Justified by Faith Alone cf. James 2:24


Dear Protestant brothers and sisters,

“You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” James 2:24 NKJV

Many of you ascribe your beliefs regarding justification to the view of being justified by faith alone and NOT by works. How would you reconcile your beliefs in light of the aforementioned Scripture verse?

With love,

Your Catholic brother :slight_smile:


Yes, when you quote this verse in a vacuum, it appears to condemn faith alone. But when you read the verse in the context of the entire chapter, the verse takes on an entirely new meaning. Just going back to v.14 is enough to put v.24 into context.

vs 14-16 are summed up in v.17 “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Another good word to use for dead is FALSE.

v. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." James is saying his works are a RESULT and PROOF of his faith.

Read verse 19: even the devil knows FIRST HAND that Jesus is Lord and Savior. Yet is he saved? Knowing or just saying that you believe it is not the same as a God-given true faith.

vs. 21 to 23 James speaks of Abraham’s faith decades into his faith walk with God. (Genesis 22) It was a test (and boy was it a test!!!) of his faith from God. Then James and Paul (in Romans 4) jump back to when Abraham was converted and tells us he was saved due to his faith. Genesis 15:6

James is summarizing that anyone who professes to be a Christian but produces no works has a dead or false faith.

When we are born-again, God makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and because of that and our love and devotion to Jesus, we a COMPELLED to work in God’s Kingdom and produce the fruit He reserves for us (Galatians 5:22-24). So I entirely agree with James when he says faith is false if it doesn’t produce works/fruits. True faith is proven by our Kingdom works.

Our works are proof of our living faith. As John TB said in Matthew 3:8, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”

God bless you my friend.


It seems as though, in the realm of justification, you are trying to say that “his works” are only a “RESULT” or “PROOF” and that they are not working with his faith and making the faith complete/perfect. What about this verse of Saint James:

“Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect” James 2:22 NKJV

If a “God-given true faith” is not “knowing or saying that you believe”, then what is it?

Okay. Was there anytime during this “faith walk with God” that Abraham was justified by works and not by faith alone?

When we are born-again, God makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and because of that and our love and devotion to Jesus, we a COMPELLED to work in God’s Kingdom and produce the fruit He reserves for us (Galatians 5:22-24). So I entirely agree with James when he says faith is false if it doesn’t produce works/fruits. True faith is *proven *by our Kingdom works.

Our works are *proof *of our living faith. As John TB said in Matthew 3:8, “*Prove *by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”

I have noticed your frequent use of the word, “proof” when referring to what Saint James is writing, contextually. I do not see any allusion to “proof” or “results”. Where specifically in the text of James 2 does it explicitly allude to works not being apart of justification, but only as a result or proof of the faith?

I read the following: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works”; “You see then that a man is* justified by works*”. I do not see any hint or allusion to our justification being by faith only inasmuch as our works are only “results” or “proof”.

God bless you, friend!


This argument (not what you specifically are saying but this argument in general) makes me NUTS!! And this is NOT taking a verse in a vacuum.

  1. plain English (or Greek) “justified by works and not by faith alone”

  2. What separates those that have an active faith from those with a dead faith? What does one have that the other does not? James’ words not mine.

  3. The example James uses is Abraham offering his son but the example Paul uses in Romans is also Abraham but many years earlier. Both use the word justified. That’s why Catholic theology sees justification as a process. Paul is talking about initial justification in Ephesians 2 (free gift - cannot be earned). Paul is primarily talking about circumcision in Romans 3 (works of law - same argument as in Acts 15) and also showing that Abraham was justified before he was circumcised and not through circumcision. James is talking about living out your faith through works - this is the same formula as Paul uses in Ephesians (Saved by grace through faith for good works which God has prepared for us that we should walk in them).

And may God bless you also.


When i read St. James Epistle what I see is that converted Pharicees were going around Jerusalem saying and preaching that one did not and no longer needed to do any good works. All one needed to be saved was faith that it nothing more. St. James is saying that having faith alone with nothing to back it is meaningless and does not save anyone. But this by no means is it that good works alone is going to save anyone. St. James is saying in effect that both faith and good works go together; if one has real faith they will do good works not in order to be saved but that if a person has real faith they will do good works out of love for Christ.

