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 Works versus Faith (Part 11) – The Book of James

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PostSubject: Works versus Faith (Part 11) – The Book of James   Sun Dec 13, 2015 10:40 pm

Works versus Faith (Part 11) – The Book of James

Of course we have to visit the book of James.  James is well known for verses that are used to ostensibly prove that salvation is by works and not by faith alone.  The way “so-called Christians” use these passages is to say that salvation is a mix of faith and works.  And I have to say so-called Christians because salvation is by faith only and not by works at all.  They say that authentic faith will be proven by works—as if there is somehow an unauthentic faith.  Let’s reason this logic.  Unauthentic faith?  What exactly is that, anyways?  I know what they mean when they say that, but you either believe that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity and that He paid the full payment for your sins or you don’t.  There is no in-between believing that.  There is nothing more needed for one to be saved.  Since that is all that is necessary, there cannot be an unauthentic faith, which shows that not only is their biblical interpretation incorrect, but their logic is also off.  One does not sort of believe this, or believe this only sometimes.  There is no requirement for a mix of faith and works for salvation.  Paul made this clear in Romans 11:6, which reads, “And if by grace, it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”  Paul says that any work added to grace cancels grace because grace is free, undeserved, and a gift.  If I were to work for grace, grace would not be free and would no longer be grace.  An illustration from the Holy Spirit of faith versus works in the Old Testament is when there was poison in the pot due to some men adding to the pot extra than what Elijah told them to do (2 Kings 4:38-41).  They corrupted the entire thing by their effort.  A few poisonous gourds spoil and ruin a great pot of grace.  

What people usually mean when they say that a mix of faith and works are required for Christians is that true Christians will produce works.  That is sort of true.  The truth is that God produces works through true Christians who understand grace.  Fruit is God’s work in us that we work out through His power.  Do all Christians produce fruit?  No. Proof to this is that Paul said that some Christians will make it to Heaven without works, as if through the fire: that is, just by the skin of their teeth.  The real truth is that works become natural for Christians.   If you are saved and submitted to God, God will use you to do good works.  That is a constant.  One of God’s purposes of saving us is to produce in us good works so that we can help others enter the Kingdom and do good works for God.  Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.”  That does not mean that all will have fruit.  That just means that the evident ones will be conspicuous Christians because of the fruit they produce.   Some Christians you won’t know are Christians because they reveal no visible fruit in their lives.  

Nevertheless, it does appear that James is contradicting Paul.  (I say this as a person who knows that there are no contradictions in the bible.  Key word is “appear.”)  James makes statements that appear to be direct opposites of what Paul declared in his writings.  It should be no surprise that the book of James is one of the books of the bible that barely got voted into the canon.  (I believe that the Holy Spirit presided over the meeting of what got voted into the canon.  The Holy Spirit also told all the writers what to write.)  A superficial reading of James can lead one to conclude that James is saying that salvation is by faith and works.  A close reading, however, would show that James and Paul are not conflicting.  In order to not be conflicting, they would have to be talking about totally different things.   One more assertion I’ll insert here: I believe that because the Holy Spirit guided the writers what to write down, I believe that there are no contradictions in the bible.  Sadly, I hear even so-called faith-only preachers say faith and works when they get to the book of James.  They end up reasoning that one must have works to prove that one’s faith is authentic.  As I pointed out already, this is poor logic.  You don’t need a special faith to believe Jesus paid the entire price for your sins.  There is nothing there to prove.  There is nothing we must show for that belief.  God knows our hearts.  He knows what we believe.  Yes, when we become saved, God works on the believer to sanctify him or her and conform them to live a holy lifestyle.  But this is a life-long commitment.  Everyone moves at his or her own pace.  Some move so slowly that we don’t notice a difference for years.  God works on us with His love first then His discipline.  If we ignore His love then He will get us with His discipline.  But the outcome of this is not the proof of our salvation.  We aren’t called to prove that.  That is something that God wants us to know for certain that we have.  James is not even talking about this and yet, this is how this passage is preached.  James is talking about something completely different from what Paul talks of.  It is very important we understand the book of James because this book leads many to false doctrines.  

I am going to point out some conflicts in James that is often not pointed out or simply overlooked.  It may seem like I am bashing the book at times, but assure you, I am not.  I will simply be pointing out what is written.  Everything will tie together at the end so that the reader will see that only by a close reading and literal interpretation that James and Paul agree: that is, don’t conflict with each other.    

