Ephesians 4:3-6; One Faith – Clarifying James 2, part 16.


Sunday May 2,2021

James is writing to dispersed Jews (1:1) and so he will select the most prestigious name to the Jews, Abraham, and his most revered act, sacrificing his son Isaac.


James is going to say that Abraham was justified by works, which is the opposite of what Paul says in Rom 4 and Gal 3.


Rom 4:2-3

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."


Gal 3:6-9

Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the nations shall be blessed in you." 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.


But like James’ use of the phrase “save his soul” refers to “save his life,” so the justification that James connects with Abraham is not identical to the justification Paul speaks of. One is before God and the other before man.


James’ use of justification is before men and it refers to works that showed Abraham’s faith, and as James adds, the act of sacrificing Isaac showed how much Abraham’s faith had matured.


James does not wish to tarnish justification by faith. He only adds another justification which is the proof or vindication of our faith to the world. This justification is our witness.


Eph 5:7-10

Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn (proving) what is pleasing to the Lord.


Rom 12:1-2

I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable (Greek: euarestos = well pleasing) and perfect.


Mat 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”


Jam 2:14-23

What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say [James’ imagined objector], "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. [objector argues that there is no intimate connection between faith and works] 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow [James’ rebuttal], 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; 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.


Returning to his readers, James distinguishes the two kinds of justification.


Jam 2:24-26

You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.


“A man is justified by works, and not only by faith.”


“Monon” is almost always translated “only.”


The English rendering seems to say that James is saying that faith and works together equal the one justification. If he is saying that then he is in direct disagreement with Paul and a bigger issue is at stake concerning James’ letter as to whether it should be in the canon or not. However, he easily could have been referring to two kinds of justification, and that would harmonize with the rest of the scripture; the distinction between the believer and the disciple.


Going back to Rom 4 we can find an agreement with Paul.


Rom 4:2

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God.


Abraham has something to boast about, but not before God, which may imply that he could boast before men. I say “may imply” because Paul doesn’t come right out and say it. But I think it is safe to say that all followers of Christ are impressed with Abraham’s willingness to offer his son, and the soundness and deepness of his faith that it revealed and it challenges us to follow his example.


So then, whether you like his method or not, James has made an argument (reductio ad absurdum) to refute those who say that there is no connection between faith and works.


James in essence says, “Wait a moment you foolish man, do you think Abraham’s life would have been one of blessing to himself and to us if he had not done what God had asked of him?”


Carefully, we recognize that the promise to Abraham in Gen 12 was, and is, unconditional. No matter what Abraham did, the families of the world would have been blessed in him. However, blessedness of his own life would not have existed if he went through it without the faith to do what God had asked of him.


James is not talking about salvation. He is talking about the believer saving his life of blessedness and fruit; walking in a manner worthy of the calling with which he has been called; being as obedient to God as Abraham when he sacrificed his beloved son.


It is unfortunate that the misunderstanding of this verse has prevented many from understanding James’ point about a justified life, or a life vindicated by love and obedience to God. By love and obedience, faith is matured. Abraham went through a lot to get to the point where he was willing to sacrifice Isaac by God’s order. In the process of striving and being diligent in obedience, faith will be matured. It was “one faith” in Christ that saved us forever, and it is many good decisions after our wonderful salvation that matures our faith in everything God says and does, which mature faith blesses our lives, and according to James, saves our lives.


Faith in God’s word and works is strengthened by obedient works. Abraham “grew strong in faith,” Rom 4:20.


Rom 4:19-21

And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform.


According to Heb 11:17-19, Abraham even believed that God would be able to raise Isaac from dead, and that because Abraham thoroughly believed God’s promise that “in Isaac your descendants shall be called.”


In Rom 4, Abraham saw his reproductive ability was dead, but that God could do what He promised to give him an heir through Sarah. In Heb 11, Abraham believed that if his son Isaac was dead that God would still fulfill His promise for the whole of His nation to come from Isaac. Both were impossible situations, much like a virgin becoming pregnant. By literally sacrificing Isaac, Abraham’s faith matured to its greatest heights.


