6. Jas 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified,
and not by faith only.
This and the surrounding text of James seems to indicate
to me that salvation is by works and faith combined! This is in
complete contradiction with the rest of scripture!
"Whosoever believeth on Him shall be saved."
and Romans 3:21 and many others!
Also, is it belief or repentance that saves you?
James clearly says that you are justified by works (i.e.
works can lend to your salvation in Jas 2:24, does it not?
A very basic premise of hermeneutics is that if an interpretation
leads to a contradiction, then chances are there is a problem
with that interpretation. Martin Luther, the Reformer, also had
difficulty making sense of the book of James and chose to question
its inspiration instead. Luther's approach is unnecessary, however.
A look at Ephesians 2:8-10 can help enlighten us on what is going
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and
this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do
good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Salvation by grace results in a person being used by God to accomplish
the task that God has designed for that person to do. The good
works that any person accomplishes are the consequence of God
working in the person, not the person doing them through his or
her efforts. That's why Paul makes the statement he does in Galatians
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the
The point in the book of James, as well as the point with this
classic text, is that salvation is not simply an academic or theoretical
sort of thing. Rather, salvation inevitably leads to good works.
James' point, essentially, is to wonder how a person can have
faith without it having some rather significant imapact on one's
life. Good works are the natural, inevitable consequence of grace.
God taking up residence inside a believer (by means of the indwelling
Spirit) cannot help but have rather significant impact on that
James does not suggest -- and none of the other writers of scripture
do either -- that one gains favor with God by what one does.
Paul makes it quite clear that while grace will lead to good works,
good works will never lead to grace; that in fact, grace is then
excluded. (see Romans 11:6, for instance).
Other significant passages relating to the expression of salvation
by grace can be found throughout the Bible. The passages in Romans
you are doubtless familiar with. You might also profitably reread
Additionally, the Old Testament illustrates that salvation is
by grace through faith, rather than by works. As an example,
consider what Peter had to say about Lot in 2 Peter 2:7-8, that
he was a "righteous man". Yet, when one examines the
story of Lot in Genesis 19, one is hard pressed to discover anything
"righteous" in the sense of his "works": Lot
resisted the idea of leaving Sodom, he offered his daughters to
a mob to be raped, and ultimately he will get drunk and have sex
with those daughters. If it weren't for passages like Ephesians
2:8-10, we would have a tought time understanding how Lot could
be righteous. But thanks to that passage and others, we understand
that our righteousness really isn't ours at all, but rather is
Christ's in us.
One last passage which illustrates the tension. In 1 Corinthians
15:10 Paul writes:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was
not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet
not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
Paul reports that he is working hard, but then qualifies it by
pointing out that it really isn't him doing the work, but God
working through him.
This is all a quick summary, of course. You might want to take
a look at the theology course Soteriology: Doctrine of Salvation. Because of length, it is split into three parts: Section One, Section Two and Section Three. The course may be audited for free.
I think you might find a lot of the information there helpful.
Regarding the question of whether it is belief or repentance that
saves you, the answer in a sense is neither. It is God that saves
you, as a consequence of what Jesus did on the cross. You do
not contribute anything to your salvation. Even faith is a gift
of God. Belief and repentence are consequences of salvation,
not effective causes. They happen inevitably as a result of God
beginning to work on an individual's heart.
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