But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe– and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.
–James 2:18-26 (NRSV)
Note that the NIV comes pretty close to the NRSV here but instead of works reads deeds. I actually think the word deeds comes closer to the sense of this passage. But by keeping works we retain the echoes of Paul. James I feel is railing against an overly simplified interpretation of Paul and keeping that active in our minds as we read can be helpful. The NIV readership, like my IVCF friend, is committed to justification by faith not works, even as they turn belief into another work. So NIV’s deeds helps make the lesson go down better for them.
Paul I think was a mixed blessing for our faith. He certainly was successful in his missionary activities. But the so-called catholic epistles are a bit testy about him. There’s James here. Then there’s 2 Peter:
So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability.
— II Peter 3:15a-17(NRSV)
So we’re stuck with the faith/works things again. Crystal’s link is helpful here. Just remember that even Paul agrees, the only thing that counts is faith working through love (Galatians 5:6).
Peace be with you, Friends.