Monday, January 30, 2006

James 2:17: "Your Faith is Dead as a Door Nail!"

What was seen in the individual in the example of vss. 15-16 is now applied to the specific faith that the individual in vs. 14 claimed to have. What we see is that faith without works is just like words without deeds. The words of the uncaring person who fails to act to help a person in need are as useless as a profession of faith from a person who does not have works. Again, we should not see works as an added extra to faith, but rather as the only expression of faith. This is very important to understand. Our works, if they are not a properly motivated expression of faith, are no good. This is why the writer of Hebrews twice, in 6:1 and 9:14, claims our works to be dead in light of the work of Christ. Our works do not add anything to what Christ did. Think about what the implication of a Christ plus works theology leads to. If our works are needed, even just a little bit, that means that Christ work was not completely sufficient to save. We had to add just a little bit more to what Christ did in order to be saved. This is not at all how the Bible portrays the death of Christ. Look at what Scripture tells us Christ did.

Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Galatians 1:3-4: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father…

Titus 2:14: …who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Romans 3:24-25: being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed…

Galatians 3:13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us…

1 Corinthians 1:30: But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…

(Our good works stem from the work of Christ, who is our wisdom,
righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Paul clearly asserts
that Christ did not make these things available to us, but rather he is
these things for us.)

Scripture makes it clear that Christ’s work accomplished these things; it did not make these things possible. We cannot add to the accomplished work of Christ. Even if we were able to, how could we add anything to what has already been accomplished (Accomplished is exactly what Christ claims his work to be in John 19:30.)? By properly understanding the work of Christ, we can properly understand the working faith that James requires.
Works are not an added extra to faith anymore than breath is an added extra to a living body. If you take the breath from a living body it is no longer living. You can say whatever you would like about a corpse that you claim to be alive, but if it never moves, there is no heartbeat, no detectable pulse, and it is not breathing then it is dead. The false claim of life will prove to be silenced by the evidence. Just as the corpses without breath is dead, so too Faith without the breath of works is dead. The only thing that this faith has is the claim that is it is alive. There is no functioning, nor is there any sign of life. This kind of faith, which is mere talk, is void of all reality.

James has figured out why this faith is not producing fruit; because it is dead. It is dead in its roots as well as in its branches. Think about an apple tree. If you saw a tree that was supposed to be an apple tree, but it did not have apples or even leaves on it what would you think of that tree? If someone claims to have faith and yet his life does not produce the fruit of faith what are we to think of that? The absence of works, the natural fruit of faith, proves that this faith is lifeless in the same way that compassion which expends itself in words only is counterfeit. This saying only kind of faith is not merely outwardly inoperative, but inwardly dead as well. It is not a matter of adding works to such a faith. Rather, this is not faith. Faith is the grand principle which no man can be a Christian without; but it must be the kind of faith that God requires. It must be true faith in the work of our Lord Jesus Christ alone to save us from the great penalty of sin.

The faux faith of this person was “dead, being by itself.” There are several different translations of this verse that are represents in the English Bibles that we use. The KJV reads “being alone.” This is not really a good translation because it gives the wrong idea about what James is trying to convey. The KJV gives the impression that the faith is ok but it needs works also. This is not at all what James is saying. For James it is not a matter of adding works to this faith; the point is that this is not faith at all. Most modern English translations read something to the effect of “being by itself.” This is not a bad translation, but I think that “as measured by itself” would be a much better translation. The point is that when you measure this faith by its very own claims it proves to be dead. The claim of this faith is that you have submitted to Christ as your Lord and Savior; and that the loving mercy of God had made you a new creature through the work of Christ. This is what the claim of being a Christian is. If you were to measure this person’s life by this claim you would have to say that he is lying. Faith that does not contain within itself a readiness to help, and to show mercy cannot be a faith in the mercy of God. And so when we compare the claim to faith, with the life of this man we must conclude that what he has is not faith. According to its own showing it is dead. Such an unproductive showing cannot come from someone who has been made a new creature in Christ, can it?
The contrast is not between faith and works, but rather between dead faith and living faith. Look at what Galatians 5:6 says. Here Paul reminds us not that find any advantage in our good deeds by themselves; but that we will find our advantage in our faith. Our works do not count for anything, but our faith does. We must remember that or else we will get confused. In order for faith to be beneficial it cannot be a human work. Our faith must be directed towards Christ who then becomes our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. The point of Paul in Galatians and James here is that faith without works is dead. In Galatians Paul says that faith will result in loving actions. Love is an action; it is purposing someone else’s good above our own good. But Paul is talking about the results of faith, not the substance of faith. The reason faith saves is because its substance (or the object of the faith) is God not us, and so if we say that faith is a work its substance becomes man instead of God. The point is quite practical. We cannot see, or measure faith, but we can see the results of it. We can see the proof of it. It would be quite illogical to say that the result or proof of something is the object itself wouldn’t it? Paul’s point, as well as James’, is that the only thing that counts in our life is the work that God does.

