I struggled with faith and works for a long time... and then...

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by jygf77, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. jygf77

    jygf77
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    I was taught growing up that we are justified through faith, not by works. Romans 4, Galatians 2 and 3 seemed to teach that. Then there was James 2, "people are justified by works, not faith alone." I struggled for years to reconcile the two. For a while I believed what my pastor told me. He said James was talking about fake faith, just intellectual knowledge, while Paul was talking about genuine trust. Then I believed John Calvin, that Paul and James were talking about two different justifications (Paul's being 'before God' and James' being 'before men').

    However, then I realized that the truth is so simple.
    “… people are justified by works and not by faith alone.” James 2:24
    “… people not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” Galatians 2:16

    We are not justified by works of the law, but we are justified by works. The works of the law are just the ceremonial works of the old testament law, not all works of obedience. When Paul speaks of faith "apart from works" in Romans 4 the context is the works of the law (he even cites circumcision). Such faith is not necessarily “faith alone” because it can (and indeed must) still be joined with works that are not of the law. Those are the types of works James cites in James 2... works of obedience and love for God that were not listed in the law.

    Believe it or don't my friends, we are justified by both faith *and* by what we do. Regardless, always keep in mind First Corinthians 6:11, “…you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Are faith and are works are all gifts from our glorious Father. Everything we have we owe to His grace.
     
  2. Don

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    Don't forget Ephesians; most people focus on chapter 2, verses 8-9; but verse 10 is too often overlooked.
     
  3. kyredneck

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    I agree.

    Ref Jn 3:21, 'doing the truth', i.e., good works, which comes only from a heart which has had the law supernaturally written upon it, PREDEDES coming to Christ in faith. God has wrought within the individual which brings about good works AND faith; NEITHER are inherent within the natural man.
     
  4. rorschach

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    Perhaps I am not getting from your language what you intended to convey.

    But if you look at James, he asks "Can that KIND OF FAITH save you?" That is, James is still concerned about faith primarily, but he suggests that someone claiming to have faith must also exhibit works, or he is a liar (cf. 1 Jn).

    And, yes, Paul often speaks of works of the law in Romans, but he removes ALL works from a causal role in our salvation, as with Abraham being saved by faith and not works. The law had not even been given at the time of Abraham, and while Paul often speaks in Romans (given his context and purpose) of the works of the law, his distinction also applies to other works.

    Are we justified by works? I believe the biblical answer is: No, not at all.

    Must we have works? I believe the biblical answer is: Yes, for works naturally accompany faith.

    Feeding your child does not mean you love him/her. But if you love him/her, you will naturally provide sustenance for them. So, "Show me your faith by your works."
     
  5. kyredneck

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    ?????

    for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified Ro 2:13
     
  6. rorschach

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    Yes, but if you read Paul's argument, he is explaining why ALL are condemned (both the Gentiles without the law, and the Jews with the law). Paul is not saying that we are justified when we do the law, for his point is that NONE do the law.

    Proof-texting is bad practice. Let me paraphrase Paul's statement, and you can re-read it in context:

    "Being Jewish doesn't mean you're alright with God. You have to actually do what the law says -- and you haven't done, so quit thinking you're any better off than the Gentiles."
     
  7. freeatlast

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    James is speaking about a type of faith. One man believes and is never changed while another believes and is changed. The works validate the saving faith so James says;
    Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
    But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
     
  8. humblethinker

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    If I may, please allow me to repost something that I thin is very helpful regarding the subject:

    Below are a couple of excerpts from a book on 'Logic' that I recently read. This seems like one of the best explanations to aid in understanding James’ –vs- Paul’s teachings.
    Perhaps we should... confess ignorance on the precise causes of things until someone brings forth good, solid, decisive proof, one way or another.

    In their reasoning about causes, people often commit an error I shall dub causal reductionism. They ignore the existence of more than one cause of things. Aristotle was so impressed with the complexity of causation that he identified four different kinds of causes. Modern scientists use a distinction that is helpful in some cases: necessary and sufficient causes.

    A necessary cause is any condition without which the effect will not occur, whereas a sufficient cause is a condition with which the effect will occur. A necessary cause can prevent the effect by its absence but can not, without a sufficient cause, cause the effect by its presence.

