| || |The Berean Expositor Volume 49 - Page 33 of 179 Index | Zoom | |
In the same way James now proceeds to show that where such love does not exist, real
faith is lacking:
"What does it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? Can
that faith save him?" (2: 14, R.V.).
It is important to note that the writer does not say `though a man has faith', but
"though a man say he hath faith and have not works". Such a professed faith, being
totally lacking in results, is useless. James asks two rhetorical questions both demanding
the answer `certainly not'. The A.V. `can faith save him?' is misleading and fails to
bring out the force of the Greek definite article. "Can that sort of faith save him?" is
what is meant. The illustrations given of this are forceful. What would be the use of
saying to someone naked or destitute of food `depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled',
or to put it in modern English, `goodbye, get some clothing and nourishing food', and not
raise a finger to supply this basic need? "What doth it profit?" says James, "of what
practical use is this sort of thing?". It is dead, callous and utterly useless, no matter how
much the word `faith' is used. Some may talk loudly about faith, but the writer makes
clear that he wants practical proof in action for all faith, and without this it is barren and
futile (2: 18-20).
pp. 211 - 219
Now follows the controversial passage concerning Abraham's faith which has led
some undiscerning people to imagine that James is contradicting Paul in Paul's emphasis
on faith apart from works. Even Luther stumbled here, calling this epistles a `strawy'
one. What has been missed is the fact that James and Paul are looking at two different
phases of the faith of Abraham:
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son
upon the altar? Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith
made perfect" (2: 21 and 22, R.V.).
The key is contained in the words `faith made perfect". Teleioo to make perfect,
means to bring to completion. When Paul uses Abraham as an example of faith without
works, he is looking at the beginning of his faith, when he first heard God speak to him
and he responded and believed Him. James is looking thirty years later in Abraham's
experience, when the final great test by God was given in the command to offer up Isaac.
The patriarch stood the test, very difficult though it was, and by his obedience his faith
was brought to completion. It became great faith. There is no contradiction at all
between Paul and James when this is understood. James had one aim, to destroy the
pretence of those who professed to have faith when there was no evidence in the way
they behaved to show their faith was real and alive. The word `justified' in verse 21
means in effect "shown to be justified". Abraham's works here declared without any
doubt that his faith was real, that it had grown to great faith which could trust God