Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Final Words On James' "Justified By Works"

Faith in Jesus + faith in nothing else = salvation.

If this is what is meant by sola fide, or what the proponents of it are trying to say, then they need to do a better job of explaining it. Christ Jesus and Christ Jesus alone is our hope of salvation. Just because faith and works (works of faith, or faith in action) always work together, and must work together, does not mean we have faith in our works. In fact, not only should we not have faith in our works, but we should also not have faith in our faith. Our faith must be in Christ Jesus alone and what He accomplished at Calvary. Having faith in our faith will not save us, just as having faith in our works will not save us. Neither faith in our faith or faith in our works justifies us.

Reformer John Calvin understood "that good works are always connected with faith," just as Puritan John Owen understood that "Obedient faith is that which saves." Commentator Simon J. Kistemaker understood that "Faith and action, then, are never separated. The one flows naturally from the other. Deeds originate in faith and faith supports the believer in his work." As I have been saying this entire time, faith and works must work in tandem.

Matthew Henry commented, "You see then (v. 24) how that by works a man is justified (comes into such a state of favour and friendship with God), and not by faith only; not by a bare opinion, or profession, or believing without obeying, but by having such a faith as is productive of good works." He continues, "Those works which evidence true faith must to works of self-denial, and such as God himself commands (as Abraham's offering up his son, his only son, was), and not such works as are pleasing to flesh and blood and may serve our interest, or are the mere fruits of our own imagination and devising." He further explains, "The actings of faith make it grow perfect, as the truth of faith makes it act."

Matthew Poole commented, "Ye see then; an inference either from the instance of Abraham, or from the whole preceding discourse. How that by works; works of new obedience. A man is justified; declared to be righteous, or approved as such, and acquitted from the guilt of hypocrisy. And not by faith only; not by a mere profession of faith, or a bare assent to the truth, without the fruit of good works." He continues, "Whereas James having to do with carnal professors, and such as abused the doctrine of grace to encourage themselves in sin, and thought it sufficient that they had faith, (such as it was,) though they did not live like believers, resting in an empty profession, with the neglect of holiness; his design plainly is, to show the effects and fruits of justification, viz. holiness and good works; thereby to check the vanity and folly of them who did thus divorce faith from a holy life, (which God hath joined to it,) and fancied themselves safe in the profession of the one, without any respect to, or care of, the other, as appears in this chapter, ver. 14, 17, 26."

What James is addressing is works that demonstrate and prove genuine faith, whereas what Paul is addressing is works of the Law, having faith that adherence to the Law will somehow justify you. Confused Christians who fail to pay attention to the context miss this and then attempt to lump all works together. Their favourite verse to use is Romans 3:28: "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." The italicized part is usually what they try to emphasize. The underlined part is what they miss entirely every time. As I have pointed out before, the Law did not exist at the time of Abraham. It did not come about until approximately 300 years later. Rahab being a Gentile woman, what would the Law have meant to her? Nothing. The people who reject evidences of genuine faith (such as repentance or obedient faith) in support of a vain profession of faith are usually the same people who equate holy living and commands of holiness with legalism.

Martin Luther hated the book of James and thought it should not be part of the Bible. Sola fide was his expression, and it is no wonder. Obviously he, too, missed the difference between what Paul was addressing and what James was addressing. The definition of sola fide as meaning "we are justified by faith alone apart from the need for works" is false. James clearly teaches contrary to this, as does every instance of faith found in Scripture. Faith and faith in action always appear in tandem. Define sola fide as "we are justified by faith in Christ Jesus alone apart from faith in anything else" and it will be entirely true. But as it stands and has stood throughout history, I must reject it, as any true student of the Word who desires to conform themselves to the truth of Scripture will do, because it is entirely contrary to the Word of God: "You see that a man is justified...not by faith alone."

Getting Deeper Theologically
By the way, we are not saved by faith. "For by grace you have been saved." How? "Through faith." Faith is the instrument through which God chooses to orchestrate salvation, but salvation is entirely by grace, considering the fact that God "chose us in [Christ Jesus] before the foundation of the world." What state did my faith exist before the foundation of the world? Something to think about.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos

by Tony Reinke

One month ago, John MacArthur hosted a conference titled “Strange Fire.” The conference opposed the so-called “prosperity gospel” and with it the excesses of “charismania.” But somewhere along the way all things charismatic and continuationist got swept up into the conference conversation, too, igniting a strange online conflagration of its own.

