Continuing in good works…
You know, it was this part of the Bible that Martin Luther didn’t like. In fact, he went so far into not liking the book of James that He tore it out of his Bible. Why? Why would you tear out the inspired word of God?
As to avoid getting hate mail, I’ll allow you to come to your own conclusions for his reasoning.
Let’s look at what James says in this book…
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Some things that we can say right off–
When James talks about giving to the needy in this passage, it is meant by means of comparison, not condemnation. So also implies that just as it is no benefit to the poor to simply wish them well, it is also no benefit to our faith to not have works accompany it.
Faith without the proof of works is dead. Here, Luther thought that James meant we are sanctified by works alone. Which is not true. Sanctification is God’s working through us, and thus we have great works.
So many try to pit this passage against what Paul says about grace and faith in Ephesians 2:8-9 (see yesterday’s post). But this is not what was intended, and we see that in verse ten of Ephesians 2. We were made and saved for good works. So because of this truth, James can stake the claim that we have artificial faith if it is not demonstrated in the working out of that faith. Paul expresses that we must work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). If we have faith in Christ, it must be made evident in our works. Otherwise, to what purpose were we saved?