Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Brief Reflection on the Proper Context for James 2:18-26

This past weekend, I heard James 2:18-26 referenced in two very different ways. Yesterday, I heard a great sermon on this passage of Scripture from my pastor, Tray Earnhart, which can be heard HERE. The day before that- on Saturday morning- my friend John Heuglin and I were talking to a Roman Catholic gentleman who made reference to this passage of Scripture in order to defend the idea that we are made right in God's sight on the basis (at least partially) of our own good works.

In studying James rather thoroughly, I believe that a large part of the confusion over his statements in 2:18-26 concerning faith and works comes from the fact that we read this section of the book in isolation from what James wrote in his first chapter. Because in 1:16-18, James had already written:

16 Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created. (NIV)

If "EVERY good and perfect gift is from above," then both the faith and the works to which James refers come from God. If "HE CHOSE to give us birth through the word of truth"- along with every other good and perfect gift- then our right standing before God cannot be understood to be due our own righteous desires or noble efforts.

So James 1:16-18 is entirely in line with Paul's statement in Romans 9:16, "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." (NASB) And this common understanding shared by James and Paul concerning God's sovereignty in salvation should form the basis for how we interpret James' later words in 2:18-26.

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