Wednesday, July 14, 2010

James 2 From The Text


This post has been years in the making. This is the fullest explanation of the challenging passage of Scripture known as James 2:14-26 that I've ever attempted.


When I read Dr. Fred Lybrand’s book “Back To Faith” I learned many valuable things, not the least of which includes these two very important points;

All theology should be challenged with vigour and integrity.


James 2 doesn’t have to be interpreted with “tension.”


I could make this a very long post by arguing against positions I’ve come to realize are not accurately derived from the Text… but I’m tired of debate and argument. I believe I’ve spent too much time discussing the falseness of false doctrine. So today, let’s just cut to the chase, get what I believe to be the truth out and you can evaluate it with me if you so desire.

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

These two questions asked in succession drive the thinking of the people being asked – even us today. What does it profit? The only benefit is Salvation. This is why James asks immediately “Can faith save him?” He’s asking about faith without works. What is the profit of faith without works? Can it save us?


The answer is YES! We'll see that the expected answer here is actually yes, not no, because of the argument of the Objector in verse 18. However, even without James' objector we can answer yes and supply our defence from Romans chapters 3 thru 5, particularly Romans 4:5-6

5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

And Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Then we see James answer the question of profit.

15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

In verse 17 James makes it clear that faith without works can do nothing in this situation, it is unprofitable. James calls it “nekros” which means it is like a dead body, which can do nothing.


Now here is where I will make a dramatic departure from many of the teachings you may be familiar with. Truth be told, my eyes were opened to this next point by Dr. Fred Lybrand, and for this I am beyond thankful!


Next James makes up an argument that he suspects his listeners will have. These next words are an OBJECTION to what he has been teaching. It is MOST IMPORTANT to track with who is speaking so as to know whose faith and whose works are being referenced. I've color coded the conversations below. The blue means the person indicated is James, and the green is the objector. So for example if it is "you" and it is blue then James is the "you" being spoken of.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

The someone objecting to James says to James “You have faith, and I have works” The objector challenges James to show his (James') faith without works. At this point many will put the words of verse 19 in the mouth of James. I don’t want to teach on falsehoods too much, but this is SUCH a stumbling block that I absolutely must address it. Imagine the following conversation.

You James have faith, and I Kevin have works. Show me your faith James, without your works and I Kevin will show you my faith by my works!

It is often claimed that this is James' reply to his Objector;

You Kevin believe that there is one God, you do well. Even the demons believe and tremble! Do you want to be shown that faith without works is dead?

Such a conversation makes no sense, as I was willing to show James my faith by my works.. and then James accuses me of having a dead faith without works?


Here’s how the conversation really goes, if we loose the grip our theology has on the Text;

The objector saysYou James have faith, and I Kevin have works. Show me your faith James without your works and I will show you my faith by my works. You James believe that there is one God. You do well! Even the demons believe and tremble!”

To which James replies;

20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

In our conversation this would read as;

“But do you Kevin want to know, oh foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”

It’s interesting that the word dead here is argos, or useless, idle, or lazy, but what's most important however is that James calls the OBJECTOR a fool.


Why? Because the objector thought works are the demonstration of the kind of faith that results in Eternal Salvation, or "true saving faith." He’s tying works to the justification that he shows demons do not have. Their belief in God doesn’t save them, so it can’t save us. That’s the OBJECTOR’s point, and his argument against the assumed answer of "yes" to James' question "Can faith alone save him?"


James is teaching that faith that saves is apart from works, exactly the same as Paul taught. The objector, objects and James uses the objection to make his point clear.


James then demonstrates faith and works result in two different justifications, and only work together to bring about maturity.

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.

The event of Abraham offering Isaac took place at least 25 years after Abraham was saved, as we see here that Abraham was called righteous by God because of his faith, in Gen 15:6 where there were absolutely no works in view, only assurance. And then his faith worked together with his works to perfect his faith. The action perfected his trust of God. Also at the same time, God’s faithfulness (not Abraham’s) demonstrated that he was a friend of God.


Think of this, do people know that I consider you a friend (you're seen as a friend of Kevin) because you do things for me, are submitted to me, or even because you trust me? Or do they see that you are a friend of mine when they see me care for you?


So we see two different types of justifications here. We see that God called Abraham righteous on the basis of faith, and people called him a friend of God based on God’s faithfulness, justifying the claim of 2Chron 20:7

24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

The Greek word monos translated “only” in the NKJV is also translated “alone” in some other translations.


If it is an Adjective then it means “alone” and is modifying the word faith, to say “faith alone” or "faith all by it’s self." This would have a single justification in view, that could not be accomplished by faith all by it’s self.


If however the word is an Adverb then it is modifying the word justified and so there are two justifications in view; one by works, and the other by faith.


Turns out, that it is an Adverb as can be seen here. http://biblos.com/james/2-24.htm


Since monos is an Adverb in the Greek a better translation of James 2:24 would be;

“You see then that a man is not only justified by faith, but also justified by works.”

