Many try to discredit the Bible based on its supposed “contradictions.” But the truth is that God purposely uses such things to confound those who are wise in their own eyes (1Cor.1:27, Luke 10:21). In fact, He gives the proud just enough material in His word for them to build a case with. In other words, they have “just enough rope to hang themselves.”
A great illustration for this point is the seeming contradiction between Apostle Paul and James. In Rom.3:27-28 Paul says, “a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” But James in 2:24 says, “by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” And yet they both mention Abraham to prove their points and both even use the same Greek word for “justified.” However, they don’t use it in the same sense, for they are both addressing two different matters. Paul was addressing work-righteousness and the false belief that one could earn salvation, whereas James was addressing false professions of faith and those who try to use God’s grace as an excuse to sin.
For example, in Rom. 4:3 Paul appeals to Gen. 15:6, where Abraham is “justified” (counted righteous) by simply possessing the gift of faith God had freely given him….BEFORE he had performed any works of obedience. Whereas James in 2:21 appeals to Gen. 22, where Abraham’s faith is “justified” (proved) by being granted the power to exercise it in the offering of Isaac on the altar…… a work he was enabled to perform.…..AFTER he had already been justified by God’s grace.
Did you catch that? Both Paul and James are actually presenting two sides of the same coin. Like all the other supposed “contradictions” in the Bible, they are actually in perfect harmony. Both make it clear that works are not the means of salvation, but the outgrowth of salvation. Likewise, true God-given faith always manifests itself in works of obedience and in the ability to trust Jesus alone for salvation. However, a faith that doesn’t work proves to be the “faith” of devils, for it contains no God-given power to prove its claim. And it can only trust in its own powerless works rather than fully trusting in Jesus alone and His finished work on the cross.
Perhaps this is why James 2 becomes a “noose” for those who want to try to establish their own righteousness. And since they lack the ability to harmonize their case with the rest of Scripture, they often end up trying to prove that Paul was only addressing the Jewish “oral law” rather than God’s law. But ironically, by still subtly trying to establish the principle of law for their justification, they only dig themselves deeper by promoting a “do more, try harder” moralism that makes God’s grace seem like something that just “helps those who help themselves.”
That is not a saving grace, but a fall from grace that makes it look like we have to meet God halfway by somehow contributing to the finished work of Calvary by “cooperating” with His grace, where Jesus just merely “fills the gap.” This version of “grace” is a faulty foundation that’s built upon the sinking sand of humanistic philosophy rather than the solid Rock of Jesus Christ, who actually “fills all things” (Eph.4:10).
So friend, remember God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1Pet.5:5). Repent by turning away from your own futile attempts of trying to justify yourself and put your trust in Jesus alone to save you. For only Jesus’ merits have perfectly satisfied God’s holy law, so that guilty sinners who come to God for mercy can be made righteous through Him.
—Readers with questions or comments are free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org