Category Archives: Book of James.

CHURCH OF CHRIST: What about James 2:24 and ‘not justified by faith only’?


SOURCE: Members of the Church of Christ will sometimes cite James 2:24 as ‘proof’ that the believer’s justification is not by faith alone.

Here they will point out that ‘this is the only passage in the Bible where these two words (faith & alone) come together, and the Bible is very clear when it says that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.’

Keep in mind that context of James 2:24 is dealing with Abraham, and this verse concerns the time when Abraham was about to offer up his son Isaac upon the altar.

And here James asks the rhetorical question, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?”
It is here that I’d like to pose a question as it relates to the context.
Is this passage talking about Abraham’s (forensic or legal) justification where God ‘deemed, or declared Abraham as righteous’, or is the passage talking about Abraham being justified (shown, deemed, or declared as righteousness) before men?

This is a very relevant question because Romans 4 tells us that Abraham was justified before God long before Isaac was even born,

And it wasn’t by his works, but rather by his faith!
The point of all this is that the justification found in James 2:24 concerns a completely different time, circumstance, and event, which was over 20 years after the justification where “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
James 2:24 says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?”
Yes, Abraham was justified by his works-
But was he justified (shown, deemed, or declared “as righteous”) before God or before men?

Anyone who understands James 2:24 to be talking about Abraham’s legal or forensic  justification before God has a real problem, because when Paul talks about Abraham’s justification in Romans 4, he makes it very clear that justification before God is not by works:

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  Romans 4:3

Unless Scripture contradicts itself— and it doesn’t since it is God’s inerrant Word, James 2:24 cannot be talking about Abraham’s legal or forensic justification before God, but rather about being ‘shown, deemed, or declared as righteous’ before men.

Looking at the context, Abraham’s justification before men by works “fulfilled” his positional justification before God, which was by faith years before.
In other words, because of his faith God ‘deemed and declared Abraham as righteous’, and he was righteous in his position; this was a legal and binding act. However, when Abraham offered up Isaac, he was living his life experience before men in a manner that was consistent with his position.
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” James 2:21-24

But there’s another point that relates to the words only and alone.

The NKJV reads: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”

The Greek word translated only here is monon, which is an adverb.
Adverbs modify adjectives, verbs, or other adverbs.
Adverbs do not modify nouns.
Adjectives modify nouns.
We know that this is an adverb (monon) and not an adjective (monhs) since Greek has a different forms for each word.
Hodges makes this comment concerning the adverb monon used here in James 2:24
“The Greek adverb “only” (monon) … does not qualify (i.e., modify) the word faith, since the form would then have been monhs. As an adverb, however, it modifies the verb justified implied in the second clause [“and not only justified by faith”]. In other words, James is saying that a by-faith justification is not the only kind of justification there is. There is also a by-works justification. The former type is before God; the latter type is before men.” 
Thus, we might paraphrase the sense of Jas 2:24 in this way: ‘You see then that a man is justified by works, and not only justified by faith.’
Hodges also makes a helpful observation that this distinction is also found in Paul’s writings in Romans 4:2. The apostle tells us that there is such a thing as “works” justification before men, but not before God:
“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Thus, the only way a man can be justified before God is by faith.
1) Zane C. Hodges, The Epistle of James: Proven Character Through Testing (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1994), 71
2) Zane C. Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege: Faith and Works in Tension, Second Edition (Dallas: Redención Viva, 1992), 34

Answering the Church of Christ “Faith Alone” Argument


SOURCE: A person challenged me to show one verse in scripture that ‘salvation is by faith alone’. I replied with the following:

Considering the CHURCH OF CHRIST’s own standard of “necessary inference”, a person can identify this as plain as the nose on his face because there are at least 154 passages throughout the New Testament which tell us salvation is by placing faith alone in Jesus Christ.

Consider for a moment the following passages:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

“Most assuredly, I say unto you, he who hears my Word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come to judgment, but has passed from death to life.” John 5:24

“…but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:31

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, lest anyone should boast.” Eph. 2:8

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” Galatians 2:15-16

These verses and provided passages plainly and clearly state:

* a direct relationship between salvation/ justification and faith- with nothing else being mentioned in the sentence or context, and/ or,

* a direct eternal benefit from faith- with nothing else being mentioned in the sentence or the context;

* therefore, since nothing else other than “faith” is mentioned in the thoughts or context being communicated-

Faith Alone or “faith only” is what is implied and required.

To further illustrate the above reality, as well as to show how ‘selective’ those in the Church of Christ are in applying their own standard, this individual applied the “faith only” argument to the illustration of Noah building the ark – with gopherwood “only”.

Genesis 6:14-16

“Make yourself an ark of gopherwood (only); make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch (only). And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits (only). it width fifty cubits (only), and its height thirty cubits (only). You shall make a window for the ark (only), and you shall finish it to a cubit from above (only); and set the door of the ark in its side (only). You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks (only).”

His point: It’s utterly ridiculous for the Church of Christ to assert its ‘no verse in scripture specifically says we are saved by faith-only’ argument when honest consideration is given to the biblical verse(s), text, and context of those passages.

To refuse the plainly stated truth from the Word of God that salvation is simply by grace though faith in Jesus Christ alone is like saying:

‘Noah was told to to build an ark with gopher wood, but the Scripture NEVER specifies that he was told to use gopherwood “only”.’

Note on James Chapter 2 by Damon Whitsell

james chapter 2

A foundational and basic error of interpretation lies in thinking that James 2 is the go to place in scripture to clarify what salvation is. CoC’ers that oppose salvation by faith alone seem to think James was teaching differently than Paul and the rest of scripture. But he is not. Paul is the apostle to the gentiles and James was a Jew speaking to Jews. They were speaking to two different audiences and emphasizing two different types of Justification. Paul said Abraham was justified by faith and had nothing to boast about before God. He was showing justification before God. Yet James said “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:18). He is speaking about justification before men. And both Paul and James agree and said that Abraham believed God and it was counted or credited to him as righteousness.

To see the two different kind of justifications see (Rom 4:2) “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God”. If Abraham was justified by works, as James at first glance appears to assert he is, he can glory before men but not before God. Romans 3: 19-20 says “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” The law makes all men “guilty before God” and “in his sight”, but we can be seen as just to men by observing and keeping the law and doing good works. This has to be the true understanding of James2:24 because the scripture is clear in so many places that we are saved through faith and not by works. James cannot be speaking in contradiction to the rest of scripture.

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.