Who is this James?  Interestingly, James in Greek means Jacob in Hebrew.  The Hebrew word for Jacob has 3 meanings.  It means “may God protect,” “heel grabber,” and “trickster” or “deceitful.”  This James was not one of the disciples of Jesus.  He is the half -brother of Jesus.  The bible says that while Jesus was alive before the crucifixion that none of His brothers accepted Him.  But after Jesus resurrected, one of those He appeared to was His half-brother James, according to the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:7.  Paul calls James an Apostle in Galatians 1:19, which reads, “I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.”  He is not one of the Twelve, but he is an Apostle.  Paul also calls James one of the reputed pillars of the church in Galatians 2:9.  

To understand James fully (or the Holy Spirit writing through James), let’s study closely the relevant verses to our topic.  Let’s begin at James 2:14.  It reads, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?”  Before we get to what this verse is saying, let’s deal with James’ audience.  He refers to the reader as “my brothers.”  Only Christians are called spiritual “brothers” in the New Testament.  Non-Christians are not related to Christians.  We have 2 different fathers.  Christians were adopted into God’s family through Jesus Christ.  James explicitly identifies his intended audience in James 1:1, which says, “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.”  His intended audience is Jewish Christians.  In 5:7 he tells his readers to be patient until the Lord returns.  Perhaps the most explicit verse is 2:1, which says, “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.”  It is important to first identify James’ intended audience because we now see that he assumes that the reader is already saved.  He is not trying to save them; instead, he is telling saved Christians how they should live.  

The verse also says, “What good is it...if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?”  I have found that most interpreters focus on the word “faith” in this verse.  Those who argue that salvation is by faith in Christ only (and that’s my stand) often (incorrectly) explain this verse by saying that “faith” here is not genuine faith.  I’ll quote my NIV commentary on this verse: “...‘faith’ is not used in the sense of genuine, saving faith.  Rather, it is demonic, useless and dead.  It is a mere intellectual acceptance of certain truths without trust in Christ as Savior.  James is also not saying that a person is saved by works and not by genuine faith.  Rather, he is saying, to use Martin Luther’s words, that people are justified (declared righteous before God) by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.  Genuine faith will produce good deeds, but only faith in Christ saves.”  Although I agree with the NIV commentators that we are saved by faith alone and not by works, this is an example of Christians who, holding this view, find themselves contradicting themselves when trying to explain certain passages—and apparently not realizing that they are contradicting themselves.  I find Martin Luther’s words a contradiction.  The statement, “People are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone” is a contradiction.  If a faith is not alone, then something else is contributing to the requirement.  That second clause contradicts the first.  We already discussed that the words “genuine faith” does not make sense.  One either believes that Jesus paid the full price for their sins on the cross or they don’t.  There is no believing this in a non-genuine way.  When people say “genuine faith” what they are really trying to say is that the person does believe and accept the work of the cross that Jesus did for them, but they refuse to do anything as a response to what Jesus did for them.  But that notion leads them to taking the side of salvation being a combination of faith and works, which is not biblical, even though they purport that they do not believe that works can save a person.    

Instead of focusing on the word “faith” in this verse, I believe the focus should be on the word “save.”  James says, “Can such faith save him?”  What does “save” mean here as James (or moreover, the Holy Spirit) is using it?  I am going to argue that “save” here means “rescue” or “deliverance”, not the required faith of the cross for eternal salvation of the soul.  It means rescue in time (that is, history) while we are alive in the flesh: that is, save us from whatever predicament that we need the faith for.  The word “save” in the New Testament does not always refer to eternal life, but oftentimes it refers to saving us from our difficulties.  With this in mind, then the word “faith” takes on the meaning that Jesus gave it when He said that mustard seed faith can move mountains.  When Jesus used the word “faith” in that passage, He clearly was not referring to a faith related to salvation of the soul, rather, mountain moving faith refers to a faith that can overcome the circumstances and difficulties we face in this lifetime while we are still in the flesh.  Mountain moving faith can save us in our predicament and trials.  

Incidentally, another point is that for the Christian, it is the soul that still needs to be saved.  Our spirits have been saved through Christ.  Our bodies have not been saved, and will not be saved.  We will instead receive new purified bodies.  But our souls are being saved.  That is an ongoing process for the Christian.  We are saved for Heaven, but our souls are becoming saved in the likeness of Christ through our daily walk with God.  Soul in the bible refers to our personality.  It refers to our thoughts and our mind.  That still needs some work to be like Christ and that is being saved: that is, becoming purified through the love (or discipline) that God does in the life of the Christian.  But that is just an aside or sidebar point.  

