Does the fact that you are a believer save you from the temporal judgement of God if you live in sin?” His question demands a negative answer. God will bring temporal judgement on those believers who do not live out the principles of their faith. If your faith doesn’t work — live out the teachings of Christ, — you will suffer temporal judgement because of it.
The question now is what good works? I think in order to find the answer is we just have to go back to the scriptures which actions are righteous in the side of God. But James himself explained this
James 2:15-16 (NKJV) If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
What James is saying man cannot holds correct belief and save him from deadly consequences of sin. That is like giving your best wishes to a destitute brother or sister, when what they really need is food and clothing. It is utterly fruitless. Neither will your faith do your physical well being any good if you live in sin. Apply this to the Church of Christ practices, the Church is not addressing the real need of its member but it is the need of the Church. What do members need? Spiritual food but basic needs of life – not full of debt and obligations to give, give and give to the Church!
What is dead faith?
James 2:17 (NKJV) Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Remember James is writing to the Jewish Christians. Unless we act on our faith and live it out, our faith rapidly decays into dead orthodoxy. Good works are the spirit which animates the entire body. With out such works, our faith dies. This affect our temporal life and the preserving of it from God’s judgement. It does not teach that faith with works gives you salvation.
What are works?
James in fact was referring to love of your neighbor.
James 2:8 (NKJV) If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;
Now actually James and Apostle Paul agree about love.
Galatians 5:6 (NKJV), For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (NKJV), 13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The Doctrine of Faith Alone – Sola Fide
We will cover the scriptures in detail in next post. For now I like to cover what else James and Paul agree other than LOVE.
Did James really disagree with Paul on salvation being by grace through faith alone? Notice what he wrote in:
James 1:17-18 (NKJV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.
Apostle Paul teach
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV), 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Good gifts come from God and salvation is one of those good gifts. Grace is a gift of God and by grace we are saved. A gift is something you receive not because you work hard for it, otherwise it is not a gift. James sees the new birth as a sovereign act of God. James and Paul were in fundamental harmony about the way eternal life is received. For both of them, IT IS A GIFT FROM GOD, graciously and sovereignly bestowed.
I hope I have presented the inspired words of God in their real meaning. Do not just believe me, do a research and read the bible yourself to see if what I discuss in my articles are true or not.