How do Protestants deal with James on faith and works?


We’ll agree on that. I didn’t realize that was such an issue to you. You had to call me “dishonest” over that? Everything else Luther said still implies it. The “Epistle of Straw” and “not written by Apostles” or “doesn’t have the gospel” are the worst kind of judgements. Either he finds it’s canonicity questionable, or he’s even less principled than that… he thinks it’s questionable, but still wants it in the Canon!


Because there is a difference is showing our faith by our works and being made just by our works. Our best efforts at holiness and love and service will never justify (make us just) in the eyes of God. Our righteousness is not our own. It is the righteousness of Christ that we receive by grace, through faith that makes us just. To say that my works of righteousness contribute to my salvation is to say the righteousness of Christ and His sacrifice is not sufficient to make me right with God and keep me right with God. It would mean that I earn my salvation instead of receiving it as a free gift.

Instead, our works of righteousness give evidence that we have received the righteousness of Christ and that He is working in and through us to bring Himself glory. God, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the outpouring of His grace, changes our affections. When God gives us the gift of faith then Christ becomes our treasure and our life is filtered through the lens of faith instead of the lens of self.

That is the difference between Christianity and religion. In religion, we try to earn God’s favor and salvation by being righteous. In Christianity, we seek after His Kingdom and His righteousness because He has called us and changed who we are. We are His Children and His love for us is greater than any earthly father. That is why we seek to do His will. Not so he will “save us”, but because he already has. And as we rest in that salvation we praise and honor and glorify Him for what He has done for us, what He is doing for us as we walk in faith, and what He will do for us when we enter into eternity.


I didn’t call you dishonest. Sorry you got that impression

Well, you’re welcome to that opinion, but it is obvious in his writingss that this is exactly what he does: questions the canonicity. He is also very clear that it is his own opinion. I think he’s wrong, but that’s his stated view.


And hence the red flag. It’s not his place to question. Too bad he thought he was merely going against the “Pope” by questioning everything. He was going against everything… over a thousand years of the church by his time. Apparently all church fathers and the Holy Spirit were asleep. And Luther is here to the rescue, to save us all. He’s no better than Muhammad. Just less radical.


ARe you sure?

6 For he will render to every man according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. Rom. 2

I think this is just a misunderstanding. For Christians, good works are not “my works of righteousness” but His.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Eph. 2:10

They have been prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. They are rooted in His grace, and we complete them by grace, through faith. The reason they contribute to our right relationship with God is that walking in the deeds He has prepared for us helps us to become more and more His workmanship.

I would agree, if I had your concept of “salvation”. For Catholics, salvation is not something that happens at one point in time, for all time, but a process that begins when we are born again and is completed when we complete this earthly life. Furthermore, they are not “my works of righteousness” but His, and they keep us right with God because they keep us walking in saving faith. Saving faith is faith that works.


If you think these insults are the “worst kind of judgments” then you have not read enough Luther!

In some ways, perhaps, but not all. In fact, his catechism is quite Catholic, and there are many elements of prayer and liturgy he did not reject.

If he really believed that, he would not have spent so much time reading and studying them. He just believed he was more moved by the Holy Spirit than anyone had been for a long time! If you and I lived in his day and time, we might have felt the same way. I would probably have become a Lutheran!

He really did believe the true message of salvation by grace through faith was being obscured.


“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?” - James 2:21

You are separating Christ’s atoning sacrifice and the grace that flows from His Cross enabling us to bear fruit. Your ‘works of righteousness’ come from ‘Christ and His sacrifice’. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit into your heart should empower you to increase in your justification that you once freely received in Holy Baptism.

Being justified by works in the sight of God is not earning your salvation! It is allowing Christ to work in, through, and with you to increase in your holiness before God! To cooperate with the Holy Spirit and to allow Him to infuse sanctifying grace into your soul does not detract from Christ’s sacrifice or glory, it magnifies it!


Like we mentioned earlier, you know more about the particulars of his history than I do. I’m sure he had some valid grievances.

