In this fifth sermon from the book of James, we ventured into a portion of the letter that has been the subject of much theological back-and-forth for Christian scholars and skeptics alike. Many inside the church have become frustrated or discouraged and left scratching their heads at what appears to be a works-righteousness contradiction of the grace-alone/faith-alone message of Paul. On the other hand, many skeptics outside the church have seen James 2:14-26 as proof to support their claim that Christianity and the Bible are inconsistent.
Both of these approaches however fail to examine the text in a faithful manner. James and Paul do not stand toe-to-toe in disagreement, but rather back-to-back, providing a full and complete view of justification. Paul speaks of justification in a declarative sense - showing precisely how our debt has been paid by Christ and how it is received (by faith alone); whereas James speaks of justification in a demonstrative sense - showing that good works are the “receipt” to verify if indeed we embrace the payment of Christ made on our behalf. With this in mind; James in this passage provides the demonstration of good works; the direction of good works; and the foundation of good works as another layer of his profound call to Christians to increasingly become practically what they already are positionally in Christ.
Making The Connection From Thinking To Action
Do you have the tendency to view good works and Christian living in a more monastic (like a monk), individualistic (private) way or in a more outwardly focused, public service way?
The Good Works that James describes are not works of personal piety, but works of public service. The direction of our good works is different than most of us think. True Spirituality is not introverted, but extraverted. True Growth doesn’t send us deeper in, but when someone is growing in his or her faith it sends him or her further out.
The fact of the matter is that we often fail to do good works not because we think too much of God’s Grace toward us, but we fail to do good works, when we think too little of God’s grace toward us! God love and grace is the foundation of good works. They will empower you to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself! James is clear here and reminds us that they biblical pattern is not God’s love or good works – but instead that it’s God love and grace is the catalyst that DRIVES our good works.