Because, this verse is about is two different justifications, not works and faith together in order to accomplish one single justification.

25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

Likewise Rahab’s faith became profitable when she added a good work to her faith, and she was also justified before men the same way that Abraham was. However, her work had nothing to do with her Eternal Salvation, nor did it prove she was saved, or prove that she had "true saving faith."


She was saved by the faith she confessed, as we can read from her own words from Joshua 2:8-11

8 Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 9 and said to the men: “I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

Moving on in James, we come to the second most misunderstood verse of this chapter.

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Finally James shows that faith without works is like a dead body again. However this too is a point where theology often drives interpretation instead of the other way around. You’ve probably heard the same explanation of this verse explained along the lines of this:

“A living, breathing, moving body shows that the spirit is within it so the two are inseparable like faith and works.”

This equates works with the moving of the body, and the hidden spirit within with faith. This equation is used to show that works prove true saving faith, just like a moving body proves there truly is a spirit in the body.


However, as Dr. Lybrand describes in his book Back To Faith the problem is that James equates the body with faith, and the spirit with works. Just the opposite of how we have so often heard this verse explained. It is actually the works which animate the faith. The spirit is the works, and the body is the faith. Read the passage again and you’ll see it.


For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

In James' analogy the Body = faith and the spirit = works.

This is not showing the reality of a true saving faith being present by the fact the body is moving, it is demonstrating how faith is animated by works, the same way the body is animated by the spirit. Faith is brought to perfection by adding works to it, as we read happened to Abraham in verse 22. His faith was dead, not animated, not profitable until he added works. Then his faith was animated and grew to perfection. Not becoming, or being demonstrated as real, for it was real even without the works. The works made it profitable, and grew it to perfection.


In Conclusion


James is speaking of the perfecting of faith, not the reality of it. He calls the claim of there being only one justification – that results in Eternal Salvation, through a "true saving faith" that is demonstrated by works which men can see – FOOLISH.


James details the two justifications. One before God that is by faith alone, and another before men that is by works.


He makes the teaching practical by showing the profit of putting works with your faith is the perfecting of your faith, or your maturity. It is this maturity that can be seen by others, not the reality of your faith. Through works one is used by God, and there will be reward for this at the Judgment Seat of Christ, which is in focus earlier in the chapter.


There is no "tension" between what Paul wrote in Romans chapters 3 thru 5, and what James wrote in James 2. The only tension is between what the Text says and what some Theology says.


I hope there will be comments and discussion. I'm not interested in heated debates, but cool headed examination is most welcome.



NOTE: For an excellent examination of the relationship between faith and works please pick up a copy of Back To Faith by Dr. Fred Lybrand.

58 comments:

Michael Gormley said...
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Kevl said...
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Kevl said...
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Michael Gormley said...
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Kevl said...
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Kevl said...
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Stephen said...

Kevin, really enjoyed your article on this. I've heard these individual explanations of James 2 but good to see pretty much all them in the same place.

One thing that stands out to me as particularly silly is when LS advocates reference the belief of the demons as an example of a "type of belief" that doesn't save. One major but basic problem with that is, of course, that "type of belief" isn't the demons' problem at all -- There is NO type of belief that can save demons so the comparison of their belief with ours is fundamentally and categorically incorrect.

Salvation was not provided for them. Jesus was the 2nd Adam, not the 2nd Lucifer.

I was really blessed by this article, thanks for sharing.

Kevl said...

Hi Stephen, I'm glad you were blessed by it. I spent years looking at this passage through the eyes of the Lordship Salvation proponents' teaching... I couldn't see what it really said because I was convinced by the massive acceptance of the falsehood.

I'm thankful to be free of it now.

Kev

Kevl said...

All,

I deleted several comments by Micheal Gromley because they were not actual comments. They were simply reprints of articles from his blog. When I asked him to discuss he simply copied another article from his blog.

There seemed to be value in showing how some people will hold to their beliefs blindly... but two months later Mr. Gromley just attempted to copy and paste another of his articles here.

It's obvious he's looking for a platform not wanting to discuss. So I've deleted all of his comments.

Kev

Kevl said...

To the Roman Catholics who are attempting to post their articles (or links to them) here:

Articles or links to your articles are not welcome. If there is something in the article you are responding to that you would like to discus please do so by engaging what was written, actively.

Links to articles will not be accepted.

If you should attempt to discuss and end up being at a loss for how to explain something, and you've been honest in your discussion I may allow you to post a link to something you're trying to explain.

However, that would be a rare event.

Kev

Michael Gormley said...

However, that would be a rare event.

Dear Kevi,
I imagine you were RAGING over your fear pain & shame. Your PROCESS is not about the Catholic Church, but unprocessed "stuff" from your childhood.

Was your father ANTI - CATHOLIC?

Kevl said...

Hi Michael,

I've seen your comments at a number of blogs. Do you read the posts that you comment under?

