In which I work on what “works” means

by Craig on May 19, 2011

 

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” …faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

This is the verse that James the Just, the brother of our Lord, is famous, or rather, infamous for. (James 2:17) I’ve been camping out on this verse for little bit now. Even yesterday when I linked up with Ann Voskamp on the subject of resurrection (here) – even though that seemed a little off topic it actually turned out to be right on.

Perfect “doing” of the works of love required for a living faith is impossible.

We darn well better have Grace or we’re in big trouble!

So yesterday’s post added to my understanding of this verse.

Funny how God does that. No?

Everything recently has been building toward an understanding of this, in some circles, controversial verse.

There was the question of what “dead” faith was. (here)
There was the “faith and works” Oreo cookie. (here)
There was a crucial parable of the girl and the arrows. (here)

I’ve worked on the beginning of the verse, and the end of the verse, and begun work on the middle of the verse.

Now the middle of the verse and this one word “works”…
This one word is pretty critical.
After all, it’s “works” that make a faith alive according to James.

So, I have to get a clear view of what “works” are.

And the guy who writes more about “works” then anybody else by far is the Apostle Paul. He’s the guy, who some believe, stands in opposition to James.

But he doesn’t, really.

I think of it this way, it’s like they’re two swordsmen…
And they are crossing swords…
But not with each other.

Paul is fighting the, “works of the law get you there” fight,
and James fighting the, “all I need is grace, what I do doesn’t matter” fight.

They’re battling different foes … back to back.

Paul, when he uses the word “works”, does so in two ways. First he uses it to refer to works of the Law of Moses – and he’s very clear that doing these “works” are not enough to assuage the judgment of God.

The other way Paul uses the word “works”
is to describe the actions of love we take in obedience,
after we accept Christ,
and not according to the Law of Moses,
but done out of love – 1st Corinthians love.

I know I’m going to have to back that up and so I will.

I’m going to start with this – one of my favorite verses of all time.

It’s a verse I skipped over for many years. I think because, in context, it talks about circumcision – and I’m not really big on that topic. The fifth verse of chapter 5 of Galatians ends with these words…

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

I. Heart. Those. Words.

And it’s good place to start.

Because I have more “work” to do in order to unravel “works”.

And I smiled when I wrote that last line.

This is fun for me.

God bless.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Mama Zen May 19, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I like the swordsmen analogy very much. That makes sense to me.

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Craig May 19, 2011 at 6:34 pm

I’d like to take full credit for the swordsmen analogy, but I didn’t invent it, I can’t remember where I read it – but I hearted it enough to remember it:-) this whole “faith without works is dead” thing, it’s no different than what Jesus taught, and Paul too. All due respect to Martin Luther, it’s not as easy as just dismissing the letter of James. We can’t throw out what we don’t like and just keep what we like – it’s either inspired or not with very much – the Bible. I think it’s worth a lot :-) thank you very much for reading – and your comment – and God bless and keep you and yours.

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Amy Nabors May 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Great analogy. I think if we work through our faith, grow our faith the love will naturally flow in all we do.

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Craig May 19, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Amy, thank you. I haven’t worked all the way through the faith – works thing, but I know this much; I can’t disregard a statement so blatant as faith without works is dead – especially when there’s so much context around it to make it clear that it’s not just an isolated verse. I want to thank you for reading, and for leaving a comment that makes me ponder – I heart pondering. God bless you and keep you – and all of yours – this day!

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A. May 19, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Oh. my. goodness! I had never ‘noticed’ Gal. 5:5 before. it is a truly amazing portion of verse!!!! I think I am going to have to hug that one closely-very closely-and go off to be with Father alone. That is like spiritual cookies and milk in a way. Thank you so much for that and I can’t wait to see where you go with it. Yay!!!!

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Craig May 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm

A. I know!! As I was studying the whole “grace/works” thing and I read it – it was like I’d never seen it before! It’s written by Paul – and yet it clearly says – especially in context– that the “works” of law that the Galatians were trying to be “saved” by were useless for salvation – and that the only thing that counts– once again in context – for salvation – is faith. working. through. love.I was amazed I still kind of am. I heart that verset!! God bless you A.

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Michelle May 20, 2011 at 5:44 am

Paul is fighting the, “works of the law get you there” fight,
and James fighting the, “all I need is grace, what I do doesn’t matter” fight.

I like the picture this paints. And I’m currently reading through Acts 11-18, so I’m getting a lot of Paul at the moment (but written by Luke, so I can understand it!).

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Craig May 20, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Michelle,like I said in my comment above to Mama Zen, I’d like to take credit for the swordsmen fighting back to back thing– but I can’t – I got it from somewhere – but it’s so good I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Now – the defining of the fights that both Paul and James were fighting back to back – that I’ll take credit for. So thank you for that. It makes me smile when somebody understands the goofy way I write. And funny!! Having to read Paul’s words through Luke in order to understand them. I get it! FUNNY :-) – thank you for this Michelle – and God bless and keep you and all of yours today.

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