Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

James 2 - The Lightbulb is On!

Someone left this comment on the post below and it was so good I decided to edit it a little and make a post about it. He actually brings up a way of looking at James 2 that had previously escaped me. Please read and comment.

These works here are what men can see. God is not here in the context where He must see works, but it is man that must see the works. Grace and works would be like water and oil as the two do not mix. The works here are before man and not before God. Paul said in Romans 4:2:

"For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; BUT NOT BEFORE GOD."
It should be clear that the verses to follow are men that are said to be justified by works but it should be clear according to Romans 4:2 that it is NOT BEFORE GOD. Our faith was to be witnessed before the poor folks in the church and our works should be testified before the world as well.

It is hard arguing that James is talking about saving faith versus some "non-saving faith" in this passage. These believers were guilty of showing partiality and yet they were addressed as believers from beginning to the end. Somehow people see the word "save him" and immediately it must be a salvation form hell when this salvation is not even in the context.

Our faith is useless if it does nothing. The context here is the poor man and what good would our faith be to save him and fill his needs if we merely tell him to be filled without lifting a finger to help him?

The poor man is in the context and believers WERE showing partiality. It was believers that WERE displaying a dead faith before them by not giving them the things they need, but they WERE still addressed as believers.

The "him" is the poor man as the following verses shows.

Who is in the context? The poor are they not? Let's make the poor singular and call him Jim. Let's read that passage again:

"14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save Jim? (the poor man and not the one with the faith. Can faith alone help Jim? Look at the next verse)?...

15 If Jim be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16 And one of you say unto Jim, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give Jim not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead (inactive and useless and not non-saving), being alone."
People see the word "save" and immediately assume salvation from sins must be implied when this is not a gospel message nor are people being told to see if they ever were truly saved or that they are in need of saving.

Does the word "save" mean salvation from sin when Jesus prayed, "Save me from the hour"? Can a woman be saved from sin in childbearing according to Scripture? The context determines what was meant and clearly James is not talking about eternal salvation from sin here but the poor man's salvation from his plight.

Will your faith without works save (deliver) him when you tell him to be filled, clothed and so on but do not lift a finger to help him? Such a faith is useless and dead.


  • Thank you for putting everything into words that I am better able to understand. There are often times I read the scriptures and am often left wondering what I just read.
    Have a good day.

    By Blogger Jill Marie, at 11/21/2008 7:59 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I'm still chewing on this, and have looked at the Greek Majority text also the word "profit" or "benefit" which bookend verses 14-16 which as Anonymous has shown the context to be speaking about the brother or sister in need. My Vine's Expository Dictionary shows the word as a noun primarily denotes "assistance." I think how Anonymous has stated it allows us to really get a handle on what James is really saying. I see a benefit going both ways though. When we live our lives in a way that is consistant with what James says we are saving our lives in the sense that even a cup of water given in Jesus name will not lose it's reward. So we are saving our life for eternity which has to do with eternal rewards because these are believers James is speaking to. And they have already been reminded that the perfect gift is from above, and by His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth. So the benefit goes both ways when we allow God to work through us. Also what was pointed out about "not before God" is right on the money!!!! So the justification that is being spoken of by James is justification before man. The faith in our heart God sees, but only that faith worked out does man see, and by it they know we are a friend of God just as Abraham. And again I would remind, James is not talking about lifestyle when he shows that Abraham and Rahab were justified before man. It was on those single occasions given as evidence of justification by works. But of course that should be our lifestyle, but if we are all honest we know many times when we see a person in need we do not respond to that need even though we have faith in our hearts.


    By Blogger alvin, at 11/21/2008 12:49 PM  

  • Hello Rose,

    Your argument in this post is probably the most REASONABLE explaination I have ever seen concerning James 2.

    Look out LS promoters I conclude you have lost some more scripture to use to back up your theology. :)


    By Blogger Kris, at 11/21/2008 5:13 PM  

  • Jill Marie,
    I am glad you got something out of this post. I actually didn't write it, but a friend did and left it as a comment on the post BELOW this one. The book of James (toward the back of the New Testament) is a widely misunderstood book. That is why I have been taking some time to think through it and posting on it here and there.