You can imagine whatever you like I suppose. I don't know what PROCESS you are referencing, there was nothing about a process or repressed childhood trauma in this article.

If you are unable or unwilling to discuss the article you're posting under than please go elsewhere.

Kev

Michael Gormley said...

Do you read the posts that you comment under?

Dear Kevin,
Why do you ask?

Kevl said...

Hi Michael,

Oh I don't know... perhaps because you continually post stuff about the Roman Catholic religion on posts that don't mention it... because you post lengthy articles of rhetoric which have no relation to the topic being discussed...

Should I go on?

If you would like to discuss the textural points being addressed in the article then please do so. However, if you would just like to continue discussing your beloved religion your posts will not be published.

Kev

Michael Gormley said...

...but two months later Mr. Gromley..

Dear Kevin,
My name is GORMLEY!

If you would like to discuss the textural points being addressed in the article then please do so.

Thank you for responding in a mature way, I will be praying for you, when I attend my ROSARY group, this Thursday.

God bless you
Michael Gormley

Kevl said...

Sorry for the mistype.

blessed said...

Okay, just talking through this a little as I read it….James is pointing out that faith that didn’t help the people in the above verse is dead? He didn’t just say that you SHOULD do this or that it would be nice. He doesn’t just stop at there not being profit in faith without works…he goes further to ask “Can faith save him”?

He is showing a situation where a work needs to be done and there is no profit in belief that does nothing in this instance. Then he goes on to say basically that his belief is shown BY his works…someone will say they have faith WELL James will show that someone his faith BY his works because he is backing up the fact that you need to do a work in the situation presented above.
You have faith and I have works (someone saying you can have one without the other) WELL show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works because I am going to help those people that I just told you about…like I cant even see your faith if you have no works to show them.
Then when he calls him a fool he continues to show that Abraham has
faith and works as well as Rahab…if James was the one on the side of the argument that you could have belief without works going with it to show the belief why would he go on to give examples of works perfecting belief? Abraham was justified by works when he offered his son
belief was being shown
by his works: in Gen22:12 God says that Abraham showed his fear of God in obedience…..so are you saying that one can have
faith and it not be evidenced in his life? If so, are you the one that James is talking to?

I know this isn’t teaching that works are part of justification but are you saying that it is NOT teaching that works show your faith?

Kevl said...

Blessed James asks can faith save him? What's the answer to that question? It is yes. I have shown so by the Scriptures. If you say "no" then prove it to me by the Scriptures.

Faith alone saves a person, but it is not profitable to others, doesn't justify a person infront of anyone therefore it is not a witness, and doesn't grow the person who has it into maturity.

Then he goes on to say basically that his belief is shown BY his works…

The Text does not bare this out. His imagined opponent says that works prove faith, not James.

Go ahead and show me the conversation the way you see it.

I know this isn’t teaching that works are part of justification but are you saying that it is NOT teaching that works show your faith?

Works will justify your faith before men - not necessarily prove that you have faith but they work to perfect your faith, make you more faithful, and they also are mostly how you bare fruit... they justify our faith which isn't exactly to say they prove it or our salvation.

Because, as James notes, faith alone saves, but that faith can be animated by works to become profitable for other things than just salvation. Maturity, brotherly love, witness to the goodness and faithfulness of God... so on.

Kev

Michael Gormley said...

What Paul and James actually wrote:

Galatians 2:16 - "Yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in/of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in/of Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law." (see all of Galatians 2:15—3:14)
Romans 3:28 - "For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law." (see all of Rom 3:21—4:25)
James 2:24, 26 - "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone... For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead." (see all of James 2:14-26)

The common but incorrect interpretation, leading to an apparent contradiction between Paul and James:

Paul supposedly said: Justification comes not by our good works, but by our faith in Jesus alone.
James supposedly said: Justification comes by our good works, not by our faith in God.

blessed said...

Here is how I was reading it:
James: Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead But someone will say :(imaginary someone)You have faith and I have works
and then the rest is back to James.....and there is debate over who is speaking when but I think most say it is this way because it was James that was talking about works to begin with...he is the one that introduced the whole conversation of the people in need so the conversation he has goes on to relay would be to back up what he had previously said but really, that aside, we come to the same conclusion that this does not mean that works will not save you....I guess you say that they justify (qualify) you before men and I may think it qualifies you before yourself as it did with Abraham....he proved his fear of God to himself and God. That is why if one does not have works (that Christ prepared beforehand that we should walk in them) and they werent bearing fruit or being chastened by the Lord for discipline then I would think they should be brought to scripture so that they may examine themselves. Not that I could say to them that they are saved or not but that they should go to the Lord themselves.....

Kevl said...

Good Day Mr. Gormley, I commend you on posting something other than one of your articles... however I suspect that this post is just as pre-prepared.

At least it is close to being on topic.

As for what Paul supposedly wrote; read Romans 4. He justifies the ungodly who does not work.

Justifies by faith apart from works.

I'm not sure I've ever read or heard anyone claiming that James said that faith comes by works alone...

