It is not uncommon to be confused about James views about faith and works when compared with Paul’s views, and it might be particularly hard to get the grip about this for the person who is brought up to believe that there is no greater sin than the teaching that you must DO something to remain saved. The same person might believe that sinning is a natural part in all people’s lives, including Christians, and therefore nothing that God would be upset about (+ “this is the reason Jesus died for us“). It is therefore ironic that the “sin” of having to be faithful to Jesus (the teaching of having to obey him in order to remain saved) would be classified as the greatest sin under the sun, and a teaching that you might go to hell for – and the only sin for which you could lose your salvation.
The verses in James, chapter 2, is particularly troubling for those who believe that we are saved by faith alone, and the most troubling verse of all is this one:
Jas. 2:24 Ye see then how that BY WORKS a man is justified, and NOT by faith only.
It could not be more clear than that, so we are definitely not saved by faith alone without works. James continues to emphasize:
Jas. 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?23 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.24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
There are numerous verses that show that Paul agrees with James wholeheartedly (along with Jesus himself, Peter, John, etc), and here are some examples. Notice below Paul suggestion that people can do the law “by nature”, without even having access to the written law.
Rom. 2:6 Who will render to every man according to his DEEDS:7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath —13 For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
Rom. 6: 6 — HENCEFORTH WE SHOULD NOT SERVE SIN. —12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, THAT YE SHOULD OBEY IT IN THE LUSTS THEREOF. —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.
Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. —4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.— 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall DIE: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall LIVE.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
The below verse shows quite clearly that Paul differentiates between obeying the law of Moses (that includes loads of ceremonial laws) vs obeying the basic commandments (not murdering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, etc) which have always been in existence ever since the days of Adam and Eve.
1 Cor. 7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, BUT KEEPING OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD.
Circumcision in the flesh is a requirement under the law of Moses. Paul is not contradicting himself by saying “obeying the law of God is nothing, but obeying the law of God”.
1 John 3:44 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
The holy Ghost is given to those Christians who obey the Lord:
Acts 5:32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
Who are saved?
Hebr. 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him
We must remember that God does not want anyone to perish (2 Pet. 3:9) and that Jesus came to the world to give light to everyone with the hope to save us (John 1:4, 9). We are not provided one single chance to obey him, but we are provided with the possibility to repent for our past sins. According to the Bible, the commandments given to us are NOT too hard to obey (1 John 5:3).
John 17 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
Acts 17:26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us