James 2:14 - 26
ESV - 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food.
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I would say that it has to be faith, both chronologically and with respect to importance, since good works by an individual have no saving merit in God's eyes until that individual has first placed his faith in Christ for his salvation, and thus become justified -- or put into a "right standing" -- in God's sight. Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are saved by God's grace through faith, not by works, since being saved by works would give people a right to boast of how they had saved themselves, when, in fact, even the possibility of their being saved is an act of pure grace and mercy on God's part through Christ's saving work (which is the foundation of our salvation, as Paul noted in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). But, as James says in the passage cited in the question, this faith is not to be just a "head knowledge", or belief in God's existence. Good works that the individual performs after being saved are a visible evidence of the genuineness of his faith and of his justified status, as well as the basis for eternal rewards received from God. If those good works are totally absent, it would damage the individual's witness or testimony to others, and give reason for those others to question or doubt whether the individual's faith is real. (As Jesus said (Matthew 7:15-17), a tree is known by its fruit. Good trees bear good fruit as evidence of their goodness.) However, ultimately, that is something that only God can judge (and He will do so, as Paul indicated in the passage above from 1 Corinthians).
Faith is the root. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith comes first and genuine faith will result in a changed heart and good works. No one can go to heaven by any amount of their so-called good works. Only by faith in Christ and being dressed in His imputed righteousness, we can become citizens of heaven. Ephesians 2:8. After becoming citizens of heaven, we will obviously bear some fruits.
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