Summary: Faith and works - Paul and James which is right? BOTH
Show me your evidence
I believe that mothers are probably the best detectives in the world. I know that they are not recognized as such, probably because their list of suspects is so small or that the crimes or events seem to be of little consequence.
But how many other people can pick up on the slightest clues and know guilt and innocence. Moms don’t need to dust for fingerprints, or have a lie detector. They just seem to know. They are able to read the evidence, the mannerisms, the tone of voice the look in the eyes and tell what went down. Mothers can find evidence in ways that no one else can.
After our special music last week we are returning to the book of James. And we have reached the delicate, no that is not the right word, upsetting…no…controversial is probably a better choice, section of this book.
The whole book deals with the subject of faith, and James doesn’t just talk in a way that would paint a rosé picture. He is speaking to people living in persecution. Which I believe directly relates to our trials of health, finances and family today. James speaks on equality in the church by illustrating that God sees no difference between rich or poor status… that the church is the great level playing field.
This week’s scripture goes right to the heart of his next point.
There have been plenty of fights over the subject because many people believe that Paul and James disagree.
Paul teaches that faith alone gets you into heaven. And when we read James it sounds like he is saying that there are two parts Faith and Works.
So who is right? Which one knows what he is talking about; Paul the persecutor of the early believers that met Jesus on the road or James the half brother of Jesus and the leader to the church in Jerusalem?
They can’t both be right? Can they? Are you ready for the answer?
Yes they can…..
They are both right because they are talking about different things.
Paul was fighting the problem of legalism. He is fighting the strict adherence to the “Law of Moses” in order to be made right with God. He was struggling to keep the Jewish believers from making the full acceptance of the law a requirement for a person…a gentile to become a Christian. Paul teaches that it is faith and not the law that makes your relationship right with God.
James was not fighting the requirements of the law…he was fighting lack of requirements. He is saying that faith is only the beginning of the relationship with God.
Both men use the word “works” to describe actions.
- However, Paul is talking about circumcision, and diet and cleanliness and separation from the culture.
- James is talking about how faith changes a person’s lifestyle and choices. He is describing how a believer follows Jesus command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Let me say that one more way, Paul teaches what it takes to become a Christian and James how to show you are a Christian.
**The two men are talking about different parts of a trip. One deciding to go and the other how to act along the way.
In our scripture James asks a question, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?”
The words that catch my attention are “claims to have faith.” He is writing to Jewish believers….to people that claim to be believers.
I started to consider some of the things people claim….
Political candidates claim to know what is wrong with and how to fix our country.
People claim to know how to do things on resumes.
People claim to know famous people.
People claim to care about all kinds of causes like pollution or other social issues.
James’ question identifies that some people claim to have faith but no deeds.
No job experience on how to repair an engine.
No personal letters from your friend Gov. Schwarzenegger or Harrison Ford.
No work days picking up trash or recycling bins in their homes.
His question is a discussion starter. Basically, using a modern proverb, he says, “ if you are going to talk the talk you need to walk the walk.” He is waking up his readers awareness of a truth.
What good is a claim if there is no proof…no evidence?
Next James asks, “Can such faith save him?”
He seems to believe that the answer is obvious to his readers. He is expecting the answer; No, of course not.
Why, because a claim of having faith is different than actually having faith.
He is raising a question that is based on the idea that people will say one thing and believe another.