II JAMES 17
ONLY AN ACTIVE FAITH JUSTIFIES A MAN
In discussing Abraham, as an example of their teaching on faith, both Paul and James make a distinction between the works which are considered righteous and what justifies a man. It is at this point that Biblical writers have been confused, with some claiming that there was a contradiction between the teaching of Paul and James. However, neither Paul nor James believed that a man could ever have enough good works to cause the Lord to justify him. Paul emphasized this, and the necessity for faith in Jesus Christ, because he was talking to Jews who were trying to be justified by their obedience to the Law. James, speaking to men who called themselves Christians but whose actions did not reflect their faith, was concerned that they were using their “belief”, which they called “faith”, to justify them without being motivated by their “faith” to follow and obey God’s will.
We need to note this because it is such a common characteristic of many church people today. James simply says that the word “faith” is meaningless, or dead, if it does not produce a life which follows the will of God. You may do some works that are righteous, but that does not forgive your sins and, therefore, cannot justify you. Only Jesus Christ’s shed blood can forgive your sins, and that only justifies you if you walk daily with Him, and make Him the standard by which you live. Abraham’s works were considered righteous, but his faith in God was what justified him, because that was what made him act as God wanted him to.
A great many people today stress loyalty to the church as the essential element of Christianity. They depend upon their membership in the right church to justify and guarantee their salvation. However, one becomes a member of His church by pledging their life to Him at their baptism. This makes them the “called out ones” that Jesus spoke of. The ones called out of the kingdom of darkness and called into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son.
We then become a member of His family, and are related to all other members of that family. Our relationship to the church is because of our relationship to Him, who by His sacrifice made us His adopted brothers in Christ. So a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in our daily lives is how those who are His church, or His family are supposed to act. No man cometh unto the Father but by Him. James is not down-playing faith nor the church. He is simply saying that those who truly have faith, and are in the church, act as if they walked daily with Him as their guide.
Justification results not from the faith you claim, nor your membership in a church, but the faith in Jesus Christ which is reflected by a daily walk with Him as an obedient member of His family. If you are really a part of that family, then your life is not governed by the standards of this world, nor even the standards that appeal to your own human desires. His family is known by the love they have for one another, and their personal relationship with Jesus Christ their Savior and Lord.