Paul said we are saved by grace through faith and not by works, but James says a man is justified by works and not faith alone. So, who is right?
Well, they both are, and I am not just saying that because both statements are in the Bible and I need to find coherence. When we come across things in the Bible that does not seem to make sense or things that contradict one another we need to back up and look at the context (I feel like I say that a lot). So, what is the context here?
Paul is talking about salvation. Specifically, he is talking about being saved apart from our own efforts. James, however, was not talking about salvation. He is talking about showing your faith or living out your faith. I think an illustration might help.
Here is an obvious statement: When you have a child, you become a parent. But let’s break that down. You are connected to that child and you cannot be any more related to that child then you are as a parent. You cannot become more related or less related. I know that is redundant but stay with me. You share DNA with that child, you share ancestry with that child, you share a larger family connection with that child, and so on. You and that child and related. That is salvation. It happened the moment you accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, and it is done. That is what Paul was talking about.
James is talking about acting like a parent or being a parent. James is saying “OK, parent you have a child now be the parent.” This is the works portion. This is waking up a 4 AM to feed that child, teaching that child to walk, changing diapers, and so on. It is taking the thing you claim to have and actually doing with it what you are supposed to. The statements from Paul and James are not opposed to one another but completely connected.
Now as I have said many times all analogies fall short, but I hope this helps.
When we read these statements from Paul and James we should put them together to see the bigger picture. We should see that we are saved by grace, through faith, and now we need to live like that is true.
Just a thought,