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Lesson 05

RETURN TO SYLLABUS
JAMES 2:14-26
Lesson #05
RESOLVING THE FAITH AND WORKS CONTROVERSY – The Double SidedCoin

  • Memory verse: Jam 2:26
  • In our last lesson James dealt with our attitudes toward other people. We learned that God tests our attitudes. Now we are going to see how God tests actions.
  • Read Jam 2:14 and Gal 2:16

    • Thorn #5 faith and works

      • The most painful thorn in the side of Christianity is that of faith versus works. Some who call themselves Christians emphasize works, while others emphasize faith.
        • Some say we are saved by works, while others say we are saved by faith. And some even mix the two to gain salvation.
          • This unnecessary controversy has existed since the early church. Even Martin Luther struggled with the inclusion of the book of James in the Bible, because of the faith versus works controversy.
          • This controversy is unnecessary because the Bible, in reality, does not contradict itself.
            • We can understand this faith / works controversy better if we view it, not as a controversy, but as two sides of the same coin.
              • In other words, James and Paul are not standing face to face confronting each other. They are standing back to back, both at the point of being born again into the kingdom of God.
                • Paul is looking backward from that point of salvation at those who are not yet born again but desire to know God.
                • James is looking forward from that point of salvation at those who have been born again and desire to continue to follow God.
      • The definition of faith as explained by Paul and by James:
        • Paul’s view of saving faith:
          • Read Rom 3:28 and Gal 2:16
            • When Paul mentions “deeds” or “works” of the law, he is referring to the Old Testament Mosaic Law that never saved anyone.
            • Paul is speaking to Jews who thought that a person must come to Christ by first becoming Jewish, placing oneself under the Law, before accepting Christ by faith.
            • Therefore, Paul says in Rom 3:28 that salvation is by faith and not by keeping the Mosaic Law. (Rom 3:20)
        • James’ view of saving faith:
          • Read Jam 2:14 again.
            • James is talking about an empty “profession of faith”. In other words, some people say (profess) that they are Christians when they are not.
              • If you say you are Christian, does that make you one? No. Why not?
                • Faith is something supernatural that happens in the heart of a person when he is born again. The Holy Spirit comes in and changes the person’s heart. Without a changed heart, he is not a Christian no matter how many times he may say that he is.
            • In verse 14 James mentions “works”. These are not works of the Mosaic Law but good works that follow after a person is born again.
              • James does not believe that a person can be saved by keeping the Mosaic Law, for, in verse 10, he says that to break one point means you are a lawbreaker of all the Mosaic Law.
        • Therefore, neither the Old Testament Mosaic Law nor an empty profession of faith will save anyone. In this respect, Paul and James would agree that a person is saved when he receives Jesus Christ into his heart and he is “born again”. (2Cor 5:17)
          • Then James would add that because the person is born again, the Holy Spirit inside of the person will produce good works to the glory of God. Those good works are an outward manifestation of an inward change of heart.
        • Paul’s view of “works of faith”(Gal 5:6):
          • When a person is born again, he has faith in his heart. (Rom 12:3b). Because of a person’s love for Jesus Christ, he will have a desire to do God’s will. (Joh 14:15) In doing God’s will, the Holy Spirit, in the believer’s heart, will guide the person to perform “works of faith”.
            • Works of faith are initiated by, empowered by, and brought to fruition by the Holy Spirit to the glory and praise of God.
        • James’ view of “works of faith”:
          • An empty “profession of faith” will produce “dead works” (Heb 9:14). Dead works are initiated by man’s ideas and plans, empowered by man’s strength, and they never bring life in the Spirit. They bring glory to man and never bring glory to God.
          • Works of faith are just the opposite of “dead works”. Works of faith are the fingerprints that are left behind by a true believer in Jesus Christ that possesses the Holy Spirit in his heart. These fingerprints of works of faith are the evidence that a person has been born again by the Holy Spirit.

    Paul’s Perspective (Gal 3:1-14)

