Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentJames 2
My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
My brethren ...
Significantly, this entire epistle is addressed to Christians, true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ; for only such persons could truthfully be addressed as "brethren." As Lenski said, "This is preeminently a New Testament writing and by no means a legal one." F1 To read James as if it were addressed to Jews is to miss the meaning altogether.
The faith of our Lord Jesus Christ ...
As usual, the scholars cannot agree on whether "faith" is here subjective or objective. Zerr made it objective, "referring to the Christian religion." F2 Roberts said that "It is subjective and does not refer to the doctrine or teaching." F3 As Gibson said, "Here it may be either (1) objective as in Jude 1:3,20, or (2) subjective, as in Mark 11:22." F4 Despite such views, we accept Zerr's understanding of the passage which sees it as a clear reference to "the Christian religion."
Our Lord Jesus Christ ...
This exact title of the Master is found in that letter addressed by James and the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to the Syrian churches (Acts 15:26), and this is considered by some to support the proposition that this epistle was written by the same James.
The Lord of glory ...
The first two words of this are italicized, showing that they are not in the Greek, leading some to translate this place, "Our Lord Jesus Christ the glory," much in the same manner that Christ is called the way, the truth or the light. Tasker favored this construction, F5 as also did Wessel: "Jesus is here called simply, the glory." F6
With respect of persons ...
The meaning of this will be sharpened by James' further words in this paragraph. What is condemned here is not the valid and proper respect which belongs to the noble and the great of this world, but the condemnation is against "the preference for vulgar wealth, the adulation of success, the worship, in short, of some new golden calf." F7 Furthermore, it is not the appreciation for such persons merely, but the partiality exhibited in the treatment of them, the toadying in their presence.
For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing;
What a marvelous insight this gives into the early Christian assemblies. They were open meetings, in which men of all classes and conditions might enter.
This is the only place in the New Testament where this name is given for a Christian meeting place; but as Roberts said, "The literal meaning of the word had no religious connotation, being used in Genesis 1:9 for the gatherings of water." F8 In time, however, the word came to have very definite religious overtones, John referring to "the synagogue of Satan" (Revelation 2:9). It appears from the usage of the word here that in Jerusalem, from which James presumably wrote, the Jewish name of the meeting house was currently used by Christians of their own meeting houses, a usage which, at that time, had no doubt already disappeared in most other places.
Gold ring ... fine clothing...
Lenski paraphrased James' thought here thus: "Are you Christians still impressed by a gold ring and a bright rag?" F9 Deriving his information from Seneca, Barclay wrote:
The more ostentatious of the ancients
wore rings on every finger except the
middle one, and wore far more than one
on each finger. They even hired rings
to wear when they wished to give an
impression of special wealth F10
Clement of Alexandria justified the wearing of one ring by Christians that it might be used as a seal, but said that it ought to have a religious emblem on it, such as a dove, fish or anchor.
It is a very vivid picture which James brings to our minds in this passage. The Christians have assembled for worship; and suddenly there walks in this distinguished looking man with a gold ring and obviously expensive clothes. He creates quite a stir. Someone, one of the ushers perhaps, bows him into a good place; and then, when a working man, still wearing his work clothes, comes in, he is told to sit on the floor or stand! Such conduct, either then or now, is disgraceful. But does it still happen? Who can deny that it does?
and ye have regard to him that weareth the fine clothing, and say, Sit thou here in a good place; and ye say to the poor man, Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool;
A number of totally false assumptions on the part of Christians acting in such a manner are discernible in this situation condemned by James. By such conduct, the perpetrators of this injustice revealed that they considered fine clothing a mark of good character and shabby clothes a mark of bad character. It showed that they considered wealth to be a guide to the worth of persons, that financial ability should procure a more favorable acceptance in the church, and that social and economic caste systems are allowed in the religion of Christ. All men should be thankful that James came down very hard against such false values.
... do ye not make distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
An alternative reading for the first clause is given in the ASV margin thus, "Are ye not divided?" The same word is translated "doubt"; and as Ward said:
The distinctions (doubt) consist in
the fact that faith is manifested by
attendance of the assembly and
worldliness by contempt of the poor.
The inconsistence is analogous to that
of the doubter. F11
Judges with evil thoughts ...
The persons guilty of the type of behavior in view here betrayed, by their conduct, the essential worldliness within them, and this proved that they were still acting in the evil spirit of the unregenerated world.
Hearken, my beloved brethren; did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him?
"Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20), thus said Jesus; and there can hardly be any doubt that James had such words in view here. Christ did not teach that the poor are saved because of their poverty, nor that the rich are condemned because of their wealth; and yet the singular fact may not be denied that in the journey required of all that they leave everything for the Master, the poor having less distance to go, in greater numbers find the Lord of glory. It is true in every age, as in that of Paul, that not many mighty, not many noble are called.
Again, we have this blunt paraphrase from Lenski:
You acted as if this were what your
Christian faith had taught you,
whereas it taught you the very
opposite. Look at your own numbers!
How many of you would be heirs of the
kingdom if God would act as you
There is also the counter-productivity of such conspicuous partiality. As a matter of fact, the poor visitor at church is a hundred times more likely to become a Christian than the wealthy visitor; and it is a sin against the growth of the church to exhibit the kind of partiality that would tend to discourage the poor.
As Russell pointed out, God's choice of the poor is not based upon their poverty alone:
The phrase means more than the mere
accident of temporal poverty. It
relates rather to indifference to
worldly possessions and is qualified
by the final words of the verse, "to
them that love him." F13
But ye have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you, and themselves drag you before the judgment seats?
It simply does not make sense for the church to dishonor the poor and to fawn upon the wealthy and powerful. As Calvin put it, "Why should a man honor his executioners and at the same time injure his friends?" F14
Do not the rich oppress you ...?
There had been countless examples of this right there in Jerusalem, where the Sadducees, the rich party of their day, were notorious oppressors of the poor.
"This implies force and is actually mentioned in cases of arrest in Acts 9:1; Acts 16:19, etc." F15 Christians were widely hated, and this would have made it easier for prosecutors to seek them out and harass them.
Judgment seats ...
These were both Jewish and Roman courts.
"Josephus speaks of the cruelty of the rich Sadducees to the poor in Jerusalem"; F16 and besides this, both Isaiah (Isaiah 3:15) and Amos (Amos 4:1) speak of the same thing.
Do not they blaspheme the honorable name by which ye are called?
The obvious reference here is to the name of Jesus Christ, in the name of whom all Christians were baptized (Acts 2:38), and upon whom the name was formally declared as in the baptismal formula given in Matthew 28:18-20. Some have marveled that James did not spell out the name of Christ in this passage; but as Oesterley said, "This was due to the Jewish heritage of James." F17 "A feeling of reverence led the Jews as far as possible to avoid mentioning the name of God." F18 This also, in all probability, accounts for the few references to Jesus Christ throughout this epistle. A. Plummer commented that "The last clause literally means `which was called upon you,' and we need not doubt that the reference is to the name of Christ, which was invoked upon them at their baptism." F19
By which ye are called ...
