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Sure I Believe, So What?

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
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December 1, 2020 7:00 am

Sure I Believe, So What?

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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December 1, 2020 7:00 am

Many have wondered if the book of James emphasis on good works is in contradiction to Pauls teaching on faith through grace alone. In this message compellingly titled, Sure I Believe, So What!? Dr. Boice explains how James actually contributes to a fuller understanding of faith - one that includes the fruit of good works as evidence of a faith that is alive and active!

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Welcome to the Bible study, radio and Internet Ministry of finance of convincing evangelicals featuring the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce for more information please contact us by calling toll-free 1-800-488-1888 and now the alliance is pleased to present the Bible study our preparing you to think and act biblically been studying the book of James, together with the tension was very practical words concerning practical aspects of Christianity and we come the night. The second half of chapter 2 of those verses which most people who know anything about the Bible know of on the basis of their apparent conflict with the teaching of Paul. Paul, as you know, as stressed in his epistles, Romans, Galatians and Ephesians as well that we are saved by grace through faith not of works, not in any way because our works are imperfect and as they enter into our salvation in any way.

Our salvation is imperfect and therefore were lost were saved by faith alone. This became a great theme of the Reformation. Yet as we read these verses, James seems to say that we are not only saved by faith were saved by faith and works and furthermore if the works are not present. We are lost and so people of red that found naturally problems in it. No less a student of the Bible and a master leader of the church than Martin Luther. Among them was on the basis of this passage in its apparent teaching that Luther developed a low regard for the entire epistle significant to note that he didn't rule it out of the canopy didn't say it was nonscriptural, but he didn't like it very much and he called it a right strongly epistle that is a didn't have the weight of the gospel in its it was just kind of likes stuff and so people even though they have not every case adopted the opinion of Luther. Nevertheless recognize this to be a problem and sometimes on the basis of this problem.

Passover the very practical teaching of the rest of the book and unfortunately do so now. Let me say that it's very unfortunate that this is happened and it's unfortunate that it's happened with this passage in particular because this passage in these verses are dealing with a very practical matter, and because it's practical at something that we see about us every day. Certainly today, no less than the time of James and the problem with which we should therefore deal simply the problem which we all know thinking that as long as you believe certain things intellectually. That's all that counts. You don't have to live differently.

You don't have to do anything about your ethical life for your conduct or other people are anything certainly doesn't require following the standards that are set forth by Jesus Christ as long as you believe the things that you've been taught that Jesus is God that he died on the cross for sin as long as you believe that you're all right and I say that's a problem today because I am sure that we have many, many thousands of people in the church is who fit that precise category.

They believe intellectually and perhaps because of their own presumption and in some cases also because of the unfortunate teaching of certain churches and even institutions they think as long as they have that there all right and what James does is challenge that thinking say that the client saying that the kind of faith that saves is a faith which is not mere intellectual faith with a faith which inevitably because it's based upon the life of God within expresses itself in deeds. So he's looking at this very practical matter, and we should look at it to us this week when I was in Costa Rica I heard Dr. Paul Reese speaking as he did in the Bible hour each morning for the conference on Third World perspectives in one of these messages as he was speaking. Along these lines. He told of his own experience of someone who came from a church in which the minister of the church was engaged in an adulterous relationship with a woman in the congregation is came to the attention of one of the elders and the elder approach.

The minister about Elton challenged him asking. First of all, it was true and the man replied. It was then challenging him on it and the preacher's reply was this, he said so what if I am committing adultery I preach better sermons than I ever did and Dr. Reese said that that is a horrible horrible situation. James would say so. As well, because what that means.

The fact is that man-made that particular statement is that as long as I believe and teach the things that are in the word of God. It doesn't matter how I live.

James would say it makes all the difference in the world because if there is an indifference to sin, the faith which is assumed to be the basis of the individual salvation is not a saving faith in the individual is not a saved individual. That's what this passage is all about. We need to look at it.

Along those lines before we do that, however, let me raise a practical matter of my own. Here we have a passage that has created difficulty for commentators, Martin Luther, among them, and it raises the question of how we as Christians deal with problem passages.

When we come across them in the word of God. You do was us a passage, you overlook it. Do you say, well perhaps it doesn't belong in the canon.

After all seem to be the tendency that some of taken the dismissal word of God is being filled with contradictions. Others that are day are doing that or do you take 1/3 way and if so what is the third way, let me suggest an approach that we should take it a matter such as this, and then follow it and see where it leads in the handling of this particular passage. First of all we should bring all the facts to light. That means that if this passage seems to contradict things that Paul says way to deal with it is not by suppressing one of the other of the passages we do that when we handle the word of God that way to our heart rather were to bring all the facts to light.

