As stated in the book of James (2:14-26), isn't faith without works dead?

Brother Ralph,

In your response on the topic "Why do Christians hate Jews, blacks, and Catholics?", you mention that you disagree with the Catholic on salvation. You articulate the difference in your statement "They say it is by works and we say it is through faith alone." That's not completely true. As stated in the book of James (2:14-26), isn't faith without works dead? Please clarify.

I am a first time viewer to your web site, and I am quite impressed with your style. Some of the messages under "Personal Attacks" have been pretty vicious, but I sense that you are responding to each message with love. If someone would have spoken to me in that manner, I probably would have been tempted to have a good old-fashioned parking lot discussion with them. However, that would not have settled anything. I am a Christian, but I'm still a work in progress. May God continue to bless you and your work.

My response is in Green:

Thank you for your kind words. You asked a good question, but I do have an answer. If I could not answer this question I would question all of my beliefs and I will tell you why. If I could not answer this then I would believe that the Bible contradicts itself and could not be trusted. Here is why I say that.

(James 2:14 NIV) What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?

Now James appears to be saying that faith without deeds can't save a person, Yet look at this:(Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV) {8} For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--{9} not by works, so that no one can boast.

So which is it? Is salvation by faith and not works or are works required? This is a stumbling block to a lot of people and has become a stumbling block to the Catholic Church. Quoting from the Counsel of Trent:

Seventh Session 3 March 1547 Decree Concerning the Sacraments

Canons on the Sacraments in General

Can. 4. If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation but are superfluous, and that without them or without the desire of them men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification, though all are not necessary for each one, let him be anathema.

So you see that the Catholic Church says that salvation is NOT by faith alone. Now many people will say they are just agreeing with James, but that would mean that they are disagreeing with Paul. The problem comes down to, is James disagreeing with Paul or not. I will tell you right now, that he is not. The Bible is God's word and God is not the author of confusion, so if we are confused we need to study more and find out what the real answer is. It is right there, but many people miss it.

I want to go to something that Jesus said: (Matthew 25:41-43 NIV) {41} "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. {42} For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, {43} I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

Now again it might sound like Jesus is saying that without helping the poor you can't get into heaven, but wait, we need to dig further.

I want to quote from James again but add a couple of verses: (James 2:14-17 NIV) {14} What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? {15} Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. {16} If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? {17} In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Notice that James too talks about helping our brothers and sisters. Hang with me I will try to pull all of this together in a minute. Now look at this passage:(John 14:23-24 NIV) {23} Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. {24} He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

What did Jesus command us to do? (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV) {37} Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' {38} This is the first and greatest commandment. {39} And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' {40} All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

If you truly love God in whose image man was created, and if you truly love your neighbor as yourself, could you watch as they starve or go without something they need to live? I don't think so and that is what this is all about. But let me go a little deeper first.

(1 John 3:10 NIV) This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

So if we don't love others it proves that we are not truly children of God. Is love a deed? I think it is. Does it save you? No, you are saved by faith alone but the evidence of that saving faith in your life will be deeds expressing your love, or more accurately the love of God coming through your life. That is what James is trying to say. If you don't do what is right, if you don't love others, if all you have is words then you don't truly have saving faith and your actions prove it. That is not the same as saying that you must do some work to get salvation, it is just evidence of your salvation.

To put it another way; the person who claims Jesus Christ as their Savior but takes advantage of the poor, and does not show love to others, is a liar and is not saved. Not because they did not go good works, but because their own actions prove they don't truly have faith in Jesus Christ. Faith that saves is faith that Jesus is who He said He is and if you believe that you WILL follow what He said, you will love others. The point is you can't have saving faith and not naturally have good works or fruits. That is what Jesus kept talking about when He would talk fruit: (Matthew 7:16-17 NIV) {16} By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? {17} Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

The Bible also clearly tells us what it takes to obtain eternal life:(Acts 16:29-31 NIV) {29} The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. {30} He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" {31} They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household."

Belief in Jesus is all that is required, but that belief means to confess ourselves as sinners and to turn from our sins, and believe that He is our Redeemer. If we believe that then we will not only be saved by God's grace through our faith, but our lives will show evidence of that faith because we will naturally serve the Lord and produce fruit or good deeds.

This sounds like a minor issue but it is not. If we need to do something, anything other than have faith to be saved then we are saying that Jesus was not able to pay our whole debt on the cross and therefore we are our own saviors. At that point, we don't have saving faith in Jesus Christ and we are lost for eternity. The Catholic Church talks about a lot of different works that are required for salvation, but even one is too many. So that is why I only made the one quote. If the sacraments are required for our salvation then Jesus did not pay the whole debt on the cross.

I hope that clarifies my position for you. It can be somewhat confusing but if you think about it for a while, I think it makes sense and keeps the Scripture consistent. If the Scripture is not consistent then we must keep digging because like I said at the beginning God is not the author of confusion.

Ralph

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