“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..” – Romans 5:2 (NASB)
“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” – James 2:24-26 (NASB)
I asked a friend that knows Greek to look at those verses in the original Greek texts, and he said that Paul and James both use the same word for “faith” (Greek: “episteme”). Because Scripture can not contradict itself on matters of faith and morals (and because of the additional evidence presented below), Paul and James must both be correct and must both be advocating the same thing. Paul never advocated sola fide (faith alone). Both Paul and James recognized the importance of works.
But how can that be? Paul talks about faith a lot, while simultaneously denouncing the Law.
“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” – Romans 3:28 (NASB)
Here is an explanation of the context of that verse from Catholic Answers:
So what about the fact that Paul also said we are “justified by faith apart from works of law?” He was writing to a church in Rome struggling with a very prominent first-century heretical sect known today as the “Judaizers.” These heretics taught that belief in Christ and obedience to the New Covenant was not enough to be saved. A man also had to keep the Mosaic Law (which, according to Hebrews 7:11-12, has been superseded in Christ) and be circumcised in order to be saved (cf. Acts 15:1-2). Paul gave us one clue—among many—that he had this sect in mind when he wrote in Romans 2:28-29, “For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal . . . ” Paul told us in Colossians 2:11-12 that this true “circumcision of Christ” is baptism.
It is in this context that Paul says we are “justified by faith apart from works of law.” He did not in any sense say that works are unnecessary. He specified works of law because these were the works without which the Judaizers were claiming one “cannot be saved.”
My problem with the belief that faith alone is sufficient for salvation is that it frequently encourages people to, to quote Martin Luther, “sin boldly.” That is hardly in keeping with the teachings of Christ and His Apostles.
There is plenty of evidence in the Bible that works are important. Here are some verses from Paul’s writings:
“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.” – Romans 2:5-8 (NASB)
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” – Galatians 6:7-9 (NASB)
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:12-13 (NASB)
“Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” – 1 Corinthians 7:19 (NASB)
Faith AND good works are necessary for salvation, but always remember that it is because of God’s grace that we are able to have both.