If James says something let's hear what James says that if also something let's hear what Paul says there's nothing to be gained by hiding our head in the sand.

Secondly, because Scripture is its own interpreter is the Westminster confession says finger to do is compare Scripture with Scripture or to take the teachings of Paul that pertain to this theme in the teachings of James that pertain to this theme and the writings along these lines in the book of Hebrews, or anywhere else we may find them and put them side-by-side and study them to see what the true situation is will study each for what it says and then will compare each passage with another to see if in that comparison.

There's not some kind of a resolution, but we find when we do that is that sometimes the passages only seemed to be contradictory and are actually saying exactly the same thing. One example would be that passage in the sixth chapter of the book of Hebrews creates a problem for those who were getting into the distinctives of reformed theology. That passage seems to say that you can believe on Christ and then be lost in the that's the case denies other passages which seem and indeed do teach the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints that is none who come to Christ by saving faith can ever be lost. What's the solution we study that passage carefully and we find that it speaking hypothetically it's supposing that if this could be the case where would this lead in the argument of the book of Hebrews is that if one could fall away from Christ and be lost, there would at least be no opportunity of bringing them back to faith because it not case they be crucifying the son of God, to themselves a fresh which is an impossibility what the passage goes on to say is it speaks to those who the author is sure really are saved is brethren. We understand better things of you that is things that accompany salvation.

In other words, the author of Hebrews is saying in that chapters. The same thing that the apostle Paul would be saying although in different words sometimes passages that appear contradictory or actually saying the same thing.

Secondly, sometimes the cases we put these passages side-by-side and compare them that we find the things to be not identical but complementary as to say they're not teaching exactly the same doctrine, but they are teaching doctrines which are complementary parts of one another that's the case with the passage in James.

James is emphasizing the importance of works and if the apostle Paul was here listening as James was expounding upon these lines. The apostle Paul would undoubtedly say right on James your teaching something that is absolutely important and if somebody would say to Paul that now Paul in your box when you are writing to the Romans and to the Galatians of the Ephesians you would emphasizing that faith is to have nothing to do with works at all because of your trusting to work your loss. Paul would say oh that's true I did emphasize that and that's absolutely true. In James would also affirm that, wouldn't you James.

James would say yes indeed, I would. But Paul would say. You see, I was speaking to a particular problem I Paul might say I was speaking to the most important problem in James is speaking to a secondary matter in James.

I suppose not speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but human.

They might say I'm speaking of the most important matter and you Paul for speaking of a secondary matter, but what they're saying but in each case be true so we have to understand these things in that way.

What happens if having brought the facts to light and having compared Scripture with Scripture you find that you still can't make the truths either identical or complementary they still seem to be contradictory, but that by what you do then to suspend judgment way for the Lord to give you greater light at some period of your own intellectual and spiritual development Frank Gable line was written.

One of the very good though short books on the epistle to James called the practical epistle of James has a story as he discusses this particular problem clergyman was riding on a train down along the Hudson River and he went into the dining car to eat and he sat down. A man sat down next to it in the manner set down next to him was an atheist and he looked across the table and the clergyman was there with a collar so he identified them right away and he said are you a clergyman and the man said yes I am. I'm a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Well, he said if that's the case you believe the Bible particular case, the man happened to believe the Bible and so he said yes I I don't believe the Bible I believe is the word of God in its true and the atheist was now working up to his arguments said well you find things in the Bible that you don't understand, and the clergyman said yes sir many things in the Bible. I don't understand the atheist thought he had a now well he said what do you do when you find things in the Bible you don't understand all the minister was eating some fish. It was Hudson River shad, which is a very bony fish and as he was eating.

He was pushing the bones aside and he looked down at his plate for a minute and he said I do precisely what I do when I'm eating this fish I eat the good parts and I push the bones aside, I leave them there for some pool for fools to choke on well in a more sanctified sense. Let me say that is precisely what we can do will always be things that we don't understand and I have.

If, after having brought the facts, the light and having pursued the matter as carefully as we can. Comparing Scripture with Scripture.

We still don't understand it, we can simply legitimately suspend judgment way for God in his own time to give us more light. Let's look at this passage carefully what is James really saying. First of all, notice what he's talking about faith in the major emphasis of his passages upon a false faith, you might choose to say in an adequate thing.

Faith does not say is what is talking about in any careful reading of the passage should indicated first of all, notice and port verse 14.

Can such faith save him.

James puts in that words such as obviously indicating a particular kind of faith, intellectual faith is what he has in mind non-saving faith. We were doing this today. I suppose the best way to indicate this in current English writing style would be to put the word faith in quotation marks in faith quoted like this save him. That's what James is saying notice.

Further, in the first half of that verse of a man claims to have faith but has no deeds series talking about a faith that exists on the basis of a claim only followed by the contrast of the real faith. The kind of faith James wants for his hearers is not in view of his verse 18 someone will say you have faith, I have deeds.

