Interesting Comments on “Faith Alone” in James

by Steve Ray on June 5, 2009

I just added a new set of electronic books to my Logos software. They are decidedly Protestant but I like to have them as resources. I was very intrigued by the authors treatment of James 2:24 which says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

I thought many of you would enjoy the comments (and spin) put on this verse. When you are an Evangelical, it is certainly one of the most difficult verses of Scripture to interpret — because it doesn’t say what they want it to say!

The capital letters refer to book titles or reference works. Sorry that it did not copy and paste as well as I had hoped. It did not copy all the Greek words (putting them in ?????) and references correctly, but the point is still made. My comments are in [red] in brackets

2:24 You-see that by deeds a-man is-justified and not by faith only.
LEXICON—a. pres. act. indic. of ?????? (LN 32.11) (BAGD 1.c.?. p. 578): ‘to see’ [AB, Herm, HNTC, NIC; all versions except NAB], ‘to understand’ [BAGD, LN], ‘to perceive’ [Lns; NAB], ‘to be aware’ [WBC]. The verb is plural, addressed to all the readers [EGT, Hb, Herm, NBC, NIC, NIGTC, NTC, TG, TNTC, Tsk, WBC]. [James adds "You see" to add emphasis, to show how important this statement is!]
b. ??? with genitive object: ‘by’. See this word at 2:22.
c. pres. pass. indic. of ????????: ‘to be justified’. See this word at 2:21.
d. ???????: ‘faith’. See this word at 2:17.
QUESTION—What is the form of this verse?
1. It is a statement [AB, Alf, Bg, Herm, HNTC, ICC, Lg, Lns, My, TNTC, Tsk; all versions except NAB]: you see.
2. It is an exhortation [NTC, WBC; NAB]: you should see.
3. It is a rhetorical question [NIC]: do you see?
QUESTION—What is meant by this verse?
It is a general conclusion [EBC, EGT, HNTC, NIGTC] based on Abraham’s example [Alf, Blm, Mit, My, NTC, TNTC, Tsk]. It answers the QUESTION in 2:14 [Hb, ICC]. It means that a person is justified by faith, but not by faith alone [EBC, NIC], at the final judgment [My, NIGTC, TNTC]. [Scripture never says the final judgment is based on our faith; rather, it is based on our deeds or works, e.g., Jn 5:28-29; Mt 25:31-46]. His justification must be demonstrated by appropriate deeds [AB, Alf, Bg, Hb] [so they ARE necessary?]; deeds help to show that a person is justified [Blm, EBC] [Don't you think "help" is a rather weak word here considering the gravity of the exhortation? James said without them one is not justified! If this was saying faith alone was necessary the author would certainly be much more forceful with his comment]. James argues against a superficial faith which produces no deeds [AB, EBC, HNTC, Lns, NIGTC, WBC]. Paul’s argument was that deeds could not earn justification [AB, EBC, Lns, NIGTC, TNTC, WBC] [Paul says no such thing! Initial justification is only by grace, faith and baptism; but, Paul's views of "good works" is very different than most Evangelicals. "Works of the Law" are those things that the Jews did, namely circumcision, that set them apart from the nations. Protestants too often confuse "good works" with the Jewish "works of the law"].  James probably wrote earlier than Paul’s epistles [Hb] [Correct]; he had not read Romans [NIGTC] [What does this mean? Had James written his inspired Scripture after Paul had written Romans and Galatians -- he would have written it differently? James did not understand the Gospel because he had not had not written his epistle after  those of St. Paul? Hum? So implied here is that James had justification confused and really didn't know how to get saved? When one begins with a wrong Protestant tradition, they certainly end up on the wrong side of Scripture.]
(Greenlee, J. H. (2008). An Exegetical Summary of James (2nd ed.) (107). Dallas, TX: SIL International.)

INTERESTING COMMENTS IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Derek Greer June 6, 2009 at 11:30 AM

I believe James 2:24 only becomes difficult to interpret if discussed outside of the context of the larger passage, and moreover the whole of the New Testament.

If it is fair to say this verse proves difficult for evangelicals because “it doesn’t say what they want it to say”, then it would be equally fair to say that verses like Romans 3:28 and Ephesians 2:8 present difficulty to Catholics because they don’t say what they want them to say.