Concerning this subject John Calvin wrote, “it is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.” When we begin to realize just how powerful the Gospel of Grace is we will begin to understand that difference that it will make in our lives. If we are to measure faith by what it claims to be then it must have works to accompany it.

James has spent some time investigating this saying-only kind of faith. His conclusion is that when you measure the works of this man by the claims of this man his faith proves to be dead. What is the profit of dead faith? Dead faith is of no profit because it is unable to save anyone. Such a faith as this may recite the correct words, but unless there has been a true commitment to Christ as one’s Lord and Savior it is powerless to save. The power of the Gospel does not reside in faith by itself, or human achievement. The saving power of the Gospel resides in the Savior on whom our faith rests. For James faith is just shorthand for faith in Christ. It is when we have this true faith in Christ that we will experience “the power of God unto salvation.” (Romans 1:16)

Romans 10:9 teaches that if we confess Jesus as our Lord, and believe that God raised him from the dead we will be saved. James is not contradicting this, but rather adding that your belief must be true belief or else it is of no profit. To steal the words of Rich Mullins “faith without works is like a screen door on a submarine.” What is sad is that God has made this wonderful plan of salvation available to mankind, yet so many people want to do it their own way instead. So many people would rather just show up to church and say the right things without having the power of the Gospel change their lives. They don’t want to give up their sins; they don’t even want to admit their sins. In doing this these people are missing out on the greatest joy they could ever have. They are forgoing the freedom that comes from God’s grace for the bondage of sin. They may think that they are making the choice to choose freedom, but they are really choosing slavery. They are choosing death.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Don't stop for a Cup of Coffee while the house is on fire

If you are here reading this right now, you probably shouldn't be. I don't have too much to say today (I have too much to do though), besides all the real blog action is going on at the new pyromaniacS sight (see also the link on the sidebar).

In case you have not seen, Phil Johnson moved his blog, and made it a group blog. So far they are posting at an alarming rate. At this rate you would have to quit your job to keep up with all that is going on. It should be interesting to see how much damage multiple pyromaniacs can do...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A couple of new links

Today I have invested my "blog time" into a little blog up-keep (which is different from blog up-chuck). I have included a couple of new links, and I have reformatted how my links appear on the sidebar. I just felt a little strange having the Late Show Top Ten right right under some more edifying reading material.

The new links that I have included are pretty useful tools for the Jonathan Edwards follower. The first is Yale's newer sight containing quite a few valuable resources. I have been on the "beta testing team" for about a year for this site, but unfortunately the resources are not being released at the pace originally hoped for. There is a pretty interesting video on the process of transcribing Edwards' manuscripts (I can understand why it takes so long ot put new resources out). Anyway, give it a look; see what you think.

I have also put on the link list. I was going there so much that I just figured I would put it here. This is a very valuable sight for attaining some of Edwards' most popular sermons. The only thing weird about this site is the DTS (Dallas Theological Seminary) stuff near the bottom of the page. Apparently the author has some sort of vested interested in DTS.

Finally, I have updated my link to Phil Johnson's blog-Pyromaniac. It is now the Pyromaniacs, and my link now reflects that change.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What is up with this?

I came across this Sermonvia James White, and his web-site. Let me give you the 411 on it before you just skip over the link. This is a sermon delivered in the Vatican before the pope on salvation by faith alone. Here is an excerpt of the message:

"Gratuitous justification through faith in Christ is the heart" of St. Paul's preaching "and it is a shame that this has been practically absent from the ordinary preaching of the church..."

I am not sure what to make of this. I would love to hear the opinion of a Catholic on what this message means. To be frank, I already know that the terms "faith" and "grace" mean something totally different to the Catholic church than to Reformed Christianity.

This message does not bridge the gap between Catholicism and Reformed Christianity! But it is interesting; I have never heard anything like this come out of the Vatican. The right charge has been made (see above quote), but I would like to hear the solution to the problem.

Monday, January 23, 2006

James 2:15-16: A Practical Test From a Practical Man

What follows are some thoughts, and notes on James 2:15-16.

*James was well aware of the inadequacy of this profession of faith, but like a practical man he proposes a practical test to prove his point.*

In these verses James gives us a concrete example of the abstract principle we learned of in verse 14. This is an example of what faith without works looks like. It is almost as if we have a little parable here. But do not be fooled, this was a parable taken from real life. It is a hypothetical situation; however the fact that James again chooses an example of mistreatment of the poor in the Christian community should make it clear that the illustration represents a pattern of behavior that was all too common for James’ readers.

James’ realistic illustration begins with a brother or sister in need. It is clear that this person is not just someone off the street. This person is a fellow believer; part of the family of God; and part of the Christian community that James was writing to. This example is quite similar to the example of the poor man visiting the local church (2:1-13). James tells us that this person, whether it is a man or woman, is without clothes or food. Clearly this is no mild case of need. This is a desperate situation! The word that James uses for “without clothing” is literally naked. This does not mean that they would be completely naked but it does say a lot about their situation. This is the same word that John used in John 21:7. 1 Samuel 19:24 also uses this term in the same way. This does not mean absolutely without any clothing. A person was called naked whose outer garments were thrown aside, leaving nothing but the tunic and girdle (belt). Peter was also “naked” in the same way at the time he cast himself into the sea to meet the Lord (John 21:7). All they had were the under garments that they used to work in. And to add to their distress they did not have food. James’ words here also convey the dire situation that these people were in. Basically what James is saying is that these people do not have the food that they need for daily nourishment. Really the idea is that if they do not get food soon they will die!

This is really hard for us to imagine. We don’t have starving people in our church. We do not have situations like this one, but we do have people in our churches that are in need. Within the fellowship of believers there are those with needs. They may have monetary needs, or they may have other needs. Maybe the people around us don’t need food, but do they need our encouragement? Do they need to be rebuked for sin? Do they need someone to lead them? These are the needs that every church faces. Unfortunately it is often these needy members of the church that are overlooked because of their constant neediness. This situation is not limited to a particular community. What is to be done about this situation is the all important issue. John deals specifically with this in 1 John 3:17-18. The question that Scripture demands we answer is: do our actions reflect the love of God? It is not always easy to care for the needs of your neighbor, but this is God’s standard for his family. If we are not caring for each other then we need to ask what John asks, “Can the love of God be in [us]?”

We have seen what the need was, and now we see what the response was. “Go in peace. Be warmed and be filled.” These are goods words, are they not? This answer seems full of faith – God will provide for you. It is very religious, and it is even theologically sound. What it lacks is the going into the closet and into the pantry and getting out their own clothing and food to share with their unfortunate brother or sister. Without deeds, kind words are of little good to someone in need. Really, these kind words are just a religious cover for not doing anything. Without works their words really are a mockery. And to be honest, their words were not even really all that kind. The way it is worded in the Greek is quite interesting. You could take their responses and translate it to mean “Go in peace. Fill yourselves, and Warm yourselves.” To put it into today’s language: “Have a nice day. Go work for your own food, and work for your own clothes.”

Can you imagine saying this to one of your brothers or sisters? If you are like me then the answer is no. But sadly this is the response to many who are in true need of help. We can be a very cold society sometimes. Are emotions can very easily be moved by movies, or TV, or music; but when those around us are in need we fail to act. This is a dangerous attitude to have. Think about the logic behind what James is saying. The people say good things but treat their own family like dirt. This proved that they are really not a part of the family. And it proves that the faith they claimed to have is not real faith. This is the very point of Jesus in Matthew 25:31-41, 45. His point is not that you have to do good works to be saved. His point is that you will love those who are a part of your spiritual family, and if you do not then you may not be a true member of that family. These are sobering thoughts. How many times have we fought with our brothers and sisters over petty issues? How many times have we loved ourselves above our own family? These are hard things to think about, but if the consistent pattern of your life is to mistreat those in need around you then you may not be a part of the family God. If your life does not match you words (or your actions do not match your profession of faith) then you may be fooling yourselves.

James ends this example the same exact way that he began verse 14. If you are fooling yourself, then what is the use? Words without deeds are nothing. And faith without works is no better. The seeming concern for the poor person is just a façade to cover up a complete disregard for the person in need. Faith without works is fake faith covering up a true need for salvation.

There is a striking parallel between the needs of the poor for food and clothing and the need of a believer to acquire wisdom from God. The same word that is used for the poor person here is used in 1:4 to describe a person lacking wisdom. The man in 1:4 could say whatever he wanted in his prayers, but if he did not have the faith to back up his words then the words meant nothing. The poor need more than just words, and so does the man who wants to receive wisdom from God. We can say a lot of very good things, and truly fool ourselves into thinking that we are saved. But James makes it very clear that saying without doing does not accomplish anything. What you do proves what you believe.

Monday, January 16, 2006

James 2:14

The Question: is faith without works of any profit?

There are some saying that they have faith but do not have works.

The first thing that we need to do to understand this passage is define exactly what kind of faith James is talking about. Notice that James says that this hypothetical person claims to have faith. James never says that this person actually has faith. The person making such a claim to faith would most likely believe in such things as the existence of God, the Bible as the Word of God, and probably even that Jesus was the Messiah. But it is not the theological claims of this person are not in question; the issue is that this person has no works. His religion has no place in his heart, or house, or conduct; all he has is his profession, and his religion is only to make noise. In 1 John 2:4 we read something very interesting about a person like this. A person who claims to have faith in Christ but does not keep Christ’s commandments is a liar.

What we do reveals what we really believe. Let’s say that you are walking down the road and you come upon a large fence. On that fence you see a sign that reads: “Electric Fence, DO NOT TOUCH.” As you are looking at the fence on of your friends comes up behind you. Quickly you warn him not to touch the fence because it is an electric fence. But he begins to question you, “how do you know for sure?” he asks. You hold to your guns and tell him that you read the sign. Eventually he leaves, but you stay at the fence. When he is out of sight you, and no one is around you decide to reach out and touch the fence. Here is the point, you may have said that you believed the sign but by reaching out to touch the fence you have proved that you did not really believe the sign. What you did proved what you believed. This is James’ point. James is not out to prove that faith is of no profit. James is merely pointing out that faith without works is of no profit because it is not real faith.

In these verses James teaches us the practicality of true Christian faith. Christianity is not about getting a few notions into our heads. Christianity is about a change of the heart. It is true that we must begin with head knowledge but that knowledge must travel to the heart and from the heart travel to the hands. True faith must make a difference in our lives. Unfortunately this was not the case with the individual in this verse. He boasted to others, and was conceited in his heart about a faith that he did not posses.

What is the profit in saying that you have faith but not works?

James challenges the readers of his letter to contemplate the value of this saying only kind of faith that does not have works. Instead of just making the statement that it is useless he asks “what is the use?” or literally “What is the profit of a faith that has no works?” Let’s answer James’ question. First off, what kind of works is James talking about? The works that James writes of in verse 14 parallel that mercy that he writes about in verse 13. Those who do not have works to go with their faith are like the ones who are guilty of discrimination against the poor in 2:1-13. This is illustrated even further in the next two verses when James gives us an example of someone who has words with no deeds. I want to make it very clear that the works that James is talking about are not an added extra on top of faith. Rather, these works are an essential expression of faith. In other words, James is not teaching that we need faith and works to be saved. James is teaching that if we have true saving faith then our lives will be changed as we submit to Christ as our Lord.

But back to the question, “what is the profit of a faith that has not works?” Is there any profit in saying that you have faith when you have none? The answer is no! In fact, this can be a very dangerous thing. A faithless profession in Christ may sometimes seem to be profitable – you will gain the good opinion of those who truly have faith, and it may make you fell better about yourself, you will even get to be a part of the community of believers – but ultimately any gain you will receive from this false profession of faith will be outweighed by the loss of your souls. Christ, in Matthew 16:26 asked a similar question. If you are here today without true faith then you are partially benefiting from the Christian community, but you cannot have the full benefits of a child of God. And this is James’ next point.

That kind of faith (saying only) cannot save you.

In case we missed the point, James adds, “[c]an that faith save him?’ This is really an interesting question, one that your English translation probably will not completely convey. You could, and probably should, translate this question “that particular faith is not able to save him, is it?” In James’ question he gives us the answer. No, that faith cannot save that man. This may seem strange to us because all through out Scripture we are taught that individuals are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The apostle Paul, in particular, makes it clear that man cannot be saved by his own works instead he must be saved by faith in the Christ. In Romans 5:1 Paul writes: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is through the work of Christ that we can be saved, and we receive that work by identifying ourselves with Christ through faith. So, the fact that James says that this man’s faith cannot bring about salvation further proves that James is not speaking of faith in general, but rather of the faith of the individual referenced earlier. Speaking on this passage John Calvin said:

This is the same as though he had said, that we do not attain salvation by a
frigid and bare knowledge of God… for salvation comes to us through
faith for this reason, because it joins us with God. And this comes not it any
other way than being united to the body of Christ, so that, living through His
Spirit we are also governed by Him. There is no such ting as this in the
dead image of faith. There is then no wonder that James denies that salvation
is connected with it.

What Calvin is saying is that there is no other way to be saved besides uniting yourself with Christ through faith. And when you unite yourself with the body of Christ you will receive his Spirit which will change the way you live. No one can be saved without becoming a new creature, and by the power of the Holy Spirit the new creation will produce such righteous works as repentance, submission, obedience, and love for God and fellow believers. The faith of the individual that James writes about is not real because it has not united him with Christ, and brought about a change in his life through the work of the Spirit. Salvation does not produce immediate perfection, but rather a new direction.

Unfortunately there is absolutely zero evidence of any new directions in this person’s life. We can learn a lot from this individual. This person had the appearance of initial salvation. He claimed to be a follower of Christ, and he was probably even baptized. But in the final judgment his conversion will prove to have been a work of man rather than of God. When I think of this man’s plight my mind immediately turns to Matthew 7:21-23. These men claimed to have faith in Christ, but they did not have the life to match their claim. Instead of a true faith, which negates human pride by throwing itself on the mercy of God, these men were dependent upon their own works for salvation. Look at what their basis for salvation was: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?” Because they depended on their own works Christ judged them by their works. His judgment, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” We may boast of our faith to others, and be conceited in our hearts of our claim to faith, but in actuality be destitute of any faith at all. This should lead us to a deep examination of our lives, and our faith.

As we can see from the context, and the greater teachings of Scripture James is not claiming faith to be deficient, but rather he points out that true faith will find its expression in Christ-like actions. James is opposing the idea that all claims to faith should be accepted. When we properly understand what James is teaching in this passage it is easy to see that he and Paul are not standing face-to-face confronting one another. James and Paul are really standing back-to-back fighting against two common enemies. Paul opposes the legalistic idea that in order to be saved we must add our own works to faith; James opposes the idea that all we need to do is say the right things and we will be spared from eternal damnation.

Friday, January 13, 2006

An Short Introductory Post to James 2:14-17

I am planning on doing a series of post on James 2:14-17. Before I get into the passage I just had a few introductory thoughts that might set the table for a study of this passage.

James 2:14-17

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

A Few Thoughts To Get Us Started

This can be a very difficult passage to understand. If one were to simply skim over the contents of these verses they could easily become confused by the contents. But I think that with some careful study, a proper hermeneutical approach, and the help of the Spirit we will find that these verses fit properly within the teachings of the entire NT, including Paul.

It is important to understand what James is writing about as he leads up to this particular passage. Some would say that the nature of James writing is such that there is not much of a forward progression; but rather that James jumps from one idea to the next somewhat indiscriminately. I would argue that James writing flows from one idea to the next in such a way that the new themes are building on the previously established ideas. Let’s take a look at 2:14-17 and the passages leading up to it, and see if we can find this to be true.

James immediately opens his letter with an encouragement to those in the midst of trials. James’ advice is to consider the trials joy because God has chosen to do an eternal work through earthly trials.

James next addresses those who lack wisdom. Specifically James is writing to those who lack the wisdom to see how God is working in their lives through earthly trials. His advice is simple; ask God for the wisdom that you need. James does add one caveat to this advice, which is to ask for wisdom in faith. James is not giving his readers the secret formula for having their prayers answered; his point is much simpler than that. James’ point is that you cannot expect to receive the wisdom to see how God is working in your life through earthly trials if you do not have the faith to believe that God is at work in the earthly trials.

Next James addresses human social status. This continues to build on his teaching about trials. The Jews to whom he was writing had been persecuted, and were poverty stricken due to that persecution. In advising them of the temporality of material riches James was teaching them how to deal with their trials. He was showing them that the trials they were currently facing were nothing in light of their eternal inheritance.

On the heels of the previous point James moves on to point out who the truly blessed individual really is. The blessed individual is the one who endures the trials, by the love of God, and receives the crown of life. This is even further motivation to consider you trials a joy, and highlights James’ emphasis on looking beyond the temporal into the eternal. At this point it is not difficult to see James’ line of thought as he seeks to help those who were formerly under his care deal with their current situation.

To some James’ next thought seems somewhat unrelated to his previous stream of thought. James’ next thought is to remind his readers that God is not the cause of their sinful inclinations. I see this point to be directly related to the previous points. As has already been mentioned the people to whom James wrote were in the midst of great persecution. In the midst of this persecution it would have been very easy for one to succumb to the temptation of doubting God’s work, and not viewing the trials as an occasion for joy. James’ point is that this is no excuse; they were still responsible for this sin. Just because God ordained the trial does not make him liable for the sin. To sin in this way would be to take a God given gift meant for sanctification, and turn it into an opportunity for sin. James further illustrates this point by reminding his readers that every good and perfect gift comes from God above. Specifically God gave the good gift of Christ through whom we are a type of firstfruits in creation.

Next James addresses his readers with regard to their anger. This may seem to be a stretch, but I think that James is continuing to teach his reader how to deal with trials (Specifically in the lives of his readers, persecution). His point is that you deal with trials by putting away anger and sin, and receive the word.
James then goes on to teach his readers that in order to receive the word we must be doers of the word. The point is simple. If you don’t do what the word teaches then you have not truly received it. Understanding what James teaches here will about the word will prove invaluable in understanding what James will later say about faith.

James progresses by showing his readers what doing the word will look like. The one who is properly dealing with trials by receiving the word will do the word by not discriminating against the poor. This was apparently quite a problem for James’ readers. Discrimination was at the root of their persecution, yet for some reason they had allowed it to be a part of their conduct. For James this was unacceptable, and the ones showing this discrimination were condemned by the word that they did not accept. James’ teaching, more than likely, would have been opposed by those were showing this discrimination. They may have even said something to the effect of “I have faith, and that is all I need.”

This leads us to our passage in which James’ deals with those who claim to have faith but are not enduring in the midst of trials like the blessed man who will receive the crown of life. These individuals, with a saying only kind of faith, were not the blessed individuals that James spoke of in 1:12. And based on their actions they were not putting away sin in order to receive the word. In fact, the only thing that these individuals had that resembled a follower of Christ was a profession of faith. They said the right things but their actions did not match their words, and the one thing that James cannot stand is profession without practice and words without deeds.

At this point there are many who would say that James’ teaching on faith contradicts Paul’s teaching on faith. As we progress in the passage we will deal with this problem, but for now I will say with absolute certainty that James does not contradict Paul. In fact, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, James is not combating Paul but those who would abuse Paul’s doctrine. James’ emphasis on faith is a universal NT emphasis. It was the preaching of John the Baptist that men should prove the reality of their repentance by the excellence of the deeds (Mt 3:8; Luke 3:8). It was Jesus who taught that men should live so that the world might see their good works and give glory to God (Mt 5:16). Christ insisted that it was by their fruits that men must be known and that a faith which expressed itself in words only could never take the place of one which expressed itself by doing the will of God (Mt 7:15-21).

*I hope that this will help the set the context for our passage. Look for more on this passage in the coming days.*

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Understanding Old Testament Prophesy

Today will be the last post on understanding OT prophecy: a look at Joel 2 and Acts 2. I just want to wrap it all up with a few conluding remarks. I would love to hear back from you, and get your input on these passages.


Joel prophetically predicted the coming Day of the Lord in Joel 2:28-32, and this Day of the Lord was in some way fulfilled at in Acts 2:14-21.

JOEL 2:28-32
28 “It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
29 “Even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
The Day of the Lord
30 “I will adisplay wonders in the sky and on the earth,
Blood, fire and columns of smoke.
31 “The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood
Before the bgreat and awesome day of the Lord comes.
32 “And it will come about that awhoever calls on the name of the Lord
Will be delivered;
For bon Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
There will be those who cescape,
As the Lord has said,
Even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.

ACTS 2:14-21
14 But Peter, taking his stand with athe eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.
15 “For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, afor it is only the third hour of the day;
16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all 1mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
18 Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
19 ‘And I will grant wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
20 ‘The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
21 ‘And it shall be that aeveryone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Sensus Plenior, using its interpretation 1 Peter 1:10-11, stipulates that the prophet Joel was ignorant of the exact meaning of his prediction. This, however, does not properly account for the original determinative meaning of a prophetic prediction, and consequently cannot determine how Peter interpreted Joel’s prophecy in Acts 2:14-21.

However, if one accepts the view that there is more than one referent to a specific prediction, then it is possible to properly account for the original determinative meaning of Joel’s prohpecy and determine how Peter interpreted it.

In Joel 2:28-32 Joel predicted the Day of the Lord in which God would pour out His spirit on “all mankind.” The fulfillment of this prophecy is inaugurated in Acts 2:14-21 at the day of Pentecost. Peter’s message to the crowd in Jerusalem represents the first in a series of events that will lead to the ultimate fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 at the second coming of Christ.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Spiritual Disciplines

I. Bible Intake:
Bible intake includes hearing, reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture. This is a very important aspect of our sanctification because it is through the Word of God that the Spirit of God will make a lasting change in our lives.

I Peter 1:23
James 1:18

Are you spending enough meaningful time in God’s Word?
The tendency of most Christians is to close the Bible as soon as we’ve finished reading and turn to the next thing on our to-do list. Reading alone will seldom make an impact on our lives, and provide us with spiritual nourishment. Reading is the exposure to Scripture (which is a wonderful starting point), but meditation is the absorption of Scripture. This is not meditation like some Buddhist monk would do, but rather this is deep contemplation about God’s Word and its impact on your life. This type of meaningful time in God’s Word will provide you with the spiritual nourishment that your souls needs.

Here are a few Questions to challenge you:
1. Do you spend more time with TV, video games, music, etc. than you do in God’s word?
2. When you read God’s word are you taking the time to really think about what it means?
3. Are you so excited about God’s word that it is part of your conversations with friends?

II. Prayer:
The apostle Paul tells us that we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). If we are going to obey this command we must constantly be in an attitude of submission to God, and prayer must be a part of our regular routine.

1 Thess 5:17
James 4:2-3

Are you spending enough time in prayer?
Jonathan Edwards is a wonderful example of a spiritually disciplined prayer. Edwards prayed alone when he rose in the morning, and then he had family prayer before breakfast. Prayer was a part of each meal at the Edwards home, and in the evening again with his family. He prayed over his studies, and he prayed as he took his evening walk. Prayer was a part of Edwards’ spiritual discipline, and his leisure.

Here are a few questions to challenge you:
1. Are you praying multiple times a day?
2. Do you pray for the Spirits help before you read your Bible?
3. Do you pray for the right things, or do you pray for selfish things?

Private Worship:
Every Sunday we come together to worship God as a community of believers and this is wonderful. But we should also be worshiping God individually throughout the week.

Ps 147:1
1 Cor 10:31

Are you worshiping God with your life?
Our salvation is such a wonderful thing, and the more we think about how great it is the more we should be compelled to cry out praised to our God. We should be singing praises to our God as our hearts are so filled with the joy of salvation that they are overflowing. Not only should we be worshiping God with our voices but also with our actions. When we work, or play, or eat, or whatever we are doing we can worship God by living according to His Word.

Here are a few questions to challenge you:
1. Are you ever so overjoyed with your salvation that you want to worship God?
2. Do you ever sing praises to God in private?
3. Can the people around you tell that you are worshiping God by the way that you live?

Monday, January 09, 2006

My New Sister

This week was a very exciting week for my family. But this story goes well beyond this week. It was in November of 2004, a few months before my wedding, that my parents sat us (Me, My wife to be, and my brother) and let us know that they had decided they wanted to adopt a little girl from China. At first this was just a surprise, but as the thought of what they were doing settled in my mind it became a pleasant surprise.

As these past months have passed our family has been preparing for a new little girl. This will prove to be quite an adjustment for my all boys, red meat, and baseball family. The first thing that my mom did was change my old room into an explosion of pastels. Dad keeps wondering aloud if softball is a lot like baseball. My brother, Steve, is a man of few words; however we can all tell that he is excited.

The most amazing thought to me is the opportunity that my parents are giving little Grace (oh my sisters name is
Grace Elyse Shirley). Not just the opportunity to leave a poverty stricken region, but the spiritual opportunity. My parents were missionaries in the home to my brother and me. God used both of my parents to draw me close to him, and now they will return to their mission field.

This week proved to be the most exciting time in this while process. This week we received all the paper work from China, including pictures, a medical history, and an age for our little sister. For the first time we were able to see little Grace, and soon we will be able to meet her. My parents will be leaving in 4 to 6 weeks (aprx.) on an adventure that will not soon be forgotten. If you would like to keep up with their progress they have started a blog just for that reason. They will not be able to call us while they are gone, and so it will be through this blog that we will stay in contact with them.

We are all very excited and praying feverously for Grace (both from God and our sister).

Friday, January 06, 2006

End of the Spear: The story of a people reached

"End of the Spear"

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending an advanced preview of a movie that will come out in theatres on January 20th. The Movie is titled "End of the Spear" and it is based on a true story. For those of you who are familiar with the life of Jim Elliot this will be a familiar story. The Movie centers around the tribe that those missionaries worked with in South America. It really is an amazing film, and it needs our support. I know what you are thinking, yeah right the story of Jim Elliot in theatres. But it is true, and it will be happening on January 20th.

The movie was produce by an independent film company called Every Tribe Entertainment. Along with Every Tribe Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint Missionary to South America and one of the main characters in the movie, had hand in the production of this film.

Let me give you an idea of what to expect.

You will be given a first hand account of what happen in the South American jungle when 5 missionary families reached and unreached people. The movie does not sugar coat what happen in that jungle; this is why it is rated pg-13. There are some very violent scenes in the movie that portray accurately the depravity of man. All though the movie did have a few violent scene ETE used discretion in what they showed and what was implied. There was no sexual content (although the tribal indians were dresses as tribal indians), and there was no inappropriate language.

At no point does the movie explicitly walk verse by verse through the "Romans Road," but the gospel message is there. This is an emotional movie that may move you to tears, and help you understand what heroes our missionaries are.

Why should you go?

There are quite a few reasons that paying the $7 bucks to go see this movie will be the best thing that you could do with you $7. First of all it will be entertaining. It is exciting, well written, and well acted. Second, I know that it is just a movie but it will be to your spiritual benefit if it only reminds you to pray for the missionaries that your church supports. Third, if you thought that "The Passion of the Christ" was an evangelistic opportunity this is even better. Fourth, half of all the proceeds will go to the ministry that is still in South America. And finally, I think that by supporting this and other family oriented movies we are making a statement to movie makers that we don't want to see gay cowboys on our screens.

ETE does not have a large budget for advertising and they are depending on us to promote the movie through word of mouth. So, plan on seeing and tell everyone about it.

*Without question I plan on reminding you about this movie we move closer and closer to the release date.*

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Understanding Old Testament Prophesy

Test Case Continued

Acts 2:14-21

It is in Acts 2:14-21 where we find Joel’s prophetic prediction of the Day of the Lord quoted by the apostle Peter. In this passage Peter is preaching the Gospel to the Jews gathered for the feast. Even before Peter quotes Joel there are similarities between Joel 2:28-32 and Acts 2:14-21. It is in verse two that the Spirit comes down like a “violent rushing wind” and indwelt the believers gathered together. Immediately following this they “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterances.” Luke records in verse six that a large crowd gathered around Peter and those with him. And to the amazement of the crowd every man heard them speak in their own language. The reaction fo the crowd, recorded in verses 12 and 13, was one of confusion and hostility. Responding to the reaction of the crowd, Peter applied Joel 2:14-21 to the situation by proclaiming that the Spirit had been poured out on them through Christ, which explained the miraculous events that were occurring. Essentially this is Peter’s apology of the Gospel of Christ based on Joel’s prophetic prediction. It is important to note that Peter altered the reading “afterwards” in Joel to read “in the last days.” Peter saw this event as the inauguration of the last days, and the Messianic age. Peter applied Joel’s prophetic prediction to his contemporary situation as a message of repentance in light of the looming last days. This message of repentance is quite similar to Joel’s message of repentance in light of the Day of the Lord. Peter is “proclaiming that this is the time for the fulfillment of prophecy and that these are the long-awaited last days of the divine redemptive program . . .”

The Conclusion of Test Case
The question that remains concerning this passage is whether or not Peter viewed this event as the ultimate fulfillment of Joel’s prophetic prediction, or if Peter saw a future ultimate fulfillment. There are several internal factors within Acts 2:14-21, and Joel 2:28-32 that can help answer this question. First of all, it seems unlikely that this is the ultimate fulfillment of Joel’s prediction because “the outpouring of the Spirit on 120 Jews could not in itself fulfil the prediction of such outpouring ‘on all flesh’; but it was the beginning of the fulfillment” whose greater end is yet to come. In Acts, Joel’s prophecy is fulfilled in that it has begun. The scope of Joel’s words concerning men, women, children, and every nation has at that time not yet been realized. However, on that day in Jerusalem the process of fulfilling Joel’s prophecy was initiated, and awaits its final completion at the second coming of Christ. Another internal factor that sheds light on this passage is the reference to the Day of the Lord. In both Joel and Acts the message is one of repentance because of the looming Day of the Lord. In Acts we see the initiation of the Messianic age which is a step toward the final and ultimate Day of the Lord, but we do not see all the characteristics of the Day of the Lord. In Acts we see the work of the Lord preparing His people for the coming judgement of the Day of the Lord. Peter’s apology of the Gospel presents Christ as the Messianic redeemer, through whom one can avoid the coming judgement of the Day of the Lord. Just as there are many Days of the Lord that will culminate with Christ’s second coming, so too the day of Pentecost was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophetic prediction that as of yet has not been finally fulfilled.
The Bible is the Word of God that reveals the living God who intervenes in the lives of men. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament we see the redemptive history of God who is working out his plan for His salvation. Just as redemptive history is progressive, so too is God’s Word. Every principle builds on the one before. It is in Genesis that man is first introduced to the covenant God of Israel, and in Exodus man for the first time witnesses God as a warrior fighting to keep His end of the covenant, and it is not until the Gospel that man finally sees the exact means by which God will ultimately keep his covenant. Joel 2:28-32, and Acts 2:14-21 relate to each other in the same way. Joel predicted the Day of the Lord in which God would pour out His spirit on “all mankind.” The day of Pentecost fulfills this prediction in that it is the inauguration of the “last days.”

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year! So What's New?

I have never been much for New Year's resolutions. Maybe I never really wanted to improve, but no one in my family ever really had resolutions for the New Year. But this year it seems as though everyone I talk to wants to know what my resolutions are (It may have something to do with my part-time employment at the YMCA.). Having put very little thought into it I have decided to go with two resolutions (I am obviusly no Jonathan Edwards.).

First, I am resolved to read through the entire Bible this year with my wife. This is probably something that we should have done together our first year of marriage, but I don't think that year two is too late.

Second, I am resolved to think more about heaven. This one may seem a little strange, but it is something that I need to do. I was thinking about it last night, and I realized that I do not look forward to heaven enough. Heaven really is an amazing thing. Through the death of Christ my sins have been forgiven so that I can enjoy enternal union with the Triune God (heaven). The redeemed have been chosen to be a part of the Triune family. And for all of eternity we will grow in our knowledge, love, and union with the Triune God. Isn't that amazing. God's glory is so exhaustive that we will spend all of eternity growing in our knowledge of it. That thought right there has an impact on me. I need that thought more in my life, and so I am resolved to think about heaven.

I know that these resolutions are not huge and profound, but I cannot wait to go into work tonight and have someone ask me what my New Year's resolution are.