Can Faith Save Him?
James (in his epistle) making effort to explain the role of faith and works asks (what has become) a rather overlooked question. What does it profit my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? (James 2:14) This question along with several other passages (in this epistle of James) have created so much debate, that some (sects) have gone so far as to say that the epistle of James is not Apostolic (Inspired). Martin Luther (the leader of the Reformation) called the epistle of James an epistle of straw. In Luther's (original bible) preface to the book of James he makes the following statements:
-"I (say's Luther) do not regard it as the writing of an Apostle"
-"It is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works." (2:24)
-"In a word (says Luther), he (James) wanted to guard against those who relied on faith without works, but was unequal to the task."
-"Therefore I (say's Luther) cannot include him (James) among the chief books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him."
What's The Controversy?
So what exactly is the big controversy? Well at first take it seems as if the writings of James contradict the writings of Paul. But after careful study one will find that they match up exactly with the teachings of Christ and are in perfect harmony with our model of salvation (Exodus). But before we dig too far into our reasonings, we must first deal with a rather curious translation of James 2:14 in most popular bibles. The beginning of the verse in both translations render about the same meaning, however the verse ends with a rather important question. And in the more commonly used bibles such as the NIV, NASB, NLT, ESV, etc. the question reads "can such faith save him?" versus "can faith save him? (KJV) Below is the Greek Interlinear of James 2:14.
Greek Interlinear: (James 2:14)
ti to ophelos adelphoi mou ean piston legE tis echein erga
what? THE benefit brethren! OF ME IF-EVER faith MAY-BE_SAYING anyone to be having works
de mE echE mE dunatai hE pistis sOsai auton
yet NO MAY BE HAVING NO CAN THE FAITH TO SAVE him?
The Answer Is A Flat Out No!
These bible versions are nonetheless mostly used in Lutheran, Protestant, and Non-Denominational churches, which (for the most part) hold firm to the "faith alone" belief. So does the addition of the word "such" change the meaning of the question? Indeed it does! It no longer becomes a question of whether faith alone can save him (faith without works), instead it becomes a question of the sincerity of his faith (such faith). For if the question is properly translated and answered the faith alone debate is over! For who would deny that the answer to the question is a flat out No? So it's either No to "faith alone " (which ends the debate) or it's No to "such faith" (which in essence then creates two).
What Really Is The Message Of James?
But is it not clear what James is discussing and to whom he is discussing it with? Well indeed, he calls them brethren and uses the term profit. For who would deny that in order to gain a profit you must had first received that which you might profit from. Which tells us that James is speaking to those within the church. Well what exactly is his message? Is his emphasis on defining what true faith is? Or is he urging those within the church to put their faith to work? He asks what profit is it, if you say you have faith and have not works? He then goes on to give us an example.
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (James 2:15)
So here we have an example of a man who recognizes someone who is in need. But though he recognizes his need, he does not give him what is necessary. Instead he gives him lip service, he basically tells the guy to have a nice day. So we must ask ourselves what is the condemnation in this? Is this what our Lord instructed us to do? No! Instead he instructed us to help those who are in need. So is this man to be condemned? Indeed. But for what? Is it for his lack of not knowing what is right? Or is it for his lack of not taking action? Does James critique what it really means to help those in need? No! Instead he critiques taking action saying what good is your faith if it is not put into work. He is talking to those who are within the church. Those who have already received the instructions of our Lord, those who have been taught what is good and what is right. He is in no way making distinction between true faith and false faith, rather he is warning those within the church to put their faith to work! As for the church is concerned there is only ONE FAITH! (Ephesians 4:5) Everything else is Nothing!
Ad-Libbing The Author
The most common response (or tactic) that the "faith alone" group uses to defend their false doctrine against what James clearly states in his epistle is to Ad-Lib the author. Well they say, " what James is really saying here is such and such." They put words in his mouth saying "well what he's really talking about here is a true faith versus a false faith (which we dealt with above) and justification before God and justification before men."
To what lengths these heretics are forced when cornered with the truth? (They even invent their own words such as ascentia and fiducia.) But are not these interpretations foreign to the "true" Gospel? For where in the Gospel does it ever mention anything about being justified before men? Jesus on the contrary condemned the Pharisees for judging according to the standard of men saying, "you judge according to the flesh (men's standards) I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the father that sent me (John 8:15-16). And Paul likewise spoke saying, "it is a small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea I judge not my own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord (1Cor 4: 3-4). The focus of a Christian should be on God's opinion, for it is only God who justifies! (Romans 4:5)
Another technique that the "faith alone" group uses is the switch. When you show them the bible passages that directly show that a Christian can loose their salvation, they will Not directly give answer to them (for they have no answer). Instead they will direct you to passages that deal with salvation by grace through faith. Do we deny that salvation is by grace through faith and a gift of God? Absolutely Not! So what is the contradiction? The bible clearly teaches in many places that it is possible for a Christian to loose their salvation, IF...IF..IF....they fall away from the faith they once had. What springs from the doctrine of faith alone is the doctrine of once saved always saved (i.e. they are the same). This doctrine teaches that there only exists two categories of people in the world:
This belief (that there only exists two categories) they are forced to maintain to protect their false doctrine of "faith alone." They say there is no such thing as falling away, instead they claim that those who appeared to had fallen away were never truly saved in the first place. And so they eliminate the third category that the bible clearly teaches. So what category is this? This is the category of those who believed for a while, but in time of temptation (etc.) fell away. The "faith alone" group will argue that these people were never truly saved in the first place. They will even go so far as to say that they only tasted the word and the spirit but were never truly made partakers of it. In essence they claim that these people were never truly born again, but that is not what the bible teaches. To prove this we will turn to the parable of the seeds.