James continues with verse 15: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”  This is equivalent to a person  expressing how much debt and financial trouble they are in and you respond, “I’ll pray for you.”  James says in verse 17, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”  Now we have our first mention of dead faith.  This type of faith requires some action to make it alive.  A faith that requires any type of action is not eternal salvation faith.  With salvation faith, Jesus does, nay—has already done all the action for us.  The faith that James is talking about is fellowship faith.  God rewards and disciplines His own based on our faith, which does require action to be legit.  We mustn’t confuse the two distinct faiths.  This makes this passage a different topic than what Paul talks about in similar sounding verses; and, a confusion of the faiths can lead people to incorrectly try to merge what Paul and James says into the same topic.  For what action could we add to our faith to make it any legit over what Jesus Himself did for us?  Without faith, it is impossible to please God.  We must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  God rewards us based on our faith with works.  God gifts us with salvation based on our faith without works.  Two different topics.  A gift is not a reward.  A reward is not a gift.  

We must be careful how we interpret the next 2 verses: verses 18 and 19.  There are a couple of equally possible interpretations for these verses.  The issue is with the quotation marks.   There are no quotation marks, periods, commas, or even spaces between all words and letters in the original Greek New Testament manuscripts.  There is also no capitalization of words.  All words have the same capitalization.  So where we have in our texts quotation marks, they are there only by the interpretation of the translators who put the Greek manuscripts into English.  This issue impacts verses 18 and 19 of James chapter 2.  Many people quote these verses to rebut others who believe faith alone is all we need.  They say, “The bible says, ‘But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one God.  Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.’”  The translation interpreters put quotes there to help guide the reader.  But note that the very next verse, James comes in and says, “You foolish man…” It could be that everything said before James interrupts with ‘You foolish man’ is actually the foolish man speaking and not James.  James started off this point by saying, “Someone will say...”  That someone is not James speaking, but the foolish man.  Therefore, many who use this verse to back up their point do not realize that they may be quoting the words of the foolish man to prove their point.  

So this dilemma of no quotation marks in the original manuscript leads to two equally possible interpretations, and I would like to explore both possibilities.  First, let’s assess this passage by extending the quotation marks down to just before where James rebukes him by saying, “You foolish man.”  Verse 18 would read, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  [Still the foolish man talking…]  You believe that there is one God.  Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.’ [end quote] [Now James comes in…] You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless [the Greek word here means useless, though I know some of your bibles read “dead.”  Later James uses the word “dead.”]?”  Please read this carefully.  We’ll call this ‘Case 1’.  With the quotation marks hypothetically placed here, the foolish man believes that deeds without faith is what is necessary.  In this case, James would be rebuking the foolish man, implying that both extremes are wrong.  The extreme of faith without works is wrong, which is what James argues for most of this chapter; and, the extreme of works without faith is also wrong, which he would be suggesting here if the conjectured quotation marks are placed according to what James really had in mind.  

But even is the quotation marks are placed as most people place them (including the NIV) the meaning of these verses is a little different, but the message still does not conflict with the previous verses we have covered up to now.  Let’s put the quotation marks back in the traditional places and interpret this passage again:  “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ [End quote, and now James speaks from here on:] Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one God.  Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.  You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is dead?”  I believe Case 1 is the correct version, but there is no way of really knowing because both are equally plausible.  In this case, Case 2, James begins his rebuke at “show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”  He is still rebuking a person who is claiming to have deeds.  This “deeds” person juxtaposes his deeds versus another’s faith.  Case 2 actually doesn’t make sense because James’ rebuke does not match what the person says.  The person says that he or she has deeds.  James rebukes, saying, “Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do.”  The person never claimed to have faith, but does claim to have deeds.  James’ rebuke implies that this person was claiming to have faith without the deeds.  

For sure it is James speaking in verse 20.  He gives us evidence that faith without deeds is dead in verse 21.  He says, “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  [Verse 23:] And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.”  What I find fascinating about this passage, is that James quotes Genesis 15:6 to prove his point that faith without deeds is dead and the Apostle Paul quotes this same verse to prove just the opposite point.  Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 to prove that deeds are not necessary to make a person righteous.  Let’s look at Genesis before turning to Paul.  It says that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.  What was it that Abraham believed?  It had nothing to do with the sacrifice of Isaac because Isaac was not yet born at this time.  Abraham believed the Covenant God gave him.  What was it that Abraham did when God credited to him righteousness?  He did nothing, which will be Paul’s point.  

