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Saturday, August 30, 2003

Edifier du Jour-James 2:14-20
14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
I came to this verse from the Alabama tax debate and this Bible study/pro-tax propaganda from an Alabama Methodist group; they used verse 1-17. I had used verses 1-8 as an April Edifier. In numerous passages, it is mentioned that we are to be judged by our fruits as to whether we have a legitimate saving faith; people without a faith in Jesus as their Lord may talk a good game, but have no transformation of their lives to show for it. As Rich Mullins put it, “I think you need some works to show For your alleged faith.” Without it, our faith, it as worthless as a screen door on a submarine. That fruit can show in the various Fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. Those graces don’t need to be tied to a particular ministry, but many of those graces will have tangible manifestations, like helping the poor. Martin Luther didn’t like James much, for this emphasis on works made the Sola Fide doctrine very shaky. However, some people seem to want to change that to solo fide and create a private faith that doesn’t minister to others. Some of those people really don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. I found it interesting that the Alabama Methodists ended their pericope at verse 17, for verse 19 might hit too close to home for the left wing of their flock who might claim to follow God. Saying that there is one God is necessary but not sufficient, it is the Holy Spirit that enables those works once the believer has found a saving faith in Jesus, and that faith requires more than just a simple statement that is but one God. This isn't a cheap grace message. Believers will do hard things in that new-found (or not-so-new-found for us veterans) faith. Helping people in need is one of those manifestations. We'll fight over the mix of helping people in spiritual need and helping people in physical need, with the Methodists leaning more towards the latter, but those works are manifestations of a saving grace and not the cause of salvation.

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