A living faith in Christ results in serving Christ and His gospel and doing good
Beginning from February 2013, Bethesda Chapel will be having a feast of spiritual food from the study of the Epistle of James and sermons from the Epistles to the Roman Christians. It will be an amazing feast on James’ practical Christian teachings and Paul’s doctrines for Christian faith and practical Christian living.
James contends that faith is dead if there is no work arising from faith in Christ. Words of comfort “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled” cannot clothe a destitute or feed a brother or sister who has not eaten (Jas 2:14-17).
God saves us through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is God’s gift. It cannot be earned (Eph 2:8-10). Yet this faith is a living faith that is exercised by serving Christ and by doing good to others as unto Christ (Col 3:23-24). There is much to do in a world of sinners. God loves the sinners but not their sins. Out of His mercy, He withholds His justice. “If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psa 130:3).
When we read selected texts in the epistles of Paul (Rom 3:28; Gal 2:16) and James (Jas 2:24-26), we can jump quickly into an interpretive mode. And we interpret Paul as supposedly saying, “Justification comes by our faith in Jesus alone, and not by our good works.” And we also interpret James as supposedly saying “Justification comes by our good works, not by our faith in Jesus alone”. Then we end up saying, “Eureka! We’ve found a contradiction between Paul and James!” Wait! God is faithful even if we are faithless.
First, we need to 1) Observe what the words in the text say, then 2) Interpret within the context what the texts mean to the audience (see all of Rom 3:21-4:25; Gal 2:15-3:14; James 2:14-26), then 3) Apply principles to our present situation.
Study and observe what Paul and James mean by “works” and “faith.” Paul’s “works” are “works of the law” (Gal 2:16; 3:2-12; Rom 3:28). The works of the law are the Jewish/Mosaic laws on circumcision, sacrifices, dietary restrictions, etc. James’ “works” are charitable works arising from faith in Jesus (Jas 1:27; 2:1, 8; 2:15-16). For Paul, faith means “entrusting oneself into God’s plan. James contends that some only have “intellectual faith” which is not saving faith. e.g., “believing that God is one” (James 2:19; even demons can “believe” in God’s existence). “Good works” are works that arise from faith in Jesus. Do charitable works and works of service for the sake of Christ and His gospel (Col 3:23-24). The gospel of Christ is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom 1:16). Do you believe this? If so, follow up with deeds to show that you have faith (Rom 1:16).
On 20 January 2013, as representative heads of families and small groups, many of us renewed our commitment to serve Christ. Works of faith in Christ must then follow. May the study of James and the preparation to hear the sermons from Romans give us further insights and inspiration to do good works that are results of a living and growing faith (Rom 4:20). We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.
Elder Yoong Yuen Soo