Faith Plus Works?

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The One Degree Podcast



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What’s up One Degree Fam?! In this episode, we’re breaking down verses that seem to contradict each other. Does faith require works? Do James and Paul contradict each other? Are we saved by good deeds? We’re going to be looking at how we can reconcile verses that seem to be opposing each other.

James seems to say that faith without works is dead and that they justify us alongside of our faith. However, Paul seems to be saying that we aren’t saved by good deeds- it is by faith alone.

Let’s dive into this convo…

How do we reconcile different verses?

How do we reconcile passages like James 2:14-26 with passages like Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 4, and Galatians 2:16? Let’s look at each of them!

James 2:14-26

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 

Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.  You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?  For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

In this passage, you hear a lot about works and justification. Now, let’s compare that with what Paul has to say about it…

Paul on Works

In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Romans 4 is where Paul makes clear that Abraham was justified by faith and NOT by works

Galatians 2:16 says, “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ… because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

A Closer Look

We want to hone in, especially on James 2:21 and Romans 4:2-4.

James 2:21 says “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?” This is contrasted with Romans 4:2-4 which says, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.”

What’s more, the word for justified is literally the same exact Greek word in both texts (edikaiothe). You can’t argue that they are talking about different things. They use the exact same word!

They even reference the same verse: Genesis 15:6. Because of this, it really does appear that the Bible is contradicting itself.

Does the Bible contradict itself?

Was Paul a protestant while James was Catholic?

This is an important question to ask because even Martin Luther believed they contradicted and viewed James as inferior to Paul. He wanted to get the book of James removed from the canon of Scripture! 

Key Words: Justify, Faith, and Works

There’s three things we want to discuss: the words justify, faith, and works are used in different senses by James and Paul in the above passages. 


The way that Paul and James use the word “justify” is different. Paul emphasizes the idea that believers are declared righteous by God through faith. Whereas James emphasizes the idea that works demonstrate that someone has been justified.

The moment of justification happens when someone believes. However, that belief will be reflected in the way a person lives their life. 

Paul is making it clear that Abraham did not earn his salvation. James is making it clear that works accompany true faith. (It makes sense because the whole of James is about what we do from our belief).

So yes, both are true. We are saved because of our faith, not our works. However, a true, saving faith, will naturally lead to increasing obedience over time. 

The next two points, I’m (Nathaniel) taking straight from my New Testament professor…


The faith that James and Paul are talking about is different.

The faith James has in view is a mere hypothetical and intellectual assent. Intellectual belief in God does not equate to saving faith. 

The faith Paul has in view is a total response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not merely intellectual assent but a full commitment.


The works that James and Paul are talking about are different.

In James, they are always referred to positively. He’s talking about obedience and acts of mercy, which have nothing to do with rituals or ceremonial actions. 

But Paul talks about them negatively. Works of the law and attempts to boast before God, ritualistic and ceremonial. They were done to earn a standing before God, deny the adequacy of Christ, and trust in one’s own works. 

We cannot boast in our salvation. It was given to us by God through faith. It is not something we have done or earned. At the same time, true, saving faith produces good works in our lives. 

Legalism is having to do something to earn God’s approval. Holiness is desiring to obey God because of what he has done for you. 

One Degree Shift

Evaluate whether you’ve had a holistic response to the Gospel. Has your entire paradigm and heart posture changed?

Want to Stay a Little Longer?

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