Many Bible scholars have tried to turn James and Paul against one another, because Paul says in Romans 5:1-2 https://my.bible.com/bible/111/ROM.5.1-2 that we are “justified by faith”. Most try to push on the fact through much of Paul’s writing he was promoting the need of faith for salvation. James comes along and writes a lot about our actions, and in this passage even states clearly that one must work or “faith is dead.” So, what do we need? Is it faith, or is it works?
The entire argument among scholars is silly. Some may even be promoting their own agenda. You see if we remove all responsibility for action, and simply wrap everything up by saying we simply believe and that is it, we can open ourselves up to allowing ourselves to fall back into sin. Simply saying we believe and never do anything with our belief is a very shallow way to live in faith.
Jesus went about preaching, teaching, and healing. However, Jesus didn’t simply fix a temporary area of a person’s life and then say go on live as you always have. No, in fact he did just the opposite. In John 8:1-11 Jesus is challenges the Teachers of the Law, who came to him. They brought a woman caught in adultery for him to judge. Jesus challenged them “that he who had no sin throw the first stone.” After all left and no one was left to condemn her Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” He absolved her sins, but he also encouraged her to live a new life, away from her sinful past.
James tells us if we are living in the “Royal Law of Love” spoken of in yesterday’s study, and have faith we cannot simply live the way we did before. His statements about works is not to teach us that we are saved by works. The truth is Paul, who had bee a part of the Pharisee’s likely wrote so much about faith, because he had formerly been working his way into heaven by trying simply to keep every dot of the Law. However, he had no faith in Jesus, until his conversion on the Damascus road. James isn’t saying there is no point in faith, he is saying we need to live in faithfully. To do that means that faith should be changing our hearts, our souls, our minds, and this should result in a change in our actions as well.
Work’s do not necessarily lead to faith; however, James seems to argue that faith should always lead us into doing the good works of God in the world around us. The balance is not always easy, and coming from a holiness background I have seen many who like to turn this around. They think getting people involved doing good thing will always lead to faith, but James never says this. He puts faith first in his writing, which means we should always put faith first in our hearts.
James is really speaking of living a transformed Life. This is a life in which we have come to know the great blessings of Jesus’ love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace. This is the acceptance of the gift of salvation by faith, and then letting the Holy Spirit dwell inside us and transform us from the inside out. This transformation should, as both Jesus and Paul said, produce fruit that is evident to all. This fruit will show up in how we act toward others, and how we live love, forgiveness, grace, and servant-hood within our world.
How are you doing with your faith today? Are you allowing your life and faith to transform your actions? Spend some time asking God to show you His way of living, so that you might bless others with goodness, forgiveness, mercy, and love in a sincere way.
Father God, You have given us forgiveness, and mercy, and through your Son Jesus You have taught us that love is an action of serving. Help us to believe in that love and mercy, and let your Spirit live in us and transform us so that we can show love, forgiveness and mercy as we serve others. Amen.