Summary: Faith - real & false! (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email: email@example.com)
Reading: chapter 2 verses 14-26
Alexander Graham Bell was an amazingly talented person.
• He invented the multiple telegraph,
• The audiometer - which is used to test your hearing,
• The tricycle landing gear you find on planes,
• And a host of other less well-known machines.
In addition to this he was cofounder of the prestigious magazine Science,
• Served as President of the National Geographic Society,
• And spent his life working with deaf people.
• But most famous of all his creations was the telephone.
• It also made his family and his descendents enormously wealthy.
But he almost lost it all.
• You see Bell never seemed to get around to submitting a patent application.
• Finally, his father-in-law, who had financed a lot of the research,
• Got so impatient that he filed the patent on Bell’s behalf.
• The date was the 14th of February 1876, Bell’s 29th birthday.
• And it was a good thing he did, because just a few hours later,
• Another scientist by the name of Elisha Gray;
• Went to the patent office to get a patent on a machine;
• He’d been working on for many years – you guessed it, the telephone.
This story reminds us that sometimes its not enough simply to have great ideas.
• We need to act on them.
• Bell & his father-in-law are a good example of the relationship between faith and works.
• Bell had faith in his telephone but did nothing about it.
• His father-in-law had faith and the works to go with it.
FAITH IS A KEY DOCTRINE IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
• The Bible teaches that we are saved by faith (Eph. 2:8-9),
• And every Christian is called to live by faith (2 Cor. 5:7).
• In fact, the Bible says; ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God’ (Heb. 11:6);
• It does not take a lot to cause misunderstandings;
• Just listen to these misprints from local newspapers.
• From the Chichester Evening News:
• Miss Hampshire ... is friendly, likeable, and easy to talk to. She has a fine, fair skin,
• Which she admits ruefully comes out in freckles at the first hint of sin.
• Or this from the Dublin Evening Herald:
• Fifteen churches have been closed in Dublin City because of swindling congregations.
• From the Yorkshire Post: Patricia Middleton sang 'Christians dost thou see them?'
• At the close of Sunday night's service. Miss Middleton is a qualified vice instructor.
• Or, even worse, from the Croydon Advertiser:
• Born to Rev and Mrs David Wilson of St James' Church, a git of a son.
This section of James letter (verses 14-26):
• Is the most misunderstood and controversial passage in the book of James.
• Many cults (e.g. the Jehovah Witnesses) completely misunderstand it;
• And it is one of their favourite passages to argue Christians with;
• As they try to prove you have to work your way to heaven.
Question: Why the confusion?
• The entire New Testament teaches that we are saved by faith alone. E.g. Apostle Paul:
• "By grace…. through faith and not by works, so that no-one can boast."
• Yet James comes along and says in these verses,
• “It’s not just faith but faith and works.”
• So the question is which one is right;
• James or Paul?
They are both right, because they are talking about different things.
• Context means everything;
• Just think about these two proverbs:
• “Too many cooks spoil the broth”.
• “Many hands make light work”.
• Both are good advice depending on the context they are used in.
• If we were weeding the Church car park “Many hands make light work” is best.
• If we were making coffee at the end of the service;
• “Too many cooks spoil the broth” is the best advice – context is everything!
Both Paul & James are right in what they say, because they are talking about different situations:
• Paul was fighting the problem of legalism;
• People were saying:
• "You’ve got to keep all the Jewish laws and regulations to be a Christian."
• Paul tells them quite clearly; that is wrong we are saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ!
• It is not keeping the law or even our own good efforts that saves us.
• It is faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone that saves.
• James in this letter is fighting a different problem to Paul.
• His problem is not legalism but laxity.
• He encountered people who were saying;
• "It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you believe."