Search

Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

Tag

james chapter 2

Faith In Action-Justified? By Works?

faith in action

James 2:20-26

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Read all of James Chapter 2 here

Well, here James gets right into something that might seem quite controversial. Is he really saying that we are justified by works? Well, yes and no. To really understand what is going on here, we just have to understand what the word translated justified means.

Translating one language into another is simply not an exact business sometimes. Often a word in one language doesn’t correlate precisely into an exact match in another. So, let’s just briefly look at what is going on here; understand also not that this is not intended to be a lesson in Greek grammar. I am not, and most of you are not, Greek scholars. Thus, we will keep this very simple.

Justified in English can have two meanings. The first is the one most of us think about. In this meaning, justification is what happens to us at the moment our salvation, by God’s grace through our faith. We are justified in the eyes of God by the payment Jesus made for our sins. We are declared to be righteous in God’s eyes. There is, however another use for word translated justified. That one translates “shown to be righteous.”

So, we are declared to be righteous, or justified in God’s eyes. Alternately, we are shown to be righteous in whose eyes? Well, the eyes of others, of course. In fact, some translations translate it that way, saying Abraham and Rahab were considered to be righteous by their actions, and not just their faith.

Note above the order of events in the life of Abraham described by James. Verse 23 refers to Genesis 15:6, and clearly shows us that Abraham had faith and believed God, and at that point, righteousness was imputed to him by God. It was by the offering of his son Isaac, much later than the first event, that was the illustration of Abraham’s faith to the world.

Rahab the harlot was likewise saved by her faith and belief and subsequently put her faith into action as she saved the Israelite spies. Read her story here.

We can summarize the thought by saying their faith made them righteous before God, and their works made them righteous before men. A person may say that they have faith, but only if they can show that they have works can the rest of the world see that claim is valid. Faith without works is dead.

 

Faith In Action-Even The Devil Believes in God

faith in action

James 2:19

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

Read James Chapter 2 here

Earlier, we discussed the rather shocking statement that James made in this letter; that statement was that even devils believe, and tremble.  Now we are going to explore that some more to illustrate the fact that belief, even if based on truth, may not be saving belief.

Devils believe there is one true God; they even believe in the correct God. In Acts 16, beginning in verse 16, we can see the story of the demon-possessed woman following Paul and his fellow evangelists, likely Silas, Timothy, and Luke. What is key here is the fact that the demon recognized that the God in question was “the most high God.”

Demons even recognized the deity and sonship of Jesus Christ when they encountered him at different times. In the story of the Garasene demoniac in Mark 5:1-10 and Luke 8:26-33, we can clearly see that this demon understood that Jesus was the Son of God.

Not only do demons know God is God, and that Jesus was his son; they also have a clear understanding of Bible doctrines. They even know how scripture says the story will end for them. The demons Jesus cast into the herd of pigs in Matthew Chapter 8 asked Jesus if he had come to “torment us before the time.” They understood, obviously, the Biblical teaching concerning the eventual disposition of Satan and his demon angels.

We can see that devils believe in God, they understand who Jesus Christ is, and even understand Scripture as well as many Christians; we also know that Satan and his demons are certainly not saved(nor can they be, but that is another devotional all together.) What then, can we learn here?

This is merely a reinforcement of the same thing we have learned from James in the last several devotionals. An intellectual knowledge of who God is and even in the correct and only God is not enough. A mental assent to the reality and identity of Jesus Christ is not enough. Even a thorough and complete knowledge of the Word of God and Bible doctrine is not enough.

True faith, that being faith that saves, will always produce a change of heart and a change of character. There will be evidence on display of the transformation that has taken place within us if a transformation actually occurred.

Faith In Action-True Faith Serves

faith in action

James 2:17-19

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

Read James Chapter 2 here

Well, here James goes again. Because he is belaboring this point, we are as well. As well we should, because it is a very important point. The issue of dead, intellectual faith versus real, saving, active faith simply cannot be overstated.

Let’s review again; our works do not save us, period. Since we have spent so much time on works and will continue to, we will likely hit that point over and over again. Again, let’s look at the supposed difference of opinion between James and Paul. No one would disagree that Paul taught salvation by grace alone; he clearly taught our works do not save us.

Of course, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write the most notable teaching on faith versus works in Ephesians 2:8,9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Most of us could quote that verse by memory. Sometimes, however, we overlook the continuing thought of that teaching, where we see that Paul certainly was inspired to tell us that works are important. Not only are they important, but they are the natural outflow, and purpose of our salvation. Ephesians 2:10, ” For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Paul also addresses the place of works in other places as well.  Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, and John 15:5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit…..” both show us Paul’s thoughts on works clearly.

