Evidence of Living Faith
Nothing in the Bible is stated more clearly or with greater emphasis than the Apostles Paul’s revelation of justification, or right standing with God, as coming to us only by means of God’s grace, through faith, as a Gift, without works.
“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans 4:5 (KJV)
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” Titus 3:5 (KJV)
Yet, James states, just as clearly that “faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone” (James2:17). He challenges the professing believers of Israel, to whom his epistles is addressed: “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith BY my works” (Ver. 2:18), and declares that “by works a man is justified and not by faith only” (Ver. 2:24), since James says “faith without works is dead.”
Some have imagined a contradiction here, while actually there is none. There’s simply a dispensational distinction. You see, the age had changed from the time of Jesus and the twelve Apostles and the author of the book of James, when Paul was given of the ascended Lord to declare a new gospel relationship for this age, called “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph.3:1-2).
- Paul’s “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) was not the Kingdom gospel for Israel, but rather “the preaching of the cross” (1 Cor.1:18), offering “all men” of all races, salvation by grace, through faith alone… for all who would trust Christ as their Savior. Paul wrote of the grace relationship we enjoy in this age of God’s pure grace whereby the believer’s works or not required for salvation; “But if it is by grace (His unmerited favor and graciousness), it is no longer conditioned on works or anything men have done. Otherwise, grace would no longer be grace [it would be meaningless].” (Romans 11:6 (AMP)
- James, on the other hand, was an apostle of the kingdom for the circumcision (Israel), proclaiming the kingdom rights of Christ and offering a changed way of life on earth which had already been experienced by Jesus’ disciples in Judaea (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-35).
Hence with James the emphasis is on faith plus “works” for salvation, not because good works can save or even help to save, but because true faith inevitably bears fruit and we can judge true faith only by the fruit it bears. Jesus of Nazareth said: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Hence James’ epistle abounds with such phraseology as, “ye see,” “show me,” “I will show you,” etc.
What we must be careful to remember is that according to both Paul and James, faith comes first, then good works. Faith is the root, while good works the fruit. The absence of fruit indicates that the root is dead, it indicates that while there may be an intellectual assent to the truth of the cross, there is no true heart faith, and the fact is that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb.11:6).
We could summarize justification or right standing with God as follows:
- the source of justification in this age of the grace of God is grace;
- the basis of justification is the Cross of Calvary;
- the means for being declared justified is faith; and
- the evidence of a justified soul is the justified one’s works.
Think this through; accept God’s grace and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord. He will then work in you to cause you to produce good fruit. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)