You read two sermons that refer to Abraham and how he was justified. In the first, Pastor Paul says quite clearly that we are justified by faith. But then you read Pastor James, and he says (so clearly that you remember his exact words): “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Now you have two problems. Problem 1: there seems to be a contradiction. Problem 2: Pastor Paul is in fact Paul the apostle, and Pastor James is James the brother of our Lord. What are you supposed to do? In Root and Fruit two of the most influential preachers of our time patiently explain the Scriptures and help us to resolve the “problem.” Spoiler alert from John Calvin: If you think you can receive Christ for justification without receiving him for sanctification, you “rend Christ asunder.”
—Sinclair B Ferguson
Compare James 2:24 with Romans 3:28 as isolated verses and you might assume Paul and James were disagreeing. But pay attention to context, and a totally different understanding emerges. James is refuting libertines; Paul is repudiating legalism. They were standing together in defense of justification by faith, fighting different enemies who were attacking the gospel from opposite sides. Joel Beeke and Steve Lawson unpack and analyze these texts with great care and extraordinary clarity, proving definitively that Paul and James were in full agreement on every point of gospel truth. This is a supremely helpful book on a tough subject—more valuable than most volumes weighing in at twenty times the page count.
This work is clear, concise, and straight to the heart of the matter. It confirms the harmony of Scripture and demonstrates how Paul and James provide us with a complete and unified picture of the doctrine of justification without the smallest measure of contradiction. The proverb that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” surely applies here. The truths in this brief work will put many new converts on the right path and aid pastors in counseling the souls that have been entrusted to them. It would be extremely useful in evangelism, counseling, and small group book studies.
—Paul David Washer
We owe a great debt to Joel Beeke and Steven Lawson for this book. It helps us see that there is no contradiction between James and Paul in their understanding and teaching of justification. A right doctrinal understanding of the gospel is crucial for salvation and for a buoyant sense of assurance of salvation. Therefore, we must never allow ourselves to get confused about the gospel. Our eternal salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ. Yet it’s a salvation that produces good works. Read this book and you will never be unsettled about this matter again!