Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cut & Paste, Part 2

But James writes that faith without works is dead, and that a man is justified by his works and not merely by faith. Taken from James chapter 2 and taken out of context, this does appear to be a valid argument for works salvation and is a favorite passage for Catholic apologists. But the key to understanding James chapter 2 comes with James 2:18: “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” The emphasis here is on men seeing whether or not our faith is valid and producing spiritual fruit as Jesus promised it would. It is justification in the sight of men; not in the sight of God.

The writer of Hebrews touches briefly on the outcome of such barren or dead faith when he writes: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned,” Hebrews 6:4-8.

The same writer concludes his thought by stating: “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak,” verse 9. He was confident that his audience would produce the spiritual fruit that accompanies salvation’s reality, though he spoke to them sternly about the consequences of indulging a barren or dead faith. Jesus gives the same warning regarding bearing fruit or being utterly barren when He said, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned,” John 15:6. One’s works are in danger of suffering destruction, as the writer of Hebrews put it: the ground that should be bearing fruit is in danger of being cursed, being burned. Paul agreed when he said that at Christ’s judgment seat all works done in the flesh will suffer destruction by fire, though that man, bereft of all works, will be saved, 1st Corinthians 3:15.

Going back to James chapter 2, we find a corresponding passage in Scripture that sheds more light on why I believe the point of view James writes from is a human perspective. Paul in his epistle to the Romans wrote: “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness,” Romans 4:1-3. Paul is writing from a heavenly perspective, as it were. Men need to see the vital, living reality of our confession to believe what we are preaching. God needs no such assurance because God sees the heart; He knows whether or not you or I have savingly believed. Paul goes on to reason that if salvation were by works rather than grace it is debt or wages; in other words God owes us something that we’re earning from Him. Yet in a twist of events and contrary to human logic Paul asserts that God does not justify the one who works, but rather justifies the one who abstains from working and trusts, verses 4-5. This explodes Roman Catholicism and all works salvation.

The Bible, the New Testament especially, is clear in its declaration that salvation is not a process; it is not a far off goal that man works toward and gains in installments. It is a gift God gives to the one who places his faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior; there is no other way to attain it, Romans 5:15, 18; 6:23.

Rome, the largest advocate of works salvation, teaches the opposite and avows that salvation must be purchased in measured increments throughout one’s life by loyal service to the church and especially partaking in the Eucharist. The Eucharist, the wafer given to the Catholic faithful during Mass, is said to be the literal body of Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread to be sacrificed unbloodily on Catholic altars in perpetuity. This ritual, which has no grounding in Scripture, in fact violates the very book Catholics claim to honor.

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission,” Hebrews 9:22. This verse also contradicts Purgatory, where intense burning purges sin according to Catholic dogma. Leviticus 17:11 is the Old Testament equivalent of Hebrews 9:22 and also states that blood is necessary to remit (pay for) sins, not fire.

There are three interrelated passages in the New Testament that provide the reader with a clear view of how a man is justified according to Scripture. We do well to note who justifies us and how we are justified (given eternal life, saved). “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life,” Romans 5:9-10. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace,” Ephesians 1:7. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins,” Colossians 1:14.

For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” Hebrews 9:24-26.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year,” Hebrews 10:1-3. Contrast this with the Roman Catholic sacrifice of the Mass and its endless repetition; it is eerily similar to the language the writer of Hebrews elected to employ when denouncing the inefficiency of the Jewish animal sacrifice. Compare it then with Jesus’ singular sacrifice which God was completely satisfied with, and which took away all of our sins, John 19:30; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 1:3; 9:14.

By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” Hebrews 10:10-14.


  1. Thanks for the excellent post! Works are what we do not to be saved, but because we are saved, to honor Him.
    God bless,

  2. Amen, Ian.

    Unfortunately most people seem to isolate this passage and ignore related teachings such as Ephesians 2:8-10.


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