This could be the most critical question in Christian theology. It has led to division and disagreements between Christians, Catholics and religions, or cults, who claim to follow Jesus. Are peopled saved by simply believing in Jesus or do they have to earn their salvation by righteous works?
Is salvation by faith or works or both?
In the Bible there are verses that speak about this matter that seem to contradict one another, such as Romans 3:28, 5:1 and Galatians 3:24 with James 2:24. At first there appears to be a disagreement between Paul, who continually proclaims salvation by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), and James, who claims salvation is by faith with works (James 2:17-18). However, James is not disagreeing with Paul at all. Instead he is saying that true faith in Jesus will result in good works in the life of the believer (James 2:20-26). In other words, good works come from people who have real faith and therefore, good works are proof of genuine faith, so if a person has no good works then there is no proof that they are a real believer in Jesus and must not believe (James 2:14, 17, 20, 26).
Paul makes similar statements in his writings. For example, he explains that good traits or "fruits" that true believers should have (Galatians 5:22-23). As a matter of fact Paul states that we are created for good works (Ephesians 2:10), right after saying we are saved by faith alone. So Paul and James are in total agreement. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). James and Paul actually make the same claim, but use different methods. Paul emphasizes that salvation is only obtained by faith while James emphasizes that good works are the inevitable result of genuine faith.
How is salvation not about work when faith is required? Isn't faith a work?
What does it mean that faith without works is dead?
How do man's free will and God's sovereignty work together in salvation?
How can a believer have assurance of salvation?
What is sanctification?
Truth about Salvation