Justification by Faith and Works Jas 2:18-26 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
If justification is by faith then what is justification by faith and works in James 2 about? It’s about Tribulation saints.
Christians often use James 2:18-26 to prove that you must do something to show that you are saved and thus justify yourself by works after salvation. They like to quote Jas 2:18-26 to show that if a man is really saved, he will do the “works of salvation” and thus be justified by faith and works. But Jas 2:21-24 is not about Christians being justified by faith and works because it absolutely contradicts Rom 4:2-5.
Jas 2:18-26 definitely professes that a man must have faith and works to be justified, whereas Rom 4:2-5 definitely professes that a man must have faith without works to be justified [compare Gal 5:4]. Therefore, Jas 2 must be written to a different audience than Christians saved in the Church age. And indeed it is. Jas 1:1 says, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” It is written to Jews from the 12 tribes, not to Christians.
In fact, Jas 2:18-26 is written to tribulation saints showing them that they must have faith and works to be saved. We find in Rev 12:17 that the remnant has to “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” That’s faith and works. In Rev 14:12, the saints saved in the tribulation are those who “keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” That’s faith and works, clearly.
You see, tribulation saints cannot be saved and baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ like we can, because the body of Christ [Col 1:18] will have left at the rapture before the tribulation [1 Thes 4:13-18]. They must “endure to the end” [Matt 24:13] in order to be saved. They must not take the mark of the beast, they must not worship the beast or his image, and they must keep the commandments [Matt 24:20; Col 2:16-17; Rev 14:9-11]. If they fail to endure to the end and break one of the above then they wind up in the impossible situation of Heb 6:4-6.
Thus James used Abraham as one type of what the tribulation saints will have to endure in order to finally be justified at the end of the tribulation [Jas 2:21]. Although Abraham believed that God would multiply his seed as the stars of heaven [Gen 15:5-6], God tried him [Gen 22:1; Heb 11:17-19] and justified him when he would have killed Isaac. Abraham believed that God would raise Isaac up after he was killed for a sacrifice. This is exactly what a tribulation saint is going to believe who allows himself to be martyred as a sacrifice for his faith [Rev 2:10; 20:4; 6:9; 17:6; Dan 3:17-18]. He’ll have to believe that God will raise him up [Eze 37:1-14] or else he’ll end up worshipping the beast to save his own neck.
James also used Rahab as a type of what tribulation saints will have to endure [Jas 2:25]. Rahab believed that the Jews would defeat Jericho and so she helped the spies and covenanted to keep their plans secret [Jos 2:12-20]. However, she had to hang a scarlet thread out of the window (picturing the blood of Jesus) and stay inside her house while the walls were tumbling down all around her [Jos 2:15; 6:20-23]. The temptation would have been to run. She stayed and she and all that were in the house with her lived. It’s going to be like this at the second coming of Jesus when the remnant is rescued and they will have to wait for the Lord’s arrival in the midst of the battle [Ps 91:1-8].
There is no way that Jas 2 can be talking about a Christian being justified by doing anything. A Christian puts himself back under a curse if he uses the works of the law to justify himself [Gal 3:10-13]. All he has to do is break any one of the laws and he is guilty of the whole law [Jas 2:10]. Thus, attempting to keep the law could not prove that he was saved, but rather that he was a transgressor [Gal 2:18]. Hence, a Christian is justified by faith in Jesus Christ only and not by anything he does before or after he is saved [Gal 2:16; Rom 3:28].
For the sake of those who now understand, or who already understood, the truth that good works don’t justify you, we’ll close by encouraging you to do good works, nevertheless. Yield to the righteousness of Jesus Christ in you and yield to the work of the Spirit of God and the words of God within you so that they can make you fruitful as you work for the Lord [Titus 2:14]. You won’t be working to prove that you are saved and you won’t be working to be justified, you’ll be working because the Lord will be producing good fruit through you.