James vs. Paul: Are we saved by faith or by works or what?

James 2:20–24, Faith without works is dead. James is here referring to the works of faith, not the works of the law. No man can live a good enough life to be saved by his Torah-obedience or the works of the law (Rom 3:20, 28; Gal 2:16; 3:11).

However, faith in Elohim is more than just mental ascent—“a knowing in your heart.” It has to be backed up by action (and we’re not talking about the works of the law). For example, when Elohim told Abraham to leave Babylon or to sacrifice Isaac, he obeyed by leaving that country and moving to Canaan. Moreover, many were healed in Yeshua’s ministry because they had faith in the Master and backed that faith up with corresponding action, which was the evidence of their faith.

This faith-action continuum had nothing to do with Torah-obedience per se, but had everything to do with “putting your money where your mouth is” by backing up your faith or belief with action. It is this kind of faith that James is talking about here, and this in no wise contradicts the teachings of Paul who said that no man is justified by the works of the law.

When Paul declares in Ephesians 2:8–9, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of Elohim, not of works…,” he was correct and not opposed to James. What’s more, Paul goes on to say in verse 10, “For we are [Elohim’s] workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works…that we should walk in them.” These good works (i.e. obedience to the Torah) are the fruits, evidence or proof of our salvation and are the works that back up our faith.

So, in summary, the Bible teaches that we need the faith (a heart that believes and wants to obey Elohim) to lead us to salvation, as well as the works of faith after we have received Elohim’s free gift of salvation as evidence that we are saved. This fact in no way contravenes the reality of salvation by grace through trusting belief in Yeshua the Messiah, which is apart from the works of the Torah-law.


3 thoughts on “James vs. Paul: Are we saved by faith or by works or what?

  1. So much can be said about this but what came to mind immediately was that w/o faith it is impossible to please Him( Heb11:6) and that faith w/o works is dead..seems to me that since you have faith, good works would follow…there’s no way what has been placed on my heart to do would be there w/o Him…besides when a man’s ways please the LORD He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him 🙂

  2. There’s no such a thing like humans creating or producing faith. That’s simply not a human abiity.
    The Scripture says that the Author and perfeter of the faith is Yeshua. Hebrews 12.
    And also says that the faith was given to the separated people of Elohim. Judas 1
    More that that, Yeshua asked a retoric question that makes this clearer I guess.
    But the the Son of Adam (man) comes back to the earth…wil he found faith on the earth?
    The only possibe answer to that question would be… NO.
    That means that Yeshua can stop giving faith to the people any time he wants and Elohim even has it all planned.
    If we read John 1.12-13, but read verse 13 before verse 12 will understand better that the ones who believed in Him are the ones that FIRST were made children of Eohim. In other words, regeneratin comes first, then faith. Faith is supernatural, natural men cannot have it. That’s the way I see it.

    • On the contrary. Humans do have faith. You seem to be confusing the biblical concepts of “faith” versus “the faith”. Faith is something that humans have, while “the faith” refers to doctrine, truth, the Gospel, the word of Elohim.

      The word for faith in Hebrew is word emunah meaning “faith and belief backed up by actions of obedience.” This is what Abraham had when he believed or had faith in Elohim and it was accounted to him for righteousness sake (Gen 15:6). In Greek, faith is pistis and clearly refers to a human mindset, disposition or belief in something. This is in contradistinction to the faith of which Yeshua is the Author and Finisher (Heb 12:2). Please note that Heb 12:2 says that Yeshua is “the Author and Finisher of [our] faith.” I put our in brackets because this word has been added by the translators and is not in the original Greek. Yeshua as the Word of Elohim incarnate is the Author and Finisher of truth, the Word of Elohim, doctrine, the Gospel to be sure. But Elohim has given each person the freewill right to choose to believe in that truth/Yeshua or not. If her forced people to have faith, then we’b simply be his robots. Once we’ve made the freewill choice to believe in and obey him, like Abraham did, to be sure, YHVH aids us in our spiritual walk via the Comforter/Ruach to strengthen us in our faith. But we still have to initially choose to have faith in him.

      Jude 2 talks about contending for the faith (i.e. truth, doctrine, gospel message) once delivered (Jude 3). This is different that belief that each person must have in Elohim.

      Hopefully you can see that the word faith has different meanings depending on the context and whether the definite article the is used or implied in its usage.

      I hope this is clear to you. Blessings.

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