The conversation prompted a variety of questions from listeners of the Ask Pastor John podcast. Before boarding a flight for the Middle East, John Piper agreed to field a few of the questions, particularly:
  • If you’re a continuationist (believing the supernatural gifts of the Spirit continue still today), why doesn’t this show up more often in your ministry?
  • Why do you not seem persuaded enough to advocate that others pursue the gifts of tongues and prophecy today?
  • How do you define contemporary prophecy?
  • Are there charismatic abuses that need to be addressed?

Open, Cautious, or Advocate?

At the conference, Piper was characterized as open to the gifts but not advocating for them or encouraging others to pursue the gifts themselves. This is a misunderstanding, says Piper. “I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 12:31, ‘earnestly desire the higher gifts.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:1, ‘earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you might prophesy.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:39, ‘earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.’ I want Christians today to obey those texts.”

And Piper seeks to obey those texts himself. “I pray for the gift of prophecy almost as often as I pray for anything, before I stand up to speak.” This prayer for prophecy is a desire to preach under an anointing, in order to “say things agreeable to the Scriptures, and subject to the Scripture, that are not in my manuscript or in my head as I walk into the pulpit, nor thought of ahead of time, which would come to my mind, which would pierce in an extraordinary way, so that 1 Corinthians 14:24–25 happens.”

But has Piper advocated for gifts like prophecy enough over his decades of pastoring and writing? “My effort to prioritize may be imperfect, but my answer is that I try to live up to what I see in the text and advocate for it as I see it in relation to all the other things that I preach on.”

A sampling from his ministry shows Piper’s consistency both in his definition of prophecy and in his encouragement that others pursue the gift (see resources from 1981, 1990, 1991, 2004, and 2013).

What Is Prophecy Today?

Piper’s view on prophecy raises another question. If MacArthur believes the gift of prophecy has ceased, what exegetical proofs would Piper argue to the contrary?

Four crucial texts came to Piper’s mind. First, 1 Corinthians 14:29 seems to indicate New Testament prophecy endures in the church age, but not as a prophecy that’s on the same level of authority as Scripture. It’s fundamentally a different type of prophecy.

Second, 1 Thessalonians 5:20–21 makes the same point. This passage indicates that the discernment of prophesy in the local church takes on a different shape. “You are not choosing between people here [false prophet/true prophet], it seems to me, like in 1 John 4:1. Rather, you are choosing between what they say [true prophecy/false prophecy], which you would not do if they spoke with infallible, inerrant Scripture-quality authority.”

“The issue here is that some in the church are despising not the prophets, but the prophecies. Now why would that be? Probably because they are sometimes whacko. Despise is a very strong word. Paul says, ‘don’t despise.’ So somebody in the church at Thessalonica is saying, ‘Look. You told us that prophecy is a gift from God. Frankly, we do not like what we are hearing, because it is stupid. It is weird. They are saying things that are off the wall.’ And so they tend to despise them. And Paul seems to be trying to keep the people from throwing the baby of true prophecies out with the bathwater of weird ones.”

Third, 1 Corinthians 11:4–5 encourages prophecies from women in the church. Said Piper, “I don’t see how women prophesying in the assembly fits with an infallible Scripture-level authority when Paul forbids that kind of authority to be exercised over men by women in the church in 1 Timothy 2:12. So the fact that women are encouraged to do this, and yet women are told not to exercise authority over men, says to me that we have got something going on here besides what is Scripture-level authority.”

The fourth text, 1 Corinthians 13:8–10, is “a pretty clear argument, I think, that the gift of prophecy and tongues will continue until Jesus comes back. And it seems to me that the reason they pass away, it says, is precisely because they are imperfect; they are not Scripture-level authority. Verse nine says we prophesy ek meros (Greek for ‘in part’), just like a little child trying to reason and think and talk. And when he grows up and becomes a man in the age to come, he won’t need that kind of help anymore.”

These few texts don’t settle all the issues, but they do combine to establish a legitimate exegetical basis for an ongoing gift of prophecy, distinguished from Scripture-level authoritative prophecy, a unique channel of prophecy to be discerned and then embraced in the healthy local church.

Charismatic Abuses?

Looking more broadly at the Church today, Piper was eager to address charismatic abuses and excesses (charismania). “But,” he began, “we really need to keep in mind that every charismatic abuse has its mirror image in non-charismatic abuses. Nothing I am going to say is unique to charismatics. In some of these cases, the non-charismatic church is more guilty than the charismatic.”

