Here are the most confusing and often misunderstood verses in the Bible regarding Salvation.
James is NOT contradicting Paul or denying "Salvation by Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone".
It is important to notice that James is addressed to "brethren" or "believers" and not to unbelievers. So, James is not saying that we must do good works to earn or keep salvation.
It is possible for a believer who is saved by grace and is on the way to heaven to be carnally minded and be un-fruitful. This person's faith is not alive and active. This person cannot escape the consequences of his/her fruitless life on this earth and the next. Every Christian who is disobedient and unfruitful will be chastened by God in this life. After death, in the judgement seat of Christ for believers, they have to give an account for their wasted life. They will lose their rewards in heaven.
After explaining dead faith, James himself explains that Salvation is by Faith Alone, by using the example of Abraham's faith.
James 2:23 - “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.”
“And they said, Belief on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
This verse is often misunderstood in the sense that if one believes in Jesus, both he and his family will be saved. This is not true. The verse simply says that you and your family should believe in the Lord Jesus to be saved. Each person's faith is independent of others.
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. "
This verse says "work out your salvation", not "work for your salvation". This verse is talking about the good works after Salvation. Please note that it says “your own salvation”. This is not referring to the gift of eternal salvation offered by God. This is about your earthly salvation pointing towards your sanctification and Christlikeness.
Also, fear does not necessarily mean the fear of punishment. It simply means that we must continue in our good works with gratitude and great respect and reverence that the Lord deserves. As Psalm 2:11 says, we can rejoice with trembling. It is impossible to rejoice with the fear of going to Hell.
Psalm 2:11 - Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
All the Bible Verses that are often claimed to support "Salvation by Works" are teaching "Salvation by Grace, through Faith alone". God wants us to be sure of being saved, without which we cannot love Him as He expects us to.
This Post: Most misunderstood Bible Verses
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Faith or Faith Plus Works?
Once Saved, Always Saved?
Why didn't God cancel out sin?
Are all Jews Saved?
The Lord's Supper
Church & Sabbath
Accountability of Believers
White Throne Judgement