But I’m adamantly against “revivals” and “restorations” in general. Once someone says people were wrong for a long period of time, I’m tuning out. The Spirit is always working. It’s the big rule of thumb. And if you can’t trust councils especially - i.e. bodies comprising dozens of bishops/church fathers, then you can’t trust anything or ever believe the Spirit ever worked in them… or anyone. And that Jesus’ words of being among two or three gathering in his name - it makes that false too!

That kind of person is not a believer in the Spirit actually working. They believe in their own intellect instead. But that’s not how the church ever claimed any of it’s authority.


This always make me a smile a bit… the fierceness of a teenage saint. I mentioned Joan earlier. You ever read her letter to the Hussites? They were like the “proto-Protestants” of her day.

Jesus, Mary
For a long time now, common knowledge has made it clear to me, Joan the Maiden, that from true Christians you have become heretics and practically on a level with the Saracens [i.e., Muslims]. You have eliminated the valid faith and worship, and have taken up a disgraceful and unlawful superstition; and while sustaining and promoting it there is not a single disgrace nor act of barbarism which you would not dare. You corrupt the sacraments of the Church, you mutilate the articles of the Faith, you destroy churches, you break and burn statues [of the saints] which were created as memorials, you massacre Christians unless they adopt your beliefs. What is this fury of yours, or what folly and madness are driving you? You persecute and plan to overthrow and destroy this Faith which God Almighty, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have raised, founded, exalted, and enlightened a thousand ways through a thousand miracles. You yourselves are blind, but not because you’re among those who lack eyes or the ability to see. Do you really believe that you will escape unpunished, or are you unaware that the reason God does not hinder your unlawful efforts and permits you to remain in darkness and error, is so that the more you indulge yourselves in sin and sacrileges, the more He is preparing greater suffering and punishments for you.
For my part, to tell you frankly, if I wasn’t busy with the English wars I would have come to see you long before now; but if I don’t find out that you have reformed yourselves I might leave the English behind and go against you, so that by the sword - if I can’t do it any other way - I will eliminate your false and vile superstition and relieve you of either your heresy or your life. But if you would prefer to return to the Catholic faith and the original light, then send me your ambassadors and I will tell them what you need to do; if not however, and if you stubbornly wish to resist the spur, keep in mind what damages and crimes you have committed and await me, who will mete out suitable repayment with the strongest of forces both human and Divine.


The fact that He will render to every man according to his works should bring fear to all our souls. The thing is we are all factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness. We are all dead in our trespasses and sin. None of us have ever kept the law, either the Mosaic Law of the Jews or the moral law of the gentiles. None of us have ever done enough good to earn eternal life.

Romans 3 tells us that both Jews and Gentiles have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God But that all who believe receive the righteousness of God and and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

If my works contribute to my justification before God then it is no longer a gift, it is an assignment, it is a duty that I must perform in order to be made right with God. If my works are the result of my justification then they are acts of thanksgiving and worship and love. They are not for my benefit but are for the Glory of God and the benefit of others.

BTW- I agree 100% that a saving faith is a faith that works. Which I believe is the whole point of the James 2 passage everyone likes to debate. I just don’t think those works that all of who love Jesus seek to do- contribute to our standing with God but are a result of our standing with God. Our works shouldn’t be about showing God our faith (He knows it better than we do) or trying to “make us right” with God. (our faith/trust/comittment does that). They also shouldn’t be about being so pious so that others notice and give us praise. To do either makes our works about what they can do for us and to bring us glory. They should be about bringing Him Glory and expanding His Kingdom. Being a Christian is not about us. It is all about Him.


We were all dead in our trespasses, not ‘are’! To say we are still dead in our trespasses is to empty Holy Baptism of its sanctifying and transforming graces!

“How can we who died to sin still live in it?.. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” - Romans 6:2,6 ESV

Cannot Christ freely give you the gift of grace that empowers you to increase in justification through good works? Is not every good work we do, after being made new creations through Baptism, a gift from God?


