John Piper sets out to resolve the question of whether Paul and James contradict each other about the relationship between faith and works:
Paul says in Romans 4:2,3: “If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’.”
James says in 2:21: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?”
This apparent contradiction between Paul and James caused Martin Luther, along with many since him, to put James at the back of his New Testament and to call it “a right strawy epistle.” As much as I admire Luther and his work, I think he set up a straw man to knock down.
First, he defines the terms “works” and “faith” as both Paul and James use them, and then he summarizes by asking if they contradict. The brief article, “A Note on Faith and Works in James 2:14-26 and Romans 3:28-4:21,” is worth a careful read.