Faith and Works: Comparison of James 2:14 and Romans 4. Course: Date: In the New Testament, James 2:14-25 and Romans 4 both deal with the concepts of ‘faith’ and ‘works’ and their respective contributions to salvation. However, the approach adopted in the two writings is markedly different. This difference may be attributed in large part to the fact that the audience in both cases is different: James is obviously addressing fellow Christians, as he says, “my brothers and sisters” (2:14); on the other hand, Paul’s letter to the Romans is directed towards both Jews and Gentiles, to the circumcised and the non-circumcised.
While the apostles James and Paul agree that Faith connotes belief in God and Works connotes good actions, James contends that faith and works are both essential for salvation, while Paul asserts that faith is the only requisite. James is unequivocal in his declaration that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (2:17).
However, he does not discount the importance of faith. His contention is that both are essential and one, without the other, is futile. He is addressing Christians, who, we may assume, are already among the congregation of the faithful, by virtue of their professed belief “that God is one” (2:19). Therefore, James accepts that faith is a precondition for salvation but asserts that faith alone does not suffice. Christians who profess to “have faith but do not have works” (2: 14) cannot be saved.
This is illustrated by the futility of showing apparent concern for a fellow – man who is cold and hungry by the expression of empty platitudes: “keep warm and eat your fill” (2:16). This statement may be considered a profession of faith, but it is only when this faith is demonstrated through the action of actually providing clothes and food to the needy that faith can be conceded to be genuine. Good deeds constitute visible evidence of invisible faith, which cannot otherwise be validated. It is action, or works, which gives life to faith and without works, faith will remain an inanimate concept.
One does not exist without the other. The only way to demonstrate faith is through actions, as faith is an internal quality which cannot on its’ own be judged as true or false. It is an undisputed fact that “Faith, apart from works, is barren” (2:20). Faith may be considered the root of Christian belief but this root will not sprout and grow to bear fruit unless it is expressed through works. James gives evidence of the truth of his claim by using the example of Abraham: “Abraham believed God, ” and it was this faith that “was reckoned to him as righteousness” (2:23).
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