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Summary: . In this section of James’ letter, we see an objection stated (v. 18a), the objection challenged (vv. 18b-19), and the objector confronted (v. 20).

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What About Faith and Good Works?

An Answer to the Skeptic

James 2:18-20

Preached by Pastor Tony Miano

Pico Canyon Community Church

April 8, 2001

Introduction: A couple of weeks ago I talked about the way James weaved a courtroom drama throughout his writing, in the first half of chapter two. Last week we also saw what could be described as part of a court trial. James made his prima fascia case for justification by faith alone. He did so by showing his readers that the evidence for their salvation by faith would by the good works that they did as a result of that faith. He made the point that sincere words, in and of themselves, are not evidence of a genuine faith in Christ.

Let’s read the passage again, together, beginning in verse fourteen.

Our focus this morning is going to be on verses 18-20. In this section of James’ letter, we see an objection stated (v. 18a), the objection challenged (vv. 18b-19), and the objector confronted (v. 20). The courtroom drama continues with James anticipating his readers reacting in a way very common to court trials—“I object!”

Unlike a lot of my fellow deputies, I really enjoyed testifying in court. I hated the idea of sitting around all day after working the graveyard shift, only to have the district attorney tell me the case would be postponed until the following day. But I really enjoyed taking the stand.

I enjoyed testifying because I really liked sparring with the defense attorneys. Some of the defense attorneys—not many—but some, were easy to get along with. They understood that the banter in the courtroom was not to be taken personal. Each side had their job to do in order to win their case.

I was able to have the kind of relationship with some of the defense attorneys that was cordial, even friendly, before and after the trial, and strictly adversarial during the trial. One tactic I liked to use before the trial started, when the suspect’s attorney was someone I was friendly with, was to sit down next to the defense attorney who would be sitting next to his or her client. I would shake his hand, ask him about the family, compliment his tie, and then get up and walk away, giving the suspect a very friendly smile. It really messed with their mind. One time, after doing this, as soon as the judge entered the courtroom, the suspect jumped out of his seat and demanded a new attorney because the one he had was a friend of the deputy who arrested him.

During the trial, the relationship between officer and defense attorney is, as I said, adversarial. The gloves come off and each side fights to win their case. One tactic commonly used by defense attorneys is to try to get the testifying officer to either change his testimony or become upset. Polls have shown that over 50% of perspective jurors believe that police officers are lying whenever they take the stand. If an attorney can get an officer to do or say something on the stand to support this opinion, he has won his case, whether or not his client actually committed the crime.

I remember one public defender, one whom I did not have a cordial relationship with, who I had several opportunities to spar with in court. He fit into most of the negative stereotypes you can think of to describe defense attorneys. He had the only suit in the courtroom that was cheaper than my own. He thought of himself as the next Clarence Darrow or F. Lee Bailey. He would even approach the witness stand with his chest out and his hands gripping his lapels. He was quite a sight.

Several summers ago, I had a case in which a drunk driver almost ran me and several other deputies over as we were working bike patrol. The kid was high on marijuana, he failed the field sobriety tests, his blood tested positive, and there were half dozen witnesses. It should have been an open and shut case—but not for Mr. Darrow-Bailey.

His entire case hinged on a small box on my report that talked about street lighting. I indicated that there were lights on the street. The attorney asked me if I wrote that information in my report. I said that I did. He asked me if I was sure there were lights. The way he asked told me he wanted to fight about this. I repeated my answer.

Then, in classic melodramatic form, the attorney yelled, “Ah-ha!” He pulled a set of photographs from his jacket pocket, showed them to the district attorney, and then smugly sat them down in front of me. They were photographs of the area where I arrested his client. He asked me if I saw any streetlights. I said, “No.”

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