Faith or works?

There are some that firmly believe that the Bible is full of contradictions. Are they right, does the Bible contradict itself? The most common one that people use to proof their case the Bible contains contradictions are the writings of Paul and James. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians writes:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Eph 2:8, 9.

Paul clearly states that believers are saved through faith in Christ Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Saving faith is a gift and it was given by God to the believers. They cannot earn it by works or any other means. Salvation is truly by God’s grace and through faith in Christ alone.

Wait a minute some argue, what about James, he seemed to think that works are required in order to be saved. Is that what James is saying and people use it to point out a contradiction to what Paul wrote?  Paul wrote “not of works.” James mentions works. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 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.” James 2:17, 18.

An obvious contradiction some would say. But is it really a contradiction? Let me first say that there are no contradictions in the Bible, there might be some words that got lost in translation from the Hebrew or the Greek into English where the  translators could have used a different word, but there are no contradictions.

Are these passages in conflict with each other? Did James contradict Paul when he wrote that faith without works is dead? I don’t think so at all. The most simplest way of looking at these two passages is that Paul wrote from God’s perspective or the divine level and James wrote from the human perspective, the human level.

Paul makes it very clear that man cannot save himself. No matter how hard someone might try to reach God by works or religious rituals. Salvation is a free gift of God by His mercy and grace. It is His divine action that saves the believers, not the other way around. God did what we could not do for ourselves. He made the way to be reconciled with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, our propitiation. Many times in the Bible we read “I will.” It is God that saves.

James is saying that someone can say that they have faith which cannot be seen. Anyone can say, I have faith and I believe in God, but they do not show or bear any fruit at all. They may go to church, read their Bibles, look spiritual and act holy but in reality they are unfruitful. They go through the motions and that’s what James is saying, true saving faith should be evident in the believer by how they live and how their faith in Christ produces fruit, some thirty, some sixty and some a hundred fold.
What did Jesus say about faith and bearing fruit? There are many passages of course, I will use the gospel of John to show what Jesus said.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.: John 15:1-8.
Abiding in Christ is the key, faith in Him and Him alone saves a person, not works. Good works or bearing fruit is the evidence of faith. There are many within the Christian faith that teach that works are required and in order to be saved you have to do this or that. Those are either cults or legalistic people who do not know or understand the grace of God. They are in bondage to themselves. If anyone ever comes to you with that kind of doctrine, point them to the thief on the cross. He had no works to show for that would save him, yet Jesus told him that he would be in Paradise with Him. The thief on the cross believed Jesus and had a change of mind (repentance).

“Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4. 

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Romans 4:3.  James 2:23.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16.

Author: Media 4 Life Ministries

I consider myself a biblical Christian and a follower and disciple of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My blogs are from a biblical perspective in a postmodern world. I love to study the Bible and the truth which it brings forth and applying those biblical principles into my daily walk with the Lord. Freelance Photographer and Photo Editor. Contractor for the Media Department at Maranatha Chapel in San Diego. I love to write and I have a passion to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ, utilizing the internet. Administrator for Church websites and other ministries. I like reaching out via the social networks to people around the world, that are less fortunate or just need some encouragement in their walk with the Lord. It is not about religion, it is all about a loving relationship with Him Who saved me. All the glory belongs to Him and without Him, I can do nothing. Thank you for visiting my site and please leave me a comment. If you have any questions about the Christian faith, why we believe and what we believe, don’t hesitate to leave me a message. May the Lord bless you all. God is good all the time, all the time, God is good.

14 thoughts on “Faith or works?”

  1. Please send some more info about your church. We have several churches in Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, SA to name a few. We have a ministry that sends out Bibles to those who need them. Do you have a website? I like to know a little bit more about your ministry, your missions statement and
    Statement of faith before I can take it any further. Blessings, Freddy.


  2. Dear Beloved Servant in Christ,
    Receive our christian greetings from kenya in the gracious name of
    our beloved Holy one the Lord Jesus Christ from whom we are forgiven and
    saved. We are greatly blessed and feel privileged
    to know you through your website, learnt about your faith and your
    desire to serve God.

    We are an independent fellowship church group in kenya desiring to be hed in your church ministry. We are independent in that we are
    without any cover,are not under any mission, ministry or church
    organization. We request for your Christian literature materials and bibles.
    We also practice the christian love and mercy by caring 15 needy orphan children who need help.
    We pray that through God’s Holy Spirit at work, that you shall
    appreciate our interest and desire that we might find a definite spiritual
    partnership with your church ministry.

    May God richly bless you as we look forward for your feedback.
    Yours Pastor Richard and Rebeca
    from Tanzania e.Africa


  3. How many times throughout our lives have we read verses, or heard verses, so much that we never really studied the verse and thought about its meaning? One that did this to me was the verse found in Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This verse, in a sense, sums up both verses you’ve mentioned here.