STEVE RAY HERE; NOT SO. ACTUALLY, THESE PASSAGES HAVE BEEN HIJACKED BY “LUTHER-INFLUENCED” THEOLOGY THAT SAYS THAT “WORKS OF THE LAW” ARE GOOD WORKS DONE BY CATHOLICS THAT ARE VIEWED AS MERITORIOUS. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. IN PAUL’S ARGUMENT IT WAS NOT BETWEEN CATHOLICS AND PROTESTANTS BUT BETWEEN JEWS AND GENTILES. “WORKS” ARE THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE DONE BY JEWS (CIRCUMCISION, SABBATH OBSERVANCE, ETC.) THAT SET THEM APART FROM THE NATIONS (CP. ACTS 15). SO, IT SAYS EXACTLY WHAT CATHOLICS EXPECT IT TO SAY AND APPRECIATE IT SAYING. IT MEANS WE ARE NO LONGER OBLIGATED TO THE DEMANDS OF MOSES LAW BEFORE WE CAN BECOME CHRISTIANS. WE ARE NOT SAVED INITIALLY BY WORKS BUT BY THE GRACE OF GOD ALONE AND THAT IS GOOD CATHOLIC THEOLOGY.

James writes: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Later, Paul would write: “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”

James writes: “But are you willing to recognize you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” Later, Paul would write: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

James writes: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?” Later, Paul would write: “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”.

So then, it appears on the surface that James and Paul are in disagreement on this issue. Those who hold that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God are therefore left with the need to reconcile these passages if they are to avoid cognitive dissidence.

The overall context of James 2:24 is that a faith which does not result in good works is not a saving faith. If one claims to have true faith in God, and yet has no demonstration that God has transformed their heart, evidenced by good works, then the sort of faith they are proclaiming is suspect.

James writes: “You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected” In Ephesians, Paul writes: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” So then, you might say that “faith perfected” or “faith completed” is a faith which leads to good works. As Paul writes, we are not justified by works in the sense that there is no justification to be found through striving to be good. At the same time, we are justified by works in the sense that works is the final culmination of the transformation performed by God in our hearts.

In Romans 8, Paul provides a more full understanding of the process of salvation where he writes: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined …, and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

NO COMMENTS, THIS IS ALL GOOD CATHOLIC THEOLOGY.

When salvation is understood as a process starting from a chosen relationship before the foundation of the world, culminating with the glorification of the chosen individual, then the belief and works that result from the circumcision of the heart performed once the individual is called is what justifies.

INITIALLY YES, AS APPLIED THROUGH WATER BAPTISM. THEN ONE BEGINS TO LIVE HOLY AS REQUIRED BY THE LORD (E.G., HEB 12:14). OUR FINAL RESURRECTION IS NOT SAID TO BE A RESULT OF FAITH ALONE OR PREDESTINATION BUT OF LIVING RIGHTEOUSLY OR WICKEDLY. THESE PASSAGES ARE OFTEN OVERLOOKED OR UNDER APPLIED BY FUNDAMENTALISTS WHEREAS ALL THE VERSES MENTIONED ABOVE ARE PART AND PARCEL OF GOOD CATHOLIC THEOLOGY.

Paul writes in Philippians: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in your will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Our good works are a manifestation of our salivation, but are not its cause. You may have heard someone say: “Standing in a garage doesn’t make you a car.” I think it is a good analogy. Faith accompanied by good works is a sign that one has been saved, but someone claiming to have faith and then striving to do good works to achieve salivation isn’t how salvation is obtained.

PAUL ALSO WROTE TO THE PHILIPPIANS THAT HE HAD NOT YET ATTAINED TO THE RESURRECTION BUT HE STRIVES FORWARD TO ACHIEVE THE PRIZE. (PHIL 3).

As Paul says in Romans 9:16, “So then, it does not depend on the man who wills (believes) or the man who runs (works), but on God who has mercy.” The willing and the running are manifestations of God’s mercy, not the cause of it. Standing in that garage won’t make you a car.

NOR WILL WAITING FOR GOD TO START IT. GOOD WORKS ARE PART OF THE SALVATION PROCESS AND THAT IS WHY JAMES WORDED IT THE WAY HE DID AND IT DOES NOT CONTRACT PAUL AS YOU SEEM TO SUGGEST. YES, I BELIEVE THE BIBLE IS THE INSPIRED, INFALLIBLE WORD OF GOD AND THESE PASSAGES DO NOT NEED TO BE RECONCILED (AS LUTHER’S CONFUSION IMPLIED) BUT THEY ARE PERFECTLY IN HARMONY IN CATHOLIC THEOLOGY.

Derek Greer June 6, 2009 at 6:23 PM

““WORKS” ARE THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE DONE BY JEWS (CIRCUMCISION, SABBATH OBSERVANCE, ETC.) THAT SET THEM APART FROM THE NATIONS …”

While good works certainly includes striving to keep the Law of Moses, Paul’s statements that we are justified apart from works is not just to say apart from the Law of Moses, but apart from the striving of man to please God through their own righteousness. In Romans 2, Paul makes the argument that both Jews and Gentiles are both condemned … the Jews by not keeping the written Law, and the Gentiles by not keeping the law written on their hearts (i.e. the innate knowledge of mankind of what is right and wrong). The point Paul is making, which he states explicitly in Romans 8:8, is that apart from God’s grace man cannot please Him. Whether you were born under the Law, or have never been under the law, good works are not the path to salvation.

