Some use this verse to show how works are a requirement for heaven. However, James was addressing those who claimed to be Christian but minimized the importance of works. Such a view is contrary to the words of both Jesus (Matt 7:16-20) and Paul (Gal 5:16-26). The writer of Hebrews explains that faith, not works, saves both Old and New Testament saints (Heb 11:2). Paul agreed when he showed how “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness” (Gal 3:6-9; Rom 4:3). If salvation really was dependent upon good deeds, then just how many good works are necessary to earn God’s favor? It would involve total perfection, an impossible feat. Good works are done as a result of justification, not to earn God’s favor. As Galatians 2:16 puts it, “by the works of the law no human will be justified.” Since Jesus paid the price when He died for our sins, our response ought to be nothing less than desiring to live righteously for Him.
For more information, see this blog by Sharon Lindbloom.
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