How is the teachings in the Book of James consistent with Salvation by Grace alone?
James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Many take the verses of James chapter two and see in them a treatise on salvation.
However, in context James is chastising church leaders for being respecters of important people and neglecters of poor people.
James 2:3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing,
and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor,
Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
James illustrates his point with a description of an empty expression of "good luck" to a person without food as completely useless. He then compares this to faith without works. What he is doing is asking them to reflect if they are living by their faith.
James 2:15-17 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily
food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed
and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are
needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath
not works, is dead, being alone.
The whole thrust of this chapter is to admonish those who claim to be Christian but suck up to the rich and ignore the poor.
James uses another illustration to make his point that faith is made "perfect" (complete) by works.
James 2:21-22 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he
had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith
wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
Since James is writing to those he considers Christians (brethren), his description of "faith" may not refer to salvation but rather to the living faith that garners rewards.
James 2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
James 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor
of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath
promised to them that love him?
It is by faith that we become Christian, but it is also by faith that we are supposed to live.
Colossians 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord,
so walk ye in him:
There are those who will live a Christian life only to find out that their works were not of faith.
1 Corinthians 3:14-15 If any man's work abide which he hath built
thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be
burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as
The thrust of James chapter two is not so much an address to those who want to become Christian as it is an admonishment of those who are Christian that their "faith walk" is questionable. This can be seen in the first verse of chapter three.
James 3:1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall
receive the greater condemnation.