Is there any difference in what James, Paul and John taught concerning a living faith?

Some claim there is disagreement in the Bible in that the actual message presented by Paul was different than that presented by James, or even John. But I think we can see a summary of their messages in specfic passages, and that these things are actually in agreement.

James 2:14-26

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

 18But 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.

 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

 20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

 25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Paul in Acts 26:20 the summary of his message:

20First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.

We can see that Paul spoke of the need to live a holy life in 2 Timothy 2:17

19Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his, and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

John wrote concerning claiming to have faith but not living like it in 1 John 1:1-2:6,

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4We write this to make our  joy complete.

 5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

 8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

1 John 2

 1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for[c] the sins of the whole world.

 3We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

I see James, Paul, and John all saying the same thing: faith and evidence of faith go hand in hand. They just said it in different ways.

James said faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-26).

Paul said we are to repent, turn to God, and prove our repentance with deeds (Acts 26:20).

John said if we claim know Christ but do not obey Him, we lie (1 John 1:1-2:6).

But ultimately, they were saying the same thing. It is faith that saves us – we must have faith in Christ. But if we have faith, then our lives will show it. I’m not saying we will be perfect. I”m not saying we wont have moments of crisis. I”m not saying we wont falter in our faith walk. I’m also not saying we will not sin. In fact I think for some of us, it will be two steps forward and one step back. But I AM saying we will be saved by grace (Acts 15:11) through faith and that faith will be expressed in our lives in positive ways (Ephesians 2:1-10), and that we are called to a holy life (2 Timothy 1:9).


3 Responses

  1. Well said, Wb. I believe that people seek to undermine the ‘deeds/works/ because they like to dwell on easy beliefism.

    • Thanks, Polycarp.

      I think its clear that all that is required of us to be saved is faith. But faith is more than merely a thought, or even a belief. No particular deed/work is REQUIRED of us, indeed, not even any deeds, in order to be saved. But if we live past the moment when we come to faith, the Holy Spirit will work in us to give evidence of the faith we have.

  2. […] posts I’ve written regarding faith: Abraham had faith What is work in relation to faith? Is there any difference in what James, Paul and John taught concerning a living faith? The Need for Belief, Love, and Obedience Saving faith versus saying faith What is the requirement […]

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