Justified by Works

Justified by WorksText: James 2:21-24

James wrote about the connection between FAITH and WORKS. Many have difficulty understanding this – not that it’s difficult, but because they have been taught differently. James used the example of Abraham to show how we can be justified by works.

Alleged Contradiction

  • Paul – “man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:28; cf. 4:1-2)
  • James – “man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24)

Harmonizing These Passages

  • Key verse – “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6); quoted by Paul (Romans 4:3) and James (James 2:23); they were talking about the same thing
  • Paul was not talking about just any works – works of the Law of Moses (Romans 3:28-29; 4:9-13); he did not discount/discourage all works (Romans 1:5; 6:18)
  • James was not talking about the same works that Paul was (James 2:21) – this example of Abraham occurred before the Law was given; like Paul, James was talking about the “obedience of faith” (cf. Romans 1:5; 16:26)

Faith Alone Is Not Enough

  • We are not justified by faith alone (James 2:24) – many religious people believe otherwise; they take passages that mention faith and insert the word only/alone (cf. Romans 5:1); we need to be concerned with ALL that the Bible says (Psalm 119:160)
  • Faith without works is dead (James 2:17, 26) – words without actions are meaningless (James 2:14-17); there is a clear difference between a living person and a dead person, just as it is with faith (James 2:26)
  • Even the demons believe (James 2:19) – yet they are not righteous or the friend of God (James 2:23); not only do they believe, they also fear God (cf. Matthew 8:28-32); yet the demons do not obey Him; therefore, they are not justified (James 2:24)

Faith Is Perfected by Works

  • Faith works with one’s works (James 2:22) – causes faith to be perfected (complete)
  • We show our faith by our works (James 2:18) – no other way to prove it; anyone can claim to have faith (cf. Proverbs 20:6); it is very different to show our faith through works
  • Faith causes one to obey God like Abraham did – even when it requires a tremendous sacrifice (James 2:21; Genesis 22:1-3); even when we do not understand why God gave the command (Hebrews 11:17-19)
  • Works by themselves do not justify (James 2:24) – must be rooted in faith; we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1) which must be an obedient faith (Romans 1:5; James 2:24); we are to obey from the heart (Romans 6:17) and not merely give “external service” (cf. Colossians 3:22-23)


  • Abraham was “justified by works” (James 2:21) – not works that were done according to the Old Law (Romans 3:28-29); by works that constituted the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5)
  • The “obedience of faith” is outlined in the book of Romans – we must believe (Romans 1:16), repent (Romans 6:11-13), confess (Romans 10:9-10), be baptized (Romans 6:3-4), and live faithfully (Romans 12:1-2)
  • If we will do these things, we will be “justified by works” (James 2:24)

When you subscribe, you’ll also receive 3 free PDF’s: Plain Bible Teaching on Hope, the latest issue of Plain Bible Teaching Quarterly Review, and Road Trip.