    I wish you would read my post called "Good News" near the top of my right-hand sidebar and tell me what you think of the thoughts in there. Please :~)

    I am gald you are here! :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 11/23/2008 12:24 PM  

  • Alvin,
    Good. Yes, it is a way of looking at it that is certainly worth considering. I have read through the chapter a couple times since getting this comment and I can see arguments for and against viewing it this way, not based on Greek, but just simple reading.... that is me... just a simple reader sometimes!!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 11/23/2008 12:25 PM  

  • Very good post, and good explanation.

    Sir Robert Anderson came to a similar conclusion in his book The Gospel and It's MInistry (which I strongly recommend). He warns against making our own faith the Saviour. He also says

    "He was justified by faith when judged by God, for God knows the heart. He was justified by works when judged by his fellow men, who can only read the life...this explanation is thoroughly in keeping with the respective character of the two epistles [Romans and James].

    By Blogger Chris, at 11/24/2008 2:02 PM  

  • Hi Rose, I think this could be very beneficial.

    John Neimela who is a Greek Professor said he would give the NKJV for the most part a B+ or an A- overall as a translation but when it comes to some verses in James he would struggle to give it a passing grade on a good day. In fact he goes on to say the translation by the NKJV on some of these verses are down right misleading. It was James 2:24 that caused Martin Luther to call James a straw epistle. In fact John says that it was Martin Luther who seems to be the one who pioneered sticking an adjective in where an adverb belongs.
    And every translation has followed suit since then, that I am aware of.
    Neimela goes on to explain:

    Look at James 2:24
    As it is translated in the NKJV it will seem as there is one justification with two criteria.

    You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

    Even though the word “only” sounds like an adverb. When it’s being stuck immediately after faith it’s equivalent to alone. It is an adjective here. But the Greek word is an adverb, it is not an adjective. Which means it should be modifying a verb. Let me handle it a different way:

    You see then that a man is justified by works, and not only by faith.

    Where he is going with this is there are two separate justifications. There is a justification by God for eternal life that is on faith only, faith alone. And there is a justification before men that is based on observable works. Now look at what he has done backing that up at verse 21.

    Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

    Was not . . Now when you have a question phrased that way it’s seeking to replicate what the Greek is doing. A leading question, the expectation is “yes he was.” I can ask “was he not” and your expecting a yes answer “yes he was” or I can say “he wasn’t was he.” And then your expecting a no answer, here your expecting a yes answer.

    Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

    He is saying “yes he was.” James is NOT denying he was justified by faith alone when he believed. Look at what he says in verse 23.

    And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
    Then the last part of the verse is a reference to two citations one in Chronicles and one in Isaiah about people recognizing him as a friend of God. But what he did in verse 21 he affirmed that he was justified by works at one point but before that the justification that counts before God he was justified by faith. So James is arguing there are two separate justifications but when verse 24 is rendered the way that it is normally rendered it sounds like there’s one justification that has faith and works as the two criteria. It creates huge problems!

    By Blogger alvin, at 11/27/2008 4:43 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    Very interesting stuff. I've got to go back over all this again, but in the past I've looked at James 2 as a comparison of the Judgment Seat of Christ with the Great White Throne Judgment.

    After reading these things it appears that James may well be comparing three different judgments, not just two. Adding in justificaiton before men.


    By Blogger Kevl, at 11/30/2008 9:05 AM  

  • Just remember, if James 2 is teaching that one have works to validate that your faith is saving then you have almost 35 years to officially prove it. Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness but 35 (some say 20 years)years later is when Abraham offered his son on the alter.

    I would have to conclude that using Abraham as proof for saving faith versus non-saving faith would have to be a poor example. How many LS advocates would you expect to believe me if I were to say, "Rose is truly saved!!! Her works 35 years later prove it!!!!"??? I consider LS to be the instant potatoes crowd. They can't wait 35 years but must see something now.

