The apostle Paul believed that faith without works is dead just as James taught in his epistle, referring to works within the context of the faith we are called to live.
Paul’s teachings regarding justification by faith without works is often misinterpreted because there is a tendency to interpret Paul’s teachings based on a few random verses from Romans and Galatians, where Paul’s argument is that justification does not come through the works of Jewish Law but through faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul did not teach a different message about faith than James. Contrary to the belief of some, Paul did NOT view saving faith as a one time event which had nothing to do with how one lives afterwards.
Paul tells the Galatians “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain” and “I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.” (4:11, 20)
Paul says these things not because he was second guessing if they had actually believed the gospel at one time. Instead he says these things because they were not living according to the faith he had preached to them and taught them to live by.
In chapter 5 Paul says to them: “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (v 7-9)
Paul affirms that they had been running well in their faith, but had since been hindered by the leaven of those teaching that they should obey Jewish law. The Galatians were having their faith undermined by the Judaizers who were attempting to make Jewish proselytes of them.
Paul did not teach the Galatians to just simply pray a prayer and believe one time and “wa-la” they’d be in like flynn. Paul had taught the Galatians “the just shall live by faith” (3:11).
In Paul’s theology justificaion by faith in Jesus Christ is not a reference to a one time believing experience. It is a reference to living your life by faith in Jesus Christ.
When James says faith without works is dead, he uses examples of showing love and kindness as the works he is referring too. Paul says basically the same thing in Galatians when he says, “faith works by love.”
Paul also agreed with James’ statement – “faith without works is dead” – when he says to Titus that those who “profess to know God but deny him in their works are abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”(Titus 1:16)
Also in 1 Thessalonians Paul speaks of “the work of faith.”
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost. So that ye were EXAMPLES TO ALL that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. (1 Thessalonians 1:3-7)
Reading Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, and to Timothy, and to Titus; we can see that Paul did not think of faith as something that was merely a one time gift bestowed which had nothing to do with how we live.
It is error to think that Paul taught that there is a chasm between saving faith and faith we are called to live by. Paul refutes such notions much throughout his epistles. Paul did not teach that saving faith stands alone as an independent entity from faith which produces godly living. Saving faith IS the faith you are to live by.
In Romans, Paul’s doctrine of faith is that we become servants to righteousness through belief in Jesus Christ.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:16-23)
Notice that verse 23 – For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord – is not written within the context of a one time believing experience, but rather within the context of becoming a servant to Jesus Christ.
In Romans, Paul never communicates a faith that isn’t lived out, otherwise he wouldn’t have written chapters 12-16 which deal with living out our faith in practicality.
2 thoughts on “WERE PAUL AND JAMES ON THE SAME PAGE?”
What about when Paul says that if righteousness came by the law then Christ died in vain or in romans 10 when Paul says that the righteousness by the law of mosheh doesn’t matter but by the law of faith in the messiah ! Just two points I need help with it seems that Paul taught a different salvation then the messiah did ! Because messiah teaches that our righteousness needs to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees and scribes and in Mathew 7 when he says depart from me you worker of lawlessness seems the messiah was adamant about good works for salvation Paul says the works of the Torah are useless it’s all about faith
Why do you think Paul preached a different gospel than Jesus? Jesus emphasized faith before Paul did. Jesus preached the gospel of the Kingdom, telling people to repent and believe the gospel. ~ Mark 1:14-15
In the great commission, Jesus tells his disciples to “go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” ~ Mark 16:15-16
Jesus also said that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whosoever would believe on him would not perish but have everlasting life. In John 8, Jesus told the Jews that if they did not believe in him (believe he is the Messiah), they would die in their sins. In fact, the apostle John documents much of what Jesus said about faith in him in relation to salvation.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all reference Jesus’s parable of the sower. According to Luke, Jesus compared the seed which fell by the wayside to those who hear the word of God and when they hear, the devil comes and takes the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
Jesus also likens the seed which fell on stony ground to those who receive the word with joy, but have no root in them, and consequently only believe for a short while and fall away after temptation comes.
Jesus also compares seed falling on good ground to those who in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. This is the kind of faith Paul is referring to when he speaks of faith in Jesus. When Paul talks about faith in Christ apart from the law, it is in reference to Jewish religious observances. God does not save us because we do not eat pork or because we observe religious holy days, months, and years. He saves us because we trust in Jesus to save us and this kind of faith results in the pursuit of a godly life out of a pure heart.
Jesus’s parable of the sower and the explanation of how the seed (God’s Word) falls on different hearts is laced all through Paul’s view of faith. Paul never taught faith as a one time believing experience or something you mentally assent to. Paul always taught a faith that is to be lived out, resulting in good works from a pure heart.
You do yourself a disservice if you take a couple of isolated verses from the writings of Paul and read them through the lens of the ideology of uncommitted modern day evangelicals.
Paul is the one who said, “let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” ~ 1 Timothy 2:19.
While there is so much more I could say in response, I will urge you to read all of Paul’s letters closely and carefully and listen to “all” he has to say and allow his doctrine to develop your understanding of what he means when he references faith rather than those who don’t know Paul’s doctrine.
Paul warned Timothy concerning those who resist the truth and are of corrupt minds and reprobate concerning the faith. He then said, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Notice the phrase “live godly.” This is what Paul preached about our faith in Christ. He did not teach a faith void of godliness. Paul warned Titus of those who profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. Paul also told Titus that the grace of God that brings salvation teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.
Again, when Paul speaks of being saved through faith apart from the law, he is referring to Jewish customs and religious observances which can be kept outwardly even if there is malice and hypocrisy in the heart. We see this in the gospels. Those who were guilty of condemning Jesus kept the Jewish Passover while condemning the Son of God. Only true faith in Christ will purify our hearts. When we trust in Jesus God writes his law on our hearts and we fulfill the law by walking after the Spirit. In Christ we do not aim to keep the law. We aim to fulfill it. Only love fulfills the law, and love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit through our faith in Jesus. This is how we fulfill the law by walking in the Spirit, because walking in the Spirit is walking in love.