Part III - In the Words of the Apostle James


We cannot discuss Justification without going over the Epistle of James. It was called an "Epistle of Straw", "a Pharasitical Tract", and was said to have "no trace of the Gospel in it" by Fr. Martin Luther. (Because it so obviously contradicts the interpretations of Romans and Galatians propounded by Protestant systematic theology.) To quote Luther's Preface to the Epistle of James:

In a word, he wanted to guard against those who relied on faith without works, but was unequal to the task in spirit, thought, and words. He mangles the Scriptures and thereby opposes Paul and all Scripture. He tries to accomplish by harping on the law what the apostles accomplish by stimulating people to love. Therefore I cannot include him among the chief books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him. Therefore I will not have him in my Bible to be numbered among the true chief books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him. One man is no man in worldly things; how then, should this single man alone avail against Paul and all Scripture. [1]
We of course have already shown what Our Lord and St. Peter taught on these matters. The task of this section is to point to the congruency of St. James with what they have stated and thus make a liar at least in part of Fr. Martin Luther. Little by little in subsequent Scriptures we will continue to show that Fr. Luther was a liar about the teachings of the Scriptures. It will be demonstrated later on that James' epistle actually appears to be an attempt by the Apostle to demonstrate a proper interpretation the Epistle to the Romans. The Apostle Peter seems to have sought to do the same thing in his second Epistle but in a more generalized way then James did. (James' approach will be touched on when discussing Paul's epistles.) Since the first four chapters of Romans is the backbone book of the Bible for Sola Fide Christians, it is interesting that Peter and James would appear to be compelled to show how Paul's words were to be properly understood and remember: their writings are God breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). Anyway, here are the words of the Apostle James on the matter of Justification:
1 James the servant of God, and of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.2 My brethren, count it all joy, when you shall fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience 4 And patience hath a perfect work; that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing[2]
It would it matter if we were perfect or not if our righteousness was not the barometer by which we are saved. For if it is merely the righteousness of Our Lord imputed to us, then such words by the Apostle James are rather worthless. But since Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16), obviously there was a reason why James wrote this down for us and the most viable answer is that it is important to strive for perfection. The logical reason is that it is by this criteria that the Lord will judge us.
12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for, when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life which God hath promised to them that love him. 13 Let no man, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted by God. For God is not a tempter of evils, and he tempteth no man. 14 But every man is tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and allured. 15 Then when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin. But sin, when it is completed, begetteth death.


This is styled along the lines of the beatitudes from Matthew 5. Consider Our Lord's statement that "[b]lessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you" (Matt. 5:11-12). Indeed the man who "endureth temptation" is one who would endure persecution and be steadfast when others reviled them for not going along with the "party line" simply to get along with others. Our Lord undoubtedly suffered such temptations when He was on the Cross. According to St. Luke, He was taunted with the phrase "[i]f thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself" (Luke 23:37). Would any faithful Christian dare presume that Our Lord in enduring the temptations from the Cross was not proved by them thereby??? In short, the Apostle James' declaration "[b]lessed is the man that endureth temptation" is clearly in line with and congruent to the Beatitudes uttered by Our Lord. Let us therefore consider what the Apostle James is saying here.

It seems he is saying that we do not endure temptation, we will not receive a crown of life. That is the literal text and there is no compelling reason to not take this text at face value. However, such a notion flies in the face of "eternal security" and further specifies that the person undergoing temptations must be "proved" to receive the crown. Thus James is specifying that works are involved in perfecting the person to "prove" them to receive the crown. No wonder Luther had it in for the Epistle of James as this passage shoots down both sola fide and eternal security in one shot!!!

