Nothing in the Bible is stated more clearly or with greater emphasis than the blessed Pauline revelation of justification by grace, through faith, without works.
“To him that worketh not, but believeth…his faith is counted for righteousness”. Ephesians 2:8,9: “For by grace are ye saved, through faith…it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast”. Titus 3:5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” Romans 4:5.
Yet James states, just as clearly that “faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone” (Jas.2:17). He challenges professing believers: “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith BY my works” (Ver.18), and declares that “by works a man is justified and not by faith only” (Ver.24), since “faith without works is dead”.
Some have imagined a contradiction here, while actually there is none. There is a dispensational distinction, for to Paul had been committed “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph.3:1,2). His was “the preaching of the cross” (ICor.1:18), offering salvation by grace, through faith alone, to all who would trust Christ as Saviour.
James, on the other hand, was an apostle of the kingdom, proclaiming the kingdom rights of Christ and offering a changed way of life on earth which had already been experienced by the disciples in Judaea (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-35).
Hence with James the emphasis is on works, not because good works can save or even help to save, but because true faith inevitably bears fruit and we can judge true faith only by the fruit it bears. Our Lord said: “By their fruits ye shall know them”. Hence James’ epistle abounds with such phraseology as, “ye see”, “show me”, “I will show you”, etc.
What we must be careful to remember is that according to both Paul and James, faith comes first, then good works. Faith is the root, good works the fruit. The absence of fruit indicates that the root is dead, that while there may be an intellectual assent, there is no true heart faith, and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb.11:6).
The source of justification is grace; the basis, Calvary; the means, faith; and the evidence, works. Think this through; accept God’s grace and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord. He will cause you to produce good fruit. source