He addressed four abuses in particular: doctrine, emotion, discernment, and finance.

Doctrine Abuses

“There are many doctrinal abuses in the charismatic church where experience is elevated above doctrine, and doctrine is made minimally important. I think that is a huge defect in many charismatic churches. The fear is this: if you try to study the Bible with a view to assembling a coherent view of doctrine, you are going to quench the Spirit, and you won’t have as much vitality in your heart, because the mind and the heart are at odds with each other. That is a mistake, I think, and it is an abuse of experience to make it the enemy of — or the alternative to — doctrine.”

He shared a firsthand example. “I have been in prophetic meetings with charismatic groups where the Bible was treated like the priming of the pump for phenomena. So what you really want in this room is some fireworks: you want somebody to fall down, or somebody to laugh, or somebody to tremble, or somebody to raise their hands, or somebody to hear a word of extraordinary prophecy like, the man in the red shirt is going to Argentina next week, and nobody could know that, but the prophet. You want all that stuff to happen. And so what do you do with the Bible? You use it like pouring water into a pump. And everybody knows you don’t care about the text, you don’t care about this sermon; you are using the sermon to get us ready for the fireworks at the end. Wherever I saw that happening, I knew we were in trouble. I knew that no matter what kind of fireworks were coming they were going to be skewed and misused because the speaker, the one in charge, was not God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated.”

Emotion Abuses

Second, Piper addressed emotional abuses.

True prophecy is displayed not in emotional madness, but in orderliness (1 Corinthians 14:29). “If you are a true prophet, if you have got the Holy Spirit, if you are real, . . . you can sit down and wait your turn. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is patience, and kindness, and meekness, and thankfulness, and self-control. So sit down Mr. Prophet and wait your turn.

“And I think there are a lot of people who don’t think that way. They don’t think that biblically informed principles of good behavior can trump the ecstasies of a person who is, say, speaking in tongues or prophesying,” he said. “Application of the Word governs life in the church, not the emotional sway of some strong person in the moment.”

Both these doctrinal and emotional abuses can be flipped around.

“Think of all the doctrinal errors in the history of the Church. Those weren’t charismatics, by and large. Think of all the dying mainline churches today with all their moral and doctrinal aberrations. These aren’t charismatics. And think of the emotional deadness in thousands of non-charismatic evangelical and mainline churches. Those are deadly emotional abuses. And we just need to remember that if we target the charismatic church because of things that are happening there doctrinally and emotionally, let’s remember the mirror images which are equally deadly, that are happening among non-charismatic churches as well.”

To reiterate this second point, Piper said, “There are emotional abuses in the non-charismatic church, namely the absence of emotion, which is probably more deadly than the excesses.”

Discernment Abuses

Another abuse is a failure to differentiate genuine prophecies from hollow ones. This helps explain why Paul says, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything, hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20–21).
“That is very strong language,” commented Piper. “And I think it is because some of those folks were claiming to speak for God, and it resulted in foolishness. They weren’t speaking for God. And it resulted in an emotional pushback in the church. The church said, ‘We don’t want that.’ And Paul was trying to rescue prophecy from a broad brush sweeping it away entirely by saying, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. Discern what is good here and discern what is bad here. Don’t throw it all away. Make distinctions in the various claims to hold it fast.’”

Again, Piper shared from experience. “I have been prophesied over numerous times, and two of them were just whacko. It was so hard in those [early ministry] days to take prophecy seriously. I resonated with the folks who were starting to ‘despise prophecies.’

“A lawyer one time prophesied over me when my wife was pregnant and said: ‘Your fourth child is going to be a girl, and your wife is going to die in childbirth.’ And that lawyer with tears told me that she was sorry she had to tell me that. So I went home and I got down on my knees and I said, ‘Lord, I am trying to do what you said here in 1 Thessalonians 5:20–21. And frankly, I despise what that woman just said.’ It proved out that my fourth child was a son, and I knew as soon as he came out that that prophecy was not true, and so I stopped having any misgivings about my wife’s life. She is still with me now thirty years later. That’s the sort of thing that makes you despise prophecy.”

This failure to discern prophecies within charismatic churches tempts others to simply dismiss all prophecies outright.

Finance Abuses

Finally, there are financial abuses. The key text here is 1 Timothy 6:5. Some false teachers within the charismatic movement “imagine that godliness is a means of gain.”