    Clearly James two is not dealing with the justification before God here but before others. The gospel is not even in the context either.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/01/2008 6:58 AM  

  • Alvin,
    Thank you very much. Some more very helpful reading material. Thanks for gracing my blog with it.

    I don't think I have ever heard of looking at it that way. I will have to read it again with that thought in mind. Kev, have you ever seen Frank Turk's debate blog?

    Hello Anonymous! ;~)
    I hope you had a good weekend. I think rather than "instant potatoes" it would be better to say "non-perishable potaotes" because they have to be there when I die or else I didn't persevere.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 12/01/2008 9:36 AM  

  • Rose, no I haven't seen Frank Turk's blog. Gotta link?

    Here is my last public work on James 2. It's not great... but it's the direction I describe above. http://onmywalk.blogspot.com/2007/05/can-faith-without-works-save-you.html

    I've been working on a teaching about faith and works for the ministry I work in. What I've read here in this post is surely going to be used in it.


    By Blogger Kevl, at 12/01/2008 11:31 AM  

  • Hi Kev!
    I forgot about this post thread. I want to give you that link. I think you will find it fascinating! I am at work but will get back to it.

    Hey, thanks for visiting this blog. It means a lot to me.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 12/04/2008 2:22 PM  

  • I took some time to find these links and type this in because I really and truly think it is worth your while, Kev, and anyone else who has not read this.

    Here is the general link to the debate blog:
    Debate Blog: Ask the Calvinist

    (I will give you the specific link below.)

    Frank Turk of Pyromaniacs hosts a debate every now and then.

    A couple of years ago he got into a debate with Jodie Sawyer, aka HK Flynn. She is one of the best bloggers I have known and I miss her a lot. You would have appreciated her. She is really smart and wise... always kind, but very witty... above reproach.

    She is so patient and brave to have done this. Antonio tried it and then he departed it. Bobby Grow also would have none of Frank's debate once he started. But Jodie - she was so tenacious! She saw it all the way through to the end and held her own very well. I was amazed and my respect for her is unmatched. I also think she won the debate! More importantly, I learned a lot and my thinking on James was revolutionized by reading her arguments.

    She had two discussions with Frank. One he entitles "Free-Grace" in his sidebar. It happened in April of 2006. You can see it by clicking here: April 2006 archive of "debate blog" and scrolling all the way to the bottom. The first post is "Introducing HK Flynn." You read a post and scroll up the next one etc... (you know how blogger works). The questions are given first and then the answers appear above the questions and so on and so forth.

    Later, she discussed the specific "religion of Demons" of James 2 with Frank. It spanned two months, beginning in November and ending in December of 2006. You could see that here: November 2006 archive of "debate blog."
    ...and if you got really into it, you could see the rest by clicking in his sidebar on the December 2006 archive.

    I hope you will take a look and then tell us what you think!

    Thanks again for your visits and I want you to know, brother, regardless of what I have heard that a certain someone says, I do not hold you in disdain at all, nor JP nor the Starks. I count you all as brethren in the Lord. That is a precious thing to me.


    By Blogger Rose~, at 12/06/2008 9:04 AM  

  • rose, have not forgotten. Very busy, and sinfully negligent in some of my duties.


    By Blogger Kevl, at 12/06/2008 8:45 PM  

  • Hey Rose,

    I've attempted to read it a couple of times now. I just can't take the Calvinist point of view. I find it exhausting to read their stuff.

    Frank appears intelligent and open.

    Thanks for sharing the link, I'm going to reference it from time to time when I need a well presented Calvinist position to reference. :)

    I'm sorry that I have not finished reading the Free Grace position there either. To do so would require me to sit through the Calvinist writing too.

    I've got this book marked. I may have more tolerance once I'm done my on-going review of John MacArthur's work which is exhausting enough to read. :)


    By Blogger Kevl, at 12/08/2008 8:08 PM  

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