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James 2:20-24


"But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God." You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone."


Our Works Authenticate Our Witness

In 1522, in the preface of his German translation of the New Testament, Martin Luther wrote, "St. James' epistle is really a right strawy epistle, compared to these others [Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, I Peter and I John], for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it." From historical accounts, Martin Luther attempted to remove Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation from the canon, because he perceived them to go against certain Protestant doctrines, such as sola gratis and sola fide. Luther's personal judgments were not accepted among his some of his followers, so these books were placed at the back of the German Language Luther Bible. Some of the wrong thinking about "works", in today's Protestantism is derived from Martin Luther's teaching that justification is by faith alone, excluding all works; a thought not supported by the Bible (especially, the Book of James). It is true that God gives salvation through His merciful gift of grace. However, the Apostle James says that a person's faith is proved by his works (James 2:14-26). If a person has no works, he is actually proving that he has no faith.

We must not adhere to the teachings which denigrate Christian works, because God pointedly assigns work to all Christian converts. In Ephesians 2:10, the Apostle Paul writes, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." God has prepared, ordained, and assigned these works beforehand. They are requirements and must be accomplished to the level and quality God judges, as right and good. At the same time, these works are the very purpose for which the Christian is called and converted to live their life. Even though the works do not earn one salvation, God's calling, regeneration, and assignment of works are given so that we are prepared to live that same way of life for all eternity.

The works that we do-the way we live our lives-proves or confirms our conversion, our commitment to the Christian covenant and baptism, as well as the fact that our works prove our faith in Christ is real.  Our works authenticate our witness, which should glorify God. Thus, we must understand these truths regarding works:

1) God has never intended that works save anybody. Jesus is the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. God knew beforehand that we would need a Savior for salvation.

2) Doing the works provides practice in God's way of life, thus helping to ingrain His way as part of our character.

3) Doing the works is a witness before the world, and by them God is glorified. These are their major purposes.  

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