by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Study # 45 July 15, 1998 Harlingen, Texas
Thesis:James' insistence that the faith that saves is active is fundamental to the nature of what it means to believe.
Introduction:Last week we reviewed the theological setting to which James addressed his letter. In that review we saw that one of the problems in the debate over faith and works is that some of the terms are not clearly defined. The greatest failure is in the terminology of legalism. In our study last week I argued that legalism goes far deeper than the presence or absence of "law". It goes far deeper than the claim that one must be obedient to this or that rule in order to be saved. The issue of legalism is the issue of where the ability comes from in the statements of necessity that are laid upon man. That necessity is laid upon man is inescapable simply because judgment will come upon every man. Becoming a believer in Christ does not remove us from judgment, though it does remove us from any judgment designed to establish the question of our freedom from condemnation. That we do, and shall, face judgment is without question. That our actions elicit a response from God and others in terms of benefits and pain is without question. Therefore, when we speak of grace and legalism, we simply must understand whereof we speak. Biblically, grace is the divine supply of the divinely imposed necessity. Legalism, on the other hand, is the demand that man produce of himself what is required by the divinely imposed necessity.
Last week we also established the fact that there is a heirarchy of "necessities" established by the fact of God's immutable presence.
This evening we are going to consider James' argument under the assumption that he knew what grace and legalism were.
I. Indicators That James Recognized the Primary Necessity of Love.
A. The question "Can that faith save?" is moot if his readers do not value "salvation".
B. The question of the hungry nakedness of the fellow believer is moot if hungry nakedness isn't a real problem (i.e., love issue).
C. The questions of salvation and the response to the hungry nakedness is moot if there is no real linkage. [See 1 John 3:16-18.]
1. For James, the issue of salvation was an issue where one aspect of salvation automatically flowed into the next, and that into the next. [Justification naturally flowed into Sanctification, which naturally flowed into Glorification.]
2. For James, a breakdown at any point of the flow was a breakdown of faith, which assumes a prior breakdown of love.
II. Indicators that James Recognized the Mechanical Nature of Faith.
A. The question of "profitability" is a question of whether the "mechanism" works.
B. The declaration that faith is tied to results is a declaration that faith IS the mechanism.
C. The supposition that a believer CAN be naked and hungry argues that God primarily works through intermediate agents.
1. Intermediate agents who do not respond by love and faith can make the believer's situation worse.
2. Intermediate agents who respond by love and faith can make the believer's situation better.
3. Believers themselves can make the situation better or worse, depending upon the attitude THEY take.
D. The promises upon which faith rest are from God so that in the face of the failure of the agents, "miraculous intervention" is always a possibility, but so is death.
1. The faithful believer is ready at any time to live or die for Christ...so that those issues are not critical for him.
2. There is no breakdown of the promises simply because there is no real loss of life at any point along the continuum of physical experience.