    James’ Perspective

    The root of salvation is FAITH + NOTHING The fruit of salvation is FAITH + WORKS
    Instruction in justification where the sinner is declared by God to be righteous even though he may still have sin in his life. Exhortation in justification where a believer’s works validate him as true believer.
    Faith from God’s perspective. Faith from man’s perspective.
    • Read Jam 2:15-20
      • James’ Example of Works (15-16)
        • The problem with works is that anyone can do good things. Even non-believers can do “good” things! That is why it is important to understand the difference between “dead works” and “works of faith” as discussed above. However, there is another problem James deals with.
        • The problem with “profession” is that anyone can say good things and fake the Christian vocabulary.
          • “I will pray for you!” “I support the good things you are doing!” “I believe God will supply yours needs!”
            • However, just like an empty profession of salvation does not mean a person is saved, so too, an empty profession of faith does not produce good works of faith. In reality, nothing is produced by these empty words of faith.
            • Faith demands action, not just words.
              • James gives us the example (21-23):
                • Abraham is called the father of faith. He could have said, “God I believe you can raise a person from the dead.” It was not until he put his faith into action by placing his son, Isaac, on the altar of sacrifice, did his faith become a reality of supreme obedience to God. (Gen 22) This is faith in action or, in other words, this is faith followed by works.
                  • Abraham is called a “friend” of God. (23)
                    • In Gen 15:5-18 God made a “Friendship Covenant” with Abraham. God did all the work while Abraham slept.
                    • This is like salvation for the New Testament believer. A personal relationship with God is based on God’s grace where Christ did all the work on the cross for us.
                  • Abraham’s works of faith came 7 chapters after had a born again experience with God (Gen 15 and Gen 22).
              • James gives us another example (25):
                • Rahab hid the Israelite spies because she had faith in the God, Jehovah, and her life was spared. She could have expressed her faith only in words. However, when the city was overtaken, her house would have been destroyed, and she would have been killed. (Jos 2)
              • The point of these two examples is that true faith takes risks. True faith costs you something.

      • The Test of Faith #12 is this:
        • Do your actions match your words? Do your words accurately express the faith that is in your heart?
        • The principle of the unbreakable three-fold cord:
          • Read Ecc 4:12
            • The very important Biblical concept of the unbreakable three-fold cord is relevant to the book of James:
              • Just as the Holy Trinity consists of three members: God, the Father, Jesus, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit, so too, faith is a three-fold cord:
                • Belief in the heart – the root of faith.
                  • Belief is not enough according to James (19). Even the devils believe. In other words, they have head knowledge of the fact that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead, and that He is God in the flesh. We have already seen in James that it takes a heart knowledge for salvation to take place.
                • Words in the mouth – the expression of faith.
                • Actions of the body – the fruit of faith.
              • The three-fold cord and salvation:
                • Read Rom 10:8-11. Paul gives us two of the three strands in this cord.
                • Read Jam 2:17-18. James gives us the third strand of the cord.

    • The Test of Faith #13 is this:
      • Do your actions complete the third strand of the unbreakable cord of your faith?
    • Read 2Cor 13:5
      • The believer is to test himself. By what criteria is the believer to test himself? James gives us the test in this book. Number 13 on this test is the most important. Why?
        • It completes the third strand of the unbreakable cord of faith.
        • Without this third strand your faith is weak and unstable. (1:6)
        • Without this third strand you will not see God work miraculously in your life.(1:7)
        • Without this third strand your faith will not persevere. (1:11)
      • Faith is supposed to be a world changing experience. If your faith is not changing the world around you, your faith is empty. God saved you to do good works.
        • Read Eph 2:10
        •  
      • Conclusion:
        • There is one other major point that must be stressed in regards to faith and works.
          • It is the attachment of works to the Christian life as a means of achieving the final goal of entrance into heaven.
            • For example: there are Christians that say you must live a holy life to persevere to the end to reach heaven (Persevering Faith). Then they add performance-based works that prove you are persevering. They add works such as tithing, consistent church attendance, water baptism, etc. (Hab 2:4 Rom 1:17 Gal 3:11 Heb 10:38)
              • This is a types or a degree of legalism in various forms.
                • Inherent in legalism is an inability to draw dividing lines. You never know when the good works you have done are enough.
              • Legalism restricts the work of the Holy Spirit.
                • Read Rom 11:6
                  • Grace and works are mutually exclusive. Either you have one or the other. You cannot mix them. That is Paul’s message in Galatians.
                • The perfecting of the believer is a work of the Holy Trinity and carried out by the Holy Spirit. (Gal 3:3 Joh 17:23)
                  • It is the Holy Spirit that is responsible to produce fruit in the life of the believer. (Gal 5:22-24)
                  • It is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to bring a person to maturity in Christ. (Joh 14:26)
                  • We need to let the Holy Spirit do his work in the heart of the believer rather than trying to perfect the believer through legalisms which only restrict the work of the Holy Spirit and cause the believer to become discouraged.

        HOMEWORK
        James 3:1-18
        This is a self-study. Please do not send homework answers to the teacher forcorrection.

        • Application of Jam 2:14-26
          • Which is the weaker strand of your faith, belief in the heart, words of your mouth, or actions of good works?
            • How can you strengthen this strand of your faith?

         

        • Preparation for Jam 3:1-18
          • Of what relationship does the tongue have to faith?
        •  

            • Why is this an important aspect of faith?
            •  

              • Memory verse: Jam 3:10
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    About Joyce

    Joyce
    I came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in 1963 giving my heart to Jesus in a Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles, CA. I have been teaching the Word of God since 1964, Usually two to three adult classes a week.

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