Luther thought that what St. James was saying in his Epistle did not conform with what St. Paul was saying about works. St. Paul was being plagued by converted Pharicees who were teaching converted Gentiles that in order to be saved they had to be circumcised and follow the Laws of Moses. St. Paul was saying that we were no longer under the law of Moses and that works under the law of Moses did not save but faith in Christ Jesus. St. Paul did not say that one did not need to do any good works to be saved and that only faith saved but that Christians were no longer under the laws of Moses. There is a big difference between doing works under the law of Moses and doing good works as faith and good works go together. So both St. James and St. Paul were speaking to to very different audience’s. In one faith alone was all that was needed to be saved by converted Jerusalem Pharicees and in the other works under the laws of Moses was all that was needed to be saved as taught by converted Pharicees outside of Jerusalem.


Just one more thing to add. If my son has a landscaping business, and he mows 10 lawns and gets paid for every one and he comes to my lawn and he mows it out of love, has he earned anything? Do I owe him anything? Even if I expect him to mow the lawn?

Stated another way, now a neighbor’s kid mows my lawn. He has earned a wage. He is not my son. Does mowing my lawn as many times as he wants make him my son? No, I can choose to adopt him, but there is nothing he can do to earn son ship.


In my opinion, this verse needs to be balanced with Ephesians 2;8-9. Both faith and works are important. I think our works are visible evidence of our faith in action, although I’ve known a few people who did good works who were atheists but did their good works out of a sense of humanistic caring instead of flowing out of their faith in Christ.


LOL, DON"T STOP WITH VERSE 9 !!! READ verse 10 too !!!


It’s very simple to sum up:

Works without faith means nothing in the Kingdom of God.

Faith without works is dead/false faith.

I think better way to look at the “faith alone” argument is, genuine faith alone saves us, but that faith doesn’t come alone. Its companion is Godly works.

Genuine born-again faith produces good works. As we lovingly work for Him out of gratitude for our conversion, our personal relationship faith/grows (or is perfected) with God.

Anyone can publicly proclaim anything, but its what God places in our hearts that gives us a living faith and gives us that passion for Him and His Kingdom.

Thanks and God bless.


Hello ajcstr,
Not sure what your point it. I like verse 10, too, and it doesn’t contradict verses 8 and 9. It puts them in proper perspective. My only point was that verse James 2;24 shouldn’t be taken alone any more than Ephesians 2:8-9 should.

Both faith and works are important in the life of a Christian.


Kind of like an apple tree should produce apples if it is a real apple tree, right? :slight_smile:


Indeed, this verse needs “to be balanced with Ephesians 2:8-9”!

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9 NKJV

Albeit the Catholic Church would refer to this verse as ascribing to initial justification, the verse does *not *mention the word ‘justification’, and James 2:24 does.

Notice, that Saint Paul talks about salvation, i.e. “**y grace you have been saved”; he does not write, "by grace you have been justified], even though salvation and justification are very analogous and we can both agree that this verse alludes to initial justification. I would also take note of whom Saint Paul is writing this epistle to, Christians who were recently baptized and “saved” by it through “faith” (the gift of regeneration, i.e. Holy Baptism). Notice these preceding verses:

“And you He made alive…”

"…made us *alive * together with Christ…

“…and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” - Ephesians 2:1,5,6 NKJV

Making us “alive” and “rais[ing] us up” and especially “saving” us are Baptismal references:

“Therefore we were buried with Him through *baptism *into death, that just as Christ was *raised *from the dead by the glory of the Father…Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also *live *with Him.” Romans 6:4,8 NKJV

“There is also an antitype which now *saves *us—baptism.” - 1 Peter 3:19 NKJV

“He *saved *us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing [Baptism] of the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5

So, Ephesians 2:8,9 is referencing our initial justification that takes place in Holy Baptism where we are “made alive” and “raised up” with Christ. However, justification is a process. Just as Abraham was initially *justified *through faith by grace, i.e. “saved”, he was later on justified by works when he offered his son. Were those works done on his own without God’s grace? Absolutely not!

“Lord, You will establish peace for us, For *You have also done all our works **in ***us.” (Isaiah 26:12 NKJV)

“make you complete in every good work to do His will, *working **in ***you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.” (Hebrews 13:21 NKJV)

“being confident of this very thing, that *He who has begun a good work **in ***you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 NKJV)

“it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives **in **me.” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)






You’re welcome, Tommy999!

