This topic has been something that has confused many Christians throughout the ages with some leaning on faith alone and others trying to work their way to heaven. Paul talks about the issue of faith and works in his epistle to the Romans as he goes on to state that a person is justified by faith alone. James goes onto bring a contradictory statement in his epistle by stating that faith alone can not save a person but only by faith and works working together.
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14 NKJV).
As much as these two apostles seem to be contradicting each other, they are really complimenting one another by one completing, so to speak, what the other one left out. We are justified by faith alone, by believing in Jesus Christ and being cleansed from our sins, but true salvation does not stop there.
“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” (Romans 4:4).
Simply put Paul shows us that we are justified by believing in Jesus Christ and that we can not work our way into heaven. Many today still predicate their salvation on work alone, or by believing and then going straight into doing a bunch of work out of fear that they might not truly be saved. We can be rest assured that our faith in Jesus Christ has justified us and there is no way working is going to provide salvation.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2).
The thing that James goes on to reveal is that faith without works is dead, not works out of ourselves or fear of making it to heaven, but works by the indwelling guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke of this in John chapter 15 where he states that we are the branches and that if we dwell in Him, then we should be producing fruit for Him. Now this fruit as I said before is not out of our own doing, but rather out of the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.
No matter how much we do, if it is not of the Spirit, it is therefore worthless. This is why it is so important to have a personal relationship with God and to walk and live in His Spirit, which Paul spoke about in his letter to the Galatians. Only by walking and living in the Spirit and by placing our faith in Jesus Christ can we have faith and works work together. Only then can we produce fruit for the Lord and be pruned to produce more and not be cast away as a dead branch. Faith and works work together as we believing in Jesus Christ and are cleansed by His blood, filled with His Spirit and producing fruit by the power and calling of His Spirit being pressed upon our hearts and minds.