Faith Without Works is Dead: Exegetical Look at James 2:18-26 – Application

Author’s Note: This is the fourth and last post in a series on James 2:18-26. You can read the first post (Introduction) herethe second post (The Context) here and the third post (The Analysis of The Text) here. Thank you for reading!


IMG_8792Application

In verse 26 we come to understand that faith without works is a dead faith. This means that this faith cannot and will not save us; we are not justified by such a faith. But to fully comprehend what James is saying here we take a cue from Dr. Alexander Stewart. In his article James, Soteriology, And Synergism he writes, “James’s understanding of ‘works’ (good conduct; putting away anger, moral impurity, and wickedness; speaking rightly; keeping oneself unstained by the world) is equivalent to obedience to God’s law and can be legitimately linked to modem theological discussions of sanctification.”[1]

According to Dr. Stewart, the definition of ἔργον is given by James in 3:13 and the contrast between hearers and doers in 1:19-27 is the crux of James’ teaching on faith and works.[2] The application for believers is that if there is faith, then our conduct must follow as evidence of that faith. In other words, we must be able to control our anger. We must “put away all moral impurity and wickedness.” We must “speak rightly” and not with a foul mouth or gossiping.  A believer must keep themselves from getting stained by the world. In other words, a believer who lives in constant habitual sin has a faith that is dead and decaying.

The believer must evaluate their life and compare it to the good conduct that James is writing about. If that type of conduct is not present in the believer’s life, then they should ask God for forgiveness and repent of their sins and ask for a true faith that will lead to a true salvation. Preachers must preach the grace of God to a dying, sin filled world, but they must not do it apart from the practical teaching between faith and works that James gives us in his letter.

 God has created us for His glory, as we see in Isaiah 43:7 where He says “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Sin entered into the world by one man and fractured man’s relationship with God. That relationship has been restored by one man by His sacrifice on the cross. A believer who accepts Jesus Christ as Savior has been saved to glorify God, as we see in 1 Corinthians 6:20. Here the Apostle Paul writes, “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

James 2:18-26 gives us the practical argument that faith without works is dead. Believing that we are saved yet not glorifying God by living out that faith in front of the lost people in the world is a dead faith. Believers must be about the work of God to showcase him to the nations so that they will say that truly our God is the one true God, the God of the universe, merciful and kind.


[1] Alexander Stewart “James, soteriology, and synergism.” Tyndale Bulletin (January 1, 2010): 299.

[2] Ibid., 299

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Faith Without Works is Dead: Exegetical Look at James 2:18-26 – The Analysis of the Text

Author’s Note: This is the second post in a series on James 2:18-26. You can read the first post (Introduction) here and the second post (The Context) here.


IMG_8792Analysis of Text

In James 2:18 he writes, “But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” By this he jumps right into the argument between faith and works. The word used for faith throughout this passage is πίστις (pistis) and it means to have faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; the promised Messiah. In the Louw Nida the sense of meaning is to have complete trust and reliance upon someone.[1] In the Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon we find the same sense of meaning.[2]

The word that he uses for works is ἔργον (ergon), which means works in both the Louw Nida and the Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon.[3] What James is saying is that he has works because of his faith. In other words, he lives his life according to God’s will, because he has been saved because of his faith. We will unpack this in the following verses.

In verses 19 and 20, we see the foolishness of someone who thinks contrary to what James is arguing. James writes, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” James says that a person who believes that there is one God is on an even level as the demons who believe there is a God and shudder. Then he asks the foolish person if they want to be shown that faith without works is dead. The word that he uses for foolish is κενός (kenos). This word actually means empty. The sense of the word in the Louw Nida is that this person is empty of all understanding.[4] In the Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon it means being devoid of truth.[5] In other words, James is saying that the person who says that all that they need is faith to be saved without any evidence of their salvation showing through by their works is empty of understanding and devoid of the truth of the Word of God.

Next James gives an example of faith completed by works in verses 21 through 23. He writes, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God.”

James uses three words here that deserve a closer look. The first is justified. In the original Greek language justified is δικαιόω (dikaioo). This word means to be morally right; morally right with God.[6] The second word is active. This word in the original Greek language is συνεργέω (sunergeo). This word means to work together with something or someone.[7] The third and last word is completed. This word in the original Greek is τελειόω (teleioo). This word means to carry through completely; to finish.[8]

What James is saying here is that Abraham was morally right before God, because by obeying God in offering up his son Isaac, his faith was working together with his works (or deeds) to complete his faith. By this the Scripture was fulfilled and Abraham was called “a friend of God.”

The next example that James gives comes from Rahab the prostitute. In this example he proves the point that “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” In verses 24 and 25 he writes, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?”

Again James uses the words faith, works, and justified. There is no need to define these words here as they have already been defined in the previous verses. However, he is saying that because Rahab had faith in the one true God of the nation of Israel, she “received the messengers and sent them out by another way” so that they would not be captured and be put to death by the soldiers of her nation. Rahab showed her faith by her works, which was helping the messengers escape.

James concludes with verse 26. He writes, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” In this verse the word apart in the original Greek language is χωρίς (choris). This word means “without, not with, no relationship to, apart from, independent of.”[9] What James is saying here is that apart from works, faith is dead just like the body cannot be alive without the spirit. This is a strong statement as we know that death results in decay. The implication for application to our lives as believers becomes very clear and that will be the topic in the next post.


[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.

[2] Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2001.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

 

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Faith Without Works is Dead: Exegetical Look at James 2:18-26 – The Context

Author’s Note: This is the second post in a series on James 2:18-26. You can read the first post here.


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Context

The letter of James was the earliest written epistle in the New Testament. Most scholars agree, although there are some arguments against this consensus, that it was written in the early to middle 40s A.D.[1] James was writing to Jewish believers who were spread across the Diaspora as a result of persecution. It was a time of economic hardship, not only for the church in Jerusalem, but for the whole region.[2] The wealthy took advantage of them (James 5:4-6) and took them to court (James 2:6); and “they scorned their faith (James 2:7).”[3]

James was writing from Jerusalem where he was the leader of the church, and most likely he felt a responsibility to write to these believers in the Diaspora. He wrote to encourage them (James 5:7-11) and to remind them of the importance of “maintaining their piety” in the face of their trials (James 1:2-4,120.[4]

In the midst of this, most importantly, he writes to them about the Christian life on faith and works. It is also considered the most controversial teaching in the New Testament. Some have argued that James teaches “lordship salvation,” or “works based salvation.” Others say that there is a synergism within his teachings on faith and works. In the last two decades there has been a new “paradigm” in Jewish soteriology that is called “covenant nomism.”[5]

Covenant nomism is based upon the Jewish covenant of being the chosen people of God, and as the chosen people they must respond with works; a sort of agreement between God and man. This is obviously contrary to what the rest of the New Testament teaches. So scholars try to harmonize what James teaches, justification at the judgment, and what Paul teaches about justification.[6] Harmonizing the two teachings are not that easy and the final outcome is one that takes into account all of the New Testament on justification. Dr. Moo says it best, “Faith alone brings one into relationship with God in Christ—but true faith inevitably generates the works that God will take into account in his final decision about the fate of men and women.”[7]

James 2:18-26 finds itself nestled within a textual context that is like loosely formulated homilies. Some scholars say that the letter lacks any real theology. This is part of the reason why the letter was not widely accepted by the church in the early centuries. However, James is written for a specific purpose and his lack of mention of certain Christian doctrines is not an indication that the letter lacks any real theology. On theology, regarding the letter of James, Dr. Moo writes:

Furthermore, we must not minimize the contributions that James does make to certain specific topics of Christian theology. In addition to the obvious importance of his teaching about faith and works in their relationship to the believer’s final salvation, James also contributes significantly to our understanding of God, temptation, prayer, the law, wisdom, and eschatology. To be sure, all these arise in a practical context. But it will be a sad day for the church when such “practical divinity” is not considered “theology.” Therefore, while the brevity and specific purposes of the letter prevent us from sketching a “theology of James,” we are able to note briefly the contributions James makes to certain specific theological topics.[8]

The textual context reveals this sentiment. James writes about how to face trials (1:1-18); responding to God’s Word (1:19-27); avoiding partiality (2:1-13); producing good works (2:14-26); controlling the tongue (3:1-12); false and true wisdom (3:13-18); renouncing worldliness (4:1-12); renouncing arrogance (4:13-5:6); and demonstrating endurance (5:7-20).

We will take a look at the analysis of the text in tomorrow’s post.


[1] D A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, ©2005), 627.

[2] Douglas J. Moo The Letter of James. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2000, 23.

[3] Ibid., 23.

[4] Ibid., 23

[5] Ibid., 42.

[6] Ibid., 42.

[7] Ibid., 42.

[8] Ibid., 28.


 

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Faith Without Works is Dead: Intro to an Exegetical Look at James 2:18-26

Author’s Note: This is the first post in a series on James 2:18-26.


IMG_8792Introduction

The letter of James is arguably the most controversial letter of the New Testament. Martin Luther called the letter an “epistle of straw.”[1] However, he did quote it in a more favorable tone from time to time and later on in life he did tone down his disapproval of the letter a little. Most evangelicals Christians do not like the book because of its “Lordship salvation” that it teaches. Many scholars argue that James is contradicting Paul’s teaching on justification by faith.

