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Summary: #9 in the Book of James Series deals with faith versus works in obtaining salvation.

#9 Without Good Works Your Faith is Dead

Book of James Series

By Pastor Jim May

Tonight we are going to look at one of the oldest doctrinal battles to be found within the church. The battle to decide this issue has raged for centuries. It was an issue which brought turmoil and even dissention in the early church. The Apostle Paul called Peter on the carpet for this issue.

This was also a major issue during many years of Catholic dominated religious rule in Europe and the Mediterranean. Much of the pain and suffering that occurred during the Spanish, Portuguese, Roman and Medieval Inquisitions, when Christians were tortured and murdered at the hands of the church, after having been condemned by a tribunal of religious leaders, also dealt with this issue.

Then came the event that was the straw that broke the camels back and brought the issue into fine focus. It happened on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther walked up to the front door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany and nailed up his 95 Thesis, serving notice on the religious hierarchy that their days of absolute rule had come to an end. That single act of rebellion, counted as heresy by the Catholic Church, triggered the great Protestant Reformation that has resulted in the myriad of denominations of the church in the world today.

Those 95 Thesis pointed to the act of indulgencies, or payment for sin. The church had declared for many years that a sinner could have his sins forgiven by paying penance, mostly in the form of money, to the church. In other words, you could buy your salvation from the priest by giving an appropriate offering. Martin Luther and many others disagreed with this practice and this teaching.

Some of you came out of that type of belief system. Some of you have paid to have your loved ones prayed out of purgatory and then found out that it was all a waste of time and money because purgatory doesn’t exist in this Age of Grace.

Some of you have recited memorized prayers and attended special services, or masses, that were held for the purpose of paying penance for sin.

Some of you at one time were convinced that a man could forgive your sin and that you could receive absolution just by confessing your sin to a man, or by receiving the communion host.

Some of you at one time were convinced that God had a spokesman on this earth who was completely infallible. Whatever that man said, (he is called the Vicar of Christ, meaning that he is authorized to perform the functions of God as his sole deputy on earth); it was the same as God himself speaking and whatever he said was done without question. Then you read where we have all come short of the glory of God and that there is no perfect man on the earth.

You also were taught that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the Queen of Heaven and that if you prayed to her, then she could answer your prayer as quickly, or even quicker, than if you prayed to Jesus Christ. You could also have your prayers answered by praying and trusting in certain dead saints.

According to the Catholic faith in particular, there are literally hundreds of Patron Saints who have a direct impact upon certain areas of your life, but there are thousands of canonized saints to whom you can pray if you need help. According to this doctrine, every saint is there to help you all the time. With so many to mediate between you and God, it is no wonder than many people get confused and don’t pray at all. And who do you thank when, or if, an answer comes to your prayer?

Let me give you just a few name of some of the patron saints: Saint Alphonsus Ligouri – vocations and theologians; Saint Anne – Christian mothers, pregnant women or women in labor; Saint Antony the Abbot – patron saint of gravediggers, butchers and basketweavers; Saint Christopher – patron saint of travelers, sailors, people with epilepsy, bookbinders, gardeners and the weather; Saint Isadore of Seville – patron saint of computers, computer users and the internet – and the list goes on and on.

Those in the protestant world, by-in-large, look at these teachings and say, “how can can anyone believe in such things?” Well, the answer is that we will believe whatever we are taught, unless we study the Word of God for ourselves and find that we were taught wrong. Our final authority must always be the Word of God and not the traditions of men.

With only one verse from the Bible the protestant church has discredited all prayers to anyone other than Jesus Christ.

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