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How do Protestants deal with James on faith and works?


Most commentaries (and many translations) say that “According the flesh” means our “earthly father” or “the father or our race”, or “physical ancestor”. The greek works for flesh “sarx” is translated as “countrymen” or “fellow jews” in Romans 11:4.

For Instance The HCSB says: What then can we say that Abraham, our physical ancestor, has found?

The NLT says: Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God?

Also, keep in mind that there was no true Mosaic Law at the time of Abraham. There was no Passover, no Temple, no festivals or feast or fast…

This is referring to life under the old law. Romans 2 all the way to Romans 3:20 described how both the Jews and the Gentiles were judged under the old covenant. So Romans 2:13 is a true statement if you are following the Jewish law or were a Gentile following the moral/nature law. The only hope is to follow the law exactly and never sin. James 2:10 says For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.

That is why in Romans 3:20 Paul says, For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

If you just pull out those two verses from Romans it is easy to think Paul is contradicting himself. Does keeping the law justify us or not? To answer this question you have to read 3:9. What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,

Having the Jewish law didn’t make the Jews any better than the gentiles because they are both under sin. Neither of them were sinless. Neither of them were perfect doers of the law (either Mosaic or moral) which is why "by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight"

That is a very hopeless situation to be in and it is the situation we are all born into. If the only way to gain eternal life is to follow the law exactly and any sin is breaking the law then what hope do I have? If this is the case then no human being ever could be justified in his sight because we are all sinners.

This is when Paul says, perhaps the two most beautiful words in his letter.


But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.



Because that verse addresses both of the things they were trying to correct.

Paul was correcting the idea that we earn grace by following the mosaic or natural law. He was refuting the idea that not only do we believe and trust in Christ but that our works earn us grace and redemption.

James was correcting what today we would call “easy believism”. That is, all I have to do is admit that Jesus is the savior and then I have faith and will be saved.

Abraham was considered righteous because of his faith. But he also acted on his belief and demonstrated his belief by his actions.

Just like Abraham, we are considered righteous because of our faith but faith that doesn’t act isn’t a genuine faith.


Hahn and Bowman…on salvation and justification…

I learned a lot from this discussion…it was framed as a dialogue…and not a debate…and it is a “friendly” discussion on the subject…including Abraham’s righteousness…


Yet in this discussion no Catholic has said that. What we’ve said however, is that we don’t maintain our justification by being faithful to God, we won’t be among His chosen on the last day.


And his actions completed his faith.


And, how were the people of God, Abraham’s descendants, in a covenant with God? Through circumcision!

"After excluding the glory which the Jews took in the Law [Their Mosaic Law], on the basis of which they preferred themselves to the Gentiles [n. 169 and 248], the Apostle now excludes their glory in regard to circumcision. About which he does two things. First, he takes up the question he had raised earlier, when he asked: “What is the usefulness of circumcision?” And because Abraham was the first to receive the command about circumcision, as stated in Genesis 17(:10), he repeats the question in the person of Abraham himself, saying: If it is true that God justifies the uncircumcised as well as the circumcised, What usefulness then shall we say Abraham to have found, who is our father according to the flesh? That is, according to circumcision and other bodily observances". - Saint Thomas Aquinas, Romans 4 Commentary

Exactly! This is the whole point of why Saint Paul is using the example of Abraham and his faith that came before the Mosaic Law, being justified through faith while uncircumcised! The Jewish Christians were arguing that circumcision was still necessary for justification, and Saint Paul appealed to Scripture and the example of the Father of Faith, Abraham, in that he was justified before being circumcised, now a part of the Mosaic Law for justification for the Jews!

Please, please read this:


No one comes to justification on their own! No one earns grace! Catholicism condemns and anathematizes these teachings (cf. Pelagiansim). However, after being justified and saved by grace through Holy Baptism, we are now infused with an interior justice (grace), i.e. faith, that prompts us to cooperate with it and perform works of charity to increase in our justification and complete our faith with the aid of the Holy Spirit living within us!

Protestants have this tendency to solely focus on the passages of Scripture that deal with initial justification, where the ungodly are made godly through the waters of regeneration and by no works of their own, and remain stuck there neglecting all the other Scriptural evidence for justification through grace-infused works after initial justification. That is only half of the two-part Paschal Mystery that we participate in for obtaining the inheritance of eternal life; the other half, AFTER having been justified by the gift of faith infused into us through the unearned gift of Holy Baptism and not by works of our own, NOW we are to participate in the life of the Risen Christ by feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, visiting the sick etc., and it is by those works that COMPLETE our faith and it is by those works that we will be judged by on the last day.

And, when Protestants do not have the Eucharist and the Sacraments of Confirmation and Reconciliation, it’s nearly impossible (viz. very hard) to complete that initial justification received at Baptism when deprived of the sanctifying graces that are needed to resist temptation and not be attached to sin and the world.


This goes against the teaching of divine perichoresis. It also violates the Scriptures.

James 1:13
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one;

Jesus’ human nature was not stained by original sin, so He did not have the vulnerabilities of the lower nature as we do. His temptations were external, and directed toward acting against His own divinity.

I don’t know what this means.