Kev

Kevl said...
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Kevl said...

Hi Blessed re-read the article.

You say the objector says "You (James) have faith and I (the objector) have works"

And then James says back his objector "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. "

How exactly does this make sense? If you claim you have works, and that I have faith. How could I challenge you to show my your faith without your works and that I would show you mine by my works... it's completely reversed to what the conversation is - and makes no sense at all.

Also Read 1Cor 4:1-5

1 Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.

Kev

Michael Gormley said...

Most readers with even a passing interest in apologetics are familiar with St Paul's words from Romans 4:3-5,

For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness

This passage is critical to the doctrine of Sola Fide because it is where Protestants claim St Paul expressly lays down the doctrine of the 'Imputation of Christ's Righteousness' to the believer at the (one and only) moment of Justification, and that this Righteousness is received by faith.

The standard and historic Protestant interpretation of "faith is counted as righteousness" is clearly stated in the Westminster Confession (XI:1):

Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

What this passage is saying is that the phrase "faith counted as righteousness" is not to be understood as 'faith itself is counted as righteousness,' but rather, 'faith receives Christ's Righteousness.'

blessed said...

Hi Blessed re-read the article.

I read the article, printed the article and read it again.....but then I went to the book of James and in the context of what he is arguing I cannot see that conversation going the way that you stated...James is the one that said that faith without works is dead before the conversation played out...the objector doesnt say you James and I objector...James is calling for 2 things and the objector says I have one and you have one....but again conceding who said what in that piece of what James said....James is saying faith without works is dead, you need to help these people not just bless them with your mouth, then goes on to say that man is justified not by faith only..like the argument wasnt even about anything other than here are some people that need help, what good is your faith without works? didnt Abraham and Rahab have those works that you should have if you say that you have faith...I guess that is what leads me to believe he is taking up the faith only vs faith and works in that conversation...

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5
This is saying Paul doesnt need to be justified in the eyes of men but of God who judges all things

you said: Works will justify your faith before men

Why would we need our works justified by men in light og 1Cor4:1-5 ? Is it not just a fact that Christ redeemed a people zealous for good works?
I would just read James as saying that our good works flow from our redemption, the fact that we have faith assures good works to follow is some way...and that if they arent following then you would be open for gentle rebuke.

Kevl said...

Blessed,

Paul takes no confidence in his judgment of himself - he says not to do it because it is meaningless. It is no big deal for him to be judged by man... he doesn't even judge himself because he can't see himself clearly enough.

We all judge each other, and we are either justified in another's eyes by what they see or we are not... just because a person thinks I'm "good" doesn't mean I am however.

However, as you rightly note, that faith without works is "dead" or unprofitable. It is counted as righteousness by God, and we are saved through it by Grace, but it doesn't help our brother unless it is animated by good works.

Kev

Kevl said...

Hi Mr. Gormley, you are persistent I'll give you that.

Who is "counting" or appraising the wagest given to the person working?

Who is "counting" or appraising the faith?

You said that Rom 4 actually rebukes the imputation of Christ's righteousness on the one who believes but does not work.

You quote a confession that many find wonderful, but which pales in comparison to the Scriptures - and so must take a far second seat to the Scriptures.

Then you say;

What this passage is saying is that the phrase "faith counted as righteousness" is not to be understood as 'faith itself is counted as righteousness,' but rather, 'faith receives Christ's Righteousness.'

I really don't care what the Westminister Confession says... or what you think it says. What is important is what the Scriptures say.

Defend your view from the Scriptures, don't do what all cults do - pick an argument you want to have and decide that such makes you correct. Like having your own special version of the Bible that changes key doctrines, or makes a mockery of the infallibility of God's Word.... arguing about what that confession means or intends is meaningless. Whether you call it the "standard" confession or not... it is not MY confession.

I'll ask the same question that Paul says "What does the Scripture say?"

Gen 15:6

http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Gen&c=15&v=6&t=KJV#conc/6

Abram believed (or was assured) in the Lord, and this was judged as righteousness - though the righteousness was not there in obedience (the word is in the "imperfect" form).

This is exactly like what Paul says, he who is ungodly, who does not work is COUNTED or JUDGED or APPRAISED as righteous because they believe.

In Paul's rendering it is a statement of fact, and he explains the actual shortcoming of the person being counted as righteousness, that he is ungodly and does not work.


Kev

Michael Gormley said...

Dear Kevin,

Private interpretation of Scriptures can be exceedingly harmful to self and others. This has divided Christianity into hundreds if not tens of thousands of segments.

Too many individuals claim their position is right and are unwilling to freely discuss the position taken or to be submissive to moral authorities.

Holding to a personal position, or one of heretical source, places one's eternal soul in jeopardy. Such people often become instruments that lead others to perdition.

I will pray for you, Kevin, when I attend ROSARY next Thursday.

The Catholic Church Stands Alone!

Dennis said...

