“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him…So faith by itself (if it does not have works) is dead. But someone will say “You have faith and I have works.” (James says) Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works….Do you want to be shown (you foolish person) that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the alter? You see (therefore) that faith was active along with his works and faith was completed by his works….You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” James 2:14-24
Sola Fide-By Faith alone: A pillar doctrine for the Church–except James is pointing out a different perspective to consider. Focusing on either at the expense of the other can cause us to walk in a stumbling manner before our Lord Jesus.
Pretty cool in a confusing way, isn’t it? This wasn’t what I wanted to write about but I felt like I had to address it.
We are saved by grace, not by works…
We are saved by works, not by faith alone (key word)…
Is James presenting a new and competing doctrine? Nope, not at all. James is, though, making sure that we understand that being a disciple is intentional and has expectations.
Let me peel this apart: I am a Christian by faith in the Atonement. My works could NEVER justify or forgive my guilt of being a traitor to the Most High. However (and this is important) my Faith IS justified by my works. Am I a Christian? Show me. Really-show me. Don’t tell me, show me.
Harsh. Abrupt. Bopped on the noggin, smacked in the face. James communicates a necessary reminder. But the Believer can get out of focus to the Whole Council of God at the same time.
Our innate tendency is to atone for ourselves. What that means is that I stop trusting in Christ’s Atonement, replacing it with MY works as atonement. I work for God, therefore I justify myself worthy of salvation. That is not the intent of James’ directive. What James is addressing is that some folks are content to rest on Christ’s work on the Cross and not do anything exhibiting a changed life in Christ. “I have been born again…” What does that look like? James says if you have Faith in the Cross for redemption, then there is something that should be seen, works of some kind.
So what works should I be doing to exhibit my faith? Also can be a stumbling block. I can be triggered into “big works”, noticeable works, and advertisable works. Not bad things, but by doing big works I can ignore the small, secret, but so very much more important works like: Loving wife or respecting husband; Practicing hospitality; Fruit of the Spirit stuff; controlling my tongue; recognizing evidences of Grace; encouraging (or exhorting) one another so others do not fall in the temptation of sin. One big one that isn’t talked about much (but James does) is humbling myself before God.
Goodness, I need to humble myself. I do not want to wait on the Holy Spirit to humble me.
Father, this is clear in my mind but difficult to write about. I needed this reminder. Faith alone in the Atonement is enough, fully enough. ALSO I need to bring works worthy of repentance (Matt 3:8). Bring awareness to me so that I work towards You and Your Will in all things put before me. It does not matter what I do as long as You are directing and I respond faithfully. I can find that direction in Your Word. Many times it is doing in secret. Help me not fall into the trap of “marketing” Your Ways-but humbly serving you and the local church all my days. AMEN