I’m starting a new teaching series through James this week. Hopefully I will be able to post some notes, thoughts, and curiosities from that letter.
Here are some quick thoughts for now.
The letter was probably written before the first Jerusalem council, so Paul and James had not discussed justification by faith in very much detail, since they had only met briefly prior to that. So Paul’s doctrine of justification is not in question at this time. Instead, James must be interpreted in a manner that recognizes that James’ statements on justification and faith must stand on their own and be interpreted independently of Paul’s teaching, even though it probably was a distortion of Paul’s teaching that James wrote against. But not having heard Paul’s teaching clearly, he used the language that is characteristic of Paul in the way that he did.
That is not to say that James and Paul contradict one another, but that terms must be defined as James would have used them and not in the same manner as Paul consistently used them. For instance, we know that ‘justified’, as used in James 2:24, can mean, (1) made righteous, (2) shown to be righteous, or (3) declared righteous. Context will determine the meaning of the word.