The intent of this post series is not to bring balance to Paul and James. By reading both positions for oneself there is no mistake that the two men actually build up and support each other’s teachings.  Scholars have determined that the letter of James is the earliest of all of the epistles to be written.[2] Hence, James was unaware of Paul’s teaching on justification by faith at the time that he wrote his letter. In his letter, James puts forth a practical Christianity; a Christianity that takes into consideration whether one is truly saved.

A small detour is in order at this point in this introduction. This letter was written to Jewish believers who are the chosen of God: “[T]o the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1). Looking back in the Old Testament to Deuteronomy, we see that God redeemed Israel out of slavery in Egypt (the Exodus) not because they were something special, but because of His grace:

The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

His grace came first and then, as we see in Exodus, came what their response to that grace is to be, a moral response:  “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.”  (Exodus 19:5-6)

They were to be a missional people; a people that would facilitate God’s blessings to the nations. They were to be a priesthood in the midst of the nations; they were to showcase God before the nations. This was necessary in order for the nations to recognize that this nation Israel was truly blessed by the God of Israel. So that the nations would say truly that this is the God of the universe, the one true God, the Creator of heaven and earth.

In the same, way we are created for God’s glory (Isaiah 43:7) and we were saved to showcase his glory in front of the nations (1 Corinthians 6:20). This is the practical Christianity that James is writing about to Jewish believers. James is a practical letter to Christians who need to hear what he has to say about a faith that without works is dead.

This post series will look at James 2:18-26 and what James means between faith and works beginning with the historical and cultural context, moving to the analysis of the text, and then ending with an application and conclusion section. This will be accomplished in a short series of posts. Tomorrow we will look at the context of James 2:18-26.


[1] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, 2nd ed. (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman Publishers, ©2003), 516.

[2] John MacArthur “Faith according to the apostle James.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (March 1, 1990): 16.

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The Daily Fill (Update: The Last Post)

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The Daily Fill will no longer be a daily post. It is getting harder to find really good theologically solid material. Most bloggers are focused on the news and politics and that is what they end up writing about. The rest of the bloggers are just not writing anything that I consider worthy to share with you.

It is the goal of For His Glory to disciple Christians in the Word of God and that by doing so it is my hope that the Christian will develop a worldview that is biblical and that will guide their thinking as they navigate through life.

It is better to think logically for yourself about a subject and to think it through to it’s logical conclusions then to have someone tell you what to think about the same subject. That’s what critical thinking is all about and a disciple will think critically about the news and politics with a biblical worldview.

There will still be blog posts and articles that I think are good and that I want to share with you so instead I will  do a Weekly Fill postThis will be posted at the end of every week and it will be the same format as The Daily Fill with a quote, good posts to read, and a short video.

There will still periodic blog posts that I have written personally that I will share with you. The only change with those posts is that you will see more of them.

I hope that you enjoy my blog and that you continue reading what I post. Thanks for reading!


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The Daily Fill (03/02/16)

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Quote of the Day

“It was a common saying among the Puritans “Brown bread and the Gospel is good fare.”

Matthew Henry


Worth Reading

A Prayer for Primary Day

“Father we pray for a government that we acknowledge we do not deserve, but we pray this in confidence that it is not we who rule but you, and we commit this to you as your thankful people.”

Online Theological Resources

“When it comes to Bible software, I use Logos more than anything else (though I know BibleWorks and Accordance are excellent too).”

Exegetical Tools Quarterly

“In contrast to other journals, our Exegetical Tools Quarterly is strictly resource-driven. Each issue will contain all of Exegetical Tools’ posts for the last three months.”

 


Video

Russell Moore on Spiritual Warfare

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The Eschatology of Jesus: Kingdom of God in the New Testament and Conclusion

Author’s Note: This is a two-part series. You can read the first post here.


Castle-ClipArt--Graphics-Fairy2Kingdom of God in the New Testament

Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God as having come with His coming to the earth.[1] In Mark 1:15, speaking about repentance, He says that “the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel.” In Matthew 12:28 He says that if He drives out demons by the “Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” In Luke 4:22 when John the Baptist sent his disciples to inquire of Jesus if He was “the one to come,” He responded by referring to the blind, the lame, and the lepers that He had healed (Matt. 11:5). In so doing, He used language from Isaiah to indicate that the kingdom is present on earth.(29:18; 35:4-6; 61:1).

Yet in Luke 4:43 Jesus told the people that He must go and preach the kingdom of God to the other cities because this was His purpose for coming. Here He implies the future coming of the kingdom of God, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” In another passage He continues this theme,

Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following,

“Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:10-12).

