Ephesians 4:3-6; One Faith – Clarifying James 2, part 14.

Class Outline:

Wednesday April 28,2021


Last night, we asked the question, why would Abraham sacrifice his son if it were not because of mature faith in the Lord. We asked the same about the apostles.


1CO 4:9-13

For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. 11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.


The works of the apostles cannot be mistaken for anything else other than a mature faith in God’s plan in Christ Jesus. We are all called to perform works of the same category, works that can only be done by mature believers in Christ, and when we do them, we will see what is on the other side, and our faith will mature more, becoming stronger.


Paul, like James, also speaks of some who are hearers and not doers.


1CO 4:18-20

Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power.


The imagined objector - 2:18-19. James’ rebuttal - 2:20-26.


James does not expect his words to go unchallenged among his readers. According to James’ description of them, they do not have works. Their objection would be that there is no connection between faith and works.


The exact extent and meaning of the objector’s words have long been a problem to commentators.


JAM 2:18-19

But someone may well say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith [whatever it is] by my works." 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.


James’ rebuttal starts in vs. 20 with the conjunction de.


JAM 2:20

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?


James replies, “This argument is foolish and I will show you why.”


JAM 2:20-23

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected [matured]; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," and he was called the friend of God.


We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Since that is our purpose, our lives are justified before men when we do those works. This is not the same as Paul’s justification before God, but rather the light that we are shining to the world, justification before men as witnesses of what faith can really do.


Therefore, James is drawing attention to maturity in Christians, what they have been made for. ROM 8:4, we are those who walk by the Spirit and not the flesh. To walk by the Spirit is to walk or live as God would if He were a human.


We’ve seen the example of Abraham who was tested by God and told to sacrifice Isaac, which he did. Let’s look at the ultimate example.


LUK 22:41-44

And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, 42 saying, "Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done."  43 Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.


In Matthew’s account, three times Jesus went from them to pray the same thing. And when He was finished, He said, “Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”


In Jesus’ case an angel was sent to strengthen Him in contrast to Abraham to whom the angel of the Lord called from heaven to stop him.


Jesus made clear to them that He could pray and at once over 60,000 angels would be under His command. Abraham was stopped from sacrificing his son by the angel of the Lord. Jesus could have, but refused, to summon thousands of angels to stop His own sacrifice of Himself.


JOH 18:11

Jesus therefore said to Peter, "Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?"


For the third time:


The mature, faithful worshipper of God will hold nothing back from the will of his Lord, obediently giving to God whatever He asks, and trusting that the Lord will provide (Yavah Yireh).


The believer’s mature faith and its resultant obedience is a picture of Jesus Christ, as is everything we are called to be and do. Paul alluded to the Genesis passage exactly this way by using a verb from the same root as the one used in the Septuagint (pheidomai). Taking an example Abraham’s not sparing his beloved son, Paul reasoned about the generosity of God:


ROM 8:32

He who did not spare (Greek: pheidomai) His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?


GEN 22:12

“now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld (chasak/pheidomai) your son, your only son, from Me.”


Using James’ words, the blessed life of the doer of the word of God, the law of liberty, is a life that mimics the holy path of the Lord Jesus Christ. And by walking His path, following Him, knowing that He Himself retreads the very path with us as He walks with us, we will come to know Him deeply, which deep knowledge is impossible if we are hearers of the word only. That is exactly what James is trying to correct in his readers.


What can be easily forgotten when reading Gen 22 is that Abraham was instructed by God to drive out Ishmael in Gen 21. Abraham obediently sent Ishmael away, but he was grieved over losing Ishmael (GEN 21:11) for he loved him, but God encouraged Abraham by promising to make a great nation out of the boy. Normally, sending a boy and his mother into that wilderness was a death sentence, and they almost did die, but Abraham believed that God would fulfill His promise to make a great nation out of Ishmael. Now, in Gen 22, the Lord instructed him to kill his “only son” Isaac. Relinquishing Ishmael was made easier by knowing that Isaac was still there and would be the true heir as God had promised. God then tested Abraham to see if he would relinquish Isaac as willingly as he did Ishmael.


The angel of the Lord says to Abraham, “now I know that you fear God.”


EXO 20:20

And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin."


The people at Mt. Sinai are not be afraid, and at the same time they are to fear God. They are tested in order to see the depth of their faith. Moses makes the statement, “the fear of God may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” Significantly, this is the place and time where God will begin to give the Law to Israel. Now, James’ letter also refers to sin as the culprit for making the faith of his readers “dead” or ineffective. The testing of Abraham revealed his righteous fear of God.


Standing in front of the thundering, dark, menacing Mt. Sinai, having heard the very voice of God give the commands, an Israelite may ask, “What happens if I break these commands?” At the least - “Nothing good.”


Man is a silly sheep, but in the image of God. Without proper fear he gives in to his appetites and becomes more of an animal than a spiritual man.


The non-believer even bears this out. If life is easy for him, he generally falls into debauchery and lazily occupies himself with entertainment as a distraction. These lockdowns over the last year have revealed this plainly. The spiritual man must have a healthy fear of the effects of sin. In James’ letter, he has shown his readers that their lackadaisical approach to life has led them away from life and unto a living death.


JAM 4:4

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.


And as for Isaac, from whom we hear no claims about unfairness or injustice, nor any appeals as to the incredulous nature of the event, showed himself to be a true heir of Abraham. We doubt the strong-willed Ishmael would have been so steady under the knife of his father.


Isaac was the chosen son who in this event is a type of Christ who makes us ponder the depth of God’s love for us.