The Relationship Between, Faith and Good Deeds
Faith is a fundamental pillar in any religion. It is the guiding principle that directs action and is a central dogma in many religions especially in Christianity. The best way to handle the question of the relationship between faith and good deeds is by asserting and making it clear that the word of God does not contradict itself. According to 2 Timothy 3:16, the authors of the Bible were inspired by God. For this reason, we are bound to believe that whatever is in the Bible is true. We are also bound to believe that the Bible does not offer teachings that are not true, and neither does the Bible contradict itself in any way. All Christians believe this because Jesus shown Himself to us and thus He is a trustworthy son of God. Additionally, according to John 10:35, Jesus has taught those who follow Him that the scriptures cannot be broken. To spread the word further, Jesus commissioned His apostles to give teachings to the church and also gave them his word that he would lead them to nothing but the truth. To the rest of the people being led by the apostles, He gave us His spirit to open our eyes to see reality for what it is. This is according to 1 Corinthians 2 14 and 15. For this reason, I stand that neither James nor Paul understand the relationship between faith and good deeds in a different way that would lead people to confusion.
Words can however be ambiguous. Different words can portray the same meaning while at the same time, same words can portray different meanings. The same can apply for the Bible. This ambiguity of words can be used to explain the contradiction that arises between Paul and James on their quest to justify faith. For instance, Romans 4:1 – 5 asserts that we are not justified by works, but faith alone. In addition, Romans 3:28 asserts,
”We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
Clearing it further, Romans 5:5 also asserts that:
“To any individual who does not work, but believes in God who justifies the unrighteous, his faith is credited as righteous.”
Going by these scriptures, it is clear that the verdict of God of whether we are guilty or not, and His attributing to us his righteousness in Jesus Christ at the commencing of the life of a Christian is merited on Faith alone. Other verses especially from the book of James seem to contradict the scriptures in Romans. For instance, James 2:21 one states,
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered to sacrifice his only son on the altar?”
Verse twenty four of the same chapter also states that a man is justified by works, but he also denies that justification is by faith alone. This seems very different from the other scriptures in roman that indicated that faith alone is enough.
James does not refute or in any way abuse the teaching offered by Paul but rather James aims at offering teachings that are compatible to the teachings offered by Paul, and also correcting the misuse of these teachings.
The teachings of Paul have been distorted by many individuals. For instance, in Romans 5:20, Paul asserts that,
“The law came in so that there would be an increase in transgression; but where there was increased sin, grace was there in abundant.”
In Romans 6:1, the scripture reads,
”What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may be abundant.”
The people who misunderstood thought that if they continued sinning, the more grace they would get.
In the book of Galatians, Paul has answers to the people who misunderstood his teachings. In Galatians 5:13, Paul states that, “You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve each other.” From this scripture, we can see that faith works through love according to Paul.
From my own understanding, James did not refute the teachings of Paul, but rather what he was trying to teach and went in harmony with the teachings of Paul was that faith with no love did not stand a chance. Galatians 5:6 clarifies more on the teaching offered by the two apostles:
“For in Jesus Christ, being circumcised or not meant nothing, but faith working through love.”
Paul also clarified to the people who abused his teachings by saying that it was not added works like circumcision that would win the favor of God but faith that worked through love. This shows that what counted for God was not faith added with other forms of work but a faith that produced love.
James main issue was on the faith that was counterfeit, that which did not produce love. In James 2:14, the scripture states,
“What use is it my brethren, if someone says he has faith but the same person has no works? Can that kind of faith save him?”
This clearly shows us that such faith with no works cannot save us. The kind of works that James is interested with is similar to the works meant by Paul. In the book of James 2:15 and 16, the scripture states:
“If a brother or sister is without clothing and food, and one of you say to them ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”
From this scripture, we can see that the concern that James has is that people should portray real faith, a faith that can save, and not faith that is counterfeit. The difference between counterfeit faith and real faith as described by this scripture is that real faith produce a loving conduct.
According to James (15), has three ways in which he has described counterfeit faith.
“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”
This scripture describes counterfeit faith as dead. A faith whose work do not show love (James 2:15). The second way in which counterfeit faith is described is that it is devil faith.
“You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19).
This means that even the devils have some faith, which in simple terms is the belief in the Holy Scriptures. The third description counterfeit faith is faith that is ineffective, empty, a faith that is in vain. The scriptures read states as,
“But are you willing to recognize, you fool, that faith without works is useless?” (James 2:20).
From this analysis, it is clear that when Paul asserts that faith is justified by works, he renounces the mindset that all we do along with faith is credited as righteousness. When we become Christians, the not guilty verdict is obtained by faith. When James affirms that faith is justified by works, they mean that works are necessary in the life of a Christian. These works confirm the reality of faith. For Paul, he rejects the justification of works which in this case means that the merits of works would gain us a right standing with God. For James, justification by works in this case means that we maintain a right standing with god by faith, along with the works of love which is considered as the evidence of faith. It can also be put in another way. According to the book of Romans chapter four verse five, only faith justifies us.This means that what unites us to Christ for righteousness in on our dependence on Him. At the same time, the book of James chapter two verse twenty four asserts that faith alone cannot justify us.18 This means that we are united to Christ for righteousness. These scriptures are not contradictory, what it simply means is that the faith that unites us to Jesus Christ for righteousness does not remain alone, but rather it bears fruits of love. Faith that does not bear the fruit of love is considered dead, useless, demonic and does not in any way justify the works.