I am fairly new to the blog world, but came across your blog and started reading. I have been working through the whole LS debate and was pleased to see someone who rejects LS deal with James 2.
However, I have studied through the book of James and I have not understood this passage the way you have described. My understanding of the text is that James is dealing with people who have embraced salvation and grace only to live however they wanted. James is seeking to clarify true faith to them and says "faith without works is dead." Then the objector says, "You have faith." (in other words "haven't you preached a message of faith alone and isn't that what you claim to believe?"). To this James responds, "and I (James) have works. Show me your (objector) faith without your works, and I (James) will show you my faith by my works." This seems to fit the context and much better in my opinion then either of the other possible readings you have described. Thoughts?

Kevl said...

Hi Dennis,

Thanks for the post! Welcome to the "Blogosphere" and I hope you find my blog - and the MANY others helpful.

I'll respond to the specifics of your question but I want to state how I approach Scripture first.

You asked This seems to fit the context and much better in my opinion then either of the other possible readings you have described. Thoughts?

There are many passages that have been abused over Church history, but this one is among the most abused. The teaching that this book is about true saving faith being a faith that has works is so pervasive in Church culture that it is exceedingly hard for the average Christian to actually allow James his own context.

I do my very best to allow Scripture to interpret itself, and as a little help for this (sometimes very hard) process is to go in with the idea that my view is wrong.

Dr. Fred Lybrand has prepared a wonderful work on this whole topic in his book "Back To Faith" (available at Amazon and elsewhere). I HIGHLY recommend this book to you.

This post is getting long so I'll respond to the conversation you suggest in my next.

Kev

Kevl said...

Hi Dennis,

I'll discuss your suggestion about the conversation between James and his objector now.

You suggest James is seeking to clarify true faith to them and says "faith without works is dead."

Where do you get this interpretation? I know it is commonly taught but where does James say that he is seeking to clarify true faith?

You suggested that the objector says
You have faith." (in other words "haven't you preached a message of faith alone and isn't that what you claim to believe?").

To which you suggest James replied

"and I (James) have works. Show me your (objector) faith without your works, and I (James) will show you my faith by my works."

That is a construction that could be used, but where do you get the interpretation of the objector's words?

The conversation only partially works even if the objector said what you suggest he meant - but there is no textural reason to believe this is what the objector meant.

Such a construction of the conversation would not discerned without first having the theology that says faith without works is not saving faith.

Other parts of the passage show us that James is not showing the difference between true saving faith and false unsaving faith - but the animation of faith with works that brings about maturity - faith being perfected, and men being justified before other men.

It is also important to consider that Paul is explicit that true saving faith is apart from works.

These two facts inform our understanding of the conversation, along with how James phrases it and we must then not put the context of theology on Jame's words, but the context of the rest of Scripture including the same chapter.

I hope this is helpful.

Thanks for your post! Great question.

Kev

Kevl said...

Mr. Gormley,

I defy you to show how what I've written here is a "private interpretation"....

Thank you for your post, you are no longer welcome to post your Roman Catholic heresy here.


Kev

Dennis said...

You wrote,
where do you get the interpretation of the objector's words?

I have not read the book you suggested but will look into it. I am genuinely trying to carefully weigh the arguments made regarding the context of James. I know that just because something is "new" doesn't make it wrong or bad and vice versa, but historically James has been viewed as a book that deals with "faith that produces fruit."

In chapter 1, James argues that their are those who are "hearer only" and then those who "hear and then do." Also verse 26, "if any one seems to be religious" (appears to be a claim to faith or spirituality-they are certainly ppl in their midst). James continues "but doesn't bridle his tongue, deceives himself and his religion is useless." Then the next verse tells us what pure/true religion is and James points to "putting the faith into action (care for fatherless and widows and be pure).

Dennis said...

I don't find James and Paul to be in disagreement at all. I will try (easier said than done) to set aside preconceived ideas and take a fresh look at James, but I believe one of the reasons why Martin Luther struggled with the book is because a natural reading of it seems to indicate that James is indeed calling for works/fruit to be manifest. I wouldn't say this is the basis of our salvation, but it's a call to examine ourselves and see if these things are evident at any level. If there is zero desire to serve and obey the Lord, I cannot say "I made a decision one time and I believe Jesus is the Son of God." The question has be asked "did I really believe?"

Kevl said...

Hi Dennis,

You're right; that mindset is very hard to attain, and maintain. Nonetheless I'm convinced it is most valuable.

Luther did struggle with James, as did many of the reformers. The Catholics of the day challenged them "What about works" and this is where the Reformers compromised... they were not perfect.

I do hope you pick up Lybrand's Back to Faith because it is a wonderfully written work. I had much the same view as you are exploring and Dr. Lybrand helped me examine that view.

I was surprised at the things I thought were plain in the Text.. but were really sourced from the theology I had been taught.

Kev

Kevl said...

Hi Dennis,

I don't want to offer needless argument - because I think you know what I'm going to write with regard to James 1 before I write it - but just in case I'll offer just a short note.

