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

Wednesday April 7,2021

The great problem passage of Jam 2 – “Faith without works is dead.”


We noted that James wrote his letter to Jewish Christians dispersed by persecution. He wrote at the very start of the church, in which most Christians were Jewish. We also noted that James was writing to those who had drifted from their spiritual life and become friends with the world and perpetually carnal.


In chapter four he calls them lovers of personal pleasure, jealous, and combative. He called them adulteresses, having left their true Husband to worship the idols of the world.


As James opens his letter, it is clear that he is writing to believers. He calls them “my beloved brethren.” In 1:17-18 James clearly shows that all good gifts come from God above and that by the exercise of God’s will He brought us forth by the word of truth. Brought forth is a word that has the concept of birth and the word of truth that brings new birth is the gospel. This is James’ way of saying what Jesus said, “You must be born from above.” James continues by saying that this new birth made them (James and his readers) the “first fruits among His creatures.” There is no doubt that James is writing to those he considers to be believers. Knowing this is vital to interpreting the message of his letter.


We also noted that James is in perfect agreement with Paul, while James was using the words “save” and “justification” in different ways that Paul was in his theological letters.


“The Bible is written for men … and accordingly there is no specifically biblical logic, or rhetoric, or grammar.” This is why God can hold all men responsible for believing and meeting the essential demands of the written Word at every stage of revelation. [McClain quoting Schodde]


“save your souls” or “save your lives”?


Jam 1:18-22

In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures.


19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.


This seems to say the same as “Can that faith save him?” But when we read it, we see that James is speaking to “beloved brethren,” and tells them that “the word implanted is able to save your souls.”


In the Western world the phrase “save your souls,” is almost always interpreted as salvation from hell. But the Bible is an Eastern book.


This phrase “save your souls” (sosai tas psuchas humon) to the East could easily imply “save your life.”


Mar 3:4

And He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life (sosai psuchen) or to kill?"


The Pharisees in the synagogue were wondering if Jesus would heal on the Sabbath. There was a man there with a withered hand, and Jesus knowing their thoughts, getting angry and grieved at their hardness of heart, said this before He healed the man. It is clear by sosai psuchen that He is referring to saving a physical life.


And no one would argue this in James’ use of the phrase in:


Jam 5:19-20

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul (sosei psuchen) from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.


Jam 5:20 “save his soul (sosei psuchen) from death,”


James adds “from death” which makes the meaning clear.


This phrase in not found in any NT text describing a conversion experience.


“Save your lives” fits nicely with James’ context. Just before this he was addressing the problem of sin.


Jam 1:14-15

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.


The Lord said in Joh 8 that without faith in Him we would die in our sins. The believer, therefore, will not die in his sins, but sin is still associated with death as it has been from the fall. Its result is never life.


Gen 2:17

“in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.”


It is revealed to us that though all believers are alive to God and are born of God that they still sin.


Someone born of God should not sin, for born of God means from God and therefore like Him.


This unbending truth helps us understand a very difficult passage, which is used in the same way that Jam 2 is used by some to try and teach that salvation is only assured by works.


1Jo 3:6-9

No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.


John’s use of the present tense “poiei – does” cannot be confidently translated “continually.”


What is often done to explain this text in light of the fact that none of us will ever reach constant sinless perfection in this life (1Jo 1:8-10) is to translate the present tenses used as: “No one who is born of God continually sins.” Even the NASB does this somewhat by using the English word “practice.” This approach cannot be defended linguistically or exegetically.


No other text can be cited where the Greek present tense, unaided by qualifying words, can carry this kind of significance. Other words in the context are used to express this.


Take for instance: 1Jo 5:16

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death.


“committing a sin” is in the present tense. If we kept the same rule it would read, “If anyone sees his brother continually committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask of God.” Yet we translate 3:9 to say that a Christian cannot continually sin, so how could I find a brother continually sinning?


So, we have to be careful of adding the word “continually” to a present tense unless we can be sure.


There is no sin in the Son of God.


1Jo 3:5

And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.




1Jo 3:6

No one who abides in Him sins;


The point is unmistakable, no one who abides in the sinless Son of God sins. The regenerate one is sinless because he is begotten by a sinless Parent.


1Jo 3:9

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.


John does not water this down even a little. A sinless parent does not beget a child that only sins a little.


If we water down John’s words, then we will miss the truth and we will fail to see why sin is still associated with death in those who are born of God and possess eternal life.


But how are such claims to be harmonized with the direct assertion of 1:8 that no believer can claim to be sinless?


The solution is found in one of John’s favorite words, “abide.”


Sin is never the experience of a believer abiding in Christ. Abide means to remain (in a home say) and not leave. The Lord used similar imagery with His disciples the night before His death. He said that if anyone loved Him he would keep His word, and the Father will love him, and the Father and the Son will come to him and make their abode with him. By love and subsequent obedience, the believer can abide in a house made by the Son and the Father with him.


Sin is never the act of the new man, but the act of the believer who has current ignorance and blindness towards God.


1Jo 3:6

No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.


The one who sins is ignorant and blind to Christ. That is their type. Therefore, when we sin we are acting from an ignorance and blindness toward Christ, but by the grace of God we are forgiven and by the grace of God we can correct that ignorance and have the eyes of our hearts enlightened.


So then, we see more clearly vs. 9 and it is not so difficult.


1Jo 3:9

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.


The new man, born of God cannot sin, but the old man, the self, born separate from God, can and desires to.


Rom 7:16-20

But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.


The Mosaic Law is judged to be good because it perfectly condemned the sin. But why can Paul say that he is no longer the one doing it? Is he, and we, no longer responsible for bad decisions?


There are a lot of theories as to what Paul means by this, but when we read on into chapter 8, we find that he is revealing to us what and who we are in Christ.


Continuing to read through chapter 8, we find that Paul is revealing our true selves in Christ that are perfect, but housed in a dead flesh that desires sin.


Rom 8:1-11

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.


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