It’s not uncommon to hear some people appeal to James 2:24 in order to argue that God saves people by faith plus works. In particular, some argue against the doctrine of justification by faith alone by appealing to this verse. They tend to pit Paul, who writes that we are justified by faith and not works, against James, who apparently writes that we are justified by faith plus works. This raises the question, who is right? What are we to believe? Are Paul and James actually at odds with each other? No, they are not.
…Simply put, although they are using the same verb, justification (in Greek it is also the same verb, dikaioō), they are using it differently. Paul is using it in its legal declarative sense, but James is using it in an evidential sense. They are complementing each other, not opposing each other. Read more»
Daniel Rowlands, “Works in the Book of James—‘Fruits and Evidences of a True and Lively Faith,’” Beautiful Christian Life, September 9, 2020.
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Dear R. Scott Clark,
Thank you for distinguishing the two aspects of Justification. The cults, JW’s and LDS (Mormons) frequently make “faith” a work using James 2:24. As you well know, Paul uses the Forensic or Judicial Aspect of Justification, i.e., a Declaration of “Not Guilty.” What is not as well-known is that the Second Aspect of Justification is the Ethical (what you call evidential). This Ethical Aspect is the direct result of the Forensic Aspect. Both aspects are present, but it is the context that determines which aspect to emphasize. Not only that, but “faith” is required for both. Thus, “the just shall live ‘by faith’.” The one who is just ‘shall live’ by faith. The one who is just by faith, and lives by faith, shall ‘by faith’ live.
Mr. Williams, perhaps, but we should remind ourselves that “to live” in Greek, to be alive, for example, to be alive according to the flesh, versus to be alive according to the Spirit, should not be restricted everywhere to taking on the figure-of-speech connotation of “to live” in English, “how are you living,” in the sense of quantity and rate of good works during our earthly time. Sanctification in the WCF is enablement.
Very helpful post! Thanks!