Genesis 15:1 reads, “After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield [or Sovereign], your very great reward.’” Verse 2: “But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’” Verse 3: “And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’” Verse 4: “Then the word of the LORD came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’” Verse 5: “He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” Verse 6: “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”  Abram did absolutely nothing at all.  There were no works he did at this time and still, God credits his faith to him as righteousness because God knew Abram’s heart.  This was before Abram got his name change.  God does not need proof of our belief and conviction in Him.  But James changes the timeline on this verse.  James put this verse after Abraham attempted to obey God by sacrificing his son Isaac.  James says that it was that event that God credits righteousness to Abraham.  Reader, please don’t get me wrong: I believe that all Scripture is God breathed and perfect.  I believe that the book of James is God’s Word.  But why James does this, I have no clue.  [I’ll return to this later.] We are going to tie everything together soon so that James does not conflict with Paul, so stick with me.  

Paul uses Genesis 15:6 to prove his point, which seems to be the opposite of what James was saying.  Romans 4:2 reads, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he would have something to boast about—but not before God.”  You recall that Paul gave a reason in Ephesian 2:9 why salvation is by faith alone and not by works: so that no one can boast.  If Abraham was able to be justified by his works, he could boast before men (but not before God).  Romans 4:3 reads, “What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’” Verse 4: “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.”  Verse 5: “However, to the man who does not work, but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”  He goes on to say in verse 13: “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.”  Verse 16: “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham.  He is the father of us all.”  From verse 21, it reads, “…being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.  This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’  The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.”

Now, either Paul and James never got together to discuss this issue and come to an agreement, or the Holy Spirit directed Paul and James to talk about two different topics.  If they were talking about the same topic, clearly they would be conflicting with each other, and using the same verses of the Old Testament to contradict each other.

Interestingly, in Acts 15:13, James was there with Peter and heard Peter speak regarding this issue.
The issue was raised in verse 5, which reads, “Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.’”  Verses 6-7a: “The apostles and elders met to consider this question.  After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them:’  Verses 8-11: “’God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?  No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.’”  What Peter says here completely agrees with Paul’s teachings: that is, we are not justified by obeying the law, but rather by grace through faith in Jesus.  

We find out that James is there listening.  Verse 13 says, “When they finished, James spoke up: ‘Brothers, listen to me.  Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself.”  He continues, verse 19: “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.  Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.  For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”  Alright James, why did you have to complicate things again?  Peter just said that they just need faith without the law of Moses.  James chimes in and gives them more stipulations and references Moses.  But missing from James’ prescription is the consequence of not doing his prescription.  He does not say that not doing these things would keep a person from being saved.  And we should not assume that either.  It does seem that James loves the law of Moses.  

I have to mention at this point some history of James.  Of course, any extra biblical source is not God inspired, but the writers of the time of the Apostles are historical witnesses.  Any historical evidence should not be treated as Truth, but as simply historical; but, it is noteworthy to see what early writers (onlookers) had to say.  On Wiki, James is described by Hegesippus (c.110-c.180) as the following:

James, the Lord’s brother, succeeds to the government of the Church, in conjunction with the apostles.  He has been universally called the Just, from the days of the Lord down to the present time.  For many bore the name of James; but this one was holy from his mother’s womb.  He drank no wine or other intoxicating liquor, nor did he eat flesh; no razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, nor make use of the bath.  He alone was permitted to enter the holy place: for he did not wear any woolen garment, but fine linen only.  He alone, I say, was wont to go into the temple: and he used to be found kneeling on his knees, begging forgiveness for the people-so that the skin of his knees become horny like that of a camel’s, but reason of his constantly bending the knee in adoration to God, and begging forgiveness for the people.  

Hegesippus describes James as a Nazarite.  If his description of James is even close, it seems that James relied heavily on the Old Testament law and works to please God.  I am not drawing any conclusions from this, but just pointing out some historical notes and implications.  But even by James’ own words in Acts, seems to depict him as one who draws heavily on Old Testament law and works.  

Let’s now look at that important verse in James that seems to explicitly contradict Paul: James 2:24.  It reads, “A person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”  Is that what it says?  Ah!! See!!! You have to follow along with your bibles.  That’s not what it says.  I left out 3 very important words that most don’t focus on that I think is vital to understanding what James is really saying here.  The verse really reads, “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”  The words “you see that” is often overlooked, and the last part is often emphasized, which changes the meaning of the sentence.  Reread this verse aloud and stress the word “see.”  In other words, one is able to observe another’s faith by what he does and not just by the faith they profess.  I checked all the versions to make sure this is not just an NIV anomaly.  They all say “You see that…”  Paul’s letters are about how to get right in the eyes of God.  James’ letter is about how to get right in the eyes of godly men.  James is telling us what is necessary in order to convince others that one is saved; not to convince one’s self.  Jesus said something similar.  He said, “By their fruit you will know them.”   Since we cannot read another’s thoughts, the only way to tell if someone else is really saved and not just going through the motions is by their fruit.  

