Summary: This morning our focus is going to be on verses 14-17, in chapter two. In this section of the passage we find an assumption (v.14), an analogy (vv. 15-16), and an application (v.17). Included is a historical looks at the relationship between James and Paul.
What About Faith and Good Works?
An Answer to the believer
Preached by Pastor Tony Miano
Pico Canyon Community Church
April 1, 2001
Introduction: We’ve spent the last couple of weeks tackling an issue that many people, present company excluded of course, would like to avoid. We confronted the sin of favoritism by discussing what it could look like in the church and how we can avoid falling prey to it in our lives and the life of our church. Paul moves from addressing an issue that is often avoided to addressing an issue that is often debated. We find the issue in James 2:14-26.
This passage is very meaty. Any serious student of God’s Word cannot just gloss over it and say, “Well, isn’t that special.” We’re going to dig deep into this passage and pull out every ounce of truth that we possibly can. D. Edmond Hiebert wrote, “This paragraph is one of the most difficult, and certainly the most misunderstood, sections in [James’ letter]. It has been a theological battleground” (Hiebert, p. 158). Douglas Moo wrote, “This paragraph is the most theologically significant, as well as the most controversial, in the letter of James” (Moo, p. 118). And R. Kent Hughes wrote, James’ teaching [in this passage], taken to heart, will steel the church against a ‘lite’ faith (Hughes, p. 108).
The passage that we just read has been used by many different religions as a proof-text for their belief that you need to do good works in order to gain entry into heaven. Those who deny the infallibility and inerrancy of the Scriptures have used it. They claim that this passage in James contradicts the teachings of Paul in the Book of Romans; therefore, the Bible is an unreliable book. We’re going to prove that conclusion wrong.
James 2:14-26 is to be taken as one continuous section. There is so much information, so much essential Christian truth in this passage of Scripture, that it is not possible to do it justice in one message. That’s why we’re going to spend a few weeks in this paragraph.
The issue deals with the relationship between faith and good works. Are we justified by faith? Does good works justify us? Or do both faith and works justify us? Again, what we’re going to begin studying today is an essential truth in the Christian faith. It is one of the great truths of God’s Word that differentiates biblical Christianity from every other religion in the world, even several that considers themselves to be Christian.
One of my seminary professors once said, “You have to decide which hills you are willing to die on.” The doctrine of sola fide, more commonly known as “Justification By Faith Alone,” is such a hill. It is a doctrine that is under constant attack by those outside and inside the body of Christ.
There are churches, and even denominations, that seem willing to set aside one of the most important tenants of the Christian faith in order to foster ecumenical relationships with other religions that teach a different gospel. We will not be going to that party. I’m confident that after we are through studying this passage we will all understand why we need to take such a strong position.
My hope and prayer is that each of us who know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior will reaffirm our conviction regarding this issue, during our study, and will be better equipped to defend our faith in Christ. For the unbeliever, for the person who has yet to commit their life to Jesus Christ, I pray that as we study God’s Word together you will see that salvation is completely dependent upon faith in Christ, and Him alone, and not by good works, ancestry, or church affiliation. Ultimately, may our study bring honor to Christ and draw each of us closer to Him.
This morning our focus is going to be on verses 14-17, in chapter two. In this section of the passage we find an assumption (v.14), an analogy (vv. 15-16), and an application (v.17).
A Historic Look at James and Paul
Before we study the text, let’s begin by taking a close look at what some consider being a contradiction between James and Paul. Again, in verse fourteen we read, “”What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?”
At first glance it would seem that James is telling us that faith alone does not save a person from their sin, that faith alone in Christ alone is insufficient for receiving eternal life. After all, isn’t James saying that a faith without works cannot save a person? In fact, it seems that he reaffirms this belief in 2:24, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” If this is what he is saying, then James is completely contradicting the teachings of Paul in Romans 3 and Ephesians 2.