Does James Contradict Paul?
Galatians 5:6b “but faith working through love.”
Paul understands that this faith, when it is true will result in a sacrificial, risk-taking, lay-down-your-life kind of love. But James is concerned that some were hiding behind, “I’m not perfect just forgiven” bumper-stickers; and were displaying a dead, or demon, or useless faith. Dead faith James 2:14-17: Demon faith James 2:19: Useless faith James 2:20.
James 2:23 and Romans 4:3 are quoting the same verse from Genesis 15:6. So both believe that justification is by faith, but James looks at the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice Isaac 12 years later as ‘proof’ of his faith.
James 2:24 “You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.”
James 4:13-16 read
James recognizes that all is from God. It would be arrogant to say that “a person” is adding his works to faith and thereby has something to boast in.
So what we have here is two authors looking at the same transaction in different ways.
God and Paul and James are at McDonald’s at the counter, they have placed their order and now God is picking up the tab, paying for the whole thing. Paul begins to rejoice right then and there, My Meal is Paid For, Paid in Full, by God. Hallelujah!! James is standing back quietly not rejoicing until he is handed the actual meal, once the meal is in his hand, then he turns to God and expresses his thanks to God. Thank You for buying me this meal that I now hold in my hand.
For Paul “justification by works” means gaining a right standing with God thru the merit of works. For James “justification by works” means maintaining a right-standing with God by faith along with the necessary evidences of that faith. The works of love are necessary as evidence of the “faith” by which alone, God has reckoned you righteous.
Paul would say that the only thing that unites you to Christ is dependence on Christ. James would say the faith which truly justifies, never remains alone, but always works by love.
Paul is battling the lie that we have any part in being made right with God.
James is battling the lie that faith can be something that exists separate from the rest of your life and a person can go on being bad and doing great harm to the name of Christ.
Colossians 2:6 brings this all together. “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,” Paul expects his readers to walk out there daily lives with the same deep dependence that they showed when they received Him by faith.