“So it is possible to have a teaching gift or a healing gift, some kind of a remarkable gift that is so popular you make millions of dollars. And you start feeling entitled to all the lavish clothes, lavish cars, lavish houses, lavish jets, and lavish hotel accommodations, turning godliness into a means of gain, and justifying it by the fact that you are so gifted and so many people are benefiting from what you say. To whom Paul would say: ‘But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction’ (1 Timothy 6:9).

“My alternative is to preach ‘Christian Hedonism’ that says: pursue contentment in God, not in things. ‘But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content’ (1 Timothy 6:6–8).”

But this abuse, too, can be flipped. “We tend to think of charismatics when we think of people abusing finances in this way. All you have to do is listen to the Twittersphere to know that is not the case. There are just as many non-charismatic leaders who are using their status as an effective spiritual leader to make a lot of money, and accumulate a lot of money, and look like they have a lot of money. And I want to say that there are a lot of simple, honest, humble charismatic pastors living on modest salaries who are less guilty than many non-charismatics when it comes to financial abuses.”

Not on a Warpath

On each point, it is surely misguided to single out charismatics, says Piper. “Charismatic doctrinal abuses, emotional abuses, discernment abuses, financial abuses, all have their mirror image in non-charismatic churches.” Of charismatics and non-charismatics alike, “we all stand under the word of God and we all need repentance.”

But those charismatic abuses remain. So how are these excesses best policed? How are Christians today protected from the abuses of the charismatic church? Is it through attack-centered books and conferences?

“I don’t go on a warpath against charismatics. I go on a crusade to spread truth. I am spreading gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, Calvinistic truth everywhere, and I am going to push it into the face of every charismatic I can find, because what I believe, if they embrace the biblical system of doctrine that is really there, it will bring all of their experiences into the right orbit around the sun of this truth.”

Thursday, February 4, 2016

James' "Works": John Calvin's Commentary

John Calvin's commentary was translated from the original Latin and edited by John Owen. Here is what John Owen had to say on page 313 of book 22 of Calvin's Commentaries:
The design of alluding to the faith of devils seems to have been this, to shew that though a man may believe and tremble, yet if he does not obey God and do good works, he has no true evidence of faith. Obedient faith is that which saves, and not merely that which makes us tremble. The connexion with the preceding verse seems to be as follows,—
In the former verse the boaster of mere faith is challenged to prove that his faith is right and therefore saving; the challenger would prove his by his works. Then, in this verse, a test is applied—the very first article of faith is mentioned; "Be it that you believe this, yet this faith will not save you: the devils have this faith, and instead of being saved they tremble.
We are not saved by faith "alone." As John Owen intelligently understood, "Obedient faith is that which saves." If we are saved by faith alone, then prove to me you have true faith without having works connected with it. This is an utter impossibility! In order to prove your faith is real and genuine, it must have works connected to it. This is precisely the argument James was making. True faith is always accompanied by faith in action (works), which demonstrates and perfects that faith. That is what James directs us to with both Abraham and Rahab. You can see it with every instance of faith found in the Bible! Faith and works side by side.

We are not speaking of arbitrary works here. Professing faith in the Gospel and then going out and feeding the hungry does not prove a thing. The works will be closely related to the faith in question. Observe: The woman with the issue of blood believed if she just touched Jesus' garment that she would be healed, so she reached out and did exactly that. Abraham believed the promise of God and so if he slew his only son, he believed God could raise him back up from the dead, and so he acted in accordance with that faith. The action must match the belief. If someone believes the Gospel, repentance is necessarily inseparable from it. There are no ifs, and, or buts about it. The faith you proclaim will bear actions that are equivalent to it.

John Calvin writes, "[James'] object was only to shew that good works are always connected with faith; and, therefore, since he declares Abraham was justified by works, he is speaking of the proof he gave of his justification.
...he who professes that he has faith, must prove the reality of his faith by his works. Doubtless James did not mean to teach us here the ground on which our hope of salvation ought to rest..." (p. 314).

John Calvin makes the same point I have been making in the last four blog entries I have written in regard to James 2:14-26. John Calvin intelligently understood "that good works are always connected with faith." Our hope of salvation rests in Christ Jesus alone. Nothing more. Nothing less. Jesus + nothing = everything.

