Faith vs Works – Paul vs James

Just looking at faith and works and reconciling what James said about faith without works being dead and what Paul said about faith apart from the deeds of the law.

What I find very interesting is that what James calls “works” is that which Abraham DID “by faith” when he “offered up Isaac”:

Jas 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

Heb 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

Even our Lord refers to “the works of Abraham” when the Jew’s claimed to be “Abraham’s seed” though they did not DO “the works of Abraham”:

John 8:39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our Father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.

So even though Jesus speaks of “the works of Abraham” as does James, people want to point to Paul to disprove James and prove that Abraham was NOT “justified by works”.

Rom 4:2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

(as James claims):

Jas 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

Oh no, they cry!! Here we have a contradiction between James and Paul. But do we? Should we not even consider WHAT “works” are being discussed in order to make that determination?

Let’s start with Paul. To what “works” is Paul referring when he said: “if Abraham were justified by works”? Is he not speaking about “the works of the law”, as in the law of Moses, which was added 430 years after the promise was made to Abraham “through the righteousness of faith” :

Rom 4:13  For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

And it is “that” law by which no man is justified”.

Gal 2:16  Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Gal 3:11  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

But there is another law, “the law of faith”:

Rom 3:27-28 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Faith “without the deeds of the law”. What law? The law OF MOSES; that does not mean that faith does not “work”, as faith “worketh” by love:

Gal 5:4-6 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

So while Paul was speaking against being justified by “the works of the law”, James was speaking of that which worketh “by faith” when he said “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (Jam 2:17).

He’s certainly not talking about “the works of the law” (add 430 years after the promise was made to Abraham through faith) and neither was the LORD when He said to Isaac:

Gen 26:4-5 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

James was simply pointing out the same thing that Paul did; that we are “created in Christ unto good works”:

Eph 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

In other words, we are to bear fruit:

Joh 15:16  Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

Rom 7:4  Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

If we are not “bearing fruit” then where is THE EVIDENCE of our “faith”?

Jas 2:18  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

The reason that James asks the question:

Jas 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

Was not because Abraham was justified by the law or the deeds of the law, but because it was “by faith” that Abraham “obeyed” God and offered up his only begotten son.

Faith and obedience go hand in hand. Abraham did not just BELIEVE God, he OBEYED God:

Gen 22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast OBEYED my voice.

Romans 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham BELIEVED God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Heb 11:8 BY FAITH Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, OBEYED; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Gal 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen THROUGH FAITH, preached BEFORE the gospel TO ABRAHAM, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

If we BELIEVE we will OBEY!!

Not only does Paul point that out himself:

Romans 10:16 But they have not all OBEYED the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath BELIEVED our report?

So does the Lord:

Luk 6:46  And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

Not only did Jesus ask them why they did not “do” the things which he said, he even told them that they should BELIEVE THE WORKS, believing Him FOR THE VERY WORKS’ SAKE:

Joh 10:37-38 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

Joh 14:11-12 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.


Mat 7:16-21 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Not everyone that saith: “Lord Lord” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but those who OBEY and DO that which the Lord saith, as we are created in Christ Jesus UNTO GOOD WORKS, which God hath before ordained that we should WALK IN THEM.

Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

2Ti 3:17  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Tit 2:14  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Tit 3:8  This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

Heb 10:24  And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

It is not possible to HAVE FAITH and NOT DO the things that he says, such that we bear THE FRUIT of the spirit, so that God may be glorified!!

Mat 5:14-16  Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

In fact, we can DENY HIM IN WORKS:

Tit 1:16  They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Which is why James could say:

Jas 2:14-26  What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

It’s not about SAYING (anyone can ‘say’ they have faith) it is about WALKING IN THAT FAITH!! We cannot SAY and NOT DO!! If we are not OBEYING GOD then perhaps we are lying when we ‘say’: “I have faith”.

All Blessings in Christ!



About Christine

My name is Christine and since my favorite past-time, the one that I find the most fulfilling, is studying the scriptures and seeking to know and understand "the deep things of God", I have created this blog as a place to not only post my own bible studies but as a way to connect with others who are are also seeking the Lord and the Truth. I've posted some of my studies on other websites and haven't yet decided if I will post them here, as well, or if I will just post future blogs/studies here. We'll see. Thanks for stopping by and please do so again... maybe after I get something posted. :) ALL BLESSINGS IN CHRIST!!
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