“….we read a good amount of Romans. We ended up discussing how we are saved by faith alone, but I couldn’t help but disagree. James 2:24 clearly says we are not saved by works alone, and Matthew 7:21 says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kindgom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”. Ephesians 2:8-10 also addresses two different kind of works, and I also heard somewhere that “Faith must Act or it isn’t Faith”.
I don’t know if there are any contradictions in the Bible, but clearly there’s something going on with Romans and James. Am I missing something here? To be honest I don’t like questioning the Bible, but I don’t think that we are saved by faith alone. If you can help me out with this in anyway I would greatly appreciate it. I know you’re the one person I can count on for this kind of stuff!!!”
Let’s take a look at your questions:
1. Are there contridictions in the Bible?
Thank you for the opportunity to look into the Scriptures. First, I have to say that I believe that there are no contridictions in Scripture. I believe that all Scripture is reconciled, meaning that we must look at the whole of Scripture, not simply verses out of context. Additionally, I believe that we must always look at the context of Scripture (the story each verse is in, the reason it was being written, cultural, historical, and often the textual context, among other things), especially when we feel there is a contridiction or problem. We must also always be prepared to look behind the english translation and look at the original language. The meanings of words in English change over time, there is often not a word for word equivalent when translating, and words are often traslated based on the lens of the translator. Additionally, I believe that we must accept a certain level of God’s mystery at times.
I must say this though…..you are doing what Jesus said to do in Matthew 7:
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened.
2. Are we saved by faith alone?
The Apostle Paul tells us that we are saved by faith alone, not by works, not by obeying “the Law” . In religious terms, this is called justification . I prefer to speak in relational terms. To be a part of God’s family, to be with Him for eternity, we must simply choose to. There is nothing we can do to earn our place in God’s family other than to choose to be there. Jesus is God in the flesh. When we choose to believe in Him and follow Him…..we are a part of God’s family.
For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from observing the law.
know that a person is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Now, let’s take a look at the Greek word here translated as “faith”. This is the word “pistis“. Pistis means more than simple belief. It encompasses having a trust as well as a conviction of the truth of something.
Often, I believe that people read to easily into the word “faith” in Jesus and understand only “belief in the existence of” Jesus. What the apostles understood, what James, the brother of Jesus, understood was not only the belief in the existence of Jesus (hello….think about it…that would be easy for them)……but they trusted IN Him, in His wisdom and His words. They maintained a conviction that the wisdom Jesus shared with them was truth….in fact they believed this enough to die for it.
You see that people are justified by what they do and not by faith alone.
Okay……this looks like a huge and glaring contridiction, right? Let’s look at what’s missing here…the context.
The first thing we should look at is the writers intent and audience. Paul, who wrote the book of Romans, was speaking to a group of Christ followers that believed that in order to be a Christ follower, a person must follow the Law from the Old Testament–specifically, circumcision, Jewish ceromonial laws and dietary laws. They were promoting the belief that these things must be followed in order to attain salvation . Additionally, Paul was speaking about Christians at the very beginning of their journey—at conversion. He was saying that no one can ever earn God’s forgiveness and salvation . It can only be accepted.
James, the half brother of Jesus, James was responding to those who believed that mere intellectual agreement or belief in Jesus was enough to obtain salvation . James was speaking to professing believer’s, people who had already accepted God’s forgiveness and salvation. James was explaining that as believer’s and followers of Jesus, we must live a new life. We are not saved by good works, but for good works. James’s point was not that works must be added to faith, but that genuine faith includes works.
In religous terms, this is called sanctification
I prefer to speak in relational terms I believe in Jesus and want to apply His wisdom in my life. I want to do my best to be like Him…to walk in the dust of the rabbi!
At this point, let’s look at the immediate context of James 2:24.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that people are justified by what they do and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
In a nutshell, Paul emphasized the purpose of faith—to bring salvation . James emphasized the results of faith—a changed life.
You also mentioned Ephesians 2:8-10. Of course, this letter to the church at Ephesus was also written by the Apostle Paul.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Again, Paul is saying that no one can ever earn God’s forgiveness and salvation. It can only be accepted. However, here, he points out, like James, that the fruit of our faith is works…..works are the action that results from our trust and belief in the wisdom of Jesus.
The bottom line, I believe, is that if we say we belive in Jesus….but we don’t show through our actions that we belive….then we probably don’t truly believe…maybe we just find it more convenient to belive? I recognize that I must temper this belief with knowing that following Jesus is a relational process of belief, trust and then living the truth of Jesus.
The next verse, I believe, is saying that only those who truly have faith through a relationship with God will enter the kingdom of heaven, which, I belive is clearly in Scripture not only a place that we go when we die, but is right here among us. All we have to do is accept Jesus as king in our lives. In othe words, Jesus is saying that simple lip service just plain won’t do!
3. Is it okay to question the Bible?
I believe that it is very healthy to question things as long as we are willing to ask, seek, and knock. “Ask” is not only asking God’s guidance but the guidance of others. “Seeking” is digging a little, looking for the answer. And “knocking”……well….when we do these things in the spirit of seeking truth….we are promised that the door will be opened. i always say it is about respectful conversation rather than already knowing the answer.