The fact of the epistle's being addressed to baptized believers in Christ is evident in this.
Howbeit if ye fulfil the royal law, according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as theyself, ye do well:
The royal law ...
It is impossible to view "royal law" as a reference to the Law of Moses, because Moses was never a king. Furthermore, James mentioned the "law of liberty" a moment later (James 2:12); and he is presenting not two laws but one. In addition, the reference to the "kingdom" (James 2:5) leads naturally to the conclusion that it is the law of that kingdom to which reference is made here. Throughout James, there are dozens of references to the teachings of Jesus Christ (see introduction), and it is illogical to consider this as referring to anything else.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself ...
To be sure this was in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 19:18); but it is the reaffirmation of it by Christ (Mark 12:31) of which James spoke here. As Harper put it: "God has chosen the poor to be heirs of the kingdom (James 2:5), therefore, the royal law is for those of God's kingdom." F20 Christ the King in his kingdom sanctioned and made binding this law upon all who would follow him; therefore, it is the royal law.
but if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors.
Even Christians who willfully violate the commandments of Christ are transgressors, being breakers of his law. It is a gross error to refer this to keeping the Law of Moses; but of course the same principle held with reference to it. People like those showing partiality to the rich and powerful, through their value judgments based upon external conditions, were violating the law of love, as taught by Jesus and his apostles. As Wessel said, "The law here is not the Old Testament law as such, but the whole spirit (of Christ) which is contrary to partiality." F21
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all.
As Dummelow put it: "It might be said that even if a man transgressed the Law of Christ in the matter or respect of persons, he was only breaking a small part of that Law. Not so. The Law, like the Lawgiver, is one." F22 This is another instance of James' reiterating a principle laid down by Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:19). "Transgression of one precept of the Christian rule of faith is a breach of the whole, because it breaks fellowship with the object of faith." F23 All of this is part and parcel of the "perfection" theme which dominates the epistle, having the great value of showing that even Christians who earnestly strive to do the will of Christ are nevertheless not able to attain any acceptable degree of perfection in their own right. The proper respect for this truth will have the practical effect of driving every man to Jesus Christ, in whom alone the perfection required by Almighty God (Matthew 5:48; Colossians 1:28) may be received through God's grace.
Regarding this principle that breaking Christ's commandments in one particular is the same as breaking all of them, commentators have given many illustrations. If one strikes a great mirror in only one place, the whole is broken; if one breaks over a fence at only one place, he has violated all of it; if a chain of a thousand links is broken in only one, the chain is broken, etc., etc. The thing in view here, of course, is the law of love; but there are many other commandments of Christ which are today violated by men with impunity; and not the least of these regards baptism and the Lord's supper, the command to assemble in worship, etc.
For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou dost not commit adultery, but killeth, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
This verse is the reason, to be sure, why some insist on construing James' words in this section as a reference to the Law of Moses; but there are some considerations that forbid this. In this verse, James was clearly rebuking those who were dishonoring the poor man, equating their conduct with murder, based upon Jesus' elaboration of that command in Matt. 5:21,22. He even reversed the order of the commandments to achieve more readily this application. Therefore, it is still the Law of Christ which James is holding before his readers. Harper agreed that James here reflects Jesus' explanation of the commandment on killing." F24 Thus, it is no small breach which those who showed the partiality were guilty of. Their unfeeling snobbery toward the poor was exactly the same kind of personality destruction which Jesus equated with murder.
So speak ye, and so do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty.
Very few deny that "law of liberty" is here a further reference to the teaching and doctrine of Jesus Christ; and why is it called a law of liberty? As contrasted with the Law of Moses, called by the apostles "a yoke of bondage," the teachings of the Son of God are characterized by marvelous freedom. For example, there are only two great ceremonial ordinances in Christianity, baptism and the Lord's supper; and one of those (baptism) needs to be observed only once in a lifetime, and the other may be observed anywhere on earth. How different is this from that Law of Moses which required all worshipers to go up to Jerusalem to worship? Another contrast is in the countless sacrifices of Moses' law and the one true and only atonement of Jesus Christ for the sins of the whole world. Then again, the Law of Christ is the law of liberty because men assume its obligations of their own free will. All are invited, but none are compelled. James' admonition here is that Christians who have voluntarily taken upon themselves to live as Christ directed should not revert to the unholy value-judgments of the unregenerated. It is true of every Christian that he is received by Christ, even though his life is flawed by many sins; he is received despite his lowliness in the world. Therefore, how incongruous it is that he should ignore these graces he has received by denying them to others.
For judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy: mercy glorieth against judgment.
This is not a harsh judgment, for the sterner side of the judgment of God was enunciated by our Lord himself (Matthew 6:14), where it is stated that "If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Nevertheless, it remains true that "mercy glorieth against judgment." The most wonderful truth revealed in all of the word of God is that mercy stands higher than the law as the guiding principle of God's relationship with men. This was symbolized in the Old Testament by the Mercy Seat which was placed above and on top of the Ark of the Covenant. See discussion of this in my Commentary on Hebrews, pp. 189-191. However, it is in the New Testament that the full impact of God's mercy comes to its glorious climax in the crucifixion of the Son of God that men through him might have eternal life.
On James 2:14-26: This paragraph is perhaps the most disputed and misunderstood passage in the New Testament; but the interpretation presented here flows out of deep convictions: (1) that here indeed we have the inspired word of God; (2) that this portion of the New Testament is as easily understood as any other; (3) that the simple answers are the true ones; (4) that there is not the slightest contradiction between Paul and James; (5) that Paul's affirmation that we are justified "by faith" and James' declaration that we are justified "by works" mean simply that we are indeed justified "by both," and that it is a sin to assert that men are justified either (a) "by faith alone," or (b) "by works alone"; (6) that all of the alleged contradiction between the sacred writers James and Paul derives not from what either of them said, but from the false allegations of theologians concerning what they meant; (7) and that Luther did not misunderstand James (as frequently urged), but that he misunderstood Paul. The interpretation advocated here is oriented in the New Testament and not to theological speculations which have so largely supplanted the sacred text.
What is the subject matter of this paragraph? Gibson's quotation from Lightfoot emphasizes the view which is advocated here, thus:
So long as our view is confined to the
apostolic writings, it seems scarcely
possible to resist the impression that
St. James is attacking the teaching,
if not of St. Paul himself, at least
of those who exaggerated and perverted
Further, it is the conviction of this writer that the paragraph should most certainly be interpreted exactly in view of the apostolic writings, and that conclusions established from this viewpoint are a thousand times more dependable than conclusions grounded in non-apostolical literature. Thus, no hesitation is felt in naming the antinomian perversion of Paul's teaching regarding justification "by faith" as the specific error James refuted in these verses. And what is that perversion? It is the proposition that men are justified "by faith only." The modern outcropping of that delusive error has its roots in the teachings of Martin Luther; and it aids understanding of it to remember that Luther clearly understood James as a contradiction of his false theory, which he mistakenly attributed to the apostle Paul, incorrectly believing that he had discovered it in Paul's writings.
Many commentators have agreed with this identification of James' subject matter. For example, "Some believe that James is attacking an antinomian perversion of Paul's teaching"; F26 "James was not attacking Paul's doctrine of justification by faith but rather a perversion of it." F27 The perversion is justification "by faith only."
What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him?
If a man say he hath faith ...
Here, at last, is that subjective trust/faith which is so frequently imported into New Testament passages. The word for "faith" here is exactly the one used in Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8, etc.; and the allegation that here is a pretended faith, or some inferior brand of faith, is absolutely illogical, there being no word in the apostolical writings regarding "kinds" of faith. The usual approach to this is grounded in the notion that James used "faith" in a different sense from that in which Paul used it; but, as Maier warned, "There is a frequent misuse of multiple meaning in Scripture." F28 The introductory phrase, "if a man say," is alleged as a denial that the man really had faith; but, on the other hand, it indicates the absence of works. What he had was "faith only"; and the only possible way of identifying the existence of "faith only" is from what "they say" who profess to have it. Thus, this is exactly the type of identification of "faith only" that should have been expected; in fact the only one possible. That the professor did indeed have faith appears in James' tacit admission of it in "can that faith save him?"
Can that faith save him ... ?
So stated as to require a negative answer, this is a refutation of the heresy that men are saved by "faith only." Note that James did not allege any deficiency in the man's faith, thus assuming that his claim was honest, but making his denial of the man's salvation to rest on the absence of works. It is clear enough that James did not here teach that the man was not justified "by faith," but that he could not be justified by "faith only."
Verses 15, 16
If a brother or sister be naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and flled; and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body; what doth it profit?
If a brother or sister ... one of you ...
These words tied in with "my beloved brethren" in James 2:14, make it impossible to suppose that James was addressing some external theory. No, the problem addressed was exactly the one that exists today, namely, Christians supposing that "faith only" saves them and that there is no need for works. "One cannot save himself, anyway; saving faith is all that matters, etc." So men say; but James shows how worthless faith is without works. This is so plainly the teaching of this place that it is admitted for solifidians, who then allow good works as being indeed necessary for a Christian's justification but affirm that this ultimate justification is totally dissociated from the primary and initial justification at the time of conversion. Although incorrect, this rationalism is, in fact, destructive of the "faith only" theory. Roberts pointed out that "It really makes little difference whether the passage is taken one way or the other." F29 To use James' words out of context, what could be the profit of an initial justification (at conversion) "by faith only," if the Christian's continued fellowship with Christ and his ultimate conversion, in the last analysis, still depended upon his being justified "by works"?
Since that ultimate justification surely depends upon works, as almost universally admitted, why should it be thought unreasonable that the initial justification (in conversion) also depended upon the convert's repenting of his sins, confessing Christ, and being baptized? Did not the Christ himself deny salvation to those who would not confess him, even though they "believed on" him? (John 12:42). Did he not also teach that those who will not repent cannot be saved? (Luke 13:3,5). Did he not also declare that unless one is baptized (born of the water and of the spirit) he cannot enter the kingdom of God? (John 3:5). But it is replied that "saving faith" always does these things anyway. This will be more thoroughly explored in the Excursus on Solifidianism at the end of this chapter; but here it should be noted that such things as confession, repentance and baptism are a "work of faith" only in the sense that "the faith" commands them. Subjective faith does not baptize sinners; they must themselves have this done. Subjective faith does not repent; the sinner must himself do the repenting.
Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself.
As Ward said, "Faith alone in James 2:24 and faith without works in James 2:26 correspond with what is said here." F30
Is dead in itself ...
The dead do not do anything, the same being analogous with trust/faith without works. But is this not equivalent to the proposition that faith without works is not "real faith"? Indeed no. Is a dead body no longer a body? Is a dead body not real? Is a dead body different in nature from a living body? Is a single characteristic of a body lost by the mere fact of death? Thus, a faith that is genuine enough in itself, when dead, is not essentially different. Thus, there is no reason to make this place an excuse for affirming that those "without works" had the wrong kind of faith. The most marvelous body that ever lived may be compared with the most marvelous faith that ever existed; but if that marvelous faith is without works, it then has the same status as a dead corpse.
Before leaving this verse, it should be noted that the KJV has a better rendition of it, "Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead, being alone." Gibson affirmed that "The KJV rendition appears to be justified." F31
Yea, a man will say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith apart from thy works, and I by my works shall show thee my faith.
These words, together with the
argumentative form of the verses that
follow, imply that a well-known
subject of controversy is being dealt
Thou hast faith ... I have works ...
As Tasker noted, "The pronouns do not refer to James and the objector, but are the equivalent of `one' and `another,' and are merely a more picturesque way of indicating two imaginary persons." F33 What James is really saying is that some people do in fact claim to be saved "by faith only," while others are diligent to maintain good works which alone are the proof of faith.
Show me thy faith apart from works ...
This is an impossibility, of course; and here is the reason why James introduced this entire discussion by the remark, "If a man say." The grounding of justification upon anything so unprovable as "faith only" has the inherent flaw of being predicated upon something which is not only undemonstrable to others, but which also is incapable of being certainly known by the claimant. Of all the ephemeral, uncertain, untrustworthy and utterly fallible assurances of salvation ever advocated, that of the trust/faith of sinners has to be declared the most unreliable of all. A faith without works, unproved by any act of obedience, cannot ever be known certainly to exist by anyone supposing that he has such faith. This phenomenal uncertainty accounts for the necessity of constant stress of the false doctrine from the pulpits of those communions misled by it.
On this verse, Roberts pointed out that:
There is a semantic sense in which
some would argue that real faith must
act, and that unless faith acts, it is
not genuine. This is probably not
James' point. F34
The notion that "real faith must act" cannot be true, as proved by statements in John 12:42. See full comments in my Commentary on John, pp. 305-307.
Our Lord spoke of justification (Luke
18:14), and of being justified by
words (Matthew 12:37), and of faith
saving (Luke 7:50). F35
Despite the truth of the above, no one ever accused Jesus of teaching that salvation is by "faith only," or of contradicting himself when he said one shall be justified by "his words." However, Ward turned to the thief on the cross for confirmation of the "faith only" concept, thus: "The penitent thief had no time left for works; and faith had no time in which to die." F36 Ward overlooked the most remarkable "works" of the thief in that he confessed Jesus Christ as Lord under the most unfavorable circumstances and prayed for his remembrance in the kingdom. Certainly, this was something more than faith only.
