"A man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified."
The statement here is that man is justified by the faith which Christ generates in the human heart. Romans 3:20 also states that, “by the works of the law no flesh will be justified”.
But if you look at James’ words in 2:21-24 he seems to contradict this by stating that man is not justified by faith only but also by works. Paul himself seems to contradict in Romans 2:13, “The doers of the law will be justified.”
So how can we make sense of all this?
One way is to go back to James 2:14 where it does not say, “What does it profit though a man have faith?” But it says, “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith (“lege”, which means to make a reasoned statement).”
A mere profession of faith
does not mean the possession of faith!
Faith that is not accompanied by its inevitable & expectant fruits of faith
. . . is no faith at all!
It is mockery!
And James calls such faith dead faith.
We call a corpse a body, but a living body can breathe.
A body that does not breathe is dead.
Paul speaks of a true, lively faith which purifies the heart and works by love (Gal. 5:6). James speaks of a profession or presumption of faith, being barren of any good fruit as dead (v. 17). In fact, it is a faith the devil and his minions even have (v. 19) and consists only of an intellectual belief of God’s being or existence. It is a faith lacking consent to His offer of salvation through repentance and turning from sin to rely on His promises.
When Paul speaks of faith, he speaks of it as including the works of faith. When James speaks of faith in this instance, he speaks of false faith that does not result in the works of faith.
When any Apostle speaks of works resulting from faith as saving any one, included in those works IS the faith that is the only way in that those works can be produced. The whole process of the development of the fruit is included. When works, however, are spoken about as the works not resulting from faith, they are meant to be false works or fruits . . . fruits of a nonexistent faith.
One cannot have the fruits of faith that are true and real
without true and real faith,
no more than oranges can come from apple trees!
James 2:14-26 (NAS)
14What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
15If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
16and one of you says 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?
17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
18But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
19You believe that God is one You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?
22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;
23and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God.
24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
25In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.