    But how do we give our faith substance? By speaking it! When we speak our faith, we give it substance in the spiritual realms. This is why our words are so powerful! Everything that happens ‘happens’ in the spiritual places first, not the physical. Therefore, by continuously speaking God’s Word over our lives; again, I say speaking His word aloud, we give His word substance. Thus, now that we’ve spoken it, we’ve given it substance; the substance of that ‘thing’ we’ve hoped for, and we continue hoping for.

    Evidence? But how does the substance of our faith, which is formed by our words (and also, please note, by our actions), become evidenced when it is not yet even seen?

    We’ve spoken it, therefore giving it substance in spiritual places; the spiritual places are far more real than even the physical. In the spiritual places, where both dark forces and angelic, heavenly forces dominate, we have provided evidence before them. (Ephesians 6:10-20) And since there is evidence, our angels can now defeat the enemy, who is firmly holding up spirituall barriers to prevent us from receiving.

    Imagine the court of law. If you’re being accused of something, and there is no evidence in your favor, but there is evidence against you…you might as well forget it. No matter how much you’ve paid your attorney, he/she can’t prove to the judge or the jury your innocence, and so more than likely, you’re going to lose. If there is no evidence either way, it just gets thrown out of court because no one knows what to do. However, if there is evidence in your favor, the judge rules that you’re innocent, and therefore orders the opposing parties to leave you alone, and legally signs off that you are indeed innocent, and therefore free.

    When you provide evidence in the spirtual places, God tells the enemy (opposing forces) that they must release their hold on you and your life, and deems you therefore free in spritual places. The angels can then defeat the enemy for you and alas, the thing(s) you’ve been praying for happens in the physical before your very own eyes.

    See how much one can gain from such a short, simple verse when we dig deeper into it, and ponder (or meditate) on that verse.

    I feel, personally, that this single verse, explains in a nutshell these two verses. They do not, as you mentioned, contradict one another at all; rather, they complement one another. This is why without faith, it is impossible to please God. He can’t do anything because of spirtual laws set forth. We must break through those spiritual barriers in order to be victorious in our battles. When we break through these barriers, God is well-pleased because more than anything, He wants us to conquer the enemy. When He sees us getting walked all over, it upsets Him greatly. Our faith is required to get things done, and there is a process in order to do this. As I mentioned, just as there are laws on this earth, and laws set forth by God on this earth (the Ten Commandments), so there are spiritual laws. Everything we’ve thought of on earth, God has already done and thought of in heaven first.


  4. Great post. When people have presented the Grace/works “argument” to me, my response has always been “you are saved by grace alone. Good works are a natural extension of that grace. When you are saved, you will want to do good works out of love for Jesus, not because you are required to by some law”.

    Have a blessed day


  5. Good morning Freddie,

    The presented “argument” by so many about a “contradiction” between Paul and James simply goes away WHEN one looks at the verses in context.

    In the context of Paul’s statement, he is talking about the works that merit salvation; which included the works of the law of Moses. In other words there is nothing that people could have done to merit God sending Jesus. There is nothing that people could have done to have obligated God to save men and women from the wages of sin like you pointed out (Romans 6:23).

    In the context of James’ statement, he is talking about the works of faith. Works of faith in no way violate being saved by grace. Works of faith mentioned by James are not the same as the works of the law because Abraham (Jame’s context) preceeded the law of Moses. Hebrews 11 and James 2:23,24 plainly shows that faith alone has never and will never please God.

    There is no contradiction between Paul and James. That’s why Paul said, “For by grace are you saved through faith…” (Eph. 2:8).

    Submission to God does not earn salvation from God. One easy to understand example is Noah. He was saved by grace without a doubt (Genesis 6:8), but had he chosen not to build the ark (a work done by faith) he would have perished with the rest of the world (Hebrews 11:7). But building the ark didn’t violate being saved by grace through faith. The ark was not Noah’s plan – it was God’s, and it was given for Noah to obey.

    I would also like to quickly point out that the theif on the cross did not live under the same covenant that a Christian lives under today, so to use him as an example of what a person needs to do to become a Christian today is not a good one.

    “For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.” (Hebrews 9:16,17)

    Jesus had the power on earth to speak sins forgiven (Mark 2:10), while people today are directed to the blood of Jesus through baptism for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16), which is an act of submission that does not earn our salvation despite what some try to teach about it, it allows us to receive God’s salvation by grace through faith in Jesus (Colossians 2:11-13; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 22:16).

    There is much more to a saving faith/belief than just a mental acknowledgement…and the necessary works of faith in no way earn our salvation.

    Have a great day, Freddie.


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