The Bible teaches us to “do” God’s will. God’s will is sometimes expressed by the form of laws, statutes, and commandments. As a whole, it is expressed by words, the scripture. So, we have to do the words of God. Especially, since Jesus came and taught them to humans, we have to do the words of Jesus (Matthew 7:24; James 1:22). In this regard, the so called Christians who do not do the words of Jesus are not Christians but heathens, or at best titular Christians. In the same line, the churches that do not teach their people to do the words of Jesus are not christian Church but social clubs. However, those churches who have so many programs that their members can choose ones to just participate in are not doing the words but making words of God stuffed, that is, dead. By the way, there are baby churches (full of new converts in planting stage) which need to grow more until they can work. For these, learning is their work as it is to young children.
Doing the word of God is what God wants how his people to live. For this reason, the essence of righteousness lies rather in “do” than in “believe”. The Scripture says “As Abraham believed it, God reckoned it as his righteousness” (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3). There is a thing that is really important but being missed by too many people: it is only God, who can say such a thing. It is because only God, no one else, knows if someone’s belief is true enough to be counted as righteousness or not. So it is a nonsense if one claims (or thinks) that he is righteous because he believes in God (he may know if he truly believes in God or not but still it is not possible to know if God counts his belief as righteousness or not; it is totally unknown to man). Then, what should we do to become righteous? We have to do our best in “doing” the word of God. This is what apostle John means in 1 John 3:7– Whoever practices righteousness is righteous. Here what he emphasizes is to practice as Jesus taught in Matt. 7:24-27 (“do”; “do not do”). It is very well agreed that James emphasizes on “doing” (especially in chapter 2).
What about Paul? Is his theology different from Jesus’ and other writers’ of the Bible? No way. He teaches the same thing. For example, in Romans 4, he does not end his argument with the justification by faith in the early part of the chapter. But he continues and explains why God counted Abraham’s belief as his righteousness. It is in 4:18-22. The passage includes a summary of about 25 years of Abraham’s life–since he was given the promise until it was fulfilled. During the span of time he did not shrink in his faith but rather grew in conviction and “gave glory to God”. As we know from the book of Genesis during this period he did a lot of good works according to the will of God. To give glory to God means what he did in faith according to the will of God. So, verse 22 of the chapter begins with “therefore (oun in Greek)” which also means “for this reason”. What does it refer to? It obviously refers to the life Abraham lived for the 25 years. I mean, his life, the totality of what he did during the time of life. It is not only belief but works also (James 2:14ff)–that is everything. So, in other words, because of the life Abraham lived since the promise, God counted his belief as his righteousness. It means God knew already that Abraham would live faithfully according to what he believed as He pronounced the promise to him. Here life as a whole is emphasized as what should be looked at for a person to be righteous. This teaching is exactly the thing with which Paul introduced the book by a quotation: “The righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). It is what Paul teaches through Romans. Is there anything contradictory to Jesus’ and other writers’ teachings? No. They affirm and enrich each other.
Then can a man make such a judgment? No way. It is why, from human part, there is no other way for humans to be qualified for salvation except to do our best to “do” God’s will. To think or claim that ‘I am saved because I believed or because I was baptized, or whatever’ is a pride. Them, he is an enemy of God because God opposes the proud (1 Peter 5:5; 1 Cor. 10:12). For even Abraham, God chose him to teach his offspring to keep the way of the Lord by “doing” righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19). Jesus also left his great commission–actually his will–saying, “[Teach] them to ‘observe’ what I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). True humble and righteous person will say, “I have done my best to do the will of God through my life, but still I have to pray for God’s mercy because I was weak and falling short to his glory.” This is the attitude that Jesus loves (Luke 18:13-14). This will be the same attitude found from the saved before the judgment seat (Matt. 25:37-39 vs. 44).
Therefore, doing is our best and only way toward the ‘possible’ righteousness. In this force, Moses taught his people in Deuteronomy 6:25, saying, “It will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to ‘do’ all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.”