You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
“Saved by grace through faith alone” has been a mantra in Christendom since the Reformation of the 1500s. What Martin Luther and others did back then was extremely important. The church was brought out of the dark ages. That movement was based largely out of Paul’s writings about grace and faith.
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.
We are justified freely by God’s grace apart from the law. This focus on grace is vital. Salvation comes, not through following the law, but because God decided to forgive sinners who place their faith in the redemptive work of Jesus. From this comes the mantra: “Salvation by grace through faith alone.” As far as I know (I’ll have to check) Paul never said “faith alone.” The context of Paul’s writing was comparing the new covenant to the old. In the Law of the OT people were justified by keeping it… and through the blood of lamb, rams and goats salvation came. If you did the Law perfectly, you could be saved. Nobody did it perfectly. So God enters with the grace found in Jesus!
James writes to those who have acknowledged Jesus as God’s Son and His death as the provision of grace, but whose lives were not reflecting the redemptive nature of that grace. They were not living according to their faith. Their deeds were not good. James says, ‘your faith is dead! You’re all talk.’ Apparently people that early in the history of the church were taking God’s grace for granted. It was cheapened by their application of it to their lives. Just believe and you’ll be saved. What’s striking about James 2:24 is that James connects deeds to faith to justification. You need to have a faith that works (and not just belief only) in order to be considered right before God.
People get nervous about this. ‘Salvation cannot be earned!’ This is absolutely true. Nothing you could do can earn your salvation. Jesus paid the cost and salvation is offered to you by His grace. If you trust Him… if you believe… if you have faith… if you embrace the free gift of salvation… if you embrace the expression of that salvation through a new redeemed life… you will be justified before God. You’ll be saved. The natural occurrence of being redeemed is a life filled with good works.
If you say in your heart ‘I believe’ but your life is not redeemed from a sinful life (which is seen in how you live your life), that mental assent will not save you because that is not faith. Faith brings redemption which will be seen throughout your life. ‘You’re saying that works or deeds save you!’ No, I’m saying that Jesus saves you… and if He does save you, you’ll be saved. He will redeem your life and His work will be seen in how you live.
Our problem is that sin still resides in our hearts, doesn’t it? It is sinful to live a life that ‘believes’ in God but does not live for God. Sin wants to take root in our hearts, and it will unless we yield to the Lordship of Jesus in our lives. Lordship is not another mental assent, ‘Yep, Jesus is Lord.’ No, Lordship is the rubber hitting the road in the Christian life. The Lordship of Jesus will be seen in what I do because I have taken my life and my actions and have brought them to the Lord and said, ‘What would you have me do?’ By His Spirit and through His Word Jesus gives direction. When I listen and obey what He wants… when I yield to Him my faith is made perfect through what I do – just like Abraham’s (James 2:21-22).
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your grace which saves me. Redeem my life… redeem this day through my words and actions. May they be a blessing to You and others is my prayer.