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Does Faith Alone Save? Faith vs Works

This week on the Straight Truth Podcast, Dr. Philpot asks Dr. Caldwell to discuss the relationship between faith and works in the New Testament. There are numerous texts where Paul speaks about justification by faith alone. But then there is James, who writes and says a person is justified by works and not by faith alone, using the same word Paul uses elsewhere in his writings. This presents a complicated situation for interpreters of Scripture, even mature interpreters. How is this not contradictory? How do we work these two things out? How do we understand the relationship between faith and works as they are put forth in the New Testament?

Dr. Caldwell says the answer is we must hear the words of these biblical writers as they are used in their context. Context is the key because the writers can use the identically same words but with slightly different meanings depending on the context. When we think about justification, being declared righteous, it has to do with being justified before God. The very moment when one believes in Jesus as the Son of God, as Lord and Savior, they are declared right with God on the finished work of God’s Son. At the very moment of genuine faith, God imputes Christ’s righteousness to our account on faith alone. Our justification is by faith alone and not based on our works but based on Christ’s finished work. What James is speaking about is something different. He speaks of being declared righteous before men.

So then, let's consider some questions. How does the world know that I’ve been accepted by God, that my sins are forgiven, the righteousness of Christ is now really mine? How does the world know I’m really one of God’s children? The answer is not just based on my faith alone. That is, upon my profession or declaration of faith alone. James speaks of the faith of demons, the realm of the dead, who believe and tremble. So it’s not just by a mere profession of faith that the world knows God has done this in my life. It’s by my works as well. Saving faith is never alone. Genuine saving faith reveals itself in works; it explains our works. But our works don’t supplement our faith; they demonstrate it. They're the practical evidence that the faith we declare is real. True saving faith results in that which is tangible, observable, and lived out in our lives, not just spoken of with our mouths. It always exhibits itself and produces something by virtue of its presence. What saving faith produces is the good works that God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in. This is Paul’s message of Ephesians 2:8-10, which brings together these two ideas of beings saved by faith alone in the finished work of God’s Son, being made new through regeneration, new creatures, and the resulting good works that we WILL walk in. Just as God prepared beforehand our salvation and reconciliation to Him, He also prepared beforehand the good works we would walk in. Justification by faith alone is never divorced from justification by faith and works. Justification before God always results in justification before men, which is able to be witnessed in the good works God prepared beforehand for us to walk in.

That is how we bring these two ideas regarding justification from Paul and James together. They aren’t contradictory at all but rather complementary. Paul reiterates through numerous texts that we are saved by faith in the finished work of Christ alone. James says a declaration of saving faith without works is merely intellectual assent, and it’s not faith at all because even the demons have this kind of faith and shudder. The contrast is between a living faith and a dead faith, a faith existing in the realm of the dead, the faith of demons, compared to a living faith that reflects salvation and exhibits itself in good works. Dr. Philpot points out that James helps us better understand this in the context of his writing by providing examples in the remaining verses of James chapter 2.

About The Straight Truth Podcast

The Straight Truth Podcast: Christian Opinions in an Increasingly Secular World. Join Dr. Richard Caldwell, Dr. Josh Philpot, and their guests as they discuss news events, current affairs, and cultural issues from a Biblical point of view. Find the truth at www.straighttruth.net

The Straight Truth Podcast is a weekly opinion show hosted by Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot. Straight Truth is available as an audio podcast on iTunes or as a video podcast through YouTube or Vimeo.  The duration of the podcast is approximately 10 minutes. We release new episodes every Thursday.

The topics discussed in the Straight Truth Podcast are current events, matters that challenge traditional Christian values, and questions submitted by audience members. Dr. Caldwell, Dr. Philpot, and their guests seek to answer these questions with Biblical truths and from a Christian conservative point of view. The Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God; it alone is and will be the basis and authority of
answering any and all questions.

The Straight Truth Podcast is the perfect podcast for those seeking to strengthen their faith, to be informed on how to broach difficult topics with a Christian point of view, to share their faith with unbelieving friends, to challenge the status quo of their own beliefs by viewing them under the lens of the Scriptures, to interpret current news events from a Biblical point of view, and more.

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Season 28 Credits

Produced by
Juan Carlos Claveria

Executive Producers
Joshua Philpot
David Anders

Hosted by
Joshua Philpot

Social Media Descriptions by
Michele Watson

Graphic Design
David Navejas

DP / EDITING / COLOR
JUAN CARLOS CLAVERIA

SPECIAL THANKS TO THE
FOUNDERS BAPTIST CHURCH
MEDIA TEAM VOLUNTEERS

Special Thanks to
El Centro Network

Music by
LynneMusic

Motion Graphics
The Media Stock

Set Decorator
Molly Atchison

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