Jane replies show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do here is talking about an invisible faith faith you can't see an intangible thing, something that doesn't have any results. This is not to say that all intangible things are unreal when our Lord talked about the Holy Spirit.

He said the spirit was like the wind blows where it wells what he didn't mean that it was bond observable and its affects the wind does produce effects.

James is saying this kind of faith doesn't even Russell believes on the trees. Notice verse 19 here is talking about the demons and what he has in mind here is a faith it's intellectual alone. You believe that there is one God. Good. Even the demons believe that in shutter understand how ironic that is, as he talks about the kind of faith that the demons have here is somebody in the fellowship of the church who is boasting of the fact that he has faith why he believes that there is a God and James says, you realize that if that's the only kind of faith you have that only brings you up to the level of the devil's see what is trying to say is trying to say we have to go a great deal further than that.

Again, verse 22. Foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless here is talking about a useless faith and up of faith is useless. It certainly useless in the matter of salvation as well. Verse 22. He talks about a faith that's incomplete. He says you see that his faith and his actions were working together in his faith was made complete by what he did. Obviously the faith is against is an incomplete faith, then perhaps most significantly of all, in verse 17 and also in verse 26 he speaks of a faith that is dead. I just say that as I go through those verses indicate how careful study of the words or phrases that are used. The implications that are in view should go in most cases a long long way to solve any of the problem Paul if he were here and were listening to this would say yes, of course, that is precisely what James has in mind.

And I agree that a faith like that, whether it's accompanied by works or not. It certainly is not save anybody the thing that really bothers James of course is that it's a faith without works that is not the works that come out of the human heart is an attempt to win favor with God.

The kind of works that Paul says God curses, but rather the works that come forth out of the heart of a man or a woman who is really been reborn and as a result of that rebirth is believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and is entered into a lifetime of obedience and service based upon a union with him. He says what I'm really concerned about is that that kind of work that kind of work that comes forth out of the life of Christ within the present because without that faith is the expression of the union with Christ and the means of union is really not present.

He gives a number of examples.

Certainly in verse 15. He has a practical matter, in view.

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food of one of you says to them go.

I wish you well. Keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it the same way, faith by itself, but it's not accompanied by actions is dead.

Let's take that seriously because it's easy to intellectualize even that is the just as you can intellectualize faith in God without it having any practical implication on how you live so it is possible to intellectualize practically any doctrine of the faith, we can read a passage like that and say yes I can understand that that is certainly true if one is to believe in Jesus Christ and follow him. Certainly there should be an expression of compassion for other people. Those who are less fortunate. And then we can simply go home.

Out of this church, or anyplace else where were giving attention to the reading and preaching of the word and continue precisely as we were before without any response. Whatever the needs of other people. So we need to read this and recognize that if there is a person who is hungry and we have the means of alleviating that hunger. We are not really Christians unless we know we have one who is not fed or closed heart is lonely or whatever it may be, and we do not out of the means at our disposal.

Do something to alleviate the need of that person is presented before us is a needy one in the name of Christ are not a Christian that certainly what James is saying, let me hasten dad because I think we need to make some qualification at this point that even the best of Christians is at times very very insensitive. This does not mean that in every particular case, all down through our lives whenever any need was ever presented to us. We had to meet that need is best. We were able are we born say but it does mean that we cannot be indifferent to need and profess to be a Christian, sometimes for one reason or another will fail and what we ought to do.

James would say our lives.

If they are really Christian must point after point after point and in an increasing way. So for that kind of compassion that our Lord showed when he was on earth lived and moved about among us. We must be concerned for those who are needy and we must find our heart going out to them working to help them wherever we are possible if we are Christians. What is true faith well. James would say this, as well as Paul, faith is certainly first of all, something that is based upon knowledge we talk in these verses about the inadequacy of an intellectual faith alone, but this does not mean that faith does not need content faith is to believe in the Greek it's the same word. How can you believe if you don't know what it is and what your believing he obviously has to have content and so when we talk about Christian faith or saving faith. The first element of this faith has to have his intellectual content expressed as the basic doctrines of Christianity is no such thing as saving faith does not have the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the eternal son of God became man and died on the cross for our salvation is no saving faith doesn't have as a basis of knowledge of the fact that that death of Christ upon the cross was for us and for our sin, and so on through all of the great doctrines of the faith that we believe anything we have to believe those basic doctrines and were ignorant of those basic doctrines.

Whatever else we may believe we certainly don't have faith in the biblical sense. Secondly, faith is not only something that involves knowledge.

It is also something that involves that intangible thing which can perhaps best be defined as response for the warming of the heart toward what God is done see what is in view here is that kind of reaction to God's grace in Jesus Christ that says with a heart beginning to overflow with joy.

