So Paul and James are quite in agreement with Jesus in their assessment of the necessity of works. But these works are fruits of faith, fruits of the gratitude and love of Christians saved in Christ, not human laborious accomplishments to be saved. And this is the real problem with many, if not most, witnesses, but not only with witnesses.
Recently a full-time preacher of Jehovah's Witnesses said in a conversation on the stage of the local kingdom hall that she was concerned about her salvation because God would present to her in judgment what she had not done; he would, as it were, present her with a list of her failures, and I was told of an old witness weeping on his deathbed because he feared he had not done enough for his salvation.
The mindset that comes to light here, that our salvation would depend not only, but also on our personal achievements, is pronounced among witnesses or unspokenly widespread. Of course, the sermon service demanded by the Watchtower organization is also taken into consideration. But Jesus and the other writers of the Greek scriptures have never said that the works they have mentioned are necessary for the salvation of the faithful.
One would like to ask oneself: Have these witnesses never read that even the best of our works, indeed all our righteous deeds before God, are as unclean as an unclean garment (Isaiah 64:5)? Have they not read the result of Paul's trial, which concluded that all without exception do not attain the glory of God because they are all condemned to sin (Romans 2:9; 3:23)?
And above all, have they not read that Paul speaks of justification by faith, a redemption by grace without merit (Romans 3:24)? He speaks of a redemption through Christ Jesus, through his sacrifice, God speaks righteously to the one who believes in Jesus and his sacrifice (Romans 3:26); this is the only righteousness that is valid before him.
No one needs to work out the justification, the salvation. Jesus repeatedly said that whoever believes in the Son has eternal life (John 3:36), becomes a child of God (John 1:12), will live (John 11:25). He spoke of himself as the bread of life, of the light of the world, of living water. He Himself as well as the whole Scripture make it clear that the sacrifice of Jesus is a perfect, complete, fully sufficient sacrifice for all, which does not need to be supplemented by any services or partial services (1 John 2:1-2).
Paul was also relentless in this question; when the idea arose in some Christian assemblies that not only the sacrifice of Jesus was necessary for salvation, but also circumcision – possibly even something else – he showed that such a teaching was no longer the gospel of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:6-9; 5:2-4). Whoever believes he must supplement the sacrifice of Jesus with works reduces this sacrifice, restricts it, devalues it.
Salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus comes only by grace, not through works (Romans 11:6; Galatians 5:4; Ephesians 2:5+8-9; Titus 3:5). Even if we build our Christian works of faith (not works of salvation) on the basis of Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:11), as it were, with deficient material such as wood, hay or straw, which then do not stand up in a fiery test, for the believer himself through the sacrifice of Jesus the justification and thus the salvation of faith is given, which is based on Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:15).
It is difficult for some witnesses and some other Christians to accept salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus as a pure gift from God; many would like to contribute, perhaps to feel a little better than those who reject Christ or do nothing. But the example of the Hebrews should warn us; they wanted to return to the righteousness of the work; although they did not reject Jesus with words, they were shown in Hebrews 10:26+29 that they would thereby reject the sacrifice of Jesus, and another sacrifice would not remain for them; there is no other!