The Most Misunderstood
Passage in the Bible
...JAMES CHAPTER 2
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? ... 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.” —James 2:14,18
By David J. Stewart
There is not a more misunderstood passage of Scripture than James chapter 2. From Catholics to those who errantly teach Lordship Salvation, James chapter 2 is often misunderstood and grossly misinterpreted.
The key to understanding James chapter 2 is found in James 2:21 . . .
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?”
So we read that Abraham was justified when he offered Isaac his Son upon the alter in Genesis 22:1-18. The important thing to realize here is that Abraham was saved back in Genesis 15:6 . . .
“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
This is reiterated again in Romans 4:3-5 . . .
“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
The Word of God irrefutably proclaims that Abraham was justified SOLELY BY FAITH, and that his faith was COUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. This quickly denounces the false teaching that good works are necessary for salvation. The controversy surrounding James chapter 2 is caused by woefully ignorant men who twist the Scriptures. Abraham was justified in the eyes of God in Genesis 15:6; but his faith was afterward validated in the eyes of men in Genesis 22:1-18. The Bible says that only God can see a man's heart . . .
“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1st Samuel 16:7).
Since men cannot see our heart, they can only judge us by what they see... our works. So with God we are justified by faith; but with men we are justified by works. The Apostle James states this clearly in James 2:18 . . .
“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.”
James said, “Shew me” thy faith and “I will Shew you” my faith. So we see that James was speaking about being justified in the eyes of his fellow brethren. A professed Christian believer who lives in unrepentant sin gives the people around him legitimate reason to doubt his salvation. This doesn't necessarily mean that he is not saved, it just means that his life doesn't confirm his profession of faith in Christ—something is wrong. America's churches are filled with professed Christians, many of whom have never been born-again and are merely religious.
Religion uses all the Christian lingo (language), talking about God and quoting Scriptures, but they only have “a FORM of godliness” as 2nd Timothy 3:5 warns, “denying the power thereof.” That “power” is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
What a beautiful Scripture. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, because it is how we are saved, if we believe that Jesus died, was buried and then miraculously resurrected from the dead three days later. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, Who came into the world to pay for my sins.
John 20:31, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
Abraham was saved in Genesis 15:6 by simply believing upon the Lord. Abraham's faith was counted for righteousness (Romans 4:3-5). Christ's righteousness was IMPUTED to Abraham (Romans 4:22). This occurred BEFORE Isaac was even born. Yet in Genesis 22 we find that Isaac was old enough to speak with his father, which evidences that several years had passed between the time of Abraham's salvation and the time of offering his son Isaac to God. Clearly, James and Paul are speaking of two entirely different aspects of faith.
In Romans 4:3-5 the Apostle Paul is speaking concerning the ROOT of Abraham's faith; but in James 2:14-26 the Apostle James is speaking concerning the FRUIT of Abraham's faith. The root of genuine repentance and faith in Christ should bring forth the fruit of a changed life; BUT, the fruit is not a part of saving-faith.