One of the areas of confusion for me, when it comes to the Bible, is the comparison of Paul’s and James’ writings regarding faith and deeds. In reading the books of Ephesians and Romans we find Paul explaining we are saved through our faith in God and His grace. In the book of James (a book we will study as a congregation beginning in January), there seems to be a contradiction with Paul. However, if we look closely at the comments being made by both men, we will find that they agree.
James 2:17- 18 “… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (NIV).
Romans 3:27-28 – “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (NIV)
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Paul and James are really saying the same thing in a different manner. James indicates we are to have deeds that show our faith. Paul, on the other hand, states that even non-believers have good deeds but little or no faith. Look, for example, at the Pharisees. They had deeds, but those deeds were driven by a desire to be seen as righteous by those around them. Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees were hypocrites, seeking approval from man rather than God. God knows our motives; he knows the secret desires of our heart. He is not fooled by our hypocritical actions or self-satisfying deeds of service. We ought to serve Him with sincere motives. Our deeds should be driven by our faith in Him and His grace. If however, our actions are not driven our faith, Jesus will see us like the Pharisees whom he bitterly opposed while walking the earth.
Faith produces an internal drive that causes us to serve others, not looking for approval from men, but from God above. Faith in Jesus, through the power of the resurrection, and Holy Spirit, should spur us on to perform the good works spoken of in Ephesians. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “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” (NIV).
Today, as you go about your life, pause and think about why you are doing (or not doing) those good works. The works shouldn’t be about boasting in ourselves, but rather done in humble a humble and sincere manner as you serve Him whose grace brings satisfaction, contentment, and ultimately, everlasting life.