Guess it's not only that he died upon the cross, but that he died upon the cross for me.

He died I might be saved at all in a gracious, loving God, it is that you do that for me talk about the doctrine of justification. It's the same thing you can understand the doctrine of justification intellectually God on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ counts as righteous and those were not righteous in themselves, but applies the righteousness of Christ to them on the basis of his death, all of that you can understand that, intellectually, and you can be unmoved what biblical faith is is first of all that intellectual understanding, and then to that is added, the response that says all want to marvel at is the great God of the universe should work out such a salvation for me salvation that satisfies not only my own needs but his own justice and his own standards of righteousness in your heart begins to warm that in precisely the same way the John Wesley's heart warmed as he tells about his own conversion in the little meeting at Aldersgate then thirdly, faith involves commitment.

See, I suppose it is possible to have an intellectual understanding, followed by a certain stirring of the heart. And yet at that point pull back and say well perhaps that's something really good.

Maybe that's really glorious and it's true that I have been touched by what God is done, but I'm not going to make a commitment now I have my life to live there things that I'd rather do.

Perhaps give attention that at a later time.

Festus responded that way to Paul. I believe when he said Paul almost persuaded me to be a Christian. His mind was touch his heart was stirred, but he didn't respond. And there's nothing in the word of God would indicate whatsoever that this king is a save man what we have to do is respond in such a way, by prayer, we say to God all God, thank you for what you've done for my salvation in Jesus Christ. You see the intellectual element warming of the heart of the matter of commitment to which we respond to what is done that is usually expressed by saying that we recognize and receive Christ as our Savior and Lord. We promise to follow in thereafter as his disciple and servant. I'm sure this is what James has in mind when he goes on in verse 21 introduced the first of these two examples that he talks about in verse 21 is Abraham when he says that he was considered righteous for what he did.

James would not say.

Certainly he quotes that great verse from Genesis that Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Certainly James would not say that in his own mind, the belief of Abraham was pushed aside and works came in to take the place of faith and Abraham was justified on the basis of his works is not on the basis of his faith, thereby contradicting Paul what he has in mind.

Is this Abraham believed God, and because Abraham believed God and trusted God and was willing to serve God and anxious to obey God. When God put into the test in the offering of his son, Abraham did not hold back, but obeyed and went in the direction God let him in the fact that he went in the direction the God let it was an indication of proof and evidence something can hardly be contested that he was indeed a regenerate individual Abraham and refused to do that. The question could be raised and would be raised whether he really believe God in all and secondly he gives another example. An example is the example of Rahab woman is not a chauvinist Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho.

She had limited if any knowledge of the true God. When the spies came on the occasion of the conquest. She recognized in them messengers of the true God and so she responded to their God and believed on him. Perhaps I see no reason for doubting this is the result of the testimony of the man that you take an indoor house. She believed it as a symbol of her belief she made her commitment and she released the spies in a way that they could get out of the city on Harmon for her face. She was spared later, when the city was taken. James says the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did. She gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction. See what he saying he simply saying, living faith is going to express itself in works of rhino works. We have every reason to question the reality of the faith no matter how loud profession. Let me say finally that this is really no different than what the apostle Paul says that magnificent salvation all the way of salvation by grace through faith in the epistle to the Ephesians. We all know those verses Ephesians 2 verses eight through 10 for by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves is the gift of God not of works lest any man should boast all of that affirming and language as strong as it could possibly be expressed. The black are saved by the grace of God alone and we receive it only by faith that nothing of our own enters and your justification whatsoever. Yet Paul goes on to say in the next verse in the same context, for ye are God's workmanship, created unto good works, which God hath before ordained that you should walk in them. You see the same word that applies to our regeneration being ordained by God, called by God elect by God under salvation is the same word that Paul uses when he talks about the life of works that must follow from that initial union with Christ by faith we ordained good works of the ordination is determinative in the first case, it must be determinative in the second case, and if the works are missing in the second case is every reason to believe that the faith in a saving sense is missing in the first case as well faith and works. We emphasize and rightly salvation is by faith alone, but if we be faithful to the word of God. We must also add yes, but not by a faith that is alone, nobody is saved by a dead faith in the living faith expresses itself in the kind of life that brings glory to Jesus Christ. The spray father, we thank you for these crews practical truths help us to deal with them practically cause us to be increasingly a kind of active, helpful, loving, practical serving Christians that you would have us be in which we must be.

If we are truly Christ's brain. His you are listening to the Bible study hour with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview. Drawing upon the insight and wisdom of reformed theologians from decades and even centuries gone by. We seek to provide Christian teaching that will equip believers to understand and meet the challenges and opportunities of our time and place.

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