Finally, James closes with a statement that might sound shocking; if all we have is an intellectual, verbal faith then we actually have the same kind of understanding and belief in God that is possessed even by Satan and his fallen angels! Wow. Demons believe in God; they even believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God; they even possess good knowledge of doctrine. They do not, however, have a saving faith.

What is our belief in Jesus Christ really like? Do we understand Him in our head? Do we understand the doctrine of salvation intellectually? Those are great, but we all need to answer the question that counts: Have we actually submitted to God and trusted Him for our Salvation? If not our faith is dead, being alone; if we have, then our faith is a living, saving faith.

 

Faith In Action-Dead Faith is Useless Faith

faith in action

James 2:15-17

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

Read James Chapter 2 here

 Faith without works is dead; it is alone. That is a strong statement, for sure. Previously we discussed the idea of a verbal only type of faith. This, again, would be a verbal and/or mental profession of faith. James continues on with his point that this faith likely is not a true saving faith. Only this time, James uses a very practical example to illustrate his point.

At some point in the next few devotionals we may take a look at some of the possible things James means in his references to dead faith, or faith being dead; for now, however, we are just looking at this very specific scenario.

Suffice it to say that simple verbal faith can only not save; it cannot serve. But, let’s jump right into what has actually happened in our passage.

This one is easy. A needful brother has shown up at a believer’s doorstep, quite obviously in need; naked and destitute is needy for sure. But, rather than providing some actual assistance for the need, the believer has sent them away with good tidings and a promise of prayer.

As many would say in today’s vernacular…..really? Did we actually do any good whatsoever for that brother or sister in need? Well, of course not. When we sent them away promising prayer the question should be asked: What if they showed up at our doorstep as the answer to somebody’s prayer who could not help the needful brother or sister?

Why would such a thing happen? Why would anybody send a needy brother or sister away and not offer actual help, but simply empty words? Well, John the Apostle also had something to say about this in 1 John 3:17 “ But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

What did John just say, and what did James basically repeat? If we claim that God dwells in us(salvation), and we do not act accordingly(works) , then our claim that God dwells in us might be simply false.

Faith In Action-Yes, Faith Saves Us

faith in action

James 2:14

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

Read James Chapter 2 here

How many times do we see people walk an aisle during an invitation time at church, make a “profession of faith,” then are never or rarely seen or heard from again? How many people do we see do that and never follow The Lord in Baptism, or show any other outward results of their salvation? How many do we see do that, and we know that outside the church walls they are living like the devil? Well, that is exactly what James is talking about here.

Though a man “say” he have faith. That really represents the person who merely makes a “profession of faith.” Then James asks the question, “Can faith save him?” Let’s clarify quickly before anybody gets concerned. Of course, faith saves us; we are saved by Grace through faith, period. That verse in some translations can be misleading. What is really meant is something to the effect of, “Can that faith save him,” or “can such a faith as that save him.”

James is not, by any stretch of interpretation, teaching that works contribute in even the smallest way towards our salvation. So, then, what is James trying to teach us?

It’s quite simple. A simple verbal “profession” of faith does not represent a genuine conversion. A mere intellectual assent to the facts of Jesus Christ does not represent a genuine conversion. James’ point during the entirety of his book is that true, saving faith will produce works, or fruit, in the life of a believer. James will repeat several times over the course of his letter that faith without works is dead.

Not only is there the chance that faith not accompanied by works is not true saving faith, but our works are the only way believers have to illustrate to a nonbelieving world that our faith is a real faith. Here is a quote I found in The Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible that seems to express the thought perfectly.

The proof of the pudding is still in the tasting. The only test of a man’s salvation is through his works. A silent believer may be indeed considered a saint before God, but he remains a sinner before man until he walks the walk and talks the talk of Christian service

Faith In Action-Judged? What Does THAT Mean?

faith in action

James 2:12,13

So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

 Read James Chapter 2 here

James is taking us now into some territory which might be considered controversial. We have talked about this a couple of times, and we will continue as we go through James just to prevent any misunderstandings of what is being taught here.

Earlier, James just put in his writing what any Christian already knows; this is the simple fact that any sin, whether large or small, separates us from a perfect and Holy God as surely as any other sin. His point was simply that the sin of partiality is as serious in the eyes of a perfect and Holy God as the sin of murder, or adultery.

One thing to bear in mind throughout James’ epistle is that James is writing to believers. Any conflict between James’ discussion of works and salvation by grace through faith is merely imaginary and quite explainable.

So, when James speaks of judgment in this passage, he is not speaking of any judgment where a person’s eternal destiny will be decided. If his listeners were truly saved individuals, then that determination had already been made. Nonetheless, believers will answer for the things they have done in their lives, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)   This is at the Judgment Seat of Christ and is for the dispensing of rewards to the believer, not the judgment of Heaven or Hell.

A full reading of the Book of James clearly shows the lesson which permeates the entire book. James’ point throughout is that faith which is real will produce a change in the person who exercises that faith to salvation. James is saying that we demonstrate the reality of our faith by the way we live.