You note In chapter 1, James argues that their are those who are "hearer only" and then those who "hear and then do."

Is James saying those who hear only are unsaved and those that hear and do are saved? Read the rest of James 1:25 this one will be blessed in what he does.

You also note

Also verse 26, "if any one seems to be religious" (appears to be a claim to faith or spirituality-they are certainly ppl in their midst). James continues "but doesn't bridle his tongue, deceives himself and his religion is useless." Then the next verse tells us what pure/true religion is and James points to "putting the faith into action (care for fatherless and widows and be pure).

So if the person "bridled" their tongue it would be proof that they are truly saved? In James 3 he says that anyone who is able to bridle the tongue is a "perfect man" who is able to bridle the whole body. I don't know anyone like this aside from the Lord Himself.

The rest about "true religion" is not connected to "true faith" but rather the example of true good works. That's why James calls it "pure undefiled religion" and not "pure undefiled faith."

I know how frustrating it can be to have these things individually taken appart but we have to be agressive about the challenge we pose to theology.

It is very easy to have a view of what Scripture says and then view it only through those lenses - and as you noted - it is exceedingly hard to surrender those glasses.

When you gave an example of how the conversation between James and his objector might have gone I had to surrender mine and see it through your eyes in order to evaluate it properly. I hope I was successful, I believe that I was.

Sometimes I'm not. When I was evaluating Pastor Millar's sermon there were a number of times when I had to stop writing because I was writing from the outflow of upset instead of being sourced from the Scriptures.

When I first looked at James 2, I was not prepared to look at the Scripture apart from my theology... and I failed miserably. I ended up being corrected by a most unlikely man.... but thankfully the Lord can use anyone to accomplish His will.

Kev

blessed said...

Hi Kevl....I have still been thinking this text over and have a couple of questions/observations...when you read this text did you come aways thinking the same things that Dennis and I did only to change your mind later? If so, were you taught to understand it the wrong way or is that how you understood it from reading it? I ask bc I was not taught to read James a certain way...I was a beliver and had certain thoughts on texts BEFORE I came under teaching...this is one of those texts as far as I can remember....in the Catholic Church we were not taught scripture....the Baptist Church I attended was not calvinistic, nowhere near reformed and not expositional so even if they had read that verse it would not have been expounded on nor read often..the second church I attended was the same....so when hearing James preached that way it would have been acceptable UNTIL I read what someone else TAUGHT...I say this because I wonder if your theology really formed your opinion of that verse or if it was just the natural reading you got when you were reading scriptures on your own.....
the verse I am thinking of is when Jesus said that His power is made perfect in our weakness...His power is what it is but it is shown the greatest in our weakness so could that understanding be brought to this text....our faith shows the most when we work? So then it looks dead if you have no works? Will a believer have no works and a dead faith? Maybe that is what I am having trouble with? If James did nto say I will show my faith by my works he still said that faith without them is a dead faith....the body without the spirit is dead....we are dead in our sin and trespasses until we are saved....so when we are dead we are lost....maybe I am bringing scriptures that shouldnt be applied to this text?

Kevl said...

Hi Blessed,

You asked I say this because I wonder if your theology really formed your opinion of that verse or if it was just the natural reading you got when you were reading scriptures on your own.....


I was taught what James 2 meant long before I ever got around to reading James.

The rest of what you wrote about is well (and completely) addressed in Lybrand's Back To Faith.

I cite a very short passage from his work with regard to the body is dead without the spirit disucssion in the series of articles on Millar's preaching that brought you to this article.

James 2:26 is discussed in

'BUT' Theology Part 3

Kev

blessed said...

Will a believer have no works and a dead faith?

blessed said...

I read that analysis of James 2:26 and will go back and read it again... this is what I see when reading that analogy

body - spirit = dead
faith - works = dead

Can you correct this for me?
Believe me when I tell that I have no shame admitting when someone is speaking over my head.... :)

Kevl said...

I believe James is clear that a believer can have a "dead" faith because they are not adding works to it.

Peter is also clear about this.

Dead is not "false" or "non-saving" it is "unanimated" and therefore not producing anything to benefit others and glorify God.

It is still 'faith' but it is not perfected as Abraham's was when he acted.

Kev

Dennis said...

I will pick up a copy of Back to Faith. I will say that I don't think my "theology" led me to hold that point of view. My upbringing and college I attended were not calvinistic and would not endorse LS. You could argue that everything I was around was "anti" calvin and MacArthur. I really have read very little of MacArthur's material related to this issue. (I guess I've read others who have promoted that view though).
So, I don't feel that my "theology" shaped my view of the book of James. To me it has always been (or seemed to be) a very natural understanding of the text.
At this point in my life, my personal belief is that our lives should indeed change upon genuine faith in Christ. However, this does not mean that I will always be perfect. While the basis of our salvation is simple faith in Christ and repentance of our sin, nowhere does Scripture say that we simply point to a time when we walked an aisle, made a decision, or prayed a prayer for assurance of our salvation. (I'm not saying that your are arguing this either, but this (to me) is a danger to say your life (works) have nothing to do with your faith.
So, while I agree that there can be a danger to say "just look at how they are living...it's all about works" I believe there is an equal danger to say "it matters little how you live, so long as you've made a profession of faith." Maybe I'm playing on the extremes, but if you carry each view to the extremes this is where you end up. Paul (I Cor. 11:28; II Cor. 13:5) calls for us to examine ourselves.