STEVE’S FOLLOW UP: IT IS NOT EITHER/OR BUT RATHER BOTH/AND. OF COURSE THE ARGUMENT IS IN THE CONTEXT OF THE JEWISH/GENTILE DEBATE AS REFLECTED IN ACTS 15. TO DENY THIS IS TO REFUSE TO STUDY SCRIPTURE IN ITS HISTORICAL CONTEXT. THIS IS ONE OF THE WAYS LUTHER REALLY SCREWED UP. HE WANTED TO FORCE THIS INTO A CATHOLIC VS. PROTESTANT DEBATE WHICH HAS CONFUSED THE WHOLE MATTER. THIS IS PRIMARILY ABOUT JEW AND GENTILE AND THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE MOSAIC LAW — THIS IS THE HEART OF GALATIANS AND ROMANS.

OF COURSE I WOULD ALSO AGREE, THOUGH THIS IS NOT THE PRIMARY EMPHASIS OF ROMANS, THAT NO ONE WILL GET TO HEAVEN AND SAY TO GOD, “I HAVE DONE LOTS OF GOOD WORKS FOR ME. YOU OWE ME!!” THIS IS OBVIOUS CATHOLIC THEOLOGY. WE UNDERSTAND INITIAL JUSTIFICATION AND THE SUBSEQUENT PROCESS OF JUSTIFICATION.

——————————————————————-

“INITIALLY YES, AS APPLIED THROUGH WATER BAPTISM. THEN ONE BEGINS TO LIVE HOLY AS REQUIRED BY THE LORD”

In the New Testament, water baptism was a very outward plea on the part of a new believer for God to cleans them of their sins and this generally took place as soon as the person believed. It is a bit unfortunate that the church have lost this to some degree, moving to scheduled baptisms by “ordained” ministers. Nevertheless, water baptism is a symbolic act whereby one professes their faith and request for remittance from sins. It is not, however, the point a person becomes a christian, is imputed with righteousness, becomes officially saved, or anything of the like. Just as Abraham was justified while still uncircumcised and circumcision was a symbol of entering into a old covenant, water baptism is symbolic act showing the entering into the new.

STEVE’S FOLLOW UP: IN THIS MATTER YOU ARE JUST FLAT OUT WRONG TO RELEGATE BAPTISM TO SIMPLY A SYMBOL. NOT ONLY DOES SCRIPTURE NOT ALLOW THIS BUT THE EARLY CHURCH FROM THE FIRST CENTURY TAUGHT BAPTISM WAS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION AND IT WAS NEVER CONTRADICTED UNTIL POST LUTHER-CALVIN REFORMERS, NAMELY ANA-BAPTISTS DENIED THE EFFICACIOUSNESS OF BAPTISM. I DON’T HAVE TIME TO DEBATE THE ISSUE HERE — I DID IT IN GREAT DETAIL IN MY BOOK CROSSING THE TIBER. WHAT YOU PROPOSE IS SIMPLY FUNDAMENTALIST TRADITION THAT DID NOT EXIST UNTIL THE 1600’S. IT IS A NEW AND NOVEL APPROACH TO BAPTISM WHICH CONTRADICTS SCRIPTURE AND HISTORY. AS PETER SAYS, “BAPTISM NOW SAVES YOU” 1 PETER 3:21).

—————————————————————-

“AND IT DOES NOT CONTRACT PAUL AS YOU SEEM TO SUGGEST.”

I by no means suggested that Paul contradicts James. While the comments you intermingled with my response may have broken the continuity of thought I presented to a degree, I believe most who read what I wrote would conclude that I believe their statements to be in harmony. What you essentially set forth was that evangelicals don’t want to deal with the plain reading of James. Regardless of what side of the debate you come down on, what I believe most will agree from the side-by-side verses I set forth was that a plain reading without considering the overall context does present apparent contradictions. I resolve these apparent contradictions by explaining that James is not arguing that salvation is by faith plus good works, but by a faith that produces good works. You explain the apparent contradiction by arguing that Paul isn’t arguing that salivation is faith without works, but faith without the Law of Moses.

STEVE’S FOLLOW UP: MAYBE I MISREAD YOU OR YOU WERE UNCLEAR, BUT HERE’S WHAT YOU WROTE IN YOUR FIRST COMMENT: “So then, it appears on the surface that James and Paul are in disagreement on this issue. Those who hold that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God are therefore left with the need to reconcile these passages if they are to avoid cognitive dissidence.”