John Calvin writes, "And this work was not as it were the finishing or last work, for many things afterwards followed by which Abraham proved the increase of his faith. Hence this was not the perfection of his faith, nor did it then for the first time put on its form. James then understood no other thing than that the integrity of his faith then appeared, because it brought forth that remarkable fruit of obedience" (p. 315). James purposefully referred to Abraham and Rahab,  "two persons so different in their character, in order more clearly to shew, that no one, whatever may have been his or her condition, nation, or class in society, has ever been counted righteous without good works. ... Whosoever, then, seeks to be counted righteous, though he may even be among the lowest, must yet shew that he is such by good works" (p. 316). We do not obtain righteousness by the merits of works. "We, indeed, allow that good works are required for righteousness" (p. 317).

For the Christian who feels the proud and stubborn need to argue against me in his/her disillusionment regarding "by faith alone," he/she now has the words of John Calvin, John Owen, Matthew Poole, Matthew Henry, and Simon J. Kistemaker to contend with. These men have said the same thing I have been saying, and they have made my case for me. How many other giants in the faith from the past would you like me to dig up and quote?

Obedient faith is that faith which saves. Good works are always connected with true faith. If you have faith alone without anything connected to it in order to verify it, then your faith is dead and vain and you are dead in your trespasses and sins and will find yourself in hell when you die. It is that simple. True faith is never inward; it is always outward. Faith is never idle. True faith is always accompanied inseparably by faith in action (works). Faith proves itself to be true by its works. If you have a problem with that truth, I suggest you take it up with God. Be aware, though, that you will lose.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

James' "Works": Commentary Evidence

To enforce the point I was making in my blog entry What Is Meant By "Works"?, here are the commentaries of Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, and Simon J. Kistemaker.

