CPRC Mens’ B.S.
The Relation of Faith and Works
- The hypothetical man who objects to James insistence that we are justified by faith alone is either a legalist Jew or a modern Roman Catholic or Arminian who believes that man has a part in salvation, that works are an essential part in justification, indeed one whose “faith” like the R.C. “faith”, consists of a dead faith plus works righteousness. He is someone who thinks he is saved because he went forward, put his hand up or otherwise consented to “accept Christ.”
- The one who has faith is the one who works out his faith. The one who has works has to prove he has faith.
- The speaker in v 18 is a hypothetical objector.
- The double challenge of v 18 is firstly show me your faith without works (IMPOSSIBLE!) and the second show your faith by your works (AS YOU OUGHT TO).
- Faith, because it means a total reliance upon Christ for salvation wrought by the unbreakable bond between a man and Christ will undoubtedly be expressed in a life of good works (obedience) in the church and the world (Gal.5:6 and Belgic Confession Art.24).
- In v19 James is likely answering another professor, possibly an antinomian or just a nominal churchgoer who says he believes. See parable of sower and analogy of the vine (Matt.13 and James 15) where only the good soil and the branches grafted on to the true vine bear fruit.
- James’ point is that although devils say they believe they carry on defying God, hating him and never obey him or do any good works which show their faith is purely “historical” and not experiential and real. This being the case they already tremble knowing their inevitable fate in the lake of fire.
Justification and Faith
- James is addressing the vain man who says he has faith (v19). He is the “historical” believer e.g. Simon (Acts 8) and illustrated by the plants that grew up without root or were choked by weeds in the parable.
- Dead or useless faith (purely historical) is a profession or head knowledge that has no real root in Christ, no bond of faith wrought by regeneration. True faith is profession and possession, a living union with Christ by the Holy Spirit which issues in the fruit of engrafting namely godly character and action. (B.C. Art 24).
- Justification is a legal term meaning God pronounces a man not guilty and positively righteous.
- Paul and James do not contradict each other. Paul was showing that justification was by faith alone apart from the law. James is showing that justifying faith must be expressed and seen by good works countering nominal believers and Antinomians.
- Paul speaks of objective justification that is a pronouncement in God’s sight whereas James speaks of subjective justification and assurance in the heart of a believer plus objective justification by works seen by men.
- Abraham, in offering Isaac, proved he was a justified man and what he did was an expression of the obedience of faith (Rom.1:5).
- James shows that faith is not against works. Faith is shown to exist and be complete when it works and reaches its goal (Eph.2:10).
- Abraham is chosen because he lived before the law was given and is accepted as the father of all the faithful, both Jew and Gentile. He was the first man we hear of being justified by God and is also Paul’s prime example of justification (Rom.4).
- Abraham’s faith was the channel through which God imputed righteousness to him objectively and subjectively (H.C. Q/A 86).
- Only righteous people can be God’s friends. Love is the bond of perfection. Only those made perfectly righteous in Christ can be God’s covenant friends.
- There are three ways in which a man is justified by works born of faith:
First in the eyes of men (Titus 3:5-8, Matt.5:16), second in his own conscience (I John 3:19) and lastly on the day of judgment (Matt. 25).
To sum up. The necessity of good works:
- They are the proof we are believers living out of Christ.
- They were predestined by God (Eph.2:10) and merited by Christ’s sacrifice.
- They show our thankfulness.
- They grow our assurance.
- They ought to win others.
- They will prove our justification on the last day.
Next BS (DV) Saturday August 20th on James 2:25-3:2.