Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Crux of the Matter

Tell me - if you can - what the answer is to the following question...

What are the works that James is referring to? When James say that if a man has faith and not works his faith is dead, what are the works that he means?

I have heard this verse given many times to explain away the 'false' faith of those who do not exemplify works as a confirmation of their faith. So, please enlighten me by explaining exactly what works are required to prove we have 'saving faith'. Also how many works would be enough for you to be assured someone was definitely a believer and one of the elect?

66 comments:

jazzycat said...

Prior to the statement about dead faith James asks the question about someone claiming to have faith but having no deeds. He is basically saying that 'talking the talk' but not 'walking the walk' is a sign that one's faith is not genuine. He gives an example in James 2:15-16 of what he is referring to.

You then ask what works and how many are required to prove we have 'saving faith.' There is no amount of works that one can do to prove he has saving faith. If the motive is to earn salvation or prove faith then they are like filthy rags and are worthless. The good works that flow from a regenerated person are a natural internal expression of the new nature and not a mechanical external attempt to fill the good works squares. James is simply stating that a person that claims to have faith but shows no actions, deeds or heart whatsoever has a dead or false faith.

jazzycat

Rose~ said...

Are "dead" and "false" interchangeable words?

jazzycat said...

I think James makes it clear that dead faith is not a saving faith which makes it a false faith.

Jazzycat

Jim said...

Jazzycat, while I would agree that no amount of works are required for salvation and could never earn the gift of God's grace, yet these same works are used as proof of a saving faith.

So my question remains, what exact type of works would you consider proof of a saving faith?

Jim said...

I would love to see other references to what false faith is, besides the verses in James.

Does Satan give people false faith, or is this some man made generated faith?

Does not faith come by hearing the word of God?

jazzycat said...

(So my question remains, what exact type of works would you consider proof of a saving faith?)

I, nor my PCA church make any attempt to measure or prove anyone's saving faith. Paul in 2Cor. 13:5-7 encourages believers to test themselves.

(I would love to see other references to what false faith is, besides the verses in James.)

Jesus in Matthew 7:22-29 and Rev. 2:2 explains what false faith looks like.

Are you suggesting that all professions of faith in Jesus Christ are true and none are false?

Satan gave Eve a false faith that she could be like God. A false faith certainly would not come from God. Eph 2:8-9 tells about a saving faith that is a gift of God and is genuine. I do not see much wiggle room here for any other kind of faith being a real saving faith.

Jazzycat

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Jazzycat, could you please prove from the text of James chapter 2 that dead faith is not a saving faith? Plase do not refer to any other passage of Scripture.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Jim said...

Jazzycat, while it is true that Eve was deceived, I think you would be hard pressed to equate deception with false faith? Is there a verse other than James that equates the two?

So are you saying that saving faith is a matter of introspection and subjective works comparisons?

God bless,
Jim

Jim said...

Matthew, welcome back.

jazzycat said...

Matthew,

The better question would be to prove from James 2 that dead faith is a saving faith. I would rather attempt to prove that Bill Clinton is a man of high moral character than attempt to prove dead faith can be a saving faith from James 2 or anywhere else in Scripture.

From James 2:14-26 we see James explain two different kinds of faith: James asks what good is it if a man claims to have faith but has no works and then asks can such a faith save him? Here there is no doubt that he is talking about “a saving faith” verses one that does not save. He compares a faith that inspires and results in deeds verses a faith that has no deeds. He even compares a fruitless faith with the belief in God that demons have. I am quite certain that demons do not have a saving faith. He then calls them foolish and gives them more evidence of a true faith having deeds that flow from the faith. He closes in verse 26 by repeating that faith without deeds are dead. If a faith is dead it certainly is not a saving faith and will not produce any spiritual benefit any more than a dead kidney will have any physical benefit for the body.

I would also add that there can also be dead works. Deeds that are done willingly and naturally out of a grateful Christian heart due to love for Christ and appreciation for the eternal life that faith alone secures are fruitful works. However, deeds that are done in an attempt to earn merit with God are dead works. Eph. 2:8-10 sums the whole process up and James is just saying the same thing verse 10 in Ephesians is saying.

Matthew, would you explain for me how the dead faith that James is talking about in Chapter 2 can still be a “saving faith?”

Jazzycat

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

'The better question would be to prove from James 2 that dead faith is a saving faith. I would rather attempt to prove that Bill Clinton is a man of high moral character than attempt to prove dead faith can be a saving faith from James 2 or anywhere else in Scripture.'

No, the burden of proof lies upon the person who claims that this is not saving faith. James says nothing to indicate that he is talking about a false faith and we know that it is by faith that we are justified.

It is important to recognise that 'save' does not always mean eternal life. The Old Testament background on which James draws often speaks of salvation in th eocntext of salvation from calamity in this life.

From what is James speaking of salvation from?

There is no indication in the epistle that eternal destruction is the subject. Certainly not, for the epistle is addressed to believers. Believers cannot go to hell, so it is very unlikely that James would warn them of such a fate.

If we look at the structure of James; its emphasis is on this life, not the next. Hence, salvation here would most likely be from the trials and temptations of this life and the chastisement of sinners in this life (5:14-20). James stresses in chapter 5 that believers may suffer from sickness because of sin and this may lead to death (5:20).

The epistle is addressed to believers who were born-again and who had exercised saving faith. Therefore, it seems higly likely that the faith spoken of here is genuine.

If James were addressing unblievers, we may wonder why he did not urge them to look to Christ for salvation, but the Gospel of salvation throug Christ is not presented in the epistle. That is because it is a message to believers.

James comment about the faith of devils is a rhetorical device. It is a hyperbolic expression that is not said to prove any kind of doctrinal point. To use it as such is ludicrous.

To suggest that James