Parable Of The Seeds
In the parable of the seeds their exists four categories into which two are of the same result, resulting in essence three categories. This parable should be carefully studied in light of all three Gospel accounts in order to grasp it's full interpretation. However, the key is given mostly in Luke's Gospel. It is in Luke's Gospel that we find out (what) the seed represents and it is in Luke's Gospel that we receive the reason for some of the plants dying away. The seed is the word of God (Luke 8:11). And the grounds are the people in the world.
Wayside: The first category is the seeds that are said to have fallen by the wayside where the fowls (birds) of the air devour them. These are those who hear the word of the Kingdom, and understand it Not, then cometh the wicked one (the fowls) to take away that which was sown. Though these seeds are said to have been sowed they never made it into the ground, therefore they never grew or were given life. These are those who are Non-Believers.
Stony Places: The next category is the seeds that are said to have fallen on stony places, where they had not much earth, which caused them to spring up quickly, but when the sun came (because of the little depth and not having any root) were scorched and withered away. These seeds were planted (and grew) and were given life and later died. These are those who hear the word and at once receive it with joy but later when tribulation or persecution arises (because of the word) thy become offended and fall away. These are those who believe for awhile and in time of temptation fall away. (These are those who were once believers but later fell away.)
Thorns: Similarly, the next category are the seeds that are said to have fallen amongst the thorns. These (like those among the stony ground) also spring up, but were later choked by thorns becoming unfruitful. Again these seeds were planted (and grew) and were given life and later died. These are those who hear the word, but the cares of this world, pleasures of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, making them unfruitful. (These also are those who once believed but later fell away, producing the same result as those amongst the stony places yet in a different manner.)
Good Ground: And the last category are the seeds that are said to have fallen on good ground. These seeds are those who with an honest and good heart, having heard the word, understand it, and KEEP IT, bringing forth much fruit with Patience.
Parable of The Seeds- Summary
While it is natural for us to focus our attention just on the good ground, let it not escape our attention what else is being stated in this parable. There is no doubt that the seeds that fell on good ground grew and brought forth fruit abundantly. As also there is no doubt that the seeds that fell by the wayside were never planted, (in essence they were never made alive.) But let it not escape our attention that the other two categories are said to have grown (they were made alive) and then later died away. Which means it is Not as the "faith alone" group seems to think, that those who appeared to had fallen away were never truly saved (born again) in the first place, and that there only exists two categories. For this parable clearly teaches that there exists three categories.
3. Once Believers that later fell away
Why Does It Matter?
So what is the importance of all this? Well it is important because we see that there (truly) exists a category of believers that were once enlightened but later fell away. And so if the "faith alone" group can recognize and understand this they can start working on ways to prevent believers from falling away. Instead of "faith alone" being at the core of their preaching and teaching they can focus their attention on seeking (truly) what God's righteousness is. As Jesus said, "seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).
Grace Wouldn't Be Grace If Works Were Necessary!
And so now we come to another technique that the "faith alone" group uses. Well they say, "Grace wouldn't be grace if works were required." Is it not evident who is behind all these tactics and techniques of explaining away the commandments? Well it is none other then the prince of darkness himself who is working through the minds of the highly esteemed. "You can't mix grace with works," they say "otherwise grace wouldn't be grace."
Well they must have somehow forgotten the example that our Lord gave of the unforgiving servant. This servant who owed his master 10,000 talents and did not have enough money to pay, fell down and worshipped his Lord, saying Lord, "have patience with me, and I will pay you." Then the Lord being moved with compassion loosed him and forgave him the debt. But the same servant had a fellow servant (a servant under him) who owed him 100 pence, and he took him by the throat saying, "pay me what you owe." And his fellow servant fell down at his knees saying, "have patience with me I will pay you." But instead of passing along the grace (as his Lord did to him) he cast him into prison demanding that his debt be paid. But when the Lord was told what he did, he said to the servant, "O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you asked me, shouldn't you have also forgiven your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?" Then the Lord being wroth, delivered him unto the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due. (Matthew 18:23-35)
And so we must ask ourselves was grace extended to this unforgiving servant or not? Indeed it was! But if works were not required why then would our Lord deliver him over to the tormentors? Is not forgiving a commandment? And is not keeping the commandment a work? So it is evident that grace can still be grace with works still being required.
For how shall we escape, IF We Neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, IF they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (Hebrews 2:3-4, 6:4-6)
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2Peter 2:20-22).
But To Him That Worketh Not?
Instead they will redirect you to their process of persuasion. They will ask are you a sinner? Yes. Do you know what the penalty of sin is? Yes.(death) Do you believe Jesus died for your sins? Yes. Do you believe his sacrifice was sufficient? Yes. Do you believe there is any work needed to add to his sacrifice? No.
Faith Alone Discreetly Supports "Once Saved Always Saved".
But why is there such an uproar against those who believe in faith and works? It is because "faith alone" discreetly supports the doctrine of "once saved always saved." And who do you suppose could be behind such a doctrine? Is it not the one who rules this world? Satan wants every Christian to believe that they can have friendship with the world, but the scripture tells us that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). No sense in separating yourself and working out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), take it easy (says that little serpent), you have already attained. Nay! For Paul himself speaks likewise, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count Not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14). Salvation is a conditional love relationship, and only those who endure to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13).
Can A Christian Loose Their Salvation? (***See Parable of Seeds-Above)
Let us be reminded of Jesus' Warnings:
- "No man having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62)
-"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall loose it: and whosoever will loose his life for my sake and the Gospel's, the same shall save it." (Luke 9:23-24, Mark 8:34-35)
-"Abide in me and I in you, and if a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:4-10)"
-Why do you call me Lord and do not what I say? (Luke 6:46)
-Many will say to me in that day saying, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:23)
-But if ye forgive Not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:15, 18;33-35)
Faith is not works!
Faith is not works and works is not faith, they are two separate things! It is possible to have works without faith (dead works), just as it is possible to have faith without works. Works do not automatically come with faith! If that were so then all Christians would live righteously. If that were so God would ultimately be responsible for the salvation of man. If that were so there would be no need for a Judgment of man's works (because all would be good). A believer has indeed been given a helper (the Holy Spirit), who convicts us, guides us into understanding, enpowers us to endure, but ultimately it is of our own free will to put our faith into practice.
EXODUS- (Our Model Of Salvation)
Way back in Exodus we have our model of salvation. In Exodus we find the children of Israel in captivity under the Pharaoh in Egypt. (As we are in captivity under the devil in this world.) God sends Moses to deliver the people out of the land of Egypt to lead them to a land said to be filled with milk & honey. (God sent his only begotten son Jesus to deliver those who recognize him as Lord, that he might lead them to a heavenly land) Moses appears to the children of Israel in Egypt, he shows them the signs that God gave him. He then relays the message from God to the Pharaoh to "let the children go". The Pharaoh of course refuses to let the children go. God then shows forth his power in the ten plagues in Egypt, the last being the death of the firstborn. The children of Israel however were given a promise that if they were to slay a lamb and apply the blood of the lamb to the door post that their house would be saved from the death of the firstborn. And so the children of Israel were saved out of Egypt by the blood of the Passover lamb. (As we are saved out of the world by the blood of our Passover Lamb Christ). Then the children were led to the Red Sea as the Pharaoh and his army were in pursuit. This is where God tells Moses to strike the sea with his staff and the sea parts making way for the children of Israel to cross over on dry ground. But as the last Israelite crosses, the waters returns, destroying the armies of the Pharaoh. As these events are mentioned in 1Corinthians 10:1-4 as follows:
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
And so we who have applied the blood of our Passover over lamb (i.e. have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior) are baptized, putting to death the power of our spiritual enemies and our past lifestyle of ignorance and being raised (and given power) to live Holy and of a pure heart. Take notice the children of Israel were saved out of Egypt without any law or any good works, just as we are saved out of this world without any law or good works.... however!
After the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea they did not find themselves in the land of Milk & Honey, instead they found themselves in a place called the "wilderness". This is a place between Egypt (the world) and the land of Milk & Honey (Heaven), and this is where a Christian remains in the world today. We are in the world but not of the world, for we bear testimony that we desire a better country, that is a heavenly (Hebrews 11:10,15-16). In the wilderness the children of Israel were given the law and the Ten Commandments that they might be obedient to them. But with many God was not well pleased! As also stated in 1 Corinthians 1:5-11 as follows:
But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
And in Hebrews 3:7-19, 4:1-3 as follows:
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
And so we have (as the scriptures states) "these things written for us as examples" that we (who have been first saved out of the world by the blood of our Passover lamb) might have warning of what happened to those who were disobedient in the past. And that we should continue to be faithful in our journey through this wilderness. Being of a pure heart and Holy, obeying the commandments of our Lord, and not turning back to the lusts of this world (where we came). But bearing in our hearts faith, hope, love, patience, and long-suffering. Loving God with all are heart, soul, and mind, being constant in study that we might continue to abide in him, and not be as " the many called but not chosen."