Let’s examine this further.  This faith-by-actions test proves only the affirmative.  It does not prove the negative.  It rules in; it does not rule out.  It proves only that one is saved.  It does not necessarily reveal the wolves who look like Christians; nor does it does it distinguish between the wolf and the secret-agent Christian who has little or no works that Paul says will get to Heaven in spite of, but only as escaping through the flames.  Paul clearly says that there will be some Christians who will get to Heaven who will be there without works.  Their punishment is not Hell.  Their punishment is no rewards.  We covered those verses in a previous discussion so I am not going to cover it here, but I am referring to 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.  

Just a few more points before I conclude.  James calls the law, “the perfect law that gives freedom.”  I find that interesting because Paul would never refer to the law as one that gives freedom.  In fact, Paul says that the law shackles a person and that it is grace that gives freedom, not the law.  Paul said that the law brings death.  So here again it seems we have a clash between Paul and James.  Let’s look at these verses.  James 1:25 says , “But the man who looks intently, into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”  I have no issue with this verse except that he says that the law gives freedom as opposed to what Paul says about it.  Also in 2:12, he says, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment!”  So James says it twice.  

Some believe that this law that James is referring to is the law of love because of 2:8, which reads, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.”  But I don’t think that is what James is referring to when he says, “The perfect law that gives freedom.”  Notice that James first mentions the law that gives freedom in chapter one.  It is chapter 2 that he mentions the law of love.  If he were referring to the law of love in chapter one, it would seem that he would define his terms in chapter one instead of waiting until chapter two to reveal that he was really talking about love in chapter one.  That wouldn’t make sense.  So I believe that James is referring to all of the law of Moses when he says, “The perfect law that gives freedom.”  Does the law of Moses give freedom?  Let’s see what Paul has to say about this.  

Well, Paul says a lot about this, so I’ll just give you some of it.  Galatians 3:10 reads, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’”  Galatians 3: 13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”  Galatians 3:23 reads, “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.” 1 Corinthians 15:56 says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”  Romans 4:15 says, “the law brings wrath.” There’s more, but I think that’s enough.  There is nothing freedomy [sic] about the law.  It does not bring freedom at all.  It brings a curse, which is death.  Grace, according to Paul is what brings freedom.  Grace is the opposite of the law.  Grace is God’s unmerited power in Christ where He freely does for us through faith that which we cannot do ourselves.  If I had to extrapolate, I would say, that the only ones that the law gave freedom to was Israel because they were required to keep it until the coming Messiah.  They did not keep it and thus have not realized freedom—at least not yet.

Final point I’ll make is the entire air or aspect of James and Paul seems to contradict, but is resolved by understanding that James is speaking from the perspective of the flesh, while Paul is speaking from the perspective of our new selves in Christ.  I’ll give some quick examples.  James says in James 3:8 that no man can tame the tongue.  But Paul says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Even Luke says in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”  James is correct that no man can tame his tongue.  But Jesus can tame one’s tongue.  Man can submit to the power of Jesus and His grace to tame his tongue.  The flesh cannot tame the flesh.  James is speaking from the perspective of the flesh.  

To conclude, it is easy to say that Paul’s writings is about justification before God and James is about justification before men.  That, in my opinion is the most accurate statement we can make in contrasting the two Epistle writers.  The subtle conflicts are there, however.  I hold the view that it really does not matter what the Gospel or Epistle writers had in mind when they penned the Scripture because it is really the Holy Spirit who was directing them to write what they wrote.  The interpretation lies with what the Holy Spirit intended when He used the writers to say what He wanted them to say.  The interpretation does not lie with what these men intended.  James could very well believe personally (and incorrectly) that salvation is by works and faith combined.  But the Holy Spirit guided what he wrote with precision so that James’ words came out to mean that works is needed only for justification before men and not before God.  An example of what I am getting at is in Daniel 12:8.  The prophet does not necessarily have to understand what he writes.  It reads, “I [Daniel] heard, but I did not understand.  So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?”  He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end.”  Daniel wrote whole chapters of prophesy and he concludes that he does not understand what he penned.  What is important is that Daniel wrote what the Holy Spirit dictated, and He has and gives the interpretation of the words penned by the prophet.  Did Moses understand what was meant when He penned that God told Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heal.”?  This is a prophesy of Jesus Christ.  It is highly unlikely that Moses realized the full meaning of the verses that he penned from what the Holy Spirit told him to write.


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Works versus Faith (Part 11) – The Book of James
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