Thursday, December 08, 2011

James 2:14-26


14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,'' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. Here we are back to that most powerful statement." Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone."

18 But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

The tension between faith and works is pervasive among believers and it always has been. The tension takes the form of doctrine versus demonstration-belief versus behavior and theological versus experiential. The same tension is found in two main heresies or extreme opinions-perfection by performance (legalism) versus perfection by experience (Gnosticism).

Throughout the Scriptures this tension takes the form of WHAT GOD DOES versus WHAT MAN DOES. Check it out! By faith Abraham believes God (WHAT GOD DOES) and moves out (WHAT MAN DOES). By faith in God's word (WHAT GOD DID) Noah built a boat (WHAT MAN DID). Every one of the miracles of Jesus has this element-disciples fill up the water pots (WHAT MAN DID) and Jesus changed it into wine (WHAT GOD DID).

MAN DOES WHAT HE DOES BY FAITH IN WHAT GOD DOES. GOD does 100%-Man does 100%. (Now don't get nervous, God's 100% is much greater than your 100%.)

Paul addresses both of these tensions by writing two balanced books: Romans--in chapters 1-11 he lays out WHAT GOD DOES and 12-16 he lays out WHAT MAN IS TO DO. Ephesians--chapters 1-3 deal with WHAT GOD HAS DONE and chapters 4-6 deal with 33 things for MAN TO DO.

He takes Romans and writes the book of Galatians-to counteract the extreme of MAN DOES IT ALL. He takes Ephesians and writes the book of Colossians to counteract the extreme of GOD DOES IT ALL. In the first few chapters of Romans and Ephesians, Paul is saying, "Look what God has done for you!" And in the last few chapters he says, "Now act like it!" WHAT GOD HAS DONE-that's where your faith comes in; NOW ACT LIKE IT-that's where your works prove out your faith!

There is a great visual that illustrates how the balance of the two can work and how one without the other doesn't. Suppose you are in a row boat with 2 oars--one is faith and the second is works. If you row with either one without the other, you will only go in circles. If you use both, you will make progress.

This entire tension between faith and works comes down to: God's work (believe it-faith) demands your response (just do it-works). You do (works) the possible by faith that God will do the impossible.

SO, how is your faith working?