Friday 15 November 2013

Bible Book:

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (v. 17)

James 2:8-26 Friday 15 November 2013


This is the text for which the letter of James is best known. Hespeaks on a theme which he has already introduced in James1:22-25, where he writes about being doers rather than justhearers of the word. He writes in an argumentative style, probablybecause he is speaking out against what he sees as false teaching.Genuine faith is not just expressed in verbal terms. Even thedemons believe in God (verse 19). Genuine faith includes actions.Faith without works cannot save (verse 14), it is dead (verses 17,26), barren (Verse 20), and cannot put us right with God (verse24).

But before James gets to that point in the letter, he writesabout attitudes to "the royal law" (verses 8-13). In verse 8 hequotes Leviticus 19:18, which Jesus singles out as oneof the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:39). The idea that by breaking oneof God's laws meant that you had broken them all was a commonJewish idea, but it was sometimes overemphasised to give undueweight to the ceremonial laws. It is unlikely that this is whatJames means here, as he quotes murder and adultery as examplesprohibited by the law. Rather, he is looking at the Old Testamentlaw as interpreted by Jesus. Thus in verse 12 there are echoes ofthe Lord's Prayer with its ideas of the Christian's obligation toforgive as they have been forgiven by God.

In arguing that faith without works, or actions, is dead, Jamesis emphasising the completeness of a Christian life, but he usestwo examples from the Old Testament to illustrate his point.Abraham is an obvious example. In being willing to offer his sonIsaac as a human sacrifice (Genesis 22), he was showing his utterdependence on God and putting faith into action. As the spiritualfather of Israel, it might be expected that Abraham would be heldup as an example, but Rahab the prostitute (Joshua2:1-21) is an interesting choice. Both patriarch and prostituteput faith into action.

To Ponder

  • Can you think of new ways to express your faith in action? Whatmight they be?
  • Have you tried living by a rule of life? If so, how do youprevent this becoming legalistic? 
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