THAT CERTAINLY APPEARS TO SAY THAT THOSE WHO BELIEVE THE BIBLE MUST RECONCILE TWO SEEMINGLY CONTRADICTORY STATEMENTS.

EVANGELICALS DO NOT DEAL WITH THE PLAIN READING OF JAMES. I HAVE OVER 100 COMMENTARIES ON JAMES AND THERE IS A UNIVERSAL STRUGGLE TO TWIST JAMES INTO THE NOVEL LUTHERAN APPROACH TO FAITH ALONE. IT IS ALMOST HUMOROUS TO READ ALL THE PERMUTATION. I HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT IT AT LENGTH, EVEN ON MY BLOG.

I AVOID THE APPARENT CONTRADICTION BY READING IT WITH CATHOLIC EYES. WITHIN CATHOLICISM THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A CONTRADICTION, EVEN AN APPARENT ONE. ABRAHAM WAS JUSTIFIED WHEN HE OFFERED UP HIS SON ISAAC! THIS IS PRETTY CLEAR. ABRAHAM WAS JUSTIFIED WHEN HE BELIEVED (GEN 15) AND JUSTIFIED WHEN HE OFFERED UP ISAAC (GEN 22, JAMES 2).

THOUGH YOU ARE CLOSE IN YOUR INTERPRETATION OF JAMES, YOU STILL MINIMALIZE HIM IN ORDER TO FIT HIS “SQUARE PEG’ INSIDE THE PROTESTANT “ROUND HOLE.” SORRY, BUT THAT IS CERTAINLY THE WAY IT APPEARS. I KNOW SINCE I USED TO DO THE SAME THING AS AN EVANGELICAL.

EVEN PAUL NEVER USES THE WORDS “FAITH” AND “ALONE” TOGETHER. ONLY JAMES DOES THIS. PAUL CERTAINLY UNDERSTAND THE NEED FOR FAITH TO WORK THROUGH LOVE. IT IS NOT FAITH ALONE, BUT DOING THE WORKS, OBTAINING THE HOLINESS, AND LIVING OUT THE INFUSED RIGHTEOUSNESS GIVEN BY GOD.

IT IS NOT IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS, IT IS INFUSED RIGHTEOUSNESS. THIS AGAIN LUTHER CONFUSED AND MANY FOLLOWED HIS MINIMALIZED CONFUSION.

WORKS ARE NOT SOMETHING THAT WE INITIALLY DO FOR SALVATION, BUT SUBSEQUENTLY WORKS BECOME NECESSARY AS WE ARE TO WORK OUT OUR SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING, TO HAVE THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH, TO HAVE FAITH THAT WORKS THROUGH LOVE — NOT FAITH ALONE.

I CLOSE WITH THIS. IF MY GRANDSON COMES TO ME AND BORROWS $10 TO BUY ME A CHRISTMAS PRESENT AND GIVES IT TO ME ON CHRISTMAS — WHO BOUGHT THE PRESENT? I DID; NO HE DID. THIS IS HOW WE SEE GOOD WORKS. THEY ARE MERITORIOUS (EVEN PROTESTANTS BELIEVE THEY WILL BE REWARDED BASED ON THEIR GOOD WORKS ON EARTH) BUT CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED BY THE GRACE OF GOD WHICH HE GIVES US TO DO THAT WHICH IS REQUIRED AND REWARDED.

THIS WILL BE THE END OF THE DISCUSSION HERE ON MY BLOG DUE TO LACK OF TIME ON MY PART. FOR MORE ONE CAN READ MY SECTION ON BAPTISM IN MY BOOK CROSSING THE TIBER, AND MANY OTHER RELATED TOPICS ON MY BLOG. IF FURTHER DISCUSSION IS DESIRED, IT CAN BE TAKEN UP ON MY DISCUSSION FORUM ON MY MAIN WEBSITE.

Fra Nas June 7, 2009 at 5:09 AM

I always wonder why Protestants put so much faith in a man. And what contorted, distorted application of the more difficult and then some VERY clear verses of the bible just to fit a particular man’s tradition. We have many Doctors of the Church but none is put on a pedestal the way Protestants view a Luther or Calvin as infallible teacher.

Luretta O'Donnell June 19, 2009 at 12:38 PM

How do I become a registered member here? I found a place to log in, but no place to register. Help, please!!

NO REGISTRATION. I AM THE ONLY ONE TO REGISTER. PEOPLE CAN SUBMIT COMMENTS FOR POSTING AND I MODERATE. IF YOU WANT TO REGISTER ON MY MESSAGE BOARD, GO TO HTTP://FORUMS.CATHOLICCONVERT.COM.

Leave a Comment

 

Previous post:

Next post: