Reflection: These verses (and the ones that follow them) are controversial because some have read them to contradict the apostle Paul’s insistence that we are saved by grace through faith and not through works. It is a fair concern but misplaced. The two were simply emphasising different sides of the same message and for different audiences. Paul focused on the truth of salvation coming through faith in Jesus and not the Jewish Law. But he always expected that faith to be expressed in deeds of love. James uses Abraham as an example of having faith that was not only about conviction and belief, but commitment to action. As biblical scholar J. I. Packer writes, “The truth is that, though we are justified by faith alone, the faith that justifies is never alone.” Deeds of love naturally flow out of the heart that has grasped what a gift new birth from God truly is (1:18).
Question: Why are Paul’s teaching about “justification through faith” and James’ emphasis on “faith in action” both helpful and necessary instructions for living the Christian life?
Prayer: Father, thank you for the new birth you have gifted me through your grace. Help me to respond to that gift with merciful deeds and acts of love. Amen.