Dennis said...

Very practically, I cannot discern the heart of an individual, all I can see is what is demonstrated on the outside. I find no biblical basis to assure someone (who has made a profession) that they are truly a believer if their life consistently has no regard for spiritual things or obedience to the Word of God. I understand that they may truly be a believer but have fallen away (I Cor. 5). Jesus also makes in clear in Matt. 18 that those who don't respond to the church are to be treated as an unbeliever. I may have gotten a little carried away with the keyboard:)

blessed said...

I am thinking like Dennis.....so you (Kevin)say that a believer can have a dead faith with no works?....

p160 said...

Kevi,

12 If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw,
13 the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one's work.
14 If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage.
15 But if someone's work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.
16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.
(1Corinthians 3: 12-17)

In these passages - 1 Cor. 3:12-17 - Paul is talking about how God judges our works after death by using a string of metaphors (we are God's building; works are good and bad materials, etc.).

Paul says that if a person builds with good materials, he will receive a reward (verse 14). If he builds with a mixture of good and bad materials, his work is burned up, but he is still saved (verse 15).

If he only builds with bad materials, he has destroyed the temple, and God will destroy him (verse 17).

These passage demonstrates several things. First, it demonstrates that our works serve as a basis for determining our salvation.

This is contrary to the erroneous Protestant belief that, once we accept Jesus by faith alone, we are saved.

Protestants have no good explanation for why Paul is teaching the Corinthians that our works bear upon our salvation.

Second, the verse demonstrates that, if a person does both good and bad works, his bad works are punished, but he is still saved.

The Greek phrase for "suffer loss" (zemiothesetai) means "to be punished" (Purgatory).

This means the man undergoes an expiation of temporal punishment for his bad works (sins) but is still saved.

The phrase “but only” or “yet so” (in Greek, houtos) means "in the same manner." This means that the man must pass through the fire in the same way that his bad works passed through the fire, in order to expiate himself of the things that led him to produce the bad works in the first

Kevl said...

Dennis and Blessed,

See the series here 'BUT' Theology for more about "examining yourself."

Quick note about examining one's self before the Lord's Table - this is not about if one is saved or not but about if one is keeping themselves clean and should be in fellowship.

If a Believer cannot have a "dead" (unanimated unprofitable) faith without works then what is James wasting his ink for?

Kev

Kevl said...

p160 your comment came up as spam in my filter - that means you are most likely related to Mr. Gormley. I think I remember you posting like articles as he tries to do.

Do not expect freedom to do so.

I recognize the Catholic view of this passage in your writing.

In short - the Judgment Seat of Christ is about rewards and only saved Believers will stand at it.

the Great White Throne judgment is for eternal condemnation and only unbelievers will stand at it.

Contrary to what is taught (even by John MacArthur) that God will look at our works to determine our Salvation everyone who stands at the Judgment Seat of Christ is in fact saved and will live forever with Him.

More thoughts on the Judgment Seat of Christ

Kev

Dennis said...

My point about Paul calling for an examination is that he calls "us" to discern. I've read a little of Fred lybrand on his blog and one of his contentions is that man cannot properly judge his own works. Either they will "think" they are better than they are or they will realize they never meet God's standard and always doubt their salvation. (I think this was his point in his blog about piper's sabbatical.) I only bring him up bc you have used him a lot as well.
I don't think i agree with that line of reasoning. I understand his concerns but I think he plays on the extremes to make his point. If I can examine myself to see if I'm in fellowship, than I'm "determining" if my life is clean and pure, if I'm living as I ought. From what I've read, this is verification of your salvation. It's not like I walk around every day saying "did I pass the test." I don't know that I would preach a message with 5 tests, but I have preached messages calling for believers to repent and if their is no repentance continually then have they ever truly repented is the next question they should ask?
I can examine myself for fellowship and completely deceive myself. So the argument that if our salvation is left up to our examining our works we would have self righteous people thinking they are saved is IMO invalid. Again, I think there are extremes on both sides, but there are so many verses that make the link of fruit being a by product of salvation that it seems like no matter what verse is brought up there is "another interrpretation of that verse" kind of response.
Can use address the issue of church discipline in Matt 18 and why Jesus would say to treat them like an unbeliever?

Dennis said...

P160. the contex of I cor. 3 is really talking about the building up of the local church (temple). "you are God's temple" is addressed to the entire body not just one individual. Paul is concerned about their division in the church over personalities. Just a thought

Kevl said...