Faith In Action-Showing Partiality Is VERY Serious

faith in action

James 2:8-13

If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

Read James Chapter 2 here

Hi all! Life whacked me in the had the last two days, and I had to beat it back into submission. Nice to see you all again!

James is about to take a serious turn with his dialogue here. He has been talking about the wrongness of partiality towards people using invalid criteria. Now he is going to illustrate precisely just how serious this issue is. We may come back to this passage in more detail in later devotionals, but for now, we are going to just look at the basic meaning of what James seems to be teaching us.

James, as usual, just calls it as he sees it; more precisely he calls it like God sees it. Showing partiality to others is more than just bad judgment or an error in our ways. Showing partiality to others is, in fact, sin and transgression. That is serious business.

James takes Jesus’ teaching on the totality of the law and uses it for our illustration. We all know that teaching. We must first love God with our all, then others as we love ourselves. If we do that we will essentially be doing all things God would desire that we do. All other law flows from those two thoughts. If we do those two, the rest will follow naturally. If we do not do those two, then it is not possible for us to do the rest.

James clearly, literally says to be a respecter of persons is transgression. He also points out that adultery and murder is transgression. The final link is pointing out that even one tiny transgression of God’s law makes us guilty of transgressing all; that is very interesting. What is James saying?

Remember that, “All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God?” In the eyes of God, being partial or unfair to others is every bit as serious as committing murder or adultery. That should remove all doubt as to the seriousness of this offense.

Faith In Action-Jesus Was Not Partial; Neither Should We Be

faith in action

James 2:1

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

James Chapter 2

We often throw the word, “Christlike,” around fairly casually. Well, here is an instance of a situation where we have an opportunity to behave exactly as our Lord did when he was here on this Earth.

It may be important to cover just a little background here before moving on. It was common to the Jewish culture of the day to covet the recognition of one’s peers and to even vie and compete for it. It seems likely that James was addressing this concern and instructing the scattered believers he was writing to, to not become guilty of this offense.

So, the question arises; on what basis was James coming to the conclusion that partiality was wrong? Well, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Jame is simply teaching us to act like Christ!

Jesus certainly did not respect persons. A simple look at the disciples would reveal that to us. We have simple fishermen, men with no credentials whatsoever: Peter, John, James and Andrew. Of course, we have the hot-headed, impulsive Peter himself. We certainly cannot forget Matthew the tax collector. The other Simon, Simon the Zealot was possibly a revolutionary. Jesus certainly did not choose those who would take His church into the world based any criteria we would use.

Jesus Himself was despised and rejected. He had no home or place to lay his head. He grew up in the despised town of Nazareth, from which it was said nothing good could come. He ultimately died the death that only the worst of criminals died. His outward appearance and background caused Him to be rejected by the powers of His day, yet He was actually God in the flesh!

In addition to all of this, we know that Jesus was repeatedly rebuked for the kind of company He kept. The Pharisees despised Him for associating with publicans and sinners. He offered forgiveness to the woman caught in the act of adultery. He willingly talked with the woman at the well even though she was three times rejectable; she was a sinner, a woman, and a Samaritan!

Do we make any real claim on being Christlike? If we do, then we simply cannot show partiality to others based on any criteria of our own, but only that used by our Lord Jesus Christ. That criteria were that there WERE no criteria.

Faith In Action-Eww..Look at THAT Guy

faith in action

James 2:2-4

For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

 Read James Chapter 2 here

For the remainder of his epistle, James is going to deliver some good, hard doses of practical Christian living. In each case, James is going to use examples of real-life situations in the lives of the believers he is writing to and offer them guidance.

We covered previously that God is not partial; He is no respecter of persons. Now James is going to move directly into a situation that was occurring somewhere; in fact, this very situation is probably occurring in some church almost as we speak.

Let’s take a look at this situation on more modern terms and see what might be going on; it may be shocking to us; we are going to take some liberties with the written words briefly.

If the local bank president walks in your church, followed by the rough guy down the road with the tattoos, how do you react? Does every one make sure to greet the bank president heartily(probably seeing dollar signs for the church offering), and not say a word to the tattooed guy? Do we escort the bank president to sit by us and say a little prayer that the tattooed fellow will stay in the back? If we do, then we are guilty of trying to take God’s place and be the judge of people.

We don’t know what God’s plans for any person are; God has one for all of us and He is not selecting people for his works based on the same criteria we would use. For all we know, his plan for the bank president might be to mow the church lawn, and for the guy with tattoos to be called to preach God’s Word.  We simply don’t know, and it not our place to try to decide.

One last question. What actually shows God’s power and glory more? Somebody who seems perfectly capable  doing great things because they are able,  or somebody we would never think was able doing great things because of the power of God in his or her life?

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: