The following article is a revised and expanded version of a thread comment posted by Brother Stephen Stark under the (June 8) article Obeying the Gospel vs. Lordship SalvationThere is a great deal that we could address in the Book of James. This article is admittedly focused on the second chapter of James and even then makes no pretense to be exhaustive even with regard to that single chapter.
So, to kick off then: I used to take the view that a faith that saves is a faith that works, and in years passed I supported and even taught this view from James. Of course, I frequently referenced James 2 to do so. As I’ve grown in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, the Bible, and the Gospel of Salvation by grace through faith (Eph 2:8) I have since come to see that my prior understanding and application of James 2 was off the mark. Although I could credit many influences, I would like to single out Jim Kahler, the pastor and teacher at Beth Haven Bible Church in Kansas City, MO for providing the tipping-point in correcting my overall understanding of James, particularly James 2, which is so often misused and misunderstood. This article is simply to address at a high level the two most common erroneous arguments from this passage, arguments that I more-or-less made myself to varying degrees.
#1 - To correct the claim that James teaches that saving faith is only a particular “type” of faith.These claims are “supported” only by a superficial reading of the text, and disregard both the immediate and larger biblical context. Several verses in James 2 are cited to allegedly support these claims.
#2 - To address the claim that James teaches a faith without works is non-salvific.
First, appeals are often made to the demons of James 2:19, for example, as proof that “mere mental assent” is insufficient for salvation -- “After all, even demons believe but they aren’t saved, right?” -- or so it goes. However, this overly-simplistic comparison to what demons believe dodges several biblical realities, the following two are just the low-hanging fruit.
1) It dodges the contextual reality that what the passage shows the demons believe is that “God is one.” Yet neither Free Grace nor Lordship advocates claim believing “God is one” is salvific. So appeals to what these demons believe as proof of the insufficiency of “mental assent” burns only a straw man that neither side is claiming. If you make an argument along this line and get a few moments of blank stare in return it’s not because your point is so overwhelmingly powerful, rather that it is so overwhelmingly off base that it’s meaningless.
2) More powerfully, it dodges the reality that the reason demons aren’t and can’t be saved has nothing to do with their “type” of faith. Rather, the biblical reality is that demons can’t be saved no matter what they believe or how strongly they believe it because Christ did not atone for the sin of Satan and demons! Rather, Jesus atoned for the sin of Adam. Read Romans 5:12-21 as a starter. You surely will not miss the parallel between Christ and Adam.
There are many other points that could be made but these two alone kill this common use-and-abuse of the “faith of demons.”
Second, verses like James 2:24 are sometimes referenced to support the claim that a faith that saves is a faith that necessarily works. This verse is right on the heals of using Abraham’s faith as a point-of-reference so let’s take a closer look at Abraham’s faith and when the Bible says it was credited as righteousness.
James 2:23 is a reference back to Genesis 15:6 so let’s look right to the source.
“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”The Genesis reference tells us clearly that Abraham’s faith was credited as righteousness, immediately, when Abraham believed. If one tries to force the “faith that saves is the faith that works” view from James 2 however, then it should be noted that, according to James 2, Abraham did not unite his faith to action until he offered up Isaac in Genesis 22. If the “faith that works” view is correct then Abraham’s faith wasn’t credited as righteousness in Gen 15 as the Bible says, but only in Gen 22, perhaps decades later.
If that is not enough, then look at Galatians 3. To the one that says faith must unite with works of the flesh to be effective, Paul offers Galatians 3:3 in response to that view.
“Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”Rather, Galatians 3:6-9 points us to Abraham and away from such foolishness.
“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham”
For related reading see:
Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page
Do we find salvation by the grace of God through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9) anywhere in James 4:7-10? No, we do not, because James is addressing “brethren” some of whom behaved as “carnal” Christians. Yet a well-known advocate of Lordship Salvation says this passage in James 4 is, “one of the most comprehensive invitations to salvation in all the epistles…[and] is directed at those who are not saved….”Other articles at IDOTG by Stephen Stark include:
IDOTG Review: This Really Clears Things Up
Reasoning on Rose, “We Just Can’t Know?”
“IMO, saying Rose is crossless is truly not a correct label to saddle her with... her actual position is, IMO, worse than crossless in that it is couched in comfy post-modern terms -- ala ‘we just can’t know.’ Rose may think she is a harbinger of peace and reason with such a position, but she is, probably unwittingly, chipping away at the idea of objective knowable truth. No wonder she is on the fence so often in this regard; she seems to think ‘the fence’ is a reasonable position, at least in regard to this topic. This kind of lukewarm view of objective truth is central to what I have read in J. B. Hixson’s book Getting the Gospel Wrong. My heart breaks with compassion for Rose and those like her who have bitten the apple of post-modernism’s uncertainty.”You might also enjoying visiting Stephen’s blog, The Land of Reason, for articles, that in large part address the Grace Evangelical Society’s reductionist assault on the gospel, such as:
Paul and the Holy Spirit at Odds with “Redefined” Free Grace
“…attempts of Redefined Free Grace [Grace Evangelical Society] to appease it's naysayers by claiming they always present this information is revealed as nothing more than that -- an attempt to appease men and appear more orthodox than they really are. It is language to try to appear in harmony with Christianity when in fact they are ravaging it from the inside and destroying the very Free Grace message they claim to hold so dear.”Clearing the Haze of “Always”