16 Do not err, therefore, my dearest brethren. 17 Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration. 18 For of his own will hath he begotten us by the word of truth, that we might be some beginning of his creatures. 19 You know, my dearest brethren. And let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to anger. 20 For the anger of man worketh not the justice of God. 21 Wherefore casting away all uncleanness, and abundance of naughtiness, with meekness receive the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if a man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass. 24 For he beheld himself and went his way and presently forgot what manner of man he was. 25 But he that hath looked into the perfect law of liberty and hath continued therein, not becoming a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work: this man shall be blessed in his deed. [4]
This is the same theme that the Apostle Peter spoke of when he told his audience to supplement their faith with many virtues and to labour diligently so that they could make sure their calling and election (cf. 2 Pet. 1:5-11). This mirrors the words of Our Lord in numerous places saying that we shall be rewarded for our deeds done in private and also that we shall be judged at the Judgment on the basis of our deeds. Note what else the Apostle James says:
26 And if any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man's religion is vain. 27 Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation: and to keep one's self unspotted from this world. [5]
So in other words: charity is religion clean and undefiled before God!!! But there is more as we now must look at one of the most misinterpreted texts in the Bible: James 2.
1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with respect of persons. 2 For if there shall come into your assembly a man having a golden ring, in fine apparel, and there shall come in also a poor man in mean attire, 3 And you have respect to him that is clothed with the fine apparel, and shall say to him: Sit thou here well; but say to the poor man: Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool: 4 Do you not judge within yourselves, and are become judges of unjust thoughts? 5 Hearken, my dearest brethren: hath not God chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love him? 6 But you have dishonoured the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you by might? And do not they draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme the good name that is invoked upon you? 8 If then you fulfil the royal law, according to the scriptures, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; you do well. 9 But if you have respect to persons, you commit sin, being reproved by the law as transgressors. 10 And whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in one point, is become guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Thou shalt not commit adultery, said also, Thou shalt not kill. Now if thou do not commit adultery, but shalt kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye and so do, as being to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment without mercy to him that hath not done mercy. And mercy exalteth itself above judgment. [6]
James the Apostle is speaking here of charity or "works of mercy". The very works of mercy  that Peter extolled his followers to strive to supplement their faith with. The very works of mercy  by which Our Lord and Saviour said that we are to be judged. He makes this crystal clear in the next passage of this chapter. Note the following:
14 What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him? 15 And if a brother or sister be naked, and want daily food: 6 And one of you say to them: Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; yet give them not those things that are necessary for the body, what shall it profit? 17 So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself. 8 But some man will say: Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without works; and I will shew thee, by works, my faith. 19 Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? [7]
Okay, so far the view that works proceed as a result of faith rather then an integral part of saving faith: is still a viable way of viewing the passage. However the next six verses clearly destroy this very interpretation and place James in the same camp as Our Lord and St. Peter. Note the following:
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou that faith did cooperate with his works and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled, saying: Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him to justice, and he was called the friend of God. 24 Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only? 25 And in like manner also Rahab the harlot, was not she justified by works, receiving the messengers and sending them out another way? 26 For even as the body without the spirit is dead: so also faith without works is dead. [8]
Why must Protestants not take the Apostle James at his literal word??? James says, we are justified by works and not faith alone.Can it possibly be any more blunt then that??? James says that faith without works is dead "as the body without the spirit is dead" (James 2:26). Yet so many will say "well James was just telling us how to be justified 'in the eyes of men.'" No he was not, because if he was saying this then he contradicts Our Lord's words in Matthew 6 who declared that we should "[t]ake heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 6:1).

It is also inaccurate because no one else was present when Abraham offered his son Issac on the altar. We will go over this later on but to touch on it here: the men that came with Abraham and Issac in Genesis 22 were left behind and did not go to the "far off" place where the offering was to be made (v. 4-6). Then the angel of the Lord after stopping Abraham specifically says that it is by the works of Abraham that the Lord blesses him and grants him the great promises because he "obeyed the voice of the Lord" (v. 15-18). The men with them did not see what took place, therefore to posit such a ridiculous interpretation of the text is unwarranted.

Kindly read James' words and accept them as they are written. Do not twist the words of Scripture to fit the systematic theologies of Luther, Calvin, or any other man but twist the theologies of men to fit the words of Scripture. If your theologies claim the exact opposite of the literal words of Scripture, then you cannot credibly claim to be following the Bible. (And James specifically teaches that Abraham was justified by works and not by faith alone.) If you cannot accept the Bible as it is written, you should cease to deceive not only others but also yourself into thinking you are a believer in God's Written Word.

Compared to chapter two, the rest of James' epistle from a justification angle is almost anti-climactic. But there are still some good passages that tell strongly against sola fide  and eternal security. Here are a few of them.