Matthew Henry's Commentary (Book 6, page 791-792)
6. We are taught that a justifying faith cannot be without works, from two examples, Abraham and Rahab.
(1.) The first instance is that of Abraham, the father of the faithful, and the prime example of justification, to whom the Jews had a special regard (v. 21): Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Paul, on the other hand, says (in ch. 4 of the epistle to the Romans) that Abraham believed, and it was counted to him for righteousness. But these are well reconciled, by observing what is said in Heb. 11, which shows that the faith of both of Abraham and Rahab was such as to produce those good works of which James speaks, and which are not to be separated from faith as justifying and saving. By what Abraham did, it appeared that he truly believed. Upon this footing, the words of God himself plainly put this matter. Gen. 22:16, 17, Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; therefore in blessing I will bless thee. Thus the faith of Abraham was a working faith (v. 22), it wrought with his works, and by works was made perfect. And by this means you come to the true sense of that scripture which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness, v. 23. And thus he became the friend of God. Faith, producing such works, endeared him to the divine Being, and advanced him to very peculiar favours and intimacies with God. It is a great honour done to Abraham that he is called and counted the friend of God. You see then (v. 24) how that by works a man is justified (comes into such a state of favour and friendship with God), and not by faith only; not by a bare opinion, or profession, or believing without obeying, but by having such a faith as is productive of good works. Now besides the explication of this passage and example, as thus illustrating and supporting the argument James is upon, many other useful lessons may be learned by us from what is here said concerning Abraham. [1.] Those who would have Abraham's blessings must be careful to copy after his faith: to boast of being Abraham's seed will not avail any, if they do not believe as he did. [2.] Those works which evidence true faith must to works of self-denial, and such as God himself commands (as Abraham's offering up his son, his only son, was), and not such works as are pleasing to flesh and blood and may serve our interest, or are the mere fruits of our own imagination and devising. [3.] What we piously purpose and sincerely resolve to do for God is accepted as if actually performed. Thus Abraham is regarded as offering up his son, though he did not actually proceed to make a sacrifice of him. It was a done thing in the mind, and spirit, and resolution of Abraham, and God accepts it as if fully performed and accomplished. [4.] The actings of faith make it grow perfect, as the truth of faith makes it act. [5.] Such an acting faith will make others, as well as Abraham, friends of God. Thus Christ says to his disciples, I have called you friends, John 15:15. All transactions between God and the truly believing soul are easy, pleasant, and delightful. There is one will and one heart, and there is a mutual complacency. God rejoiceth over those who truly believe, to do them good; and they delight themselves in him.
(2.) The second example of faith's justifying itself and us with and by works is Rahab: Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? v. 25. The former instance was of one renowned for his faith all his life long, This is of one noted for sin, whose faith was meaner and of a much lower degree; so that the strongest faith will not do, nor the meanest be allowed to go without works. Some say that the word here rendered harlot was the proper name of Rahab. Others tell us that it signifies no more than a hostess, or one who keeps a public house, with whom therefore the spies lodged. But it is very probably that her character was infamous; and such an instance is mentioned to show that faith will save the worst, when evidenced by proper works; and it will not save the best without such works as God requires. This Rahab believed the report she had heard of God's powerful presence with Israel; but that which proved her faith sincere was, that, to the hazard of her life, she received the messengers, and sent them out another way. Observe here, [1.] The wonderful power of faith in transforming and changing sinners. [2.] The regard which an operative faith meets with from God, to obtain his mercy and favour. [3.] Where great sins are pardoned, there must prefer the honour of God and the good of his people before the preservation of her own country. Her former acquaintance must be discarded, her former course of life entirely abandoned, and she must give signal proof and evidence of this before she can be in a justified state; and even after she is justified, yet her former character must be remembered; not so much to her dishonour as to glorify the rich grace and mercy of God. Though justified, she is called Rahab the harlot.
Matthew Poole's Commentary On the Holy Bible (Book 3, page 888-889)
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Ye see then; an inference either from the instance of Abraham, or from the whole preceding discourse. How that by works; works of new obedience. A man is justified; declared to be righteous, or approved as such, and acquitted from the guilt of hypocrisy. And not by faith only; not by a mere profession of faith, or a bare assent to the truth, without the fruit of good works. Quest. How doth this general conclusion follow from the particular case of Abraham? Answ. Abraham's faith and justification, both before God and the world, are set forth as the exemplars of ours, to which the faith and justification of all believers, both Jews and Gentiles, is to be conformed, Rom. iv. 11, 12, 23, 24. Quest. Doth not James here contradict Paul's doctrine in the matter of justification, Rom. iv.? Answ. The contradiction is but seeming, not real, as will appear, if four things be considered: 1. The occasion of these apostles' writing, and their scope in it. Having to do with different sorts of persons, they had likewise different designs. As Christ speaks one way when he dealt with proud Pharisees, whom he would humble; another way, when with humble hearers, whom he would encourage, and Paul carried it one way when among weak brethren, in condescension to whose infirmities he circumcised Timothy, Acts xci, 2, 3; and another, when he was among false brethren, and men of contention, who opposed Christian liberty, seeking to bring believers into bondage, and then would not suffer Titus to be circumcised, Gal. ii. 3-5. So in the present affair, Paul's business lay with false apostles and Judaizing Christians, such as did, in the matter of justification, either substitute a self-righteousness instead of God's grace, or set it up in conjunction with it; and therefore his scope is (especially in his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians) to show the true cause and manner of justification, and vindicate the freeness of grace in it, by the exclusion of man's works, of what kind soever; to which purpose he propounds the examples of Abraham and David, in their justification, Rom. iv. Whereas James having to do with carnal professors, and such as abused the doctrine of grace to encourage themselves in sin, and thought it sufficient that they had faith, (such as it was,) though they did not live like believers, resting in an empty profession, with the neglect of holiness; his design plainly is, to show the effects and fruits of justification, viz. holiness and good works; thereby to check the vanity and folly of them who did thus divorce faith from a holy life, (which God hath joined to it,) and fancied themselves safe in the profession of the one, without any respect to, or care of, the other, as appears in this chapter, ver. 14, 17, 26. And because they might bear themselves high in this false confidence by the example of Abraham, their father according to the flesh, and whom Paul had set forth, Rom. iv., as justified by faith, without the concurrence of works to his justification; James makes use of the same example of Abraham, as one eminent for holiness as well as faith, and who made his faith famous by the highest act of obedience that ever a saint did, to show, that faith and holiness ought not to be separated; Abraham's faith being so highly commended, especially as productive of it. To the same purpose he makes use of the instance of Rahab, who, though a young saint, and newly come to the knowledge of God, yet showed the truth of her faith by so considerable an exercise of her love and mercy to God's people, as her receiving the spies in peace was. This therefore helps not a little to reconcile the difference between these two apostles. Paul deals with those that magnified works too much, as if they were justified by them, and slighted faith and grace; and therefore, though he frequently shows the usefulness of faith and good works unto salvation, and presseth men everywhere to the practice of them, yet he proves that they have no interest in the justification of a sinner before God's tribunal, which he asserts to be wholly and solely of grace, and by faith. But James, in dealing with loose Christians, who magnified faith, and slighted good works, not only as having no influence on justification, but as not necessary at all to salvation; he takes upon him to maintain good works, not as necessary to justification, but as the effects, signs, and evidences of it, and such as without which their faith was vain, and themselves in an unjustified state. 