Sure, trying to do good could all be so bleak and hopeless… Full of wrath, terror, failure! Oh my!But that’s not the life of a believer in Christ. The Holy Spirit aids us in pleasing God. He enables to us cry out “Abba!”, like the Son [Gal 4:6]. And enables us to much more.

edit: I would guess this is something at least Calvinists would agree with… (Sanctification). The difference is that Catholics and Orthodox don’t neatly separate everything. Justification is Sanctification.


Justified in this context means “shown to be just”.

Why would I need to increase something that has already been given to me in full? Justification is not a less or more equation. It is a yes or no equation. You are either guilty or not guilty. You are right or wrong. When we come to faith in Christ the God Declares us Just (not guilty). It is not because of what we have done it is because of what Christ has done for us. You can’t be not guilty and the even more not guilty.

But my Holiness before God doesn’t come from me. It is Christ and what He has done for me(us) and His sacrifice on the cross and and resurrection that makes me Holy before God. I’m not saved by my own righteousness but by the righteousness of God that I received by faith.


Salvation is past, present, and future. Not just what Christ did. But DOING. And will do.


You are correct. We were dead in our sins until God made us alive together with Christ.

My point was that if we are relying on our works then it will not be good enough.


Which Christian simply relies on their works though? He or she doesn’t exist. By virtue of them believing in Christ, it would follow that they don’t simply rely on works.

This is all a polemic using Paul’s language, but Paul was disputing Jews…who didn’t have Christ. It’s not fair to apply it to everyone else.


If this is the case, then why does the Apostle teach otherwise?

That may be, but in Rom. 2 he is talking about those who are judged apart from the law:

14 When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

I don’t see this passage referring to works contributing to justification before God. I read it that the law of God - what God requires of human beings is written into the human conscience and those who respond the their conscience by acting justly in accordance with what they know is right will have “glory and honor and peace for every one who does good”.

I think this is just a misunderstanding of the good works God has in store for us to perform. They contribute to our justification before God BECAUSE they are a gift. They are a holy duty, an obedience of faith that we perform because we are made right with God.

In this case, they are no longer your works, but His. This disagreement is really not one of the place of good works in the life of the believer. It is about a difference in understanding about the nature of salvation. The Apostles taught that good works are part and parcel of our salvation. Luther taught otherwise, as did Calvin, etc, etc. and so on.


The idea that the good works God has prepared beforehand that you should walk in them do not benefit you is absurd. But I do agree, they are also for the Glory of God and the benefit of others.

It is both. God sent His son to die so that we could be with Him. If it were not about us, He would not have suffered as He did to bring us back to Himself.

Many reasons! The promised land was given to Israel in full, but they still had to fight for every inch!

We have died, and our lives are hidden with Christ in God, and yet, we still live in the world where we are to function as salt and light. We are an odor of perishing to those who are dying.

The process of becoming sanctified is part and parcel of His plan for our lives. We are justified in baptism, and yet, we are only beginning to lay hold of that which has laid hold of us.

Well, we see it differently.

Yes. This is why we refer to it being in a “state of grace”. After being justified, we can still become guilty by sinning.

Yes, but the Apostles taught that we were not just “declared” righteous but MADE righteous. His righteousness was imputed to us (deposited into our account). We are not just “snow covered dunghills” but are the righteousness of God in Christ.

This concept does not square with Scripture either, where it is clear there are degrees of culpability.

It is very Catholic of you to say this!

No one is suggesting that.


Then you must say the same about every Catholic prior to Trent who held opinions of the canon that were different than the 73.
St Jerome, in your view is no different than Mohammed. Cardinal Cajetan, same. And many others. You’re welcome to that view, but I don’t hold it, because it is not reflective of history. Holding opinions of the canon was permitted. That’s why even cardinals had them.
The EO has a different opinion of the canon. Are you saying they are no different than Mohammed?


Jerome didn’t say it with any self-appointed authority. A lot of the church fathers said things at odds with each other, as individuals.

This is not the same as Canon. That’s the whole point.

Luther gave himself an authority that no church father did. This is self-evident. He created a whole new branch of the church.

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