Are We Saved by Our Works? James 2:14-26
Have you ever been reading your Bible, only to come across a passage that made you uncomfortable, not because it brought deep conviction, but because it appeared to go against the teaching of your church or your own understanding of a certain Christian doctrine? The truth is, that the first time I remember reading James 2, that is exactly how I felt. I can distinctly remember thinking that this passage was in conflict with what I had always been taught. As a little boy, I had embraced a gospel that taught I was reconciled to God by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone. I believed that I was not saved by works of righteousness that I had done, but by His mercy. So what would I do? Would I ignore this passage, or would I humbly study it thoroughly. Really, there are many passages in the Bible that a careless reading of the text, will bring you to this uncomfortable, yet unnecessary dilemma. This passage so perplexed the great Reformer Martin Luther, that it even caused him to question the authority of this passage and the place of the book of James in the New Testament cannon, but should we question the authority of James 2 with the Reformer, or should we humbly strive to understand what God has said, and then humbly submit to its authority? I would argue that the correct way to approach this passage, as with any other difficult passage is to humbly strive to understand the passage, and then to humbly submit to its authority. The great thing about doing a study through a book of the Bible is that it forces us to address every passage, not just the passages we understand with ease, but also the passages that we struggle to understand. The truth is that the problem lies not with what God has said, but with us. We are afraid to question what we believe, we are afraid to patiently do the work that is necessary to properly understand what God has said, we are lazy, or we are to proud to consider that we might be wrong. These incorrect responses to Scripture leave us vulnerable to cults, limit our ability to evangelize the inquisitive, and keep us from understanding some of the most important passages in the Bible. As we go through James 2, and study it in light of James argument and the rest of Scripture, I believe that the point of the passage and its application will become crystal clear. May God grant us the ability to understand and properly apply James 2:14-26!