2. Paul and James take faith in different senses: Paul speaks of a true, lively faith, which purifies the heart, and worketh by love, Gal. v. 6. Whereas James speaks of a profession, or presumption of faith, barren, and destitute of good fruits, such a faith as is dead, ver. 17, such as the devils may have, ver. 19, which is but historical, and consists only in a belief of God's being, not a consent to his offer, or relying on his promises. What contradiction then is there here between these two apostles, if Paul assert justification to be by faith, viz. a lively, working faith; and James deny it to be by faith, viz. an idle, inactive, barren faith, and which hath only the name, but not the nature of that grace, and is rather the image of faith than faith itself? 3. But because James not only denies justification to the faith he speaks of, but ascribes it to works in this verse; therefore it is to be considered, that justification is taken one way by him, and another by Paul. Paul takes it for the absolution and acceptation of a sinner at God's bar, by the imputation of Christ's righteousness, which is the primary and proper notion of justification. But James takes it for the manifestation and declaration of that justification; and the word is taken in the like sense in other scriptures: Luke vii. 29, the people justified God, i.e. owned and declared his righteousness by confession of their sins, and submission to John's baptism; and ver. 35, Wisdom is justified, i.e. declared to be just and right. Rom. iii. 4, justified in thy sayings, i.e. acknowledge and declared to be true in thy word. And what is Christ's being justified in the Spirit, 1 Tim. iii. 16, but his being declared to be the Son of God? Rom. i. 4. And that James takes justification in this sense, appears, (1.) By the history of Abraham here mentioned: he was (as hath been said) justified by faith long before his offering up his son, Gen. xv., but here is said to be justified, i.e. declared and proved to be so, by this testimony which he gave to the truth of his faith, and consequently to his justification by it; and the Lord therefore tells him, Gen. xxii. 12, Now I know that thou fearest God, &c.; q.d. By this obedience thou hast abundantly showed the sincerity of thy graces. (2.) Because if James doth not here speak of Abraham's being justified declaratively, how can it be true which he speaks, ver. 23, that the Scripture was fulfilled (in his sacrificing his son) which saith, He believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness? For if James intends justification in the proper sense, how was Abraham's being justified by works a fulfilling of the Scripture, which asserts him to be justified by faith? Here therefore again there is no contradiction between these apostles. For it is true, that Abraham was justified, i.e. accepted of God, and absolved from guilt, by faith only; and it is as true, that he was justified, i.e. manifested and declared to be a believer, and a justified person, by his works. 4. Lastly, we may distinguish of the person that is said to be justified; either he is a sinner, in the state of nature; or a believer, in a state of grace; whence ariseth the two-fold justification here mentioned. The justification of a sinner, in the remission of his sins through the imputation of Christ's righteousness, and acquitting him from the condemnation of the law, is the justification properly so called, and which Paul speaks so much of; and this is by faith only. The justification of a believer, is his absolution from condemnation by the gospel, and the charge of infidelity, or hypocrisy, and is no other than that declarative justification James speaks of, or a asserting and clearing up the truth and reality of the former justification, which is done by good works, as the signs and fruits of the faith, by which that former is obtained: and this is but improperly called justification. The former is an absolution from the general charge of sin, this from the special charge of hypocrisy, or infidelity. A sinner's great fear (when first awakened to a sense of his sin and misery) is of a holy law, and a righteous Judge ready to condemn him for the violation of the law; and so his first business is to look to Christ by faith for righteousness, and remission of sin. But when he is justified by that righteousness, men may charge him with hypocrisy or unbelief, and so may the devil and conscience too, when faith is weak, or a temptation strong; and therefore his next work is to clear himself of this imputation, and to evidence the truth and reality of his faith and justification in God's sight, which must be done by producing his obedience and good works, as the indications of his faith; and hereby he proves that he hath indeed closed with the promise of the gospel, and so is clear of the charge of not believing it, which was false; as well as (by consequence) is justified from the charge of sin against the law, which was true. To conclude, therefore, here is no opposition between Paul and James. Paul speaks of Abraham's being justified as a sinner, and properly, and so by faith only; James speaks of his being justified as a believer, improperly, and so by works; by which not his person was justified, but rather his faith declared to be justifying: nor he constituted righteous, but approved as righteous. In a word, what God hath joined must not be divided, and what he hath divided must not be joined. He hath separated faith and works in the business of justification, and therefore we must not join them in it, as Paul disputes; and he hath joined them in the lives of justified persons, and there we must not separate them, as James teaches. Paul assures us they have not a co-efficiency in justification itself; and James assures us they may, and ought to have, a co-existence in them that are justified. If the reader desire further satisfaction yet, let him consult Turretine de Concordia Pauli et Jacobi, where he may find much more to the same purpose as hath been here said.
New Testament Commentary (Book 11, page 96-98)
22. You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend.
a. "His faith and his actions." Here James faces his opponent and opens the Old Testament Scriptures. He points to the account of Abraham's faith at the altar of sacrifice (Gen. 22) and says, "You see, here is definitive proof that faith and works go together." Faith and action, then, are never separated. The one flows naturally from the other. Deeds originate in faith and faith supports the believer in his work. Everyone hearing or reading these words from James readily admits that in the case of Abraham, the father of believers did what he had to do on the basis of faith.
b. "His faith was made complete." Purposely James alludes to Abraham's test of faith when the patriarch was asked to sacrifice Isaac. Even though we do not know how old Abraham was, we learn from Scripture that this test of faith is the last for Abraham. When he sustained this last test, he heard the voice from heaven saying, "It is enough." Abraham's faith was made complete.
In his life Abraham had shown trust and confidence in God by traveling to the promised land, waiting decades for his promised son Isaac, and finally demonstrating his obedience by being willing to sacrifice him. The supreme test was not so much in his traveling or waiting but in preparing to sacrifice Isaac. Killing his own son meant that the promise would end. But as the writer of Hebrews sums it up, "Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death" (11:19).
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24. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
Here is the conclusion. James addresses all his readers when he says, "You see." With his reference to Abraham he has convincingly shown that anyone who appeals to Scripture will find that Abraham acted on the basis of faith. James does not say that Abraham was justified because of his faith and works.
God justifies the sinner. That is, the sinner can never justify himself by his own deeds. Nor can many rely on faith alone, for faith without works is dead. James is saying that faith and works go together, that they ought not to be separated, and that faith divorced from deeds does not justify a person. God justifies a sinner who is spiritually alive and who shows trust and obedience.
As I said in my previous blog entry, faith may be the driving force behind one's works, but nevertheless faith and works must go hand-in-hand. As I said before, so say I again:
Throughout the entire Bible, whenever you see instances of faith, it is inseparably linked with faith in action (i.e., works/living faith), as demonstrated by James with regard to Abraham and Rahab. To deny this is to be living in sheer ignorance. If we know from Scripture that there are two kinds of faith, and two kinds of repentance, why would we foolishly assume there is only one kind of works? Is Ephesians 2:10 saying we were created for works of the Law or legalism? Clearly not! So why do we assume that all talk regarding "works" is in regard to works-righteousness and us being right with God based on those merits?

