II JAMES 14
Roy Osborne March 2014
FAITH AND WORKS
This next section of James has caused much controversy among Bible students. Martin Luther was so insistent that one was saved by faith and not by works that he actually wanted to leave James out of the canon of the Bible because of this last part of chapter 2 in the book. He felt that James was contradicting the works of Paul which stressed faith, rather than the works of the law, as the means of our justification.
However, a careful study of the writings of both Paul and James will show that they are in total agreement, but are stressing different aspects of the teaching of Jesus Christ. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles but he was a Jew himself. He was very interested in making his own Jewish brethren realize that the old law, with its obedience-oriented demands, was not able to make men who were sinners forgiven and therefore justified. So his stress was upon faith in Jesus Christ as the primary requirement and the means of justification.
James, on the other hand, was so concerned that men would not take seriously the demands of Jesus, which required a complete change of life and behavior. He was very worried about academic Christians. Men who claimed to be Christians but who failed to do what Jesus would do and who followed their earth-man motivations instead of allowing Jesus to be the Lord of their life and walking with Him every day in every way. As a result, James stressed men’s actions and their behavioral patterns, which should result from their faith in Jesus Christ.
Every preacher has this problem. If you stress one aspect of the Gospel, because you feel there is a need for it and a failure of men to pay attention to it, it is not unusual for people to feel that you are neglecting or are against some other principle that they feel is especially important. In this case, if you will read Paul carefully, you will find that he was very concerned about people living by their faith, and much of his writing had to do with Christian behavior. James, realizing that his brother, Jesus, was really the Son of God, was intensely interested in having his readers believe that also. It was his realization that one was not a real believer in Jesus if he did not practice what Jesus taught. Each of these writers believed the same thing, but the problem each chose to address was a different aspect of the Gospel of justification.
In our next essay we want to take a serious look at James’ concern with academic, or surface Christianity, as opposed to a faith that called for a personal walk with Jesus every day of our life and in every aspect of our behavior.