Note on James 2: 14-19 by Thomas Ross

james 2

Please see my review of Mr. Ross’s book refuting baptismal regeneration here.

Many within the Churches of Christ insist that James teaches that faith includes “works” or that works must be added to faith before faith can save.

(James 2:14-19) What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no [works]? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by [works], is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have [works].” Show me your faith without [works], and I will show you my faith by [works]. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

James’ argument, of course, makes perfect sense. What good would it be for God to send his Son to save us, to forgive our sins, if we were to respond by continuing in sin? Surely God expects more from us than just faith!

The distinction is this: when Paul opposes “works” against “faith,” he means works on which we rely to give us merit before God, that is, anything that we add to the gospel as additional requirements to be saved (or stay saved). When James refers to “works,” he is speaking of doing good deeds, not to become saved, but because we are saved.

The contrast is well seen in Ephesians 2:8-10— 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.

Here Paul speaks of three kinds of works. First, Paul denies that we are saved by our own works. Indeed, we are saved by a second kind of works: not our works but the works of God. Hence, we are God’s workmanship, that is, we have been re-made by the working of God. But all this is for a purpose, for us to do a third kind of works: “good works.” Hence, our salvation rests on the working of God, not our works, but having been saved, we are charged with doing good works.

Now the key is the direction of the arrow of causation. Works do not cause salvation; rather, salvation causes works. We can state this in terms of formal logic. The statement “If I do good works, then I will be saved” is false, because no one other than Jesus is capable of doing works that merit salvation (Rom. 3:23). On the other hand, the statement “If I am saved, then I will do good works” is true. Now, my logic professor at David Lipscomb taught me that any true statement can logically be “double reversed” into the “contrapositive,” and it will still be true: “If I don’t do good works, then I am not saved.” And this is precisely what James says.

It is easy to confuse the first statement, which is false, with the contrapositive, which is true, because they look very similar—but they are not the same. If all saved people do good works, then the fact that I don’t do good works necessarily means I’m not saved. But it’s not because my salvation depends on those works. It’s because salvation necessarily produces works. (We are confident that God makes allowance for those whose physical or mental frailty make them incapable of good works.)
An example might help. My wife loves me, and I love her. Because Ilove her, I do good things for her. Thus, it is generally true that “if I love my wife then I will do good things for her.” But this does not mean “if I do good things for my wife then I love her.” I may not love her at all and yet out of guilt or duty do many wonderful things for her. But if I love her, that love will inevitably produce good deeds benefiting her. Thus, it is also true that if I don’t do anything beneficial for my wife, then I don’t love her.

About Damon Whitsell

Hello, my name is Damon. I have been studying Christian Cults since 1985 and doing Cult Apologetics online since 1998 because I grew up with Mormons, Oneness Pentecostals and Bible Missionaries in my family. All three of these groups (or Cults) think they are the One True Church and the Only True Christians and to be Saved you must join their Church. So as a result I started studying the Bible for myself to try to determine which of these groups had the truth. After much praying, reading and studying I decided the Mormon, Oneness Pentecostal and Bible Missionarie churches are not real Christian Churches at all, rather they are Christian Cults because they do not line up with what the bible really teaches about Salvation and they are not in agreement with other Essential Christian Doctrines. I found that according to what the Word of God teaches, and Historic/Orthodox Christian Teaching, Salvation cannot be earned by any form of human works or efforts I found that Salvation is ALL by the Grace and Work of God and that Salvation and Eternal Life are a Free Gift from God (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 6:23, John 3:16) to all who will Trust in Jesus Christ and the atoning sacrifice He made for us by dying on the Cross for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). The Word of God is clear and plainly says “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Because I know what it is like to be targeted by Cult Groups and to suffer from the spirtual confusion and frustration brought on by their false teachings, I have endeavored to help others find True Eternal Life in Jesus Christ and to break free from the clutches of, and to be healed from the damage done by, Cult Groups who claim to be the One True Church. So it is my hope and prayer that the Lord will use my Websites to help those that need help and that some who use my websites will be helped by them to find the Free Gift of God’s Salvation, that is only found in His only begotten son Jesus Christ.

Posted on September 10, 2015, in Book of James. and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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