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Is James' Message Salvation-by-Good-Deeds?

No, we must study the Bible. Then we see that James' message is consistent with the rest of the scripture.

Paul: "By Faith Alone, Not by Works of The Law"

In those days, Paul pressed hard the message of "by faith alone; not by works", meaning "not by works of the flesh". This was because there were Jews around confusing the early Christians. Example, you still have to be circumcised, you still have to refrain from eating certain foods, etc.. The Jews were very integrated with the Greeks in those days.

Paul kept drilling-in the message of "No, it is by faith alone; you don't need to do anything else in the flesh..." Then the Protestants got a hold of this, and translated it as: "No, it is by faith alone; you don't need to do anything else; nothing, nothing at all."  

James: "True Faith Produces Good Action"

James' message may seem contradicting to Paul. But in reality it is not.

James 2:17

So too, faith by itself, if it does not result in action, is dead. 

What James is saying is, "faith" produces good actions, and not the other way around. In other words, James did not say our salvation is based on our good actions, but that they are good indicators of our faith if indeed true. This verse also means that if the person is not showing tendency to good actions, then this person's declaration of faith is a lie.

This verse is also clearly not saying to do "works of the law of Moses" type of action! It says "action", meaning be a good example of a true Christian: Compassion to the poor, become good hearted, honest, not quick to anger, study the Bible, and keep Jesus' commands.

Also note that James is speaking about the new-covenant after the coming of Jesus. So no need to complicate this by connecting back to Abraham, although there are some similarities.

Jesus said the same thing as James

Matthew 7:16 Jesus:

You will know them by their fruits.

Paul and James are in agreement. They stress different aspects of the same faith message, but nothing contradicting.

So What is the "Fruit"/"Action" Being Produced as a Result of Faith?

The Bible talks about a variety of them. Most notably: Spiritual maturity, increased knowledge of God, love God, love all people, compassion, humbleness, miracles in the name of Jesus.

The flip side of this, is people declaring belief in Jesus and born-again, but behaving otherwise in public. Examples, foul language, making jokes about God/Jesus, laughing along with others who make jokes about God/Jesus, attending questionable public parties even ones that seem normal in today's society but likely detestable to God.

Related Subjects:

By Faith Alone?

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