    For example, suppose a room is full of sunlight and you ask, "What causes this illumination?" Your answer must be multicausal. I can point you to a hole in the ceiling as a necessary condition for the illumination. But the sufficient cause is the sun shining through the hole. Now, the hole in the ceiling could prevent the light by its absence, but could not, without the sun, cause the light merely by its presence. At night the hole would not cause the room to be illuminated. We would say, in simple English, that the sun was the real cause of the light, and the hole was the necessary condition for the real cause achieving the result.

    One can see from this example how wrong it would be to belittle the importance of a necessary cause. The hole in the ceiling may not be the real cause of the light, but just cover the hole and see if any light gets into the room! Life is full of such cases in which the true or real cause of something is nevertheless crucially dependent on a necessary cause to achieve its results...

    Christians use this multicausal approach to harmonize the apparent contradiction between Paul and James. Paul claims that salvation is not by works (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 3:2), whereas James seems to contradict this by asserting that faith without works is dead (James 2:20). Martin Luther called James "an epistle of straw" because it seemed to disagree with Paul's doctrine of salvation by faith. But there is really no contradiction here if Paul was talking about the sufficient cause of salvation and James was talking about a necessary cause.
     
  9. freeatlast

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    God makes it so much simpler;
    Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
    But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
     
  10. humblethinker

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    yes, I agree... and yet some people still believe that works save them.
     
  11. rorschach

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    I may be wrong here, but I am almost certain that I recall reading this in an excerpt from an introduction that Luther wrote. In this introduction, Luther was not criticizing James for teaching something contrary to salvation by grace.

    The context of this quote is the following: Luther was explaining which books of Scripture were most important for new readers to attend to. That list included especially the Gospels and Romans, I believe, and Luther's explanation for his giving these books prime position is that they make most clear the Gospel message. James, when judged according to how clearly and prominently it displays the Gospel, was considered to be an "epistle of straw". Luther made no comment in that context deriding James or accusing the letter of being contrary to the Gospel.

    That said, I do believe Luther misunderstood both Romans and James, so I am not endorsing his views, only explaining them.

    I know it's a bit off-topic, and I really don't like Luther, but I figured I would try to address the misunderstanding of Luther's words here.
     
    #11 rorschach, Aug 24, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 24, 2011
  12. kyredneck

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    No, Paul is presenting both sides of the coin here in Romans 2, it's not just concerning wrath and indignation but eternal life, and it has EVERYTHING to do with WORKS and DOING:

    6 who will render to every man according to his works:
    7 to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life:
    8 but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation,
    9 tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek;
    10 but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek:
    11 for there is no respect of persons with God.

    The remainder of Romans 2 plainly sets forth that these DOERS of the law were not so because they had the law, or had even heard the law, but because they had had the law written in their hearts [Jn 3:8], and that the true circumcision is of the heart, that which is not made with hands [Col 2:11], to both the Jew and the Gentile.

    Neither the letter of the law nor ritual circumcision (nor being the physical descendant of Abraham as is later revealed) had ever had anything to do with justification , or standing uncondemned before the judgment of God; it had always been a matter of the condition of the heart, from which the [good] works, which are wrought in God comes [Jn 3:21].

    All that is revealed in chapters 1 & 2 is culminated with the question of Romans 3:1:

    “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what is the profit of circumcision?”


    Paul begins his answer in the 2nd verse:

    “Much every way: first of all, that they were intrusted with the oracles of God.”

    This immediately reminds me of the Ninevites of whom God described to Jonah as those “that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand”(but still yet they repented at the preaching of Jonah), and that because they had not the oracles of God. The Jews, on the other hand, did have the scriptures, and they did know “ their right hand and their left hand”. It also reminds me of the solace that God gave Paul before he had even began preaching the gospel in Corinth, “I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to harm thee: I have much people in this city.”

    Paul resumes answering the question of 3:1 in Ro 9:3-5:

    “...my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.”

    But as Christians let us not forget:

    For how many soever be the promises of God, in him is the yea: wherefore also through him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us. 2 Cor 1:20

    Christ is the fulfillment of it all. Period.

    Explain what you mean please, I don't understand.

    No, Paul plainly describes these Gentiles who had not the law as DOERS of the law. You need to go back and re-paraphrase. :)
     
    #12 kyredneck, Aug 24, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 24, 2011
  13. JesusFan

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    As John Calvin was quoted as saying" Faith alone saves, but faith that is alone is not genuine faith!"
     

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