Since every instance of faith in the Bible is inseparably accompanied by faith in action (i.e., works/living faith), it is foolish to assume that when Scripture speaks of "faith" that it merely refers to mental assent. Faith is not merely what we believe in our head and our heart, but also how we act in accordance with that belief. Genuine acceptance of the Gospel is inseparably accompanied by immediate genuine repentance and followed by continuous genuine repentance as one grows in that faith. Faith is never faith alone apart from actions! Ergo, "faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself" (James 2:17). When the Bible speaks of Abraham's "faith," it includes not only what he believed in his heart, but also how he acted upon that belief. This is how Paul can say he was justified by faith and how James can say he was justified by his works. The two are not contradictory. The belief in his heart alone was not enough, as James points out. He had to act upon it, the same way we do. The moment he acted, his actions perfected his belief. Belief and actions together constitute "faith." You do not believe me?

Closely examine the woman with the issue of blood (or any other instance of faith in Scripture). She believed in her heart that touching Jesus' garment would heal her (faith) and she reached out in that belief and touched His garment (works/living faith/faith in action). Jesus' words to her? "Your faith has healed you." "Faith," here, encompasses both her belief in her heart that she would be healed and her faith in action by touching the garment. How about Peter walking on water? Faith (believing it was possible) plus works of faith (stepping out on the water). How about the crippled man by the pool? Some stranger comes up to him and tells him to walk. How cruel! Faith (believing it) plus works of faith (standing up). How many passages in Scripture would you care to examine and see this pattern? I can do this all day if you would like. You see this everywhere in Scripture!

Justification is never by faith alone. Abraham did not simply believe God, he acted upon that belief. His action perfected his belief. His action made his belief real. This is how Paul can say he was justified by faith and how James can say he was justified by his works. Faith and works (faith in action) always go hand-in-hand. They are inseparable! It is that simple.