We conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
Romans 3, 28: James 2, 24
Isn’t there a contradiction here? How can we by justified: by faith in Christ, or by our own good deeds?
The latter cannot indeed save us from God’s judgment due to our sins. They will never justify us before God. That is possible only through faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning death. The apostle Paul gives a detailed exposition of this truth in Romans chapters 3 to 5.
However, when someone has been justified by God through faith, then He fully expects good works of him as a consequence. He must not carry them out in order to put things in order with God, rather the opposite. They are the result and the fruit of eternal life, which all receive who turn to God, believing in Christ.
In chapter 2 of his epistle James says nothing different. What concerns him is that living faith brought about by God then reveals itself visibly through good works. If, correspondingly, no such works are seen, the assumed faith can be only theoretical and dead, not genuine and living (cf. James 2, 17.20.26).
Similarly, when James speaks here of justification (v. 24), he does not mean justification before God (as Paul did in Romans), but justification before men by means of good works as the result and proof of faith. The thought is confirmed by v. 18: “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”