God’s verdict of not guilty and his imputing of his own righteousness to us at the beginning of the Christian life is by faith alone… that’s how we get started. James is answering the question ‘does the ongoing and final reckoning of Abraham’s righteousness depend on works as the necessary evidence of true and living faith?’ James’ answer to that question is ‘Yes.’ And Paul’s answer is also ‘Yes.’ Gen 15:6. If you ask them, ‘Does justification as an ongoing and final right standing with God depend on the works of love?’ …So when Paul renounces ‘justification by works’ he renounces the view that anything we do along with faith is credited to us as righteousness. Only faith obtains the verdict, ‘not guilty,’ when we become Christians. Works are not acceptable in the moment of initial justification. But when James affirms ‘justification by works’ he means that works are absolutely necessary in the ongoing life of a Christian to confirm and prove the reality of the faith which justifies..…For James, ‘justification by works’ means “maintaining a right standing with God by faith along with the necessary evidence of faith, namely the works of love. Read more» (emphasis added)
John Piper | “Does James Contradict Paul?” | 8 August 1999
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