I agree that Protestants do focus on initial justification as already complete, and separate it from sanctification, but most Protestants do not believe that Baptism is regenerative. They practice Baptism as an “ordinance”, not a sacrament, and do not believe that it is, in itself, a means of grace. They believe that regeneration occurs with a profession of faith.

Well, “Protestants” can’t be lumped into any theological perspective, but there are some that don’t believe this “judgment” of works relates to our eternal relationship with God, which was settled once for all time when one is born again. But they consider it in the light of how many rewards and 'crowns" there will be in heaven. Using this view, a soul that has backslidden can still get to heaven, even if their life was full of bad works, or at minimum no good works.


By the flesh, works of the law, works of righteuosness…all references of Paul citing their weakness in justifying, saving.


So it is wrong , against CC teaching, that Jesus could be tempted, had free will, had to obey ?


The temptation of Christ is not the same kind of temptation we have. But of course He had free will, and He did no “have to obey”. He chose to obey.

His divine nature and human nature functioned together, as God intended for all of mankind.


Yes, indeed! :slight_smile:


It’s not that hard to understand. Faith without love amounts to nothing. Love is not a feeling, it is a work, an act of the will. Thus Faith without Love (works) is dead.

As 1 Cor. 13:1-13 exhaustively explain it’s all about love. Thus to understand what love is, is to grasp what faith and works means. In other words, you can believe in Jesus and spend all your time serving in soup kitchens, but if you don’t do it with love, that is a faith without works. Works doesn’t mean you have to go anywhere or do anything out of your ordinary life, it simply means that you have to live everything you do with everyone you meet, and everyone you know, with love. Thus one can have faith in Jesus, but if there is unforgiveness, resentments, envy, self interests, etc. rooted in the heart, then the faith does not avail much.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and fkind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant or rude. It idoes not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it kdoes not rejoice at wrongdoing, but it rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For pnow we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” -1 Cor. 13:1-13


Amen, amen! To love is to will the good of another. :slight_smile:


which brings us full circle, that all flesh have the condition of choosing to obey, to be in the spirit concerning a thing,exercising free will…same with the church…Christ is the head leads perfectly, but the body must choose to be in sync, which means she can choose wrongly , and should we presume on the grace of God …that the head is perfect does not do away with conditionality of the body, that she must choose correctly.


I agree with the principle, but just as Jesus’ two natures were perfectly in sync with each other, and He cannot deny Himself, so He is with His One Body, the Church. That which is flesh may not survive, but the divine will shall be done.

He will guide the Church into all truth, and she will be His Holy Bride, presented without blemish. The Gates of Hell will not prevail. Not because of the flesh, but because of the Spirit. Those who will not cooperate with His will will be like those who tasted of the heavenly gift and fell from grace. There will be no salvation left for them, who have spurned Him.


yes but how does He not deny Himself and not override free will?

Jesus was in perfect sync, but to my knowledge no disciple has met that perfection, nor His church…yet.

Does he say the church would be guided into all truth ? For sure the apostles were, by gifting of the Holy Spirit, the same baptism being given to every believer.

As to the bride…is it the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox , the Lutheran church? Will we need a magisterium , a pope, a reformer in heaven ? For sure the church as in called out ones, believers , those that are in Him and He in them, will now dwell together.

The gates not prevailing is an end time story, and so far with 2000 years running. To say that the church never a lost battle on doctrine or practice , for one particular church, for one second , perfect sync with Christ is quite presumptuous. For sure the bride and the church will prevail and fulfill their destiny, but without presumption , that may benefit one over another.

Not to mention that the gates of hell prevailing is reference to death having no sting, but only making the church stronger, as in the Cornerstone’s death , and the apostolic foundations etc.


He allows individuals to walk away. Just as He did in Jn. 6, he does not try to stop or correct those who refuse to embrace the Teaching. He asks us all the question “Will you also leave”?

Of course they have! This is what we call the gift of infallibility. The Holy Spirit protected those writing the Scriptures from error while they wrote. This way, we can be confident that what was written was inspired and inerrant.

Luke 1:6 “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”

You and I will agree that it is impossible for anyone to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless without the Holy Spirit. God’s plan of salvation has not changed. Everyone is saved by grace, through faith. If Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous before God, and blameless, then they were made so by the Holy Spirit.

The same is available to all of us. None of us is a slave to sin any longer, and we can all be righteous and blameless before God.

Yes. Jesus made this promise to His fledgling Church. Those who are not in unity with the Apostles, to whom the promise was given, cannot benefit from it.

Yes, we are all baptized in the HS, but not all of us are called to the same roles.

No. Jesus only has One Body, One Church.

What a strange question.

Our eternal state is not the problem here, the problem is in the temporal realm. Jesus said we would show Him to the world by our love, and our unity. He prayed that we might all be One, as He and the father are One.

The Church does not allow for “doctrinal distinctives”. These are strictly forbidden by the Apostles.


I am not sure how you conclude that. It is the current culture, of each and every age, where the evil one does His best to divide and separate. To me it sounds like a current events story!

I can understand how it would seem that way, to one who does not believe Jesus made this promise for the church in the world. He did not leave us orphans, so that we could not know the Truth. He gave us authority, and His Spirit, to prevent the faithful from passing through the gates of hell. Teaching of error leads the faithful through the gates of hell.

I agree that persecution does make the Church stronger.


Yes, she for much time has made conformity the basis for unity.

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