Faith and Works in Paul and James -- By: C. Ryan Jenkins

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 159:633 (Jan 2002)
Article: Faith and Works in Paul and James
Author: C. Ryan Jenkins


Faith and Works
in Paul and James

C. Ryan Jenkins

C. Ryan Jenkins is Director of Sola Gratia Ministries, Montrose, California.

Does James 2:14–26 (especially verse 24) contradict Romans 4 (especially verse 5) with regard to justification by faith, or does it complement Romans 4:1–8? Throughout the centuries commentators have proposed a variety of solutions, while others have expressed perplexity at how to reconcile the passages. Martin Luther, for example, described the Book of James as an “epistle of straw.” Also since only subtle distinctions exist among some of the positions, confusion seems to surround the issue at times.1 Since the doctrine of justification lies at the heart of the gospel, great care and precision are called for in assessing each proposed solution.

This article seeks to evaluate several significant proposed solutions in order to judge their probability in light of seven principles of biblical hermeneutics.2

Proposed Solutions

The following are four different approaches to this question proposed in contemporary theology.

View A

In this view James 2 shows that works are instrumental in a sinner’s justification before God. Those who propose this view assert that James was arguing that a sinner’s acceptance with God depends on both faith and works. When Paul spoke of a justification apart from works in Romans 4, he was speaking only of works of the Old Testament Law, refuting Judaizers by demonstrating that works of the Old Testament are not sufficient to justify a sinner. James, however, was dealing with the works required of all Christians, and was addressing justification in a fuller sense than Paul. James affirmed (no less than Paul did in Romans 2:13) that a person’s acceptance with God depends on both faith and works.3

View B

In this view Paul was concerned with eternal salvation in Romans 4, while James was dealing with physical deliverance from the devastating effects of sin. James was not addressing unbelievers concerning salvation. He was addressing believers about tempora...

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