Summary: "For Dummies" books are a raging success! Why? Full of practical wisdom and simple "How To's" Wouldn't a "Christianity for Dummies," a book full of practical wisdom & simple How Tos on how to live out our faith, be great? James & this series is JUST THAT
Christianity For Dummies: Faith Without Works
A. We are continuing in our series "Christianity for Dummies" based on the Book of James. The first two weeks, we examined How to Respond to Trials & How to Understand & Defeat Temptation. Since that time, our discussion has centered on what does the life of one who professes to have been born again by the gospel look like? Doers of the Word and not just Hearers! We first took a look at The Man in The Mirror. Last time, James wrote about a problem area when it comes to being Doers of the Word and not just Hearers. And that was The Sin of Partiality. Here at the end of Chapter 2, James continues the theme that hearing/faith must lead to doing/works and again writes about a potential problem area in this department - faith without works.
B. What Is The Relationship Between Faith, Works & Justification?
- Faith, works and justification in James 2 has created much controversy in the history of interpretation. In fact, James 2:14-26 is often interpreted as a repudiation of Paul's doctrine of salvation through faith alone.
- James writes: Read James 2:17, 21-24. Saving faith is not divorceable from works. Man is justified by works NOT faith Alone!
- Can the two be harmonized? Does it even matter? YES and a BIG FAT YES! #1 It is essential because of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. #2 It is essential because of the doctrine of inspiration.
- Dr. Rogers = "Now, Paul speaks of the root of salvation. James speaks of the fruit of salvation. Now the root is beneath the ground. The fruit is above the ground. God can see the root, only man can see the fruit. Paul speaks of the foundation of our faith. James speaks of the building that is built on that foundation. Paul is speaking of that which is inward. James is speaking of that which is outward. Paul is speaking of the provision of our salvation. James is speaking of the proof of our salvation. Paul is talking about the means of our salvation. James is talking about the marks of our salvation. Paul is talking about a know so salvation. James is talking about a show so salvation."
II. Context, Context, Context
A. Discuss the importance of context.
B. Much of the confusion about the apparent contradiction between James' and Paul's teachings on the relationship between faith, works and justification goes away when we simply consider the context of the letter of James and the Pauline letters:
1) First consider the Literary Context. Audience: Jewish Christians. Not one church but a scattered group of individuals living outside Palestine.Occasion: #1 = Dispersion as a result of Stephen's martyrdom #2 = Persecution by wealthy Jews Literary Features: Not a true epistle, but Wisdom Literature! James is not addressing specific issues that he knows are going on in the church but only certain typical issues that the Jews of the Diaspora were most likely facing. Diatribe - supposed objector asking questions (this passage).Purpose = Dr. Constable = "His preeminent concern was the practice of Christianity, the manifestation of salvation in shoe leather." Adrian Rogers = "Faith is belief with legs on it!" James was writing how to live out their faith.
2) Second consider the Pauline letters - they are a different genre from James. They are mainly occasional letters meant to deal with specific isssues at hand in specific local churches. Thus James and Paul are developing different issues in relation to faith, works and justification. Different sides of the same coin.
C. So let's explore what James has to teach us about the relationship between faith, works and justification as it relates to genuine saving faith. As we do, we will see that James in his diatribe makes An Assertion, An Objection, A Refutation and An Illustration.
III. Scripture Reading & Prayer
A. Read James 2:14-26.
B. Pray - Father, this subject of the relationship between faith, works and justification is one that has been hotly debated amongst people way smarter than I am. Yet we know that you are a not a God of confusion and so we pray you pour out your Holy Spirit on us this AM that our hearts and minds would be illuminated to the truths of your Word.
IV. An Assertion: Faith Without Works Is Dead (vv. 14-17)
A. We must go back and recall 2:13 - James' emphasis on showing mercy and its consequences for the day of judgment leads naturally to such questions as "How can deeds of mercy help in the judgment?" and, "Is not faith all that matters?". James answers by pointing out the inability to divorce faith & works.