II JAMES 16
ONLY WORKS MOTIVATED BY FAITH ARE JUSTIFIED
The subject of “faith” is so important that we must take a little more time pointing out what James and Paul were talking about, which has caused some theologians problems. Also, I want to examine how the subject affects our Bible study and understanding today.
In the Roman letter, Paul argues that Abraham was justified, not by his actions, but by his faith. In James we read that Abraham was considered righteous when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. Is there a contradiction here? No, not at all. Paul was telling the Jews that their actions, even in obeying the law, were not what justified them. The key word is “justified”. Abraham, according to James, was “counted righteous” by his actions, but he was “justified” because they were the result of his faith in God. What this means is that I can never do enough good to earn justification from God. However, if I place my total faith Him, and do my best to obey His will, that faith I have in Him (which means I fully depend on His love and mercy) is what justifies me. This is because with that faith I depend, not on myself as an independent person, but recognize that only in a personal relationship with Him is there any meaning or hope in my life.
Paul is arguing against the Jews’ dependence on their righteous actions in obeying all the law to justify them. James is arguing against men who claim to be followers of Christ, but whose actions do not indicate that they really have faith in Him. He is saying that taking the name Christian, and following a few rituals, do not make one a Christian. Only when one’s actions reflect the spirit of Christ, and are motivated by faith in Him, is one a true Christian. Nominal Christians are not acceptable to God.
But “faith” means much more than just believing God is, and that Jesus died on the Cross and arose again. These things have historical and empirical evidence upon which to rest our belief. But God is eternal, i.e., with no beginning. He is, therefore, outside of any definition of time which man can conceive. He is totally spirit, which means He does not dwell in a place, but is everywhere, and therefore beyond space, which, again, is beyond any concept man can imagine. David, in Psalms 139, said that God was everywhere, and that there was no place he could go that God was not there. Therefore, we have no human perspective by which we can understand or even imagine God. He is outside of space and time, and for that we have no words, nor any other parameter, by which to describe or understand it. Faith is believing what God is, and what He does, in spite of the fact that it is beyond our logical minds.
It is because men refuse to accept and believe in God being God (which demands believing all of the above), and insist on trying to explain Him, or simply reject Him, that agnostics exist, and those who fancy themselves “theologians” have caused so much confusion and division in the religious world over the centuries. And, they are still at work competing with one another over their pet theories and interpretations, and creating more division every day. True faith is reading the Bible, taking it as the Word of God, and spending time thinking about what He says. The truth you will discover there will change your life, and the faith you have will bring the love and mercy of God into your life to give it meaning and hope. That is justification: believing that God is God, that His will is the only righteousness, and striving to follow it.