7 Be subject therefore to God, but resist the devil, and he will fly from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners: and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into sorrow. 10 Be humbled in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you. 11 Detract not one another, my brethren. He that detracteth his brother, or he that judgeth his brother, detracteth the law, and judgeth the law. But if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver, and judge, that is able to destroy and to deliver. 13 But who art thou that judgest thy neighbour? Behold, now you that say: To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and there we will spend a year, and will traffic, and make our gain. 14 Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow. 15 For what is your life? It is a vapour which appeareth for a little while, and afterwards shall vanish away. For that you should say: If the Lord will, and if we shall live, we will do this or that. 16 But now you rejoice in your arrogancies. All such rejoicing is wicked. 17 To him therefore who knoweth to do good, and doth it not, to him it is sin. [9]
First of all, the exhortation once again to purify one's heart is pointless if we are judged solely on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. Also. many people who believe in eternal security boast that they are "saved". This would seem to be the very wickedness that the Apostle James speaks of in James 4:16.
7 Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth: patiently bearing till he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be you therefore also patient, and strengthen your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Grudge not, brethren, one against another, that you may not be judged. Behold the judge standeth before the door. 10 Take, my brethren, for an example of suffering evil, of labour and patience, the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we account them blessed who have endured. You have heard of the patience of Job, and you have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is merciful and compassionate. 12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath. But let your speech be, yea, yea: no, no: that you fall not under judgment. [10]
If one misunderstands the Gospel as plainly as Fr. Luther did, it would indeed seem that this James fellow is a bit slow. For he does not seem to understand that a "saved" person cannot fall under judgment. The "reformers" actually insisted on it to the point where Luther issued his famous statement that we should "sin strongly and believe more strongly". Such an ability to deliberately spit in God's face and yet still be spared from judgment is really not a biblical notion whatsoever. None of the Scriptures countenance it by any stretch whatsoever. Instead, such a notion is the very sort of destructive advice one would expect more of a wolf in sheeps clothing then a true prophet of God (or religious so-called "reformer").
13 Is any of you sad? Let him pray. Is he cheerful in mind? Let him sing.14 Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man. And the Lord shall raise him up: and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16 Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved. For the continual prayer of a just man availeth much. [11]
It appears that the anointing of the oil has as much a role in the healing of the sick man as the prayer. After all, there would not be a need to anoint the sick man with oil if it did nothing to heal him. (As a side note, this is the most common Scriptural passage cited by the Catholic Church in defense of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.) So by the priests of the Church praying and anointing the sick man with oil he will be saved. Interesting that a "work" seems to be actively involved in this mix which is hardly conducive to sola fide theology. Also, it seems odd that James would say that someone should confess their sins and pray for one another "that you may be saved" when they already are supposedly saved. Again either James is writing a bunch of superfluous nonsense or the theology of "once saved always saved" is nonsense. It seems much more probable to at face value presume the latter; however, it is clear that some individuals (i.e. Fr. Luther) were far more willing to cast derision on Holy Writ than adjust his misunderstandings to be congruent with Holy Writ. But let us finish up this look at the Apostle James' Epistle and then summarize its contents accordingly.
17 Elias was a man passible like unto us: and with prayer he prayed that it might not rain upon the earth, and it rained not for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again: and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. 19 My brethren, if any of you err from the truth, and one convert him: 20 He must know that he who causeth a sinner to be converted from the error of his way, shall save his soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins. [12]
The above statement is another nail in the coffin of eternal security. If a person can save their soul from death and cover a multitude of sins by causing a sinner to be converted from the error of his ways, then obviously the "saved" brethren whom James writes to are not eternally secure at all but indeed they can fall away.

In summary, Our Lord taught justification by faith working in love and not sola fide. The Apostle Peter taught justification by faith working in love and not sola fide. The Apostle James too taught justification by faith working in love and not sola fide. And none of them taught anything remotely approaching eternal security.  All of this applies as well to another Apostle who was -- along with Peter and James -- referred to as a "pillar" of the Church by the Apostle Paul (cf. Gal. 2:9). Indeed the Apostle John will be one of the subjects covered in part four of this essay. (The other will be the Apostle Jude.) But knowing what certain overanxious Paulocentric readers of this essay are thinking at the moment, a brief word on the Apostle Paul before we conclude this section and move onto the next one.

It is a given that there is some twiching and impatience by some of you readers who are thinking "why is he ignoring the Apostle Paul"??? Be assurred that St. Paul is not being ignored. Instead you are being shown parts of Scripture that flatly contradict the unbiblical sola fide and eternal security theologies. You are being shown passages which the "reformers" sought (and their descendants today seek) to either explain away constantly or somehow denigrate. These are passages that must be harmonized with the writings of St. Paul and not just ignored or explained away. But Protestant theologies constantly seek to twist the literal words of Our Lord, Peter, James, and everyone else to be read in the light of a gross misinterpretation of the Apostle Paul (cf. 2 Pet. 2:10; 17-19). Once we are finished covering the Apostles John and Jude, we will then get to a few other topics of related interest - including the words of the Apostle Paul. It suffices to say that along with Our Lord and the Apostle Peter, the Apostle James does not teach sola fide, eternal security, or imputed righteousness either.
 

Bibliography:

[1] 'Matt1618': Preface to James and Jude (c. 1997)

[2] James 1:1-4

[3] James 1:12-15

[4] James 1:16-25

[5] James 1:26-28

[6] James 2:1-13

[7] James 2:14-20

[8] James 2:21-26

[9] James 4:7-17

[10] James 5:7-12

[11] James 5:13-16

[12] James 5:17-20
 

Other Notes:

The citation from Fr. Martin Luther was obtained from an extract "Luther's Preface to James and Jude" compiled by 'Matt1618' and located at the following link: http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/preface.html

The Scripture citations were taken from an online Douay-Rheims Bible that is similar in many ways to the online Douay-Rheims Bible located at the following link: http://www.scriptours.com/bible/

 
©2003, 2000, "Justification by Faith Working in Love", written by I. Shawn McElhinney. This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.
 
 

To All Visitors, Grace of Christ to you!

Page created by: Matt1618. Send email about this article to I. Shawn McElhinney ismac@lycos.com
 




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