"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Evangelical Zionism | Main | Images of the Savior (15 – His Healing of a Paralytic) »

    Justification - Paul and James Easily Reconciled

    "In Romans 3:28 Paul says, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." In James 2:24 we read, "You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone." If the word justify means the same thing in both cases, we have an irreconcilable contradiction between two biblical writers on an issue that concerns our eternal destinies. Luther called "justification by faith" the article upon which the church stands or falls. The meaning of justification and the question of how it takes place is no mere trifle. Yet Paul says it is by faith apart from works, and James says it is by works and not by faith alone. To make matters more difficult, Paul insists in Romans 4 that Abraham is justified when he believes the promise of God before he is circumcised. He has Abraham justified in Genesis 15. James says, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?" (James 2:21). James does not have Abraham justified until Genesis 22.

    This question of justification is easily resolved if we examine the possible meanings of the term justify and apply them within the context of the respective passages. The term justify may mean (1) to restore to a state of reconciliation with God those who stand under the judgment of his law or (2) to demonstrate or vindicate.

    Jesus says for example, "Wisdom is justified of all her children" (Lk 7:35 KJV). What does he mean? Does he mean that wisdom is restored to fellowship with God and saved from his wrath? Obviously not. The plain meaning of his words is that a wise act produces good fruit. The claim to wisdom is vindicated by the result. A wise decision is shown to be wise by its results. Jesus is speaking in practical terms, not theological terms, when he uses the word justified in this way.

    How does Paul use the word in Romans 3? Here, there is no dispute. Paul is clearly speaking about justification in the ultimate theological sense.

    What about James? If we examine the context of James, we will see that he is dealing with a different question from Paul. James says in 2:14, "What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?" James is raising a question of what kind of faith is necessary for salvation. He is saying that true faith brings forth works. A faith without works he calls a dead faith, a faith that is not genuine. The point is that people can say they have faith when in fact they have no faith. The claim to faith is vindicated or justified when it is manifested by the fruit of faith, namely works. Abraham is justified or vindicated in our sight by his fruit. In a sense, Abraham's claim to justification is justified by his works. The Reformers understood that when they stated the formula, "Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.""

    R. C. Sproul - Knowing Scripture; InterVasity Press, p. 83, 84

    Posted by John Samson on April 2, 2007 05:03 PM


    Great post. I think that the evangelical church often errs too far on the side of faith without works. Whereas others err by claiming works are what save us. Instead, works are what demonstrate we have faith.

    May God receive all the glory

    A helpful post.


    I have heard it put succinctly this way: Paul is talking about justification before God, James is talking about justification (or as you say, vindication) before one's fellow men.

    Good post. I would like to offer a couple other scriptures which reinforce the concept of real bible faith being evidenced by good works.

    '20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. ' Paul Acts 26:20

    "Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father. For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. " John the Baptist -Luke 3:8

    18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. -Jesus
    Matthew 7:18-20

    " 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" Ephesians 2:8-9

    I have also heard it said this way: "We are not saved by good works, but we are saved FOR good works."

    Oh, one more:
    "But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life." Romans 6:22

    On a side note; I noticed the book quoted from is published by Intervarsity Press. I have seen many great books published by this company. I was suprised a short time ago to learn they are the publishers of the book "The Openess of God" by Clark Pinnock and other collaborators. You can view it at the following link.

    This book contains the damnable heresy of "open theism" that God is not omniscient(sp?) and He is still learning. I don't understand how a Christian book company can publish such trash. Scholarly debates are one thing but to publish a book that openly challenges God's unchangeable nature is wrong. Unless they were to publish it declaring they thought it was wrong and presented in same volume the position of godly men such as John Piper who has written against it(open theism.)

    I also found this book by John Frame: "No Other God: A Response to Open Theism"

    "8 "Known to God from eternity are all His works." Acts 15:18

    "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. "
    1 Timothy 1:17


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