Punchard said, "The bearing of this verse is commonly misunderstood. The words are those of scorn." F37 The scorn was of course directed against first-century solifidianism.
Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well: the demons also believe and shudder.
An examination of the demonic faith to which James referred here reveals it is nothing different in any particular whatever from the faith of all Christians, except in that one fatal flaw of being "faith only." The allegation commonly made upon the basis of what is written in this verse, to the effect that those James sought to correct were possessors of monotheistic faith in God but that they were not believers in Jesus Christ our Lord, is wrong for two reasons: (1) The ones being corrected were Christians. See under James 2:15,16. (2) The demons referred to fully believed Jesus Christ to be the Son of God Most High, the promised Messiah, and the ultimate Judge who would torment the wicked (see Mark 1:34; 1:34 and Luke 8:28). Thus the point of James here is that a person having "faith only" is not better than a demon, nor has he any better hope of salvation. In all fairness, it should be pointed out that the great majority of those preaching "faith only" are not practitioners of it, indicating that they themselves do not dare trust it. In the matter of baptism, for example, preachers of salvation by "faith only" are more diligent to baptize people than some who hold the ordinance to be a divinely imposed precondition of primary justification.
Demons also believe ...
In this series of commentaries there have been included many essays on the subject of demons and demonic possession; but it is appropriate here to include the vital comment of J. W. Roberts:
It is no more difficult to believe in
demons than to believe in God, Christ,
and the Holy Spirit, in angels, or in
the devil. The Bible hints (though it
does not state plainly) that demons
were to be consigned to the abyss. F38
It has been noted that the demonic faith in view here had all the elements of the distinctive faith of Christians. As Lenski put it, "James is not listing all that such a faith accepts, for quantity is not the point." F39 The point is that "all faith," even the faith strong enough to move mountains, if "alone" is worthless; and who said that? Paul! See 1 Cor. 13:2. Regarding the possible reason why James did not spell out the fact of demons believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, see under James 2:7.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren?
On this verse, Barclay noted that "The fact that Christianity must be ethically demonstrated is an essential part of the Christian faith throughout the New Testament." F40 Barclay's affirmation, however, does not go far enough. It is precisely in restricting James' teaching on works to the ethical field that solifidianism stumbles. The importance of the great Christian ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper, along with the absolute necessity of the church and a consistent fellowship in "the body of Christ" are also most certainly included. See Excursis on Solifidianism at end of chapter.
O vain man ...
As Tasker said, "The vain man addressed is anyone who is so devoid of spiritual understanding that he does not see that faith which never results in works is merely a sham." F41 As Roberts puts it:
The language of James 2:20 calls upon
the believer in "faith only" to be
willing to recognize or acknowledge
the truth. James is so confident of
the truth of his position and of the
force of his reasoning that he calls
upon the errorists to concede. F42
The man who will still uphold "faith only" in James' mind is shallow in his mind; nevertheless he will proceed to present arguments from the sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar?
The essential error in the usual interpretation of this verse was succinctly stated by Lenski, thus: "James is not speaking of the first verdict which God pronounced upon Abraham when Abraham was first brought to faith." F43 By such a device as this, the solifidians attempt to make that first occasion the true salvation of Abraham (by faith only), thus making James' statement that Abraham was "justified by works" refer to a confirmation only of that first justification. However, as Roberts clearly stated it:
This hardly does justice to James'
argument. James is talking about
faith saving a man (James 2:14). It
is not contemplated merely that one
already just or acquitted is proved or
declared righteous; but the action of
God in declaring him righteous is
referred to. F44
But did not Paul say that "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness" (Romans 4:3), the same being a verbatim quotation from Genesis 15:67 Let it be noted, however, that neither the Genesis record nor Paul's use of it carries any hint whatever to the effect that Abraham's faith only was the basis of God's reckoning unto him righteousness. It is deplorable that the KJV rendition of this verse was changed (presumably with a view to clouding its meaning). The KJV has: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac, etc." That this is indeed what the Scriptures teach is evident from the following considerations:
The statements in Gen. 15:6 and Rom. 4:3 must be understood, as Tasker pointed out, "as being in a sense prophetic of that event (the sacrifice of Isaac)." F45 Neither Genesis nor Paul in Romans affirmed that God at the instant of Abraham's having faith then and there declared Abraham justified.
Upon the occasion of Abraham's offering Isaac, God interposed, saying:
Now I know that thou fearest God,
seeing thou hast not withheld thy son
When God said, "now" I know, that was equivalent to saying that until then God had not known (except prophetically). Non-biblical writers saw this and understood it. "Sirach wrote: "Abraham was a great father of many nations who.., when he was proved was found faithful'; and 1 Maccabees 2:52 has, `Was not Abraham found faithful in temptation, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.?'" F46
James in this passage gives the occasion when Abraham was justified, and it was not that of his first believing but that of his meeting the divine test of his faith. If God had already justified Abraham on the basis of his "faith only" there could have been no reason whatever for God's testing his faith.
Never did any man pass a sterner test of faith than did Abraham; and, if Abraham was not justified until he passed it, how could it be supposed that any man could be saved merely upon an alleged trust/faith, and that without his meeting any test whatever? What is the test? "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."
Special attention should be paid to the kind of works which James alleged as the basis of Abraham's justification. The usual scholarly bias that "works of ethical behavior" are in view here should be challenged. What was ethical about Abraham's offering Isaac as a burnt sacrifice to God? In this is seen the fact that the works that justified Abraham were precisely and only those works performed in obedience to God's specific command.
"Was not Abraham our father justified ..." The device of making the word "justified" here to be something other than the meaning in Paul's use of the word should be noted. As Roberts declared, "It rest be admitted that Paul and James use the word `justify' in the same sense." F47 The one word from both James' and Paul's writings which is positively used in two different senses is "works," Paul using the term as a reference to the works of the Law of Moses, and James using it of works of obedience to the commands of God, as in the case of Abraham here given. An understanding of this is vital to understanding what either James or Paul taught.
Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect;
"The literal meaning here is, "faith cooperated with his works"; F48 and here is the key to understanding all that both Paul and James wrote on this subject. Faith and works are coordinates, cooperation, being in the very nature of cooperation, operative upon a common level. One may only marvel at a view which asserts that "We are not to suppose, however, that it was Abraham's faith plus his works which now brought about his justification." F49 Of course, that is exactly what we must not merely suppose, but receive as gospel truth. Lenski was certain that Abraham did not really perform the works indicated, "The reference is to a faith which produces its proper fruits." F50 This, of course, is the old device of making the faith actually "the doer" of the justifying works; but such obedience as that exhibited by Abraham was rendered, not by his faith, but by Abraham, his works appearing in this verse as a factor in addition to faith, working together with his faith, "cooperating" as the text has it. A similar thing was in view on Pentecost, when Peter commanded that believers "have themselves baptized," making their obedience something for which they were responsible and were required to have done (see comment on Acts 2:38; 2:38 in this ).
And by works was faith made perfect ...
Here is the clinching argument that faith "without works" is imperfect, utterly unable to save. Inherent in this is also the truth that works are not merely something that genuine faith "does," but something in addition, something needed for the perfection of faith. Once more there comes to view the overall theme of "perfection" with which the epistle is concerned throughout. Lenski rejected the ASV rendition of this clause, saying that "It leaves a wrong impression? F51 Despite this, there is no acceptable rendition by which this could legitimately be replaced. We must receive and accept the words as they stand in our versions. Why it should be considered an incongruous thing that Abraham's faith should have been "made perfect" by his works of obedience, when the New Testament flatly declares that even the Son of God himself was "made perfect through obedience" (Hebrews 5:8,9), must ever remain an unqualified mystery. This is one of many indications of how bitterly this section of the word of God has been contested and denied.
... and the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God.
James here quoted exactly the same passage that Paul quoted in Romans 4:3, proving that his teaching concerned exactly the same kind of justification as that in view by Paul; it does, however, explode any possibility of "faith only" having been the grounds of that justification, even in the teachings of Paul.
And he was called the friend of God ...
References to Abraham as the "friend of God" are found in 2 Chr. 20:7 and Isa. 41:8. Tasker's explanation of why God called Abraham his friend is this:
God did not hide from Abraham what he
proposed to do (Genesis 18:17); Abraham
rejoiced to see the day of the Messiah
(John 8:56). Similarly ... Jesus
called the apostles his "friends."
"Henceforth I call you not servants;
for the servant knoweth not what his
lord doeth: but I have called you
friends; for all things I have heard
of my Father, I have made known unto
you" (John 15:15). F52
Even the designation of Abraham as "the friend of God" did not derive from "faith alone" on Abraham's part, being founded partially also upon his life of obedient service.
Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith.
The KJV is better in this verse, having "not by faith only," since James' efforts in the whole paragraph are directed against supposing that salvation is "by faith only." The meaning is allegedly the same. "In the Greek, the adverb `only' comes last, emphatically." F53
By works a man is justified ...
The weight of this is seen in the extension to include all men who shall ever be saved. "A man" has the function of moving James' teaching away from Abraham as an illustration of it and making it inclusive of all men forever. Ward of course makes the works James mentioned "the evidence of justification," F54 whereas James in this verse has reference to the "means of justification." We appreciate the candor of E. C. S. Gibson who left James 2:24 altogether out of his interpretation. This verse so dramatically and effectively refutes solifidianism that it is actually amazing that any of its adherents would bother to comment on it.
What screams of outrage would arise if one dared to amend James' statement here to read, "By works only is a man justified"! And yet, that is exactly what men have done to the teachings of Paul in their false allegations that he taught "justification by faith only." There is just as much Scriptural authority for one of these propositions as there is for the other, namely, none at all.
There is another grave error which should also be refuted, namely, that the acceptance of what James here said makes such an acceptance tantamount to a man's thinking he can "earn salvation," or that humble recipients of God's word in this passage are guilty of making themselves "their own saviour," or that faithful working Christians think they are placing God in debt to them. How ridiculous is such nonsense! Even when Abraham met the test of offering his son Isaac upon the altar, he was still a sinner, the unworthy recipient of the grace of Almighty God; and so it is with all who ever were or ever shall be saved. Roberts summed up this verse as follows: "It was because Abraham had done this that the blessings followed. So works justify, not in themselves alone, but still they justify." F55
And in like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way?
In like manner ...
In view of this introductory phrase, one must look for some correspondence between the cases of Abraham and Rahab, which appears to be this, that both alike performed works which in themselves would have been illegal or sinful, unless they were undertaken in direct consequence of being understood as the will of God. In the instance of Rahab, it is likewise clear that in her case also, she was justified as a consequence of what she did, and not upon the basis of "faith alone." Her case also is illuminating in that there is no excuse whatever for supposing that any great subjective trust/faith led to her justification before the reception of the messengers, there being no Scriptural basis whatever supporting such a thought.
In that she received ...
Here again the superiority of the KJV is evident, there being no way whatever to deny that Rahab was justified "when she had received the messengers, etc." One should deplore the alteration of this in subsequent versions; because the element of "when" is surely in both testaments. If it was not "when she received the messengers" in Rahab's case, when was it?
For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.
See under James 2:17, above, for elaboration of the meaning of the comparison here. Ward warned against "pressing the parallelism too far"; F56 but it is not apparent to this student how that would be possible. Certainly all of the faith in the world without works has exactly the same efficacy in providing salvation as a dead body.
The conclusion of this section on James' refutation of the solifidian perversion of the apostle Paul's teaching regarding justification by faith is very well stated by J. W. Roberts thus:
Thus the doctrine of salvation at the
moment of faith - without obedience
- is not a Biblical teaching .... It
is rooted in the conversion experience
theology of early revivalism. It sets
aside the plain teaching of the Bible
on the doctrine of obedience and the
works of faith. F57
James is a very practical book; and, from the very nature of its purpose, James deals with what men must do to be saved. Much of Paul's teaching is directed to the same end (though not all of it, some of it being concerned with God's part in redemption); therefore the "justification" in this section of James (and in much of Paul), plainly regards that lower level involving what men must do. In the ultimate and final sense of being the grounds upon which God's justification is given to men, there is not anything that sinful men can either believe or do which finally justifies them. God indeed reckoned righteousness unto Abraham, but that did not make Abraham righteous, nor was he ever so in the absolute sense; so it is with Christians. Neither faith nor works, of whatever degree or quality, can make them righteous. The perfect faith and obedience of Jesus Christ our Lord are the unique ground of human redemption, which is achieved for them by Jesus Christ, received by men when they believe (have faith) and obey the gospel, being baptized into Christ, having renounced themselves; and thus united with Christ, identified with Christ, being actually Christ as members of the spiritual body (the church) of which Christ is head, and remaining "in Christ" throughout life; THEN they are truly justified eternally, their faith and righteousness being not theirs, but his, no longer merely reckoned unto them, but their true possession "as Christ." Both the faith and the works which justify sinful men, therefore, are related to that higher consideration of their relationship with the Lord of glory. Certainly, men must have faith and obedience before they can be incorporated "into Christ"; and in him, having been baptized unto him, they become partakers of the true righteousness (perfect faith and perfect obedience) of Christ. In Christ, therefore, the righteousness (faith and obedience) which saves and justifies them is not theirs but Christ's. It is no mere reckoned or imputed thing, not a forensic righteousness at all, but an eternal, perfect and beautiful status of the absolute and genuine righteousness of Christ. That is what Paul referred to when he spoke of presenting every man "perfect in Christ" (Colossians 1:28).
