At the onset, let me say that, at its core, salvation is not of works. Zero. Period. So, where there are scriptures that seem to contradict other scriptures, many things must be evaluated to understand what is actually being said (original language and contexts), and the Spirit’s meanings must be sought from Him, for we know that none of His scriptures ever contradict themselves.
Many christians misinterpret the book of James to mean that one must do works (whether doing good deeds, or striving not to commit sins of the flesh, or obeying commandments) as a means of either receiving or maintaining one’s salvation. But, that is nothing more than Satan’s attempts to deceive people into thinking they can work their way into salvation, which negates needing the true righteousness of Messiah being imputed, and that comes only as a gift—it cannot be earned.
First, to whom was James speaking? He was speaking to physical Jews—they already had the scriptures and the traditions that had been given by Yah. But, apart from belief in Messiah Yahoshua, they would not have salvation (Romans 11:20). Only their belief in Him could ever graft them back into Y’isra-el (Messiah’s bride).
Some of those Jews thought they were already Yah’s children by virtue of that physical heritage; and they claimed they were already saved, even though they had never actually received the Holy Spirit. They thought they were saved because of their adherence to the law of Moses (their works). James is explaining to them that only by their faith (belief) can they ultimately be given the covenant, which was poured out at the fulfillment of the Feast of Weeks (Acts 2).
Once one has human belief in Yahoshua (repentance from unbelief), he must wait to receive the covenant. During that period, his belief will be tried—tested. The Israelites were led by the Holy Spirit out of Egypt—they believed in Yah. He led them to the mountain. But, once there, that belief faltered, and rather than waiting patiently to receive their physical covenant, they crafted their own object of worship—a golden calf. Those who did not repent of that act of unbelief were killed.
Abraham was led by the Holy Spirit. He believed in Yah. And, that faith was tested when he was told to take his only son, and sacrifice him. The depth of his faith was demonstrated in the fact that he had every intention of killing his son as he was told. And, because of his belief, he was made righteous before the Father. But, his works didn’t make him righteous—his belief (faith) did.
Yahoshua Himself was tested by Satan in the wilderness, and after that testing, He received the Holy Spirit.
Often, those who say they believe, will shrink away from that belief in the face of adversity—and, most of the time, that adversity comes in the form of rejection and hatred from those we love. Many times, in taking a real stand for Yahoshua, those well-meaning loved ones will, at first, try to counsel the believer into recognizing he has been led astray by “false teachings,” or even “a cult,” because the truths of the Spirit contradict the christian teachings they’ve believed.
If such “gentle counseling” doesn’t work, those loved ones will often resort to mocking and ridiculing, as a way of humiliating the believer into coming back into their churchian fold. And, when that ultimately fails, the believer will usually be cut off from them—maybe not entirely, but enough that there is an impassible divide in their relationships.
Sometimes, for those who initially try to take a stand, those tactics will work, and as Yahoshua said in Luke 8:13, they fall away. They save the human relationships at the expense of their belief.
But, the believer who suffers relational loss, and does not turn back, is showing, by his actions (works), the reality of his faith—the genuineness of his belief. That testing is what ultimately produces strength of conviction, patience in waiting on Yah, and ultimately, someone with that belief will have their belief completed by receiving the seal of the Holy Spirit—they are made “perfect and whole, lacking nothing.” Just as Abraham was, and just like Paul and the other apostles.
It is not that works will save anyone, but that, as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. People will only DO what they truly believe. Shrinking away from rejection demonstrates a lack of belief, and a lack of belief is called “doubt,” and doubt is a fruit of Satan’s work in the heart and mind of a person.
You say you are saved because of your works (doing good, and not doing bad)? I will show you my faith BY my works (those things I do that demonstrate the depth of my belief). I won’t say one thing, and then do another. I will not shrink away from rejection and hatred because of my belief.
I didn’t receive confirmation of the covenant in me until a number of years after I made my public stand for Messiah Yahoshua, and that was several years after I started following the Holy Spirit’s leading me to His truths. Trust me, I have lost a number of friends along the way.
THIS is the kind of belief that ultimately led to the martyring of the apostles—for the truths of the Holy Spirit expose the false teachings of men, and many times, rather than yielding to the Spirit, carnal humans would rather snuff out the messenger, or at least sever the close relationship.
For more information: Between Belief and Salvation