Sola fide – Does faith alone save?

James 2:24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Certainly James and Paul are using works in two different senses, the works James mentions are contrary to legal edicts. I think James and Paul are also viewing two different aspects of justification:

James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.

The Scripture (Gen. 15:6), that Paul refers to in his discussion of faith, was fulfilled. So I think James is looking at the moment when Abraham became “mature, complete” (Jas. 1:4), just as he is hoping this for his readers, that they will become “young men” who have overcome the evil one (1 Jn. 2:13), with real, solid righteousness (Jas. 2:23), and not just imputed righteousness (Rom. 4:3). The Scripture was fulfilled, the righteousness God had credited to Abraham when he first believed, was now, in an real sense, now his.

Just as we have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved, similarly, justification is not just once, at conversion, we are justified with imputed righteousness at conversion, then we are justified further, when we are “done with sin” (1 Pt. 4:1–though not perfect, Jas. 3:2), and there may be an indication also that we will be justified in the future, when we are made perfect, without sin (see also 2 Tim. 4:8):

Romans 2:13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

Galatians 5:5 … by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness [which has the same root as “justification”] for which we hope.

And I think we won’t go far wrong if we read “love” for “works” here in James. Paul says something similar!

1CO 13:2 … if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

“If I have all the faith there is, without love, that’s zero.” So faith has to have love, and “love comes from God,” so it’s not a work in the sense that Paul means “work.”

“Love is the life of faith; obedience, the life of love” (Edward B. Pusey).

“Unintelligent persons, however, with regard to the apostle’s statement: ‘We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law,’ have thought him to mean that faith suffices to a man, even if he lead a bad life, and has no good works. Impossible is it that such a character should be deemed ‘a vessel of election’ by the apostle, who, after declaring that ‘in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision,’ adds at once, ‘but faith which worketh by love.’ It is such faith which severs God’s faithful from unclean demons–for even these ‘believe and tremble,’ as the Apostle James says; but they do not do well. Therefore they possess not the faith by which the just man lives,–the faith which works by love in such wise, that God recompenses it according to its works with eternal life. But inasmuch as we have even our good works from God, from whom likewise comes our faith and our love, therefore the selfsame great teacher of the Gentiles has designated ‘eternal life’ itself as His gracious ‘gift.'”

– Augustine

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