It is true that the doctrine of justification that Paul and James taught are very clear that Salvation is not of works. That is a person’s justification and being made righteous is NOT something a person can accomplish trough their own efforts nor good works. No one is justified by following the Ten Commandments nor by just being a ‘good person’ in comparison to other people.
The ONLY way a person is justified and made righteous enough to be able to enter Heaven is to be 100% PERFECT as Jesus is perfect. Can you do that? No, you cannot! Not by your own effort. We are all SINFUL except Jesus who was born of a Virgin and is the Son Of God. Jesus who was God in the flesh.
Who then can be saved? How can we be allowed to enter Heaven for all eternity? Jesus said,
“… Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:25-26 KJV)
You see, Jesus paid a ransom for our Salvation. We all owe a HUGE enormous debt of sin against God. When you understand that God NEVER CHANGES things become clearer.
“For I am the Lord, I change not…”
(Malachi 3:6 KJV)
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
(Hebrews 13:8 KJV)
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
(James 1:17 KJV)
It is important to know the attributes of God. God is 100% perfectly Holy and 100% Just and He must punish sin. And the wages of sin are death; that is eternal death in a place of torment. But God is also 100% Merciful so He sent His only begotten Son as a human. Jesus is the ‘God-Man’. He was sent in human form so that He could take the punishment for the sins of the whole world. On the cross, Jesus Christ (God in human flesh) took upon Himself the punishment that we deserved even though He NEVER sinned. Not even once. This was a satisfactory punishment for our sins. Jesus took our place and our sins were nailed to that cross. When we believe this, we are at that very moment forgiven all our sins (past/present/future) and MADE RIGHTEOUS and are saved for all eternity and we can never lose our Salvation. He sealed us with the Holy Spirit indwelling within us as a new created being.
“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-16 KJV)
At the moment of belief in the atonement Christ provided on the cross, we were changed positionally. Positionally we are now 100% righteous before God because all the sins we committed, or will commit after Salvation, were all penalty paid on the cross in Jesus. And now this is what God says about those who believe on the atonement of sins through what Christ did on the cross,
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:12 KJV)
That is the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! We are saved 100% by the GRACE of God. Salvation is NOT based on our good works in ANY MANNER, neither before or after Salvation. Paul repeatedly wrote to not mix The Law (10 Commandments) with Grace. It is a false Gospel. There are many Scriptures from Paul that make this very clear.
ISN’T THAT EASY BELIEVISM LIKE JAMES 2: 18-19?
“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.Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:18-19 KJV)
The answer is no it is not easy believism. In verses 18-19, James makes a different point. James likely knows there are some in this crowd of believers that may not have real faith IN CHRIST and so he makes a point to them as well. He addresses those who are not saved but think it is their works that save them. What James is saying is that there are different kinds of faith. But there is only one saving faith. There are those who profess that they believe in Jesus and that believe in God. They have faith that God exists. But will that alone save a person from their sin debt against God?
James is not saying that it is the works that save a person. He is talking about the evidence of a truly saved person. You know a person can go to church daily and talk the talk. They can quote doctrine and Scriptures. They have ‘head knowledge’. It is good to have head knowledge but you need more than that to save you. Having head knowledge about Scriptures is not the same as repentance and asking God to forgive you for all your sins because Christ died for you. If a person believes with head knowledge only and thinks they can just keep on living how ever they want, and still be saved, they would be wrong. That is the wrong kind of faith. That is faith only ‘intellectually’. Such faith is DEAD. It is useless for the total life long list of sins committed and useless for remission of a person’s sins.
James makes a strong point that even Satan and his fallen angels.. they have faith that God exists. They know that Jesus is the Son Of God right? The demons Jesus cast out acknowledged Christ as Lord, but are those fallen angels saved or damned to hell? Do you think Satan knows what the Bible says? Yes, he does. And he takes it all as true by faith and what is he doing? He is using it to kill us by jamming the Law down our throats to make us feel guilty before God after Salvation. He is constantly accusing us of our sins before God (Revelation 12:10). Just believing and just knowing the facts with head knowledge DOES NOT SAVE A PERSON.
What kinds of works are the fallen angels doing do you think? The Bible says EVIL WORKS. And so James is saying that ‘I will show you my faith BY my works’ . A true believer, in faith, should have some evidence in Godly works, good works. Evidence that they are actually saved. Not that the works are what saves them. Notice James did not say that ‘my works are required to be saved‘. James says that ‘I will show you my faith BY my works‘. James is talking about good works of God as evidence of Salvation. The evidence is produced by the Holy Spirit within a believer. That is an important distinction to make.
“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (James 2:20-22 KJV)
Here again, if we were to stop reading James 2 at this verse it seems like the meaning is that it is the works that save. But remember James is addressing SAVED/REDEEMED BELIEVERS. That is not what James is saying. He is again talking about the faith that is head knowledge only. He is bring up Abraham who is known as ‘the Father of our faith’ right? If we continue to the very next verse we see,
“And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2:23-24 KJV)
Abraham was not justified and saved by the act of the works. It was his FAITH in what God had previously PROMISED HIM that pushed him forward to do the works that God commanded. But God worked on Abraham’s faith for a LONG time before God tested his faith in telling him to sacrifice his only son. Abraham learned what the true God was like and his character. He is a good God amen? A perfectly righteous God. A perfectly JUST God! God had made a promise that “for in Isaac your seed shall be called “ (Genesis 21:12). Long before this when God called Abraham to leave for a new land God made promises to Abraham and BY HIS WORKS we can see the evidence that HE BELIEVED them in the proper saving faith,
“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
( Genesis 12:1-3 KJV)
How are all the families of the Earth today blessed because of these promises of God to Abraham and the faith that Abraham had to do what God told him to do? God is promising Abraham that through his seed and blood line he would make a nation which we know today as the nation of Israel. And how do we know that Israel has blessed all the families of the earth? Because of the one that came out of the bloodline of Israel, Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah and the Savior of the world.
In Genesis we see what Abraham says when he decides on going to the place God told him to go to Sacrifice his son Issac,
“And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I AND THE LAD will go yonder and worship, and COME AGAIN TO YOU.” (Genesis 22:5 KJV)
What stands out in this verse? It is one VERY important phrase and it is ‘I and the Lad’. You see God had taught Abraham who He really is. Abraham had complete trust in God to always be good and do the just thing. He learned that God is faithful. He did have a son as promised by God, even though his wife Sarah was in her older years, her baron years. It was not as Abraham expected the promise to be fulfilled by God, but it was fulfilled. It increased his faith in God.
Abraham tells his young helpers that we will come back to you. He did not say ‘I will come back to you’. Abraham is showing his faith! That is his complete faith that God would never allow him to actually murder his son unrighteously. And even if he did, he knew that God would have to raise him from the dead because God had already promised Abraham that it is through Issac’s bloodline, ‘I will make you a great nation’. Later we see Issac asking his father Abraham,
“…Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.” (Genesis 22:6-8 KJV)
Again we see Abraham exercising his full faith and assurance that God would provide a Lamb in place of his son for the sacrifice. Abraham knew this must be a test of his faith and trust in God. God has never shown him to be like this.
So was it Abraham’s works that saved him? Or the belief in God’s promises in faith? It was HIS FAITH and the works of carrying out what God said to do was the evidence of his true faith. This is what James is talking about. It is that evidence should exist in those that have saving faith. But not that the evidence is what saves you. We should be walking by the spirit, not the flesh.