How do we reconcile sola fidei—by faith alone, with James 2: 4, which reads:
You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”?
Well, in a word, you don’t. It is just as simple as that!
One is Scripture, which we know is God’s word; whereas the other is the word of man—primarily a catch phrase developed during the Protestant Reformation, a kind of shibboleth used to check and see if all we Protestants were on the same page.
Now it is true that “the just shall live by faith (Hebrews 10:38); that we cannot deny. However, that is just the point! Sola fidei denies the very definition of what faith is. Faith is not just wishful thinking. Faith is not just a mental assent to the facts of theology, or one’s sectarian agenda, religious or otherwise.
Faith has substance that is sufficient enough to standup in court as evidence. “Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Faith may include “assurance,” it may include “confidence” or “being sure of something”; but none of these alone is really faith. Faith is a substance; something you can see, feel, sense, and touch—it is real. There’s evidence in faith. It does not stand alone as some kind of mental exercise.
Now, I know that some will get all bent out of shape when they read what I have just said, but hang in here, there’s more to come.
For faith to have any meaning at all, two things are necessary—they are, someone to exercise that faith, and the substance of that faith to be evident. The devils believed and trembled, the Scripture says; however, they were faithless—in other words, their behavior belied them.
So, do we admit that one’s behavior is the evidence of one’s faith? Faith, as I have said, does not stand alone. Works follows as proof of that substance. It’s kind of like love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other. Well, not really, because I know many married folks that aren’t really all that much in love. But, that’s just the point. The only proof that you have that they are a happily married couple is that they show it. The word “love” is just a lot of hot air, otherwise.
The same with faith. The word faith can be, and often is just a lot of hot air. Real faith has legs. You can see it in action. Yes, you can see, feel, sense and touch it—it’s real.
Faith can never stand alone, no not ever, and since God in His wisdom knew that, He sent His Son, in the flesh so that He could be seen, felt, sensed, and touched! Yes, He is the substance, and evidence all wrapped up in one.
What a marvelous gift faith is!
I am sure you have heard the old saying that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof.” Well, so is faith. So, along with the psalmist, may I invite all those that will to come—
“Taste and see that the LORD is good; and blessed are those who takes refuge in him (Psalm 34:8)”?
Just remember, we are not on this journey alone. He walks beside us.