Hi Dennis,

Good conversation points there.

I'm going to be preaching about the walk of believers, and confidence to approach God this Sunday at our Family Communion service.

There has to be a high standard of "walking in the light" for believers to be in fellowship and eat at the Lord's Table.

I don't agree with everything that Fred Lybrand says - as you can see demonstrated at his blog - but I greatly appreciate his discipline to know the Word.

As I have been examining the preaching of Pastor Millar, I think that there are many verses that get used to support a view that have nothing to do with that view - it's not that there is "another interpretation" for them but that the Bible intends them in a particular way but they get separated from their context and used to support a view that they do not.

The truth is that the Church is largely not practicing discipline these days. We should put someone who will not live properly out of fellowship and treat them like an unbeliever. Not think that they are unsaved because of their behavior but to treat them as though they are - outside of fellowship.

Kev

Dennis said...

I agree that there are verses that are just used to back a particular position. I strive to be as open and honest what Scripture says, which is how I have arrived at my current position on this issue (although i am still working through some things).
In regard to discipline you said, "We should put someone who will not live properly out of fellowship and treat them like an unbeliever. Not think that they are unsaved because of their behavior but to treat them as though they are - outside of fellowship." how else do you treat someone who is an unbeliever other than that they need to repent and by faith trust in Christ. Only believers have true fellowship with God and with one another. I have enjoyed reading some of your articles and it has caused me to think about my position and i will continue to read in this area to better understand, but I have to thoroughly disagree with you at this point as the context and natural reading of Matthew 18 is that disciplined people are not given the benefit of the doubt, but are placed on the outside with unbelievers. As I mentioned earlier I don't know their heart and they may be saved, but the call is still the same Repent! I don't know if my catholic neighbor is saved (although the profess faith in Christ and believe that He died for them), but I present the Gospel to them because their lives only depicted a love of the world continually. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. A balance is needed in regard to this topic. I think there are elements of truth to both sides, and to be completely honest with Scripture means that I may not now nor ever fully understand the mystery of the Gospel. Thank you for the challenges in this area!

Kevl said...

Hi Blessed,

You said I don't know if my catholic neighbor is saved (although the profess faith in Christ and believe that He died for them), but I present the Gospel to them because their lives only depicted a love of the world continually.

Then you would be doing something that Paul never did with the carnal people he wrote to.

You should pray for and witness to your Catholic neighbour because you can be nearly 100% sure he/she has never believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The person who will not submit to proper discipline is to be put out of fellowship - but he is not to be seen as an enemy or unsaved - but as a brother. Check 2Thess 3:14-15 for example...

Notice also that that Matt 18 calls the person a "brother" not a "professing believer."

I think there are elements of truth to both sides, and to be completely honest with Scripture means that I may not now nor ever fully understand the mystery of the Gospel.

I'm sorry I just can't go there with you. There are mysteries in the Scriptures, and they are presented as such. However the Gospel is simple.

It is only when we depart from the simplicity that is in Christ that we get into such conversations.

Kev

blessed said...

Hi Blessed,

You said I don't know if my catholic neighbor is saved (although the profess faith in Christ and believe that He died for them), but I present the Gospel to them because their lives only depicted a love of the world continually.

That was Dennis not me :)

Kevl said...

Yikes!!! Sorry!

You two were posting a lot for a few days - I was having a hard time to keep up. :) No real excuse though - I'm sorry.

Kev

blessed said...

Thats ok...just didnt want him to think you had not responded to his post... :)

Becky said...

I too am Free Grace in perspective and I read your explanation of this passage with interest. However, your exegesis seems to be flawed. Your interpretation of the passage seems to be founded on the implied answer to the rhetorical question, "Can faith save him?" You say the implied answer here (based on other Scripture as well as the objector's argument) is "YES." That could easily be the case if you only look at the English text. Unfortunately for your view, however, there is a word used in the Greek text (it can be transliterated 'may') that is always used when the implied answer is "NO." This fact is widely recognized by both Lordship and Free Grace Greek scholars. As much as I would like to believe that your interpretation is the best one, on the basis of the Greek text, I can't. Thankfully, though, there is a different interpretation that accounts for the implied answer "NO" to the rhetorical question, also accounts for the objector's use of "YOU have faith and I have works," and still shows very clearly that James is talking about a different type of justification, one that demonstrates faith before men, one that is profitable and useful. I don't write this to be nitpicky, but because I don't want Lordship advocates to be able to accuse US (Free Grace) of sloppy exegesis, as I'm afraid they could with your view. Here's the link to the explanation I think best represents the Greek text: www.freegraceresources.org/deadfaithgus.doc. See what you think. But in any case the answer to the rhetorical question is NO, not YES, and our explanation of the passage needs to fit that. Thanks!

Kevl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevl said...

Hi Becky,

I'll have to look at your link and the Greek in question.

However; my understanding of his implied answer is driven from the later conversation - not my understanding of the implied answer driving my understanding of the later conversation.

Kev