Eschatological in nature

In response to His disciples’ request, Jesus gives His “great discourse on the end times” in Matthew 24-25.[2]  In this discourse Jesus “promises that He will come again” (v. 24:30).[3] He also mentions the “Son of Man” several times during His discourse (vv. 27, 37, 39, 42, 44).[4] And in verse 24:30 we read, “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”  In speaking about the eschatological nature of Jesus’ teachings Travis writes:

Jesus used the language of the two ages. E.g., Mark 10:30 – there is no disciple ‘who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, … and in the age to come eternal life’· His more characteristic phrase, ‘the kingdom of God’ is not a regular apocalyptic phrase· But Jesus does seem to use it as a way of referring to the age to come – an age distinct from this age which can come only by the activity of God (Mt. 6:10)· Between the present age and the age to come, highlighting the discontinuity between them, will be the final judgement (Mt. 19:28)·[5]

Death and Eternal Life

For the believer, the resurrection is an important part of eschatology. Erickson writes, “This is the basis for the believer’s hope in the face of death. Although death is inevitable, the believer anticipates being delivered from its power.”[6]

Jesus taught the resurrection of the believer explicitly in several passages in the New Testament. The fifth chapter of John has an excellent example of Jesus’ resurrection teaching:

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live…Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment (vv 25, 28-29).

There is also the passage in Mark 12:24-27, in which Jesus tells the Sadducees “who deny the resurrection” that they were incorrect because of their “lack of knowledge of the Scriptures and of the power of God.”[7] The raising of Lazarus also serves as an affirmation of the resurrection (John 11:24-44).[8]

Judgment

For many people, the final judgment is a fearful event that will take place as a part of eschatology. This is especially true for those who are outside of Christ. For believers, the judgment should not be fearful, but rather it should be anticipated because this is when they will be shown to have been justified. The final judgment will not bring to light our “spiritual condition or status,” but instead it will “make our status public.”[9]

Jesus spoke of judgment in the last days and He “pictured Himself as sitting on a glorious throne and judging all nations (Matthew 25:31-33).”[10] Although in Hebrews 12:23 God is the judge, according to Jesus, the Father has given Him “authority to execute judgment” (John 5:26-29).[11]

Although the following set of Scriptures were not spoken by Jesus, they do point to His role in the last days as it is portrayed in the book of Revelation. As a part of the judgment, Jesus is also the “One who restores the fallen creation to the Father (see Psalm 2; Psalm 110; Dan 7:9–14; and 1 Cor 15:24–28).”[12] First, it all starts in Revelation 6 when Jesus opens the seals of judgment. In Revelation 4-5 Jesus is the only one worthy to take the “book from the hand of the father.”[13] As with the seals of judgments, He is the one who opens the book, “unleashing its contents upon the earth.”[14] In Revelation 6:12-16, the “people on the earth realize that they are facing the wrath of the Lamb and the One who sits on the throne.”[15]

Second, He restores the creation to His father with His “rule as Davidic King over the earth.”[16] This is seen when the angel Gabriel tells Mary that her son will be given the throne of David, He will rule over the house of Jacob, and His kingdom will have no end (Luke 1:32-33).”[17]

Conclusion

This was a study on the eschatology of Jesus. To truly understand eschatology and its implications for mankind, there must be an understanding of Jesus’ teachings on eschatology. By turning to the resources available from several different journal articles the point of this study was able to ascertain what the teachings of Jesus were on eschatology.

Eschatology is the study of the end; an end that will usher in the new heaven and earth. Believers who are dead will be bodily resurrected, and those who are raptured will spend eternity worshiping in the presence of God. By understanding what Jesus taught about eschatology, believers know that God is sovereign and in control. History will not just blindly continue; God will bring His purpose to fulfillment.

As a result, as believers we should be watching for the return of our Lord and work with that anticipation in mind. We know that when He returns justice will be poured out and evil will be punished. The opposite is that faith and faithfulness will be rewarded. Our earthly bodies will be transformed into our heavenly bodies. There will be no more pain, sickness, death, or suffering. Knowing what Jesus taught about eschatology gives us the desire to live in accordance with God’s will.


 

[1] Kenneth Heinitz, “Eschatology in the Teachings of Jesus” Concordia Theological Monthly Vol. 41, No. 8 (1970), 451.

[2] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1998), 1193.

[3] Ibid., 1193.

[4] Ibid., 1193.

[5] Stephen H. Travis, “The Value of Apocalyptic” Tyndalle Bulletin Vol. 30, (January 1, 1979), 68.

[6] Ibid., 1200.

[7] Ibid., 1201.

[8] Ibid., 1202.

[9] Ibid., 1207.

[10] Ibid., 1208.

[11] Micheal J. Vlach, “The Trinity and Eschatology” The Master’s Seminary Journal Vol. 24, No. 2 (Fall 2013), 208.

[12] Ibid., 208.

[13] Ibid., 207.

[14] Ibid., 207.

[15] Ibid., 207.

[16] Ibid., 207.

[17] Ibid., 207.

 

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