In which the trial of James commences

by Craig on June 2, 2011

So yesterday, this sly Fox…

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Sidled up next to this older and wiser Fox…

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A fictional conversation
between humble little me,
and the great apostle Paul.

The question? This…

“Okay…
so I believe…
and I receive salvation!
Right?”

“Yes,” he said,

“and no.” he added.

Today I leave the fiction behind and dig into why Paul might say such a thing.

In the middle of our study of the letter of James, we come to “faith without works is dead”.

A simple enough verse,
but like a favorite toy,
in a room of a hundred toddlers,
for about 500 years,
this “toy” has been fought over.

If faith is required for salvation, and it is. And if faith is nonexistent without works – as James says. Then without “works” we’re in a bit of trouble.

But if James is the alone in this,
if he doesn’t have all of the New Testament alongside him,
in this simple but bold statement,
then Martin Luther was right,

and this letter penned by James…

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is just “a letter of straw”.

So today I begin digging into all the verses I can find that that may either rise up in support of James or call him to the carpet.

I just want to search for them, find them, ponder them, all of them, and see just what salvation is. This is an important topic to pin down. No?

And before I consider the words of any apostle, don’t I have to first consider the words of our Lord?

Whenever Jesus said,

I know, it’s Hebrew, but Hebrew is cool – it says – and remember to read it right to left – “Amen, Amen”

Whenever Our Lord began with this he was saying, “Listen up – this is really important.”

And the following words begin with…

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:24-29)

And so, the very first words I look at, the ones of our Lord, bring me right back to my conversation with Paul, and the question … and the answer…

“Okay…
so I believe…
and I receive salvation!
Right?”

“Yes,” he said,

“and no.” he added.

If I go back and read those words of Jesus, written by John,
and I address the same question I asked of Paul to those words.
To me, the answer from the words of Jesus, are clearly…

It’s a good thing this is only the beginning.
Verses and sections of Scripture,
isolated from other sections of Scripture,
have been twisted since the inception of Christianity.

I want nothing here out of context.

I want nothing twisted to any agenda.

The Bible is going to speak to me, to us, about this,

and the whole of Scripture,

will either rise up and defend James and his bold statement,

or condemn him.

And please remember – no learning can happen here, unless a conversation happens below, in that comment section. I value so much your wisdom. As I uncover stuff, I want to talk with you guys about it. I learn so much from you.

and no better time for the conversation to begin, then today…

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Cora June 2, 2011 at 8:56 am

I’m still lovin’ those foxes, Craig! Why do I have the feeling that YOUR foxy picture won’t be looking so smart and smug when this is resolved????!!!!

When I was a kid, I was forced into a Bible Memory program and every week I had to recite all these verses to some scarey old lady in the church. Those verses in John 5 were among the first to be recited. It’s amazing how a child’s mind works and the simple conclusions they come to! Since I seemed to have SOME light and understanding of what the Bible SAID, I had to somehow make it fit with what “grown up Christians” DID, since they had the final word. So my conclusions were that WORKS were for kids and GRACE was for grown ups. They could do as they please and still be Christians, but kids would be sent to Hell if we disobeyed and didn’t follow the rules. I couldn’t wait to be a grown up!!!!

So I’m still sitting on James’ side of the room (in my childhood memories, that is. I’ve changed since then). I can’t wait to go through all of this Craig. I have a notebook going. Hopefully, I’ll pass the exam at the end!

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Craig June 2, 2011 at 11:48 am

,, remember those pictures of those cute fluffy frisky lambs, I brought them back because I hearted them. I heart these Fox pictures too. and I’m still giggling from your conclusion about grace and works from your childhood – it made me laugh out loud – literally – when I read it. Works for kids grace is for grown-ups – hilarious – if it weren’t so true it might actually be more funny. And there is no exam at the end. I just read, and study, and share, the Bible will speak for itself. Not seeking any controversy – not trying to win any debate – just letting the Bible speak to me – and then through these words here, to you guys – and then you guys speak back to me – that’s the plan. thank you Cora – I’m still smiling at that – works for kids – grace for adults – funny! I bless you.

