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Explaining James’s Statement “Faith Without Works Is Dead”

The Book of James and the epistle to the Galatians are two writings that represent the New Testament Law. In the first one, James wrote: “Faith Without Works is Dead,” claiming that believers need to support their faith with good actions made as a result of changed lives. In the second one, Paul argues that a person can be “justified by faith apart from the works of the Law,” meaning that it is sufficient for a believer to profess the faith and no actions should be taken. Without diving into details, it seems that two statements contradict each other; however, it is not true. On the contrary, Paul’s and Jame’s works complement each other.

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It is thought that James (or Just) is a brother to Jesus Christ. Initially, he was not a believer, but after the resurrection, he became so. Thus, he describes the faith walk through genuine religion, faith, and genuine in his book. The Book of James is the writing in the New Testament, written approximately in AD 45. In his paper, James critiques rich people who collect their treasures and those who rely only on themselves. At the end of the book, Just encourages believers to be patient while suffering, pray, take care of each other, and make a common faith stronger through communication.

James’s statement “faith without works is dead” means that it is not sufficient to just “talk the talk” and repeat or distribute Jesus Crist’s Word for believers to salve. Christians also need to “walk the walk” and act in accordance with Jesus’s taught. Just emphasizes that a person can continue living in sin even after he becomes Christian. In other words, lack of actions and “walks” may be the signal of an unchanged mind and life. In this way, becoming a Christian cannot save a person or result in salvation. Therefore, mere faith cannot lead a believer to righteousness: works are necessary to verify the faith. Moreover, salvation is not the result of works, made following Jesus Christ’s Word, but is their cause. Thus, changing the mind, transforming life and behavior already means salvation, resulting in good works and actions. The way people live demonstrates what they believe in and whether their faith is a living, true faith.

By defining the true living faith that reveals the believer’s changed mind and good actions, James contrasts it to the false belief that is dead without actions. Jesus claims: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:16-23). In this citation, the contrast between the two types of faith is also visible. In his book, James contrasts believers’ actions: either good or bad. Therefore, a person who just “talks the talk” and recalls the Lord without making good actions will be thrown into the fire. At the same time, a person who tries to do good works or “walk the walk” will enter heaven. In other words, James emphasizes that Christians should live according to the new Christian faith, trying to follow a righteous way of life in order to support their faith by good works.

In his statement “justified by faith apart from the works of the Law,” Paul tries to ensure Judaizers stop being tied with the frame of Mosaic Law. Paul is the author of the epistle to the Galatians that was written before the Book of James, approximately in AD 49. This work was composed because the churches in Galatia believed that the actual truth of justification could be achieved by actions taken in accordance with the Mosaic Law. Paul writes: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would. But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Galatians 5:17-18). Here he addresses Judaizers that are continuing to insist on circumcision to be eligible to become a Christian. Thus, he rejects the Old Testament Law, emphasizing the essential role of the New Testament. By this, Paul claims that believers should profess the gospel of grace, which does not require any actions made with flesh (for instance, circumcision), as suggested by the Mosaic Law.

From the first glance, in the discussion written above, it can be claimed that James’s book contests Paul’s work; however, it is not true. Paul emphasizes the justification with God apart from the works of Law, whereas James argues that believers’ actions and good works should support the true living faith. There is no conflict between the books of Galatians and James because they are dealing with two supplementary features of Christianity: the gospel of grace and righteous living. James’s writing encourages Christians to live according to the new Christian faith; therefore, a righteous way of life supports the faith. Paul emphasizes the gospel of grace or a living belief that causes transformed mind and behavior.

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