It’s one thing to contemplate going through with it. It is another thing to go through with it. Every time we obey God, especially in difficulty, our faith matures. That is the greatest reward of works.


Abraham showed himself a “friend of God” to the world through this act. And note, he did not originate the act. He simply obeyed God to do a difficult thing that God directly told him to do.


Joh 15:14

“You are My friends, if you do what I command you.”


Finally in this section, James mentions Rahab.


Jam 2:24-26

You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.


It is significant in keeping with the context of the letter that he doesn’t write that “Rahab the harlot also justified by faith and works.” He doesn’t mention her faith because that is not the intent of his letter.


And Rahab furnishes to superbly tie the whole passage together. He had already said, “can that faith save him,” (2:14) and that the word implanted is “able to save your lives.” (1:21) Rahab is selected as a life that was saved by her works. All in Jericho were to die, but Rahab did something. She received the spies and sent them out through a window in the wall of the city. She believed in the one true God before the spies came to her and she performed an act that saved them and herself and her household. James points out that her faith was seen by her works. Like Abraham, her action could only be accounted for by a mature faith in God.


The author of Hebrews points to Rahab’s faith, and that because faith is his theme in chapter 11.


Heb 11:31

By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.


James emphasizes the point that she received the spies and sent them out, the author of Hebrews mentions only her receiving them.


If Rahab had received them but then when threatened she gave them up, we could not really say that her mature faith was justified. We could only say that she showed some courage at the start but then feared rather than believed in the deliverance of Yavah Elohim. Right up to the last moment, over multiple days, she could have betrayed the spies. The spies even doubted her loyalty, which is understandable enough, having only just met her and her a doomed foreigner, and her admitting to them that she knew the land was being given to the Jews.


Rahab lived because her faith lived. James desires his readers to also experience such a living faith. When a Christian ceases to act on his faith, when he becomes lackadaisical and lethargic spiritually, his faith atrophies and his actions and experiences become that of the dead and dark world, even though he is forever a possessor of eternal life and light.





Baptism of the cross.


Mar 10:38-40

But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"  39 And they said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 "But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."


Psa 42:7

Deep calls to deep at the sound of Thy waterfalls;

All Thy breakers and Thy waves have rolled over me.


Psa 69:1-2

Save me, O God,

For the waters have threatened my life.

I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold;

I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me.


The gift given to us through Christ is so powerful and gives so much joy that even if we go through suffering and death, we will be able to bear it with strength, virtue, and joy. The experiences of James and John after the resurrection were quite different. Big James was the first to be martyred in 42 A.D., his brother John would die of old age imprisoned on an island. Both would drink the cup of:


Phi 3:10-11

that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.


At the end of His ministry, Jesus was baptized with the sins of the world and the Father’s judgment upon them. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was baptized by John.


Why did Jesus, despite His sinlessness, submit Himself to baptism? The answer is contained in the event itself, “Thou are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”


Mat 3:13-17

Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" 15 But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he  permitted Him. 16 And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."


Isa 42:1

“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;

My chosen one in whom My soul delights.

I have put My Spirit upon Him;

He will bring forth justice to the nations.”


The people come to John to be baptized for their own sins, but the sinless Son of God must come to be baptized for the sins of the whole people. Jesus is baptized in view of His death, which will affect the forgiveness of all sin.


Jesus identifies with the people, but as their Savior.


The reason Jesus gives to John who resists, “to fulfill all righteousness.” Perhaps He has His own righteousness in mind in that He will obey to the point of death, even death on a cross. He would also have the people in mind since their righteousness depended on His death. His death will provide forgiveness for all people.


The suffering Servant being the Messiah and the Son of God was an impossible conception for Judaism. The baptism of Jesus points forward to the Cross, in which all baptism will find its foundation and fulfillment. John proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus’ use of the word baptism confirms this.


Mar 10:38-39

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”


Luk 12:50

"But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!


Mat 26:26-29

And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." […which is given for you.” Let us eat together] 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 "But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."


We are not to put new wine into old wineskins. We drink in remembrance of Him, and into ourselves who have been made new by Him, through His death, burial, and resurrection. Let us drink together.

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