Ephesians 4:3-6; One Faith – Clarifying James 2, part 15.
Thursday April 29, 2021
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.
The objector claims that there is no intimate connection between faith and works. James’ rebuttal starts in vs. 20, replying, “This argument is foolish and I will show you why.”
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’ve looked at Abraham’s faith displayed in the work of offering up Isaac. We also looked at the faith of our Lord displayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Also of application is the child Isaac. The contrast between Isaac and Ishmael is used by Paul as an allegory to the grace and the law.
Ishmael is of the law and Isaac of the promise. The Galatians were fooled into thinking that the Christian life was under the law. This is important in our study, for faith without works is dead, but if what you take away from this truth is that you’d better work very hard, and with it, you leave behind your faith, then you will fail to achieve a justified maturity in life.
Faith and works must grow together. No matter how motivated we become, we cannot work on our own.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out [bring to completion/maturity] your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
We obey and God works. Our obedience means that we are always consciously involved in our walk with Christ, and obedience demands faith. Obedience and faith wax and wane together.
Faith and works must grow together. Remember, we were all saved by grace as a free gift and that reveals that we have nothing to present to God with which to earn anything from Him. Saved by grace, we become His workmanship, created for good works. However, as saved people, born-again, born of God with divine natures, we still can’t perform God’s works on our own. Our faith knows that God works in us to accomplish His will, and on our part, we obey Him.
Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 This is allegorically speaking: for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem [apostate legality], for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
"Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear;
Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor;
For more are the children of the desolate
Than of the one who has a husband."
Isa 54:1 “Shout (sing) for joy barren woman, for you will have more children than the wedded.” Barren woman – Sarah. The children – Isaac, son of grace. The great family is created by grace through the sacrifice of the Messiah.
Isa 54:1, just after the greatest Servant Song of Isa 53. In Paul’s allegory, the barren woman is to rejoice. She will have more children than the one who has a husband, which here represents the law and the many children of legality born of the law. In Paul’s analogy, the many children of the law represent those who understand that they must work for the favor of God. To fallen man, this is what makes sense. In the same way, it made sense for Abraham and Sarah to solve their childless problem with Hagar. And when Ishmael had grown, it made sense to Abraham that God might as well honor Ishmael as the child of promise rather than go through all the trouble of accomplishing the miracle of bringing forth an heir through a centenarian and a nonagenarian. To the world, the obvious, natural, merited path should always be the one to take. God has different ideas. “My ways,” says the Creator, “are infinitely higher than your ways.”
So then, just before the command to “Shout for joy, barren woman,” the great Servant Song closes with:
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
The children born of the law, born of the bondwoman, are works without faith. They work independent of God hoping to be rewarded with God’s favor.
For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles,
And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also [and so it continues to be].
Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking.
It continues throughout history that the fallen children of legality persecute the children of God born of grace.
But what does the Scripture say? [Sarah says, Gen 21:10]
"Cast out the bondwoman and her son,
For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman."
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman [law], but of the free woman [grace].
We are not slaves under legality, but sons under grace who live free, and we learn what our Father desires and we do it with joy, knowing we are pleasing Him, and since we are forever a part of the family, whatever good we do is good to us as well.
The law must disappear before the gospel. Grace and law cannot coexist. Paul sounds the death-knell to Judaism at a time when many in the church clung to it with jealous affection.
[From The Book of Genesis by Marcus Dods, with some minor adjustments by me]
“Hagar and her son, that is to say, stand for the law and the kind of righteousness produced by the law, - not superficially a bad kind; on the contrary, a righteousness with much dash and brilliance and strong manly force about it, but at the root defective, faulty in its origin, springing from a slavish spirit.”
[Imagine a very strong-willed, moral, and hard-working unbeliever. Confucius, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Saul of Tarsus? – admirable and desirous but faulty.]
[Dods] “Paul bids us to notice how the free-born is persecuted and mocked by the slave-born, that is, how the children of God who are trying to live by love and faith in Christ are put to shame and made uneasy by the law-abiding children of the bondwoman. They believe they are God’s dear children, that they are loved by Him, and may go out and in freely in His house as their own home, using all that is His with the freedom of His heirs; but the law-bound mock them, try to frighten them, tell them that they are God’s first-born, law keepers laying far back in the recesses of history. The children of the bondwoman tell the children of the free that they are puny and weak, immature, doing much play but none of the housework [Mary and Martha], only playing with toys and not knowing the responsibility that that they, the legalists, must bear for everyone else.”
“The contrast is seen exactly in the physicality of Ishmael and Isaac. In contrast to the feeble, soft, unskilled weakness, it sets before us a finely-molded, athletic form, becoming disciplined to all work, and able to take a place with the among the serviceable and able-bodied – the teenage Ishmael. But with all this there is the puny babe a life begun which will grow and make it the true heir, dwelling in the house and possessing what it has not toiled for, while the vigorous, likely-looking lad must go into the wilderness and make a possession for himself with his own bow and spear.”
“Now, of course, righteousness of life and character, or perfect manhood, is the end at which all that we call salvation aims, and that which can give us the purest, ripest character is life for us; that which can make us, for all purposes, most serviceable and strong. And when we are confronted with persons who might speak of service we cannot render, of an upright, unfaltering carriage we cannot assume, of a general human worthiness we can make no pretention to, we are justly perturbed, and are at a loss to gain equanimity. If we can honestly say in our hearts, “Although we can show no such work done, and no such masculine growth, yet we have a life in us which is of God, and will grow” if we are sure that we have the spirit of God’s children, a spirit of love and dutifulness, we may take comfort from this incident. We may remind ourselves that it is not he who has at the present moment the best appearance who always abides in the father’s home, but he who is by birth the heir. Have we or have we not the spirit of the Son? Not feeling that we must every evening make good our claim to another night’s lodging by showing the task we have accomplished, but being conscious that the interests in which we are called to work are our own interests, that we are heirs in the Father’s house, so that all we do for the house is also done for ourselves. Do we go out and in with God, feeling no need of finding a list of chores, our own eye eagerly seeing where help is required, and our own desires being wholly directed towards that which engages all God’s attention and work?” [end quote]