It is an unfortunate and sad reality that many souls within the Catholic Church, and many outside of Her, claim that the She promulgates that salvation can be earned, whether by/through faith and/or works. Salvation is an undeserved gift purchased for us by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This inheritance (gift) of salvation is bestowed to us through His Spirit in the regeneration and renewal of Holy Baptism where we are buried with Him in His death and raised up with Him. However, this inheritance (gift) can be squandered, hence the need for faith and works, of which both are gifts of God that He works in, with, and through us. So, when Saint James clearly writes that we are justified by works and not by faith only, those works are not ours inasmuch as we did them autonomously, but they are God’s, we only willed to accept them and allow God to work through us. God justifies us using faith and works, both are His gifts and not ours! :slight_smile:


Right, I think Ephesians 2:8-10 pretty much sums up the gospel but so many times v10 is left out. The point is that God prepared good works that we should walk in them. Subtlety here is that it does not say that we will walk in them (through faith) but that we should walk in them (with faith).

I just don’t see the counter argument. If James is contrasting a dead faith without works to a saving faith with works then why argue if the works are a result of the faith or a compliment to the faith? They are necessary either way. And I would argue if the works are viewed like skee ball tickets to be used to earn a prize then I agree that is counter to the gospel.

But doesn’t the word Faith imply trust and fidelity?


Yes and if it doesn’t can its bark save it? Or will its branches be cut off?


Here is the whole passage:

James 2
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way,** faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead**.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

I think that faith and works must be connected. True faith produces works. I have always been taught at my “Protestant” churches to live a life of faith – which means trusting in God and therefore worshiping and serving God with my whole life. This whole concept seemed pretty natural and straightforward. I think the confusion can come in when somebody goes too far to one extreme and tries to separate faith and works.

When I read about the system of penances and indulgences at the time before the reformation, I just see an image of a legal balance. On one side of the balance is all of the sins one has accumulated in his life; on the other side is all the good works including penances and indulgences that were earned. When one dies the weights are checked. If the person is a saint, the extra merits can be transferred to others by the form of an indulgence. Most people have more weight on the sin side and they must go to purgatory to make up for the balance of sin remaining. I understand that this system has been reformed, but is still present in some form today. This system seems to reflect a notion where people can work-off their sins by doing good deeds. However, no amount of good deeds can ever remove the stain of sin. The only way sin has ever been removed has been through the shedding of the blood of a sacrifice. If we think we can somehow do enough good deeds to erase our sins, then we seem to be reflecting an understanding that we don’t need Jesus’ sacrifice – we can just be “good enough.” This is clearly not the understanding of the Gospel.

On the other hand, if one defines faith as an occasional insincere verbal affirmation, then we are also mistaken. From verse 19 above we see that even the demons ‘believe’ in God. We need to do more than verbally affirming that we believe in God. We need to put our trust in Him and follow Him wherever He calls. It would be nice if I sent my mom a fancy, sparkly card for Mother’s Day that states that I love her. But if my mom later calls me and asks me to help her, but I decide I would rather watch TV instead of helping her, would it seem that I really love her? If all throughout the year I repeatedly disregard her requests for help, but just send occasional nice sentiments at holidays, would anyone think that I truly love her? This is just an imperfect earthly mother. If we say we love the perfect God and make our faith in Him the first priority in our lives, we would expect to see that reflected in the lives we lead. If we pursue a relationship with God and continually seek Him, our faith will produce evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

I had never had any problem with this passage in James. Living a life of service to God was always something I assumed would be natural for anyone who TRULY puts their faith in God. I think most Christians’ beliefs are somewhere in between the 2 extremes. I think many of us would agree on this more than they realize, despite phrasing it in different ways.

“We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” - credited to Martin Luther


God opening up heaven was a free Gift for man , but your degree of glory in heaven is determined by your good works,and you will get what you deserve in heaven.

Council of Florence (1439) declared the souls of the perfectly just clearly behold the Triune and One God as he is, but corresponding to the** difference of their merits**, the one more perfectly than the other. The Council of Trent defined that the justified person **merits an increase of the heavenly glory by good works. **(Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 479)


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