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Justification by Faith Alone?


the following email was sent to me a couple of weeks ago by Patrick Navas, author of Divine Truth or Human Tradition? and recent guest on Truth Matters, in which he discussed the issue of justification by faith alone. I thought his way of harmonizing Paul and James was helpful.

Hello Everyone,

Recently I had an email discussion with an evangelical friend on the subject of the doctrine of “justification by faith alone.” Can you read my short response to him and offer some feedback from your perspective?


This is the original question to my friend:

I’ve always wondered, since the language/formula “justification by faith alone” is not found in Scripture, yet the following language/formula is:

“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24, ESV)

…why do Protestants place so much emphasis on the doctrine/language of “faith alone” when the language does not appear in the Bible and the disciple James appears to say the oppossite?–actually, in terms of language, he explicitly does state the opposite.


In my latest email, I wrote:

Thank you for the feedback as it relates to your understanding of the Protestant doctrine of “justification by faith alone.” As far as James’ reference to “justification by works” meaning “justification before men (and not God),” I’ll honestly have to ponder that one more and read the verse in context again, to see if your interpretation makes sense to me.

I have always reconciled James 2:24 and the Pauline statements about “faith” and “works” in Romans 4:5 and other texts in the following way:

Notice that in Romans 3:28 (the discussion leading up to the statement in Rom 4:5) Paul says, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (emphasis added, compare Galatians 2:16; 3:2, 5).

What I mean is, as far as I understand things, when Paul emphasizes the principle of justification by “faith” and not by “works,” it seems to me that he specifically has the “works” of the Mosaic “law” in mind, perhaps even in other instances when he does not qualify the word “works” as “works of the law.” In fact, Paul’s whole discussion about Abraham’s justification before God has to do with the fact that the law was given hundreds of years after Abraham’s time, in order to prove that the works of the law are not what brings about a man’s justification before God (Rom. 3). Since Abraham obeyed God’s voice in faith (completely independent of the ‘works’ of the Mosaic law which came later), he was declared righteous in God’ sight and became God’s friend as a result. This sets the pattern for all those who will be declared righteous in God’s sight, namely, those who, like Abraham, lived by “faith.”

However, when James says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone,” he is not contradicting Paul because he does not mean “justified by works [of the law]” but “justified by works [that spring from genuine faith].” In other words, James agrees with Paul that men are justified by “faith.” But our “faith” must be a living faith that expresses itself through obedience and love (Galatians 5:6), as in the case Abraham, the “father of all those having faith” (Romans 4:11). As James points out in reference to him: “You see that faith was active along with [Abraham’s] works, and faith was completed by his works” (James 2:22)—but, again, completed not by “works of the law” but by the “works” or “deeds” that are the inevitable expression of true “faith.”

By understanding things this way, it does not mean I am advocating a “works-based salvation,” as if I thought that I could somehow “earn” my way into God’s favor—realizing, of course, how unworthy and sinful I am before God. But, in terms of my own approach to Christianity generally speaking, I choose to refrain from promoting official “doctrinal statements,” “mantras” (‘faith alone’) or “catch phrases” that aren’t present in Scripture in the Scripture’s own language.

What I mean is, you could say that, as a rule of mine, I limit my official “doctrines” to the ones that are already official formulated in Scripture. For example, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law” perfectly captures my view of faith and law. Yet I would also officially say, with James, that “faith without works is dead.” …

I hope this makes sense.

Best wishes,
Patrick Navas

32 Responses to “Justification by Faith Alone?”

  1. on 20 Aug 2009 at 7:25 pmrobert

    could these be the works James speaks of.
    the same works that pleased God so much that he made Laws from them to rule the Nation of Israel when it was a nation.
    these can be the only works that were before ordained by God for us to walk in.
    Btw it was the works that showed God that Abraham had Faith and it is our works that show our Faith.
    the only difference between a law and works is the punishment for not following them

    Ephesians 2:10

    For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them

  2. on 20 Aug 2009 at 9:46 pmRay

    Thank you Sean. This is a helful article and it seems to me to be a good explaination of different works.