In reality, then, the solifidian nonsense of justification "by faith alone" profoundly misses the point on two vital counts: (1) Nothing that a sinner either believes or does can save him "out of Christ" (though, of course, he must both believe and obey the gospel in order to enter Christ). (2) Even in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the true ground of all human redemption, even in his case, it was not "faith only," but a perfect faith and a perfect obedience.
How regrettable are the weary disputes of men regarding the part sinners have in their redemption; how preposterous is the notion that what a sinner "believes" could endow him with eternal life! To receive that as God's free gift, he must qualify for entry into Christ's spiritual body, through faith and obedience of the gospel, or as Jesus stated it, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." The function of baptism in this is that it is entering "into Christ," where all righteousness and redemption are found. How dark is that tragedy of human arrogance which would make a sinner his own saviour through claiming eternal life as a consequence of his "faith only."
EXCURSUS ON SOLIFIDIANISM
Solifidian, from which the noun solifidianism is derived, means "one who maintains that faith alone, without works, is the one requisite to salvation (from Latin solus, alone + fides, faith)." F58
Under James 2:26 it was explained that solifidianism is founded upon an altogether inadequate understanding of the true ground of justification, that ground being neither human faith nor obedience nor both of them together. The one and only true grounds are the perfect faith and obedience of the Son of God. In the light of this, the doctrine is a theological faux pas of phenomenal dimensions. It claims eternal salvation for sinners, along with eternal justification (in the highest sense), grounded upon a purely human act of obedience, that is, the subjective trust/faith of sinners. Thus it makes sinners their own saviour by grounding the hope of salvation upon what the sinners themselves do. Logically and theologically, this is an arrogant absurdity.
Even if the major thesis of solifidianism were provable (which it is not), it would still fall short of any ultimate justification. That thesis is that in some way "saving faith," as it is called, includes all necessary acts of obedience, or produces them, or issues in them, or even does them. This is considered by holders of the doctrine to be a vital element of it, as judged by so many varied and repeated assertions of it. First, we shall notice a sampling of such assertions, demonstrating their falsity; and then, it will be pointed out that even if allowed as true, the whole concept of justification as resting upon what sinners themselves either believe or do, or believe AND do, still makes man his own saviour and misses altogether the only possible justification "in Christ" our Lord.
Assertions relative to "saving faith's" (so-called) inclusion of all necessary works:
"Faith cannot be severed from works." F59 This cannot be true, because many of the rulers of the Jews "believed on" the Lord Jesus Christ (John 12:42); and B. F. Westcott assured us that the words there employed by the apostle John mean the completeness and fullness of faith. F60 Yet those same people were the ones who murdered the Son of God. They had every kind of faith there is; so faith can and often does exist without works, being therefore separated from works. See full comment on the text from John in my Commentary on John, pp. 305-307.
"Faith uses works as its means." F61 This is untrue because James represented works, not as something faith was using, but as something "working with," or "cooperating with" faith (James 2:22). Likewise, the author of Hebrews made faith and baptism (a work in the usual solifidian view) to stand as coordinates in the foundation of the first principles of the gospel (Hebrews 6:1,2).
"If faith is genuine, works will follow." F62 Again, John 12:42 refutes this. See above. Further, James' challenge to errorists refuted in this chapter carried no criticism of their faith, other than the fact of its being without works. If it had been true that those workless Christians did not have the "right kind of faith," James would have dealt with that instead of the need for works. The entire last section of James 2 proves that faith can, and did, exist apart from works; and that it is not true that where faith is genuine works will follow.
"Works are an expression of faith." F63 This is false because works are something done by the believer, not by his faith. Eternal justification, as viewed by Paul, was grounded (in one sense) upon what men do (Romans 2:6-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10,; 5:10, ). In those citations from Paul, it is not deficiency of faith, but the deeds done by the believer, that is stressed.
"Works are the necessary fruits of faith." F64
"Faith bringeth forth works." F65
"Faith always issues in good works." F66
"Faith is bound to overflow in action." F67
"There is no faith that does not issue at once in loving obedience ." F68
"Obedience is the inevitable and immediate issue of faith." F69
Not any of these statements is in the Bible, nor is a single one of them true. If such notions as these had been a fact, James would not have bothered to give his urgent exhortation to good works. If such statements as the above had been the truth, and there had been the "wrong kind of faith" in any of the Christians he addressed, he would have devoted his energies to correcting the deficiency of their faith, instead of ordering them to obey the precepts of the Master relative to good works.
"Not for faith plus works does James plead, but for faith at work." F70 Like most of the samplings noted above, this also is a clever remark, but it is not true. James did plead for "faith plus works," flatly declaring that there was no profit in the faith that did not have that "plus."
"Real faith unites a man with Christ." F71 Significantly, this particular error is rather seldom advocated, in all probability because it is so frontally contradicted by the New Testament which nowhere carries such a statement as this, but which does categorically state no less than three times that one is "baptized into Christ," or "into his body" (Galatians 3:26,27; Romans 6:3-5; 6:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:13). No amount of faith ever united a man with anything, the P.T.A., the Masonic Lodge, the Democratic Party, nor the spiritual body of Christ.
"James was pleading for the `work of faith.'" This statement found in a number of commentaries is true, the error lying in the misunderstanding of "the work of faith," which means not the work which faith does, but the work commanded by "the faith" in the objective sense. Paul mentioned "work of faith" (1 Thessalonians 1:3), but his reference carries the thought that the Thessalonians were obeying the commandments of God, not that their "faith" was doing all the work.
"The ground of justification is faith, and that only." F72 This type of statement is not merely untrue; it contradicts the word of God in James 2:24, which declares that a man "is justified ... and not by faith alone." This kind of statement is not nearly as common as it once was, because more and more who believeit are embarrassed by James' refutation of their theory; but instead, greater and greater reliance is rested in the type of statements examined above, where the common design is in every case that of declaring solifidianism.
Over and beyond all of these efforts to prove the unprovable, however, there looms the cosmic fact that even if faith should be viewed as all-inclusive of everything else, the basing of justification upon it (in any final sense) would still be making man his own saviour, still predicating the reception of eternal life upon thoughts and deeds of fallible and sinful men. Who could believe it? The basis of the final and eternal justification of the redeemed has already been determined and announced by God himself, the same being the righteousness of God "in Christ," available to those and those alone who are truly "in him," and moreover are "found in him" at last (Philippians 3:9).
