Presentation on theme: "2 The Epistle of James 3 James Part 4 – Faith and Works The Great Debate James 2:14-26 Today we look at what is certainly one of the most famous passages."— Presentation transcript:
2 The Epistle of James
3 James Part 4 – Faith and Works The Great Debate James 2:14-26 Today we look at what is certainly one of the most famous passages in the Epistle of James This passage has bothered scholars for many centuries Taken out of context, particularly v24, it seems to directly contradict Paul's writings in Romans, Ephesians and other places that we are saved by faith But is it really a contradiction?
4 James Part 4 – Faith and Works In One Corner: Paul the Apostle, “The Fighting Tent-maker” Romans 3:20 -- Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. [NIV] Ephesians 2: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast. [NIV] Romans 3: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
5 James Part 4 – Faith and Works In the Other Corner: James, “Old Camel Knees” James 2:24 -- You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. [NIV] James 2:25 -- In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? [NIV]
6 James Part 4 – Faith and Works So, are we justified by Faith or Works? Much of Paul's writings were combating the doctrine of “works righteousness” This is the idea that we earn our salvation It is not unique to Christianity, but common to mankind: Five Pillars of Islam 613 Mitzvot (Commandments) of Judaism Eightfold Path of Buddhism
7 James Part 4 – Faith and Works In Christianity, this inclination toward works righteousness tends to play out as “Jesus plus...” Rules Penance Programs Man seems to crave rules, even as he chafes at them Rules themselves are not bad; they are necessary boundaries The problem is when we transform rules from boundaries into checklists
8 James Part 4 – Faith and Works We like checklists Because then we get to be in control Because we can compare ourselves to others Galatians 3: You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? [NIV]
9 James Part 4 – Faith and Works But James comes along and says something like “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. v24, [NIV]” What are we to make of this? Some take it as rationale for their list Some, like Martin Luther, view the entire Epistle of James with deep suspicion
10 James Part 4 – Faith and Works Context is Necessary When we come across a passage like James 2:20 or 2:24, we must carefully consider the context What is the context of James 2:14-26? 1:22 – Do not merely listen to the word 1:26 – Keep a tight rein on the tongue 1:27 – Pure and faultless religion is looking after widows and orphans 2:1 – Do not show favoritism 2:8 – Love your neighbor
11 James Part 4 – Faith and Works What, then is James getting at? James is talking about dead faith, false faith: v17 – In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. [NIV] This then, is NOT in opposition to Paul: 2 Corinthians 5:17 -- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! [NIV] James is not laying down works for getting saved, but asking us to display works because we have been saved
12 James Part 4 – Faith and Works James closing arguments: Abraham – v20-24 Believed God Acted on that belief (obeyed) Credited as righteousness
13 James Part 4 – Faith and Works Rahab – v2:25 She was considered righteous because she aided the Israelite spies But, was she saved strictly on a business deal, her life for theirs? Or was she saved because she believed in the reality God? And acted on that belief
14 James Part 4 – Faith and Works Some things we have to keep learning The “Holiness Church” movement starting 150 years ago was based on the premise that people who are saved ought to act like it, ought be holy And yes, some holiness churches seem to have fixated on rules yet again
15 James Part 4 – Faith and Works The Bottom Line James 2:26 -- As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. [NIV] Galatians 5:22 -- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. [NIV] Are these two statements really that different?