    As a matter of fact, Rahab the harlot didn’t have a list of things to do that the law told her to do and find herself busying herself by
    those in order to obtain deliverance from the city she was in which
    was about to be destroyed by the power of God.

    What she did instead was put out the scrarlet thread after she helped the spys and called upon them for her help after she
    helped them.

    What if she wouldn’t have put out the scarlet thread? What if she would have said to herself, “Well, I’ve been a good follower of God
    and he knows my heart. He knows all my works, etc… so I don’t
    think I have to put out that thread. ” ?

    She by faith came into the agreement and received her freedom
    from pending doom by the works that came of her faith which she
    had which gave evidence to her living faith in God.

    She was not saved from this disaster by checking the commandments of God with a pen, going down the list, saying “I did that one, I did this one…”

    Faith always seems to be put to the test. The test tells whether it
    is real or not. The works seem to tell what the faith was. We can not attain to salvation by works, but our works will give evidence to
    either the absense or presence of our faith. Faith must come first
    even without the works, but works must come after the faith.

    Our works will tell on us. They will testify as to our faith.

  3. on 20 Aug 2009 at 10:33 pmrobert

    For the last time Ray
    No one is claiming that you are saved by works, if it was that then just who would you be saved by.
    Faith that GOD will save those who walk in His ways( his commandments whether they just be go to a strange land or offer up your son in sacrafice or any one of the commandments he gave men to live by) because Grace is giving by a God who only Gives Just things for Man to follow.
    those who love God will do His Commandments
    those whose faith is misplaced in things of this earth have no works because they claim them unnecessary

  4. on 21 Aug 2009 at 6:18 pmRay

    What is a spirit of condemnation? What might it look like?
    Where does it come from? What kind of work might it do?

  5. on 21 Aug 2009 at 6:35 pmrobert

    Gee Ray
    if i was to guess it a condemnation of a spirit. it looks the opposite of a spirit of sanctification. it comes from the condemnation store. and this i am certain of, its work is to condemn.
    was this helpful?

  6. on 22 Aug 2009 at 12:54 amRay

    What spirit might it be condemning?

  7. on 22 Aug 2009 at 10:06 amrobert

    i have never heard of a spirit of condemnation.
    Just as darkness is the absence of light and cold is the absence of heat.neither darkness or cold actually exist .condemnation is just the absence of sanctification.
    so without sanctification we are all condemned

  8. on 22 Aug 2009 at 10:25 amRay

    Condemnation is of the devil. It’s an evil spirit that does it’s work
    to destroy that which is good. It’s against the will of God, his
    purposes in Christ Jesus. It’s a weapon of the enemy and those who employ it will be used by the enemy for evil. It is against the
    sanctification of God in Christ Jesus.

    There are also evil spirits connected with the philosophy of this world.

    Colossians 2:8
    Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit,
    after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not
    after Christ.

    It is written:
    While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

    There is darkness without light and cold without heat. – Romans 1:20.

  9. on 22 Aug 2009 at 10:44 amrobert

    “There is darkness without light and cold without heat. – Romans 1:20.”
    No Cold and Darkness Just describe the lack of.
    the is no spirit of Condemnation just one that works to take away our sanctification if you have received any you have worked for

  10. on 22 Aug 2009 at 12:15 pmRay

    If there is no spirit of condemnation as you say, how could there be
    one that works to take away one’s sanctification?

    Sinners want to take away what is, even the devil, so that they
    may continue on in darkness.

  11. on 17 Sep 2009 at 10:49 pmrobert

    The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.

  12. on 18 Sep 2009 at 1:29 pmrobert

    what does it mean to follow Christ?
    Who’s will would you be folowing,Yours,Jesus or Gods?
    the answer as told to us by Jesus it is God’s Will.
    it is Gods will that we love Him with all of our heart and mind.
    it is also Gods will that we love all that God created.
    Jesus loved both, so to follow him would mean we would do the same.
    the only way to do both is to follow the morals God set for mankind.
    Jesus did this and so did all that followed him.
    Jesus and those that followed Him knew that God was offering salvation to all men even those not joined to the Israelites even to those who never even heard of God to which none had earned it. this wasnt something new, the Israelites and those that left Egypt with them had heard God from His own Lips speak this very same thing but the means for this Grace for the blessing to the whole earth had not came yet to be. this offer was only to people which heard God speak this offer and then was offered to Israel, those joined to them and the decendents of both. to accept this offer of grace they had to have Faith that there was only ONE God and Gods Morals were Just and Holy. this is a seperate offer than the possesion of land which God set punishments for the unmoral which included a capital punishment, or a alienating of the unmoral. this was the inheriting of the land not the kingdom which the offer of grace was based on.
    Israel was just a shadow of the Kingdom of God but the same Morals apply to the inheritance of both. there were certain instructions giving to Israel that were shadows of instructions for the Kingdom of God. the first instruction was for a mediator between God and man. this was the instuction for the high priest which was just a shadow of Jesus being that mediator. the second was the priesthood who would teach the Word of God to the generations to come which was just a shadow of the Word being written in our Hearts and Minds not needing to be taught by a man because the Holy Spirit would put it there which was the Word becoming Flesh. the third was the Gods house where all the Holy things were kept which was a shadow of Gods throne. the fourth was the sacrafice for sin which from the beginning was a shadow of the Lamb of God becoming the sacrafice for all mankind. the things that were shadows of things in the First covenant were fulfilled by the things that cast that shadow in second. Gods Morals were never shadows of anything to come, they were a shadow of God Himself.
    Jesus lived in Gods shadow by doing as God would if he was with us. His Disciples did the same by following Jesus’ example.
    To truly Love God you must love everything God Loves.
    Grace will only be made Salvation to those that Love GOD and GODS Ways.

  13. on 18 Sep 2009 at 7:02 pmRay

    The scriptures are clear on the matter of justification. Only the doers of the word shall be justified and that without the works of the law. They will be justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, not of works lest any man should boast. Only the doers of the word find this grace in Christ Jesus.

  14. on 18 Sep 2009 at 7:51 pmrobert

    where is the grace for these who didnt follow Gods morals

    1 Corinthians 6:9
    Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

    Galatians 5:21
    Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
    Ephesians 5:5
    For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

    where is the grace for these of professed faith would practice lawlessness.

    either salvation is different than entering the Kingdom of God or you just dont understand what grace is or know what faith is.

    Grace is just the offer of Salvation to all the people if they have Live Faith which is loving God. those who love God will do His commandments, those who dont love God will forsake His commandments and in no like way will enter into the Kingdom of God.

  15. on 18 Sep 2009 at 7:53 pmrobert

    where is the grace for these of professed faith would practice lawlessness.

    21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

  16. on 18 Sep 2009 at 8:17 pmrobert

    “Only the doers of the word find this grace in Christ Jesus”

    Lets let God clarify this for you. the Word of God is the Law

    Romans 2:13
    (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

  17. on 19 Sep 2009 at 4:34 pmRay

    The word of God is greater than the law. The law was only a part of the word of God given to those who were of Abraham during a certain part of the history of the scripture that we read.

    Robert, you ask, “Where is the grace for those who practice sin?”

    It’s in Jesus were all of us find it. It’s the same grace for all. His grace is for sinners. It’s not given to them so they may practice sin,
    but rather to deliver them out of it, something the law could not do.

  18. on 19 Sep 2009 at 5:32 pmrobert

    “It’s not given to them so they may practice sin,
    but rather to deliver them out of it.”

    the law just identifies sin.
    so how can a professed christian like yourself continue to sin if you are are saved and no longer sin.
    you dont need the law if you are not a sinner because you dont have any sin to identify

    Yes every word God has spoken is His law.
    you confuse certain laws with Gods Moral laws. some laws were just shadows of things to come,the others still identify God’s children

    what you believe contradicts both old and new testaments which is what satan loves.

    Grace is not a guaranty for salvation, it just an offer that has to be accepted and the conditions of being a child of God then has to be met.

  19. on 19 Sep 2009 at 6:45 pmRay

    Because I have come to Christ, how shall I live any more in the bondage of sin? To be taken in again to the house of Adam the First, though he promise me a “good living”, even “freedom” to
    do whatever I could want, would not he be lying to me, for what
    good is a life of condemnation because of sin? To live in sin is to
    earn the wages of death. Can a man partake of those wages and
    live well? Though Adam the First might claim to take me in as a son
    forever, wouldn’t he sell me for a slave? Wouldn’t he deliver me into chains of darkness to be reserved for the day of judgment?
    Though he might make the claim that I could live as well as any in his house and live as long as he himself would endure, what kind of life would it really be? Besides all that, think about how soon it
    would end.

    Not only these things should I think about, but what about facing
    the Judge Of All Things, and standing before the lake of eternal fire?

  20. on 19 Sep 2009 at 7:39 pmrobert

    the only way you can live in the bondage of sin is if you continue in sin. Ignorance to the laws of God is not an excuse to sin because a real christian knows and will try with all their heart to follow the morals God gave us in the law. also a real christian will do the things that God has blessed because they love Him.
    you speak of Judgement by the Judge of all things, just what do you think he will judge you from. If salvation is by grace than there will be no judgement. if salvation is by confessing faith then there is no judgement.
    anyone can confess faith, even liars but to follow Gods laws by faith can only be done by one of Gods children. but know that God without Grace could still send you to Damnation. thank God for this chance called grace and dont deny the chance to be one of Gods children and Jesus’ brother

  21. on 19 Sep 2009 at 9:06 pmRay

    We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give account of what we have done with his word and his name. We must all appear before God. In that day, will what we say count as
    right and true by him? Will it be acceptable to him in that day?

  22. on 19 Sep 2009 at 9:32 pmrobert

    when you stand before Jesus
    if you dont repent sometime in your life than after you give your account He will say depart from me you who practices lawlessness.

    when you stand before God
    if you dont repent sometime in your life than when God opens the Book of Life your name will be nowhere to be found and then God will cast you into the lake of fire.

    Sin no more Ray is what Jesus preached
    not sin no more or sin no less.

    those who love Jesus love God and will do His Fathers Commandments

  23. on 19 Sep 2009 at 11:57 pmRay

    At that time that we stand before God what we have done will show in that present time, for what a man has sown will be shown.
    What we haven’t repented of in the past will be in our future. Therefore the time of salvation is now.

  24. on 20 Sep 2009 at 10:30 amRay

    O what light I find each day
    As I travel on my way
    When the Bible I begin to read
    And as I read I pray
    That his comfort to me stay
    As a testimony for my feet
    For he said he’d never leave
    Tho’ trouble cause me grief
    In Jesus, God will always keep
    Take a little bread today
    Keep it at your heart to stay
    Give you rest that you need not sleep
    Spirit do on me abide
    Living light I can not hide
    For I know Jesus is the bread I need

  25. on 20 Sep 2009 at 12:39 pmrobert

    you do understand that repent means to cease doing it. if you wilfully keep sinning then you become an enemy of God and will receive the wrath of God’s adversaries. you better pray that you havent already received the knowledge of the truth because if you forsake it there is no more sacrifice for your sins.

    Hebrews 10
    26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

    Jesus’ yoke was easy because he knew his fleshy life was just a step toward the Kingdom which if he just followed the will(commandments) of God He would become the First and the Greatest to enter it

  26. on 20 Sep 2009 at 5:33 pmRay

    I wasn’t aware that I am worthy of rebuke.

  27. on 20 Sep 2009 at 5:44 pmrobert

    only you would know if you received the truth of knowledge yet, if you had and now deny the truth then no you are not worthy of rebuke.
    I rather doubt you have.
    I rather doubt anyone of this age has
    I rather doubt I have but i am working toward receiving it by believing God instead of man.

    i would say that would be good news.

  28. on 27 Sep 2009 at 10:24 amBarb

    Re: James 2:24 – James has instructions for all believers, but it is plainly addressed to the 12 tribes, born-again Jews, who were fighting amongst themselves, each looking for personal gain instead of loving each other.

    I’ve been searching the scriptures regarding James 2:24. Below is a portion of my notes:

    We are justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. — Romans 3:24, without the deeds (works) of the law. – Romans 3:28.

    James, however, also points out that the redeemed are to be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving themselves – James 1:22.

    James goes on to question if the believers see how faith was working with Abraham’s works (deeds) and by his works was his faith made complete – James 2:22

    Paul also mentions the faith of Abraham when he (Abraham) offered up his only begotten son, reasoning that God was able to raise Isaac up even out from among the dead –Hebrews 11:17, 19. (There is much more to this than I’m going into.)

    It is recorded in Genesis that Abraham did a deed that God told him to – Genesis 22:1-4.

    Pay attention to verse 5 (this is the part that Paul mentions in Hebrews 11:19): And Abraham said to his young men, “Abide you here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and (I and the lad) will come again to you.

    Abraham was taking Isaac to sacrifice (kill) him for God, but he just told the men with them that he and Isaac would be back!

    Because Abraham willfully carried out the performance of this deed that God told him to do, with faith (trust) in God versus trusting in his own fleshly desires, God blessed Abraham and his seed– Genesis 22:15-17.

    God not only blessed Abraham, but also the nations of the earth because Abraham faithfully obeyed God’s word – Genesis 22:18.

    1) Our undeserved justification, righteousness, and salvation are not obtained through works of the Levitical law – Romans 4:13 but through what Christ accomplished – Acts 2:22-39. Christ fulfilled all the law in one statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” – Galatians 5:14. Being then made free from sin – Romans 6:1-14 (after we’ve done Romans 10:9-10), we are to

    2) become the servants of righteousness – Romans 6:15-18. This is righteous works after salvation. What is this righteous works?

    You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

    Can you see how faith is made perfect when that faith is worked with self-sacrificing righteous works (by being a doer of the word – James 1:22); And, can you see then how that by works a man is justified (shown to be just, right, or reasonable), and not by faith only (James 2:24), James asks.

    Read also Galatians 5:13-6:10.

  29. on 29 Dec 2009 at 3:31 pmrobert


  30. on 29 Dec 2009 at 9:52 pmRay

    There have been times in my life when I had nothing but the blood of Christ to lean on, and I found justification that way. There was nothing else that could save me. There was no way out other than
    the blood of Jesus to cover me. So I learned a little bit about justification by faith. Faith comes first. Then there is a trial of faith.
    Then there is an overcoming by both faith and the blood.

    Our righteousness which is a gift of God by grace will be put to the test won’t it? That righteousness is not our own (of ourselves) but is the gift of God. It’s the righteousness that Jesus imparts to us.
    Faith came as a gift, a natural response to hearing the word which was freely given to us by God. God gave me the ability to respond to his word. I could not do it without his permission and favor. God builds my faith, …or is it that he builds me up in it?

  31. on 10 Apr 2016 at 7:29 pmAndy

    I was born with a sinful heart and am still hounded by it. Praise God for His spirit that indwells me now, giving me grace for when I fall and strengthening me so I can resist the flesh. I am justified and in the process of being sanctified.

  32. on 18 Apr 2016 at 5:04 amTimoteo


    One is born again with five sonship rights from the get go.

    1) Redeemed

    2) Sanctified

    3) Justified

    4) Righteous

    5) Ministry of Reconciliation


    Ezekiel 36: kjv
    26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.


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