The Harmony of Justification and Sanctification
by Jaymark Molo
Is there a contradiction between the teaching of Paul and James?
There is a seemingly contradiction between Galatians 2:16 and James 2:16. In Paul’s statement a man is “justified by faith and apart from works” and the teaching of James that “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” However, these two positions are actually complementary to each other. Here are the reasons why:
1. Both books are inspired, but addressing different situations. Paul and James addressed different situations. On one hand, Paul refuted a Jewish legalism holding that one must observe the law’s requirements in order to be saved. On the other hand, James opposed an antinomianism (a view that Christians are released by grace from the obligation of observing the moral law) that was twisting faith in Christ so much that no expression of obedience in necessary.
2. Same terms, but different in usage. When Paul used the word “justified,” he meant “imputed” or “declared righteous,” whereas James meant “vindicated” or “authenticated.” By “works” Paul meant “works of the law,” whereas James meant “works that faith” produces. Thus, Paul stressed justification, whereas James stressed sanctification.
3. The harmonius relationship of faith and works. “The book of Seventh-day Adventist Belief (Law of God #19) is apropos here: “Salvation is all of grace and not of works, but its fruitage is obedience to the Commandments. This obedience develops Christian character and results in a sense of well-being. It is an evidence of our love for the Lord and our concern for our fellow men. The obedience of faith demonstrates the power of Christ to transform lives, and therefore strengthens Christian witness.” There never was a time in the plan of God when salvation was produced by human effort or works. We can’t just save ourselves. But, while works are not means of salvation; good works are inevitable result of salvation. Ellen White expressed this truth clearly: “While good works will not save even one soul, yet it is impossible for even one soul to be saved without good works” (1SM 377, emphasis added). One must also remember that these good works are only possible through the inwrought of the Holy Spirit. We must, therefore, abide in Christ to bear fruit.
Thus, we can reasonably conclude that there is no contradiction between the two said inspired writers but harmonious teaching between justification by faith alone and sanctification authenticated by works.