In Yesterday’s post, we began to look at James and Paul and, justification by faith…specifically the clause, faith without works is dead being alone. Therefore we are going to take a close look at James chapter two over the next few days. Yesterday we found that the audiences were different. Paul was writing to a primarily Gentile (Celtic) church and James wrote to all of the Jews in the dispersion.
There is a big debate in evangelical Christianity over salvation…who can be saved and how and what demonstrates true salvation. On one extreme you have those who hold faith alone to be a mental assent that is not connected with behavior and apparent obedience and, on the other extreme you have a view that is so legalistic that if one breaks the law they loose their salvation. But, in the mainstream of evangelical thought, even among sovereign grace reformed Calvinists, there is an adherence to Calvin’s observation, (faith alone saves but faith that saves is never alone) which renders the Christian faith very legalistic.
All of these positions and views miss the point and, I think that James chapter two is a perfect passage to demonstrate this fact. Here are a couple of observations. James refers to the royal law first and, then the law of liberty. It makes sense that the royal law was the written Mosaic Law and, the law of liberty was the Law of Christ. Have you ever wondered why James talked about murder and adultery in verse 11? Could it be that he was using the same two commandments that Jesus amplified in the Sermon on the Mount?
He goes on to say this: Jas 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. He is pointing out that first and foremost, the trait that a true Christian should have is mercy towards others. Now then, isn’t this interesting when the bulk of evangelical Christians spend most of their time in judgment.
In subsequent posts we will look at the fact that there is a connection between James chapter two….faith without works is dead being alone….and, Matthew 25:31-46, Matthew 5:16 and Isaiah 58:3-12. Perhaps we will see that the rampant legalism that chokes the body of Christ is totally unnecessary and, that mercy truly triumphs over judgment.