Paul’s message of faith and James’ message of good works are complimentary not contradictory!
In the Apostle Paul’s writings we constantly find the message of salvation or God’s righteousness that comes through faith. He writes in 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” (NKJV). In Acts 16:31, he and Silas told the jailer in Philippi, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (NKJV). Also, in Romans 10:13 Paul writes, “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (NKJV). There are other references in the New Testament where Paul clearly states or implies that truth.
The Apostle James writes in James 2:14-20, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warm and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works,’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe-and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (NKJV).
Paul writes to the elders of Ephesus in Acts chapter 20 and in verses 20, 21, saying the following, “how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV). Also, in verse 27 of the same chapter, we see Paul saying, “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (NKJV).
In his letter to the believers in Ephesus, Paul writes in Ephesians 4:21-24, “If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (NKJV).
Paul certainly strongly preached the message of savation or the righteousness of God by faith and he also preached publicly and from house to house (the whole counsel of God) the need of repentance towards God and living a lifestyle of holiness.
Some Bible teachers and preachers say that due to the fact that we are saved through faith in the finished work of Jesus, we can just not deal with sin in our lives, sin as we please, and all is OK because we have been forgiven by the grace of God. The entirety of chapter 5 of Paul’s letter to the Romans emphatically explains that we are saved or justified before God by faith. He then begins chapter six with a question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?...knowing this, that our old man was ciucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin (Verses 1,2,6,7).
Now, my friend, the question is, “Did Paul and James preach two different gospels? Another question is, “Did Paul and James have theological disagreements? I emphatically say, NO!!! May I suggest to you that faith and works or obedience to God’s commandments are partners, not opposites. It seems to me that James was saying in James, chapter 2 (that I mentioned in the previous paragraph), that true faith produces works or obedience.
Let me remind you also, that both Paul and James were part of that Jerusalem counsel that met together in Acts, chapter 15 to decide on what instructions they should give to the gentiles concerning whether or not they needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. Verses 25-29 explained that they were all in agreement as to what instructions to give them.
Some people say that Paul’s message was directed towards the gentiles and James’ message was directed to the Jews, therefore they both preached a different message. I say, NO, NO AND NO!!! James 1:1 tells us that James was writing to the 12 tribes scattered abroad. The majority of the 12 tribes that were scattered were predominantly gentiles, not Jews.
I’ll close with that!