In the New Testament, the apostle James writes that belief alone cannot save for even the Devils believe.  He said that real faith is accompanied by good works and says Abraham was justified by his faith and his works.  Paul writes that faith saves when you have done nothing.  Is there a contradiction?

The simple answer is that faith for Paul meant faith that is a gift from God that you do not deserve but which brings fruit in good works.  It is a working faith that saves.  You are saved for good works not because of good works.  Both agreed that you come to God with nothing and he gives you the gift of faith.  Faith that brings fruit in good works alone saves.  James was rejecting the notion that belief alone can save.  Paul agreed. For them belief is just belief. Faith is like belief but is a relationship of trust with God where you trust him to inform you what to believe and do and let him work in you.


There is no real contradiction - Paul and James were speaking of ...

1. Different Justifications:
James was speaking of an eschatological justification (which is on the basis of works), while Paul was addressing an initial justification which is by grace through faith

2. Different aspects of justification:
Paul was saying that we are not saved by deeds, and James was saying we were saved for deeds.

3. Different problems:
Paul was tackling those who thought that "works of the law" was the way to acceptance with God; and James was addressing those who thought that faith without works could save;

4. Different meanings of faith were being used
Paul was talking about "faith" as trust in Christ, arising from a regenerate heart; James talking about "faith" as mere assent, in a non-regenerate heart.

5. Different "works" being discussed
Paul was denying the need for "works" as ceremonial rites (circumcision, dietary laws, etc); while James was maintaining the need for "works" as moral deeds and especially acts of charity.


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