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James 2:24

ESV You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
NIV You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
NASB You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
CSB You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
NLT So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
KJV Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
NKJV You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

What does James 2:24 mean?

James continues to make the case that those who truly trust in God naturally end up participating in good works. As James showed in prior verses, no one can be saved by good works. Works are not required for salvation—they are a "symptom" of saving faith. In verse 22, he used the Greek word eteleiōthē to explain good works as the "completion," or the natural end result, of saving faith. James is urgently making the case that all those who are saved through faith by God's grace will participate in good works.

It is in that spirit that James writes that a person is "justified" by works and not by faith alone. In verse 21, James used the concept of "justification," which some see as a contradiction to Paul's use of "justification" in passages such as Romans 4. Here, it is common for a reader to assume a contradiction with Romans 3:28: "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law."

It's important to remember two things, however. First, James is not claiming works are required for salvation. His entire argument has been about what kind of faith actually saves. He is on the attack against the attitude that one can be saved by a faith that has no works. He has stated repeatedly that such a faith is dead, useless. He is not saying that faith is not the means through which we receive God's grace; he is saying that a so-called-"faith" which results in no actions is not a genuine faith. A "works-less" faith cannot justify anyone.

The other thing that is important to remember is this: James has been consistent in upholding faith as necessary for salvation. This includes his quote in verse 23 that Abraham was counted as righteous for believing God.

Context is the key to all Bible study, and especially for resolving apparent contradictions. In Paul's writings, it is clear he is describing "justification" in the sense of salvation: being declared righteous by God. James, according to this context, is referring to "justification" in the sense of proof for human beings. Faith saves, says James, but "saving faith" cannot be a mere intellectual opinion, which produces no resulting actions.
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