The Epistle of James - Godly Values
Part 16 - Faith and Works, Part 3
17th August 2018
Continuing his discussion of the relationship between faith and deeds - or "works" - James says:
Abraham proved that real faith produces real obedience. Abraham didn't willingly offer up his son as an offering to God just because he knew intellectually that God exists, or that God is good, or that God has the right to demand whatever He pleases. Abraham offered up his son as a sacrifice to God because he trusted God.
Because Abraham trusted God - had faith in God, Abraham's faith resulted in obedience. His faith was made compete, brought to maturity, by this supreme act of obedience. His faith was proved by his actions.
Some Christians don't want to believe this, but it's true. "Justified" is a word from the courtroom. It means "acquitted", that there is no case to answer, no penalty to be paid. Biblically, it also means being made righteous, being brought into healthy relationship with God.
Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins so we could be justified. God treats Christians as innocent people because there is no penalty left to be paid for our wrongdoing, because Jesus has already paid it. But this only applies to us when each of us accepts it by faith, trusting our lives to the Christ who died for us.
Justification by faith is the most important pillar of the Reformation. Churches like mine exist because of it. But compare these two passages from God's infallible word:
This requires some thought. We all know Romans 3v28 is true. Churches like mine are built on it. But, of course, James 2v24 is also true. How can both statements be true? Of course they are both true because the Bible is the infallible word of God. The answer is something like this:
The works come after the justification, not before.
As Paul says elsewhere:
The day you accepted the Good News that Jesus the Son of God died on the cross to pay for your sins and rose from the dead to win eternal life for you, and you repented and gave your life to God, you were justified by faith alone. You were not justified by the works you'd done; you were justified so you can perform works. It's the other way around.
The day you believed, and trusted your life and your eternity into the hands of God, you were justified so that you could enjoy right relationship with God, and so you could do the good deeds that God has planned for you to do, to His glory, as empowered by the Holy Spirit, whom He gave to you when you believed.
In the end, on the Day of Judgement:
On the Day of Judgement, you'll be justified because the fact that you did those works will prove that you believed. You will stand before your God and you'll be counted among the sheep, not the goats, if you're a Christian. You'll be saved not lost, destined for heaven not hell, because your faith has resulted in good deeds.
If your faith doesn't result in good deeds, if your character is just as selfish at the end of your life as it was the day you prayed for salvation, then your faith was never real. You were never saved. You may have fooled your church. You may have fooled yourself, but real faith brings a real change of heart, and a real change of heart brings a life of kindness, gentleness and godliness. Godliness makes you more loving, more merciful and more generous.
As Jesus tells us:
We will be justified by the works we do because we've already been justified by faith.