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Dawn June 2, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Dear Craig,

We DO have fun here, amongst all the serious stuff. In Cora’s kingdom I’m sure glad I’m a grown-up.

John 5 talks about “all that are in the graves” at this judgement. That means they are already dead. They died before Christ since He is saying this before HE died. Did He preach to those and give them an opportunity to accept Him during His time in the tomb before the ressurection? (Ephesians 4:9-10) In Revelation 20:12 John (hmmmm, interesting that it is John again) tells us the dead will be judged out of the books according to what they had done. Then he talks of another book, the Book of Life, and those whose names are not written there are cast into the lake of fire (v. 15). My Bible commentator (a dispensationalist, but a respected one on many fronts) says these at the Great White Throne Judgement are the wicked dead since the redeemed were raised from among the dead a thousand years before (v. 5). The Book of Life was there to show their names were not in it. This, then, is one opinion that those without Christ must be judged by works and their works condemn them just as they condemn all of us. The difference is that the works of the redeemed are covered by the blood of Christ. (I, personally, shout “Alleluia” to that!)

Now one might say I am on the side of grace, yes, and no. Can one REALLY be redeemed who does not, at least try, to serve Christ by doing good?

My brain hurts, Craig,
Dawn

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Craig June 2, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Dawn, all of that work you did!! Thank you. I really want to let Scripture do the speaking. And although I’m just at the beginning – and a “trial” waits for the end for a verdict – I do want to say a little about something that frames my thoughts on the “judgment” to come. What was, what is, and what will be – I’m a little open on that – seeing as the lamb was slain BEFORE the foundations of the earth – and we are NOW seated in heavenly places – even though one happened in about 33 A.D. – and technically the other doesn’t happen until – well – later. I’m not sure that God’s sense of time is the same as ours. Our little tiny human brains can only hold so much. Just a thought :) This is just the beginning. There is so much more evidence to be considered. Thank you for letting your brain hurt :) I heart that! Your testimony is now officially in the court records :) God bless.

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A. June 3, 2011 at 12:23 am

Smiles, too, at Cora’s conclusion as a child! :)

I think (which is different from ‘the bible says’) that if one really has been redeemed by Christ and is allowing him or herself to be transformed by that love for and proximity to Christ in relationship-transformed actually by Him in us, then good works will be a natural outflow, a by-product or fruit. As soon as striving to do good works enters the picture, I think one needs to take that as a signal to go check the relationship with Christ to see if something is amiss. I think good works will be a natural result rather than an intentional goal of a person’s passion for Christ in response to His love for us. When “I should” takes the place of “I want to” in regard to our choices, something teeny tiny-at a minimum-is amiss. I don’t know what kind of credit God gives to the ‘I shoulds’ but I somehow think He may be vastly more pleased with the ‘I want to’s”. I would be if I were evaluating responses toward me. Yet, I know how powerful an ‘I will’ is in place of an ‘I want to’ when the temptation to do wrong is strong, yet in face of that a right choice is made.

Somehow, I hope I will always stop myself at the ‘I should’ place and reflect and pray enough to come to the ‘I want to’ place. It just seems the better of the two responses.

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Craig June 3, 2011 at 6:19 pm

it’s the legalism – that’s the problem. The Pharisees were legalists – rigorous obedience without the heart to match that’s the problem. Although sometimes there does need to be an “I should” – sometimes it’s a lot easier to disobey then obey – that whole section of Scripture were Paul says I don’t want to do what I want to do and I do what I don’t want it …

Sometimes we do need to just do because HE wants, even if we don’t want. But Amen – at the heart – God hearts the I wants – but he likes the I shoulds too – so long as we’re doing the I should – because of the I want :-) always heart your way with words A. God bless you.

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Michelle June 3, 2011 at 6:11 am

You know, until you brought it up, I never thought there was a (supposed) discrepancy between Paul and James. I’ve always thought that our lives revealed what we believed – that we lived out our faith, through our ‘works’. Now you are making me think! Not a bad thing, but …… it’s the beginning of the weekend, and I wanted a rest!!

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Craig June 3, 2011 at 6:20 pm

oh, Michelle, there has been such a debate through the years – a denominational thing – but Scripture, Scripture has the answers. Sorry for making you think :-) God bless you.

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