Nevertheless, it is still an interesting and important question of whether faith plus works (of some kind), or merely "faith alone" is required of sinners seeking justification on the secondary and lower level which must be achieved "by them" before they may even become eligible for entry "into Christ" where alone true justification is available. The whole problem then turns upon one question alone, and that is, "How are men truly united with and brought `into' Christ?" Fortunately, the Scriptures do not leave such a question open, announcing repeatedly that men are "baptized into him." This mountain fact lies behind Jesus' declaration in Mark 16:15,16. Thus, even upon that lower level of secondary justification regarding fulfillment of preconditions of redemption, "faith alone" is valueless, even for the initial phase of justification; and, after that, the necessity of remaining "in Christ," of being found "in him" at last, even this will be determined by one's "deeds" (Romans 2:6-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10), which have the utility, along with faith, of keeping one "in Christ." The all-important thing that must precede final and ultimate justification is that the one to be justified must be "in Christ" and found "in him" at the end of his probation.
Therefore, the whole question of "faith plus works of obedience" or "faith only" should never have been raised. This is true because "faith only," no less than "faith plus obedience" is a "work" performed by sinners (being also, in a sense, a work performed by God, in the sense that God commanded it); and the predication of justification upon either "faith only" or "faith plus obedience" makes what the sinner does the grounds of justification; and the solifidian who bases his supposed salvation upon subjective trust/faith, rather than upon an obedient faith, does not gain the slightest advantage in such a conception, everything, in the last analysis, depending upon whether or not at last he shall be found "in Christ." The impossibility of "faith only" entering one "into Christ" is the ultimate condemnation of solifidianism.
The concept of "saving faith" (so-called) as a religious experience: This is positively the most irrational and unbiblical idea ever to invade Christianity. The concept, variously advocated, supposes that "at some particular moment," "with emotions better felt than told," "in answer to prayer, .... under the emotional appeal of revivalism," or in some other bizarre circumstance, the sinner suddenly "experiences FAITH." Boom! All of his sins are forgiven; he is transformed spiritually, born again and saved eternally! The word of God nowhere pictures any such "spiritual orgasm" as that! This is pure voodooism. No Biblical precept, no apostolic example even hints at such a thing. That is not the way Paul was converted; no member of the historical church as reviewed in Acts of the Apostles ever came "into Christ" in the manner of this false conception. Unscriptural and erroneous as such a "conversion" truly is, the mistake is compounded and multiplied by the solifidian arrogance of making that the only thing necessary for salvation and claiming eternal justification on the basis of it! There has never been a religious teaching that cried any louder to Almighty God for a drastic correction than does this one.
The satanic thrust of this evil theory also registers in its hatred of all who seek salvation and justification (even on the level of fulfilling preconditions of redemption) through faith and obedience of the gospel, and its adamant opposition to all preaching of the New Testament plan of salvation, accusing the followers of the New Testament of lacking salvation altogether and of attempting to be their own saviour. The illogical nature of this attitude appears in the fact of their denial of salvation predicated upon FAITH AND OBEDIENCE, while claiming it for themselves on the basis of FAITH WITHOUT OBEDIENCE, overlooking the fact that FAITH AND OBEDIENCE surely has everything their method has AND MORE! The only thing the true method of redemption lacks which theirs has is the alleged "faith experience," which to them is everything. The incongruous assertion that "faith only" could have anything not found in "faith and obedience" is impossible of being taken seriously.
No "experience" that any man ever had could rival that of Paul on the Damascus road. He actually saw the Lord! But three days later, he was still a, praying, penitent, grieving sinner; and so he remained until he heeded the command of Ananias to "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins!" (Acts 22:16). Too bad that Paul never knew anything about being saved by "faith only."
The alleged Scriptural support of solifidianism is extensive and will be briefly examined here. Solifidian methodology is characterized by the employment of a number of devices, as follows:
- There is the literalization of synecdoche. Synecdoche, a type of metonomy in which one thing stands for a group of related things, is frequently used (especially by Paul) in the New Testament; and one of his frequent uses of this figure of speech is that of making "saved by faith" a synecdoche, or short-form way of saying, "saved by faith, repentance, confession, baptism, hope, the blood of Christ, and all other great essentials of the Christian religion." In my Commentary on Romans, a large number of Pauline uses of synecdoche were pointed out, there being no doubt whatever of Paul's "saved by faith" always being inclusive of many other things also; never did he mean "faith alone." The device of literalizing the synecdoche is a denial of the word of God. Take the synecdoche: "Philip II had 1800 sails in his navy." "Sails" actually means "fully equipped and manned warships"; the solifidian misunderstanding of it would assert the meaning to be: "Philip II had no warships at all and had gone into the cloth business!"
- Another popular device is that of making passages which attribute salvation to "faith without works" mean that nothing whatever is to be done by the sinner except to believe in Christ. The error of this is multiple. "Without works," in the Pauline usage, in the vast majority of instances, means "works of the Law of Moses" and faith means either (a) all the Christian requirements (synecdoche), or (b) "the whole Christian religion" (faith used objectively). Again, the solifidian misinterpretation reads "works" to include every conceivable kind of human activity, whereas the New Testament speaks of seven classes of works, including the "work of faith," i.e., deeds done in obedience to divine commandments," as necessary to salvation. It is a perversion of God's word to apply "without works" as meaning "without obedience to Christ."
- The device of interpreting New Testament references to "faith" as meaning (subjectively) the unscriptural "experience of faith" in which instantaneous salvation results. Many have been deceived into thinking this meaning is in the New Testament; but it is not, the usual meaning of the word faith in the New Testament being simply that of "faithfulness" or "fidelity." See in my Commentary on Galatians (p. 44) for extended discussion regarding the error of construing New Testament references to "faith" as having the meaning of "subjective, sinner's trust/ faith." There are more than a hundred instances in the New Testament in which the solifidian bias of reading "faith" in the subjective sense has been imported and read into the text; one notable scholar even declared that 2 Tim. 4:7 is "best understood subjectively"! In that passage, how can it be denied that Paul's saying he had "kept the faith" means anything other than that he had been true to the holy religion of Christ?
- Outright mistranslation of God's word is also used extensively to mutilate and alter passages which do not "fit" solifidian error. Thus, John 3:16 is perverted to read "SHALL have everlasting life" instead of "SHOULD have, etc." Romans 10:10, "Confession is made unto salvation," is perverted to read, "It is stating his belief by his own mouth that CONFIRMS his salvation" (Phillips). These are only two of many scores of such arrogant changes which solifidian scholars perpetrate against the sacred word. It is very difficult to believe that the consciences of those who commit this type of outrage could be easy in the doing of such things. The great plethora of "modern English" translations of the New Testament has many of them that in no sense may be legitimately called translations, being loaded with solifidianism and other errors throughout.
- The device of substituting sinner's trust/faith for "the faith of Christ (the faith Christ had) in Romans 3:22,26, Galatians 2:16,20, and many other places, carries the effect of making the sinner his own saviour (through his providing the "saving faith"); whereas the faith that truly saves is "the faith of Christ" PLUS the perfect obedience of Christ! See extensive discussions of this subject in Romans (my Commentary on Romans) and Galatians (my Commentary on Galatians), under above references.
- Rejection of whole blocks of the New Testament that cannot be made to fit the solifidian straitjacket has, from time to time, been brazenly advocated. Martin Luther rejected James because he thought it contradicted Paul; whereas, it only contradicted what Luther erroneously alleged to be Paul's teaching. There is no logic at all in the allegation that it was actually James which was misunderstood by Luther, and that James does not contradict solifidianism. Of course it does! Then, there is the case of Arthur Cushman McGiffert, the theological "giant" who rejected the Pastorals, grounding his case on the assertion that "Nowhere in them is `faith' used in the great Pauline sense (solifidian sense, of course)!" McGiffert was absolutely correct in seeing that solifidianism is bluntly contradicted by the Pastoral epistles. Countless other examples of such behavior in smaller particulars could be pointed out, raising the question of what must be thought of a theory whose adherents seek to change the word of God, rather than give up their error?
- Another device is that of bypassing the spiritual body of Christ in their doctrine of salvation "by faith alone:" Solifidian theology pays scant attention, if any, to the overwhelmingly important Pauline teaching of "salvation in Christ." The expression "in Christ" (in him, in whom, in the Lord, etc.) is used 169 times in Paul's writings. Forgiveness, eternal life, salvation, redemption of sins, hope, grace, love, etc. - in fact EVERYTHING is "in Christ." Therefore, when Paul speaks of "faith in Christ," what does he mean? Sinner's subjective trust/faith? No! That is not "in Christ," it is in the sinner! A number of Pauline references to "faith in Christ" mean "faith" exercised by one "who has been baptized into Christ," thus stressing the theater of faith, not the mere subjective trust/faith of sinners. No unbaptized believer has faith "in Christ," as long as he is "out of Christ." The hard logic of this basic truth shows the fundamental error of solifidianism.
Throughout this series of commentaries, careful attention has been paid to solifidian mistranslations, perversions and other devices used in allegations of Scriptural support of their error; and the above are only a few samplings from the wholesale outrages committed against the New Testament by unspiritual men who, under a pretense of "spirituality" are guilty of misrepresenting the word of God.
The candid manner of discussing solifidianism, adopted here, should not be construed as a private judgment against "other Christians" (so-called). We do not maintain the position that intellectual error, even on so important a topic as this, may necessarily lead to final condemnation. In fairness, as noted earlier, it must be said that many solifidians, to the best of their ability, proceed to obey the teachings of the New Testament, in spite of their incorrect theory; and to the extent that they indeed "do believe and obey" the truth, they have exactly the same hope as all others who "believe and obey the gospel."
However, and here is tragedy, countless "professed" Christians are not in any sense obeying the gospel, walking in the teachings of the New Testament, ordering their lives by the precepts and examples of the apostles, nor in any other sense exhibiting the character and conduct of genuine followers of Christ. Their lapse in this whole area of "doing" the religion of Christ covers all phases of it; from violation of Christ's commandment to be baptized, forsaking his word relative to the Lord's supper, denying any appreciation for the church which is his spiritual body - from all such violations as these, all the way to a total abandonment of ethical and moral behavior by living in gross sins such as drunkenness, adultery, fornication, falsehood, stealing, idleness - put in all the lists of sins in the New Testament. Such things are openly practiced by a very large portion of those in our nation today who, according to themselves, are "saved by faith alone." It is in this frame of reference that this rather extensive discussion of the key error in modern theology is offered.
Footnotes for James 2
1: R. C. H. Lenski, Interpretation of ... the Epistle of James (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1938), p. 564.
2: E. M. Zerr, Bible Commentary, James (Marion, Indiania: Cogdill Foundation, 1954), p. 244.
3: J. W. Roberts, The Letter of James (Austin, Texas: Sweet Publishing Company, 1977), p. 69.
4: E. C. S. Gibson, The Pulpit Commentary, James (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), Vol. 21, p. 27.
5: R. V. G. Tasker, The General Epistle of James (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), p. 56.
6: Walter W. Wessel, Wycliffe New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 950.
7: E. G. Punchard, Ellicott's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 363.
8: J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 70.
9: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 564.
10: William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 64.
11: Ronald A. Ward, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 1227.
12: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 568.
13: John William Russell, Compact Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1964), p. 573.
14: Quoted by A. F. Harper, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. X (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1967), p. 211.
15: J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 76.
16: Quoted by J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 1035.
17: W. E. Oesterley, Expositor's Greek New Testament, Vol. IX (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 440.
19: A. Plummer, Biblical Illustrator, James (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1954), p. 227.
20: A. F. Harper, op. cit., p. 212.
21: Walter W. Wessel, op. cit., p. 952.
22: J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 1035.
23: Walter W. Wessel, op. cit., p. 952.
24: A. F. Harper, op. cit., p. 213.
25: E. C. S. Gibson, op. cit., p. 30.
26: T. Carson, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 575.
27: Walter W. Wessel, op. cit., p. 952.
28: Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical-Critical Method (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1977), p. 74.
29: J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 85.
30: Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 1228.
31: E. C. S. Gibson, op. cit., p. 31.
32: W. E. Oesterley, op. cit., p. 445.
33: R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 66.
34: J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 89.
35: T. Carson, op. cit., p. 576.
36: Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 1228.
37: E. G. Punchard, op. cit., p. 367.
38: J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 91.
39: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 585.
40: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 73.
41: R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 67.
42: J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 91.
43: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 589.
44: J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 93.
45: R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 69.
46: Quoted by J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 92.
47: J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 94.
48: R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 68.
50: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 594.
51: Ibid., p. 592.
52: R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 70.
53: E. G. Punchard, op. cit., p. 367.
54: Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 1229.
55: J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 97.
56: Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 1229.
57: J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 100.
58: Brittanica World Dictionary.
59: Walter W. Wessel, op. cit., p. 924.
60: B. F. Westcott, The Gospel according to St. John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), p. 186.
61: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 591.
62: Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 1229.
63: Ibid., p. 1228.
64: J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 1035.
65: T. Guthrie, Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., p. 254.
66: Many commentators use this statement.
67: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 78.
68: R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 69.
69: Ibid., p. 70.
70: T. Carson, op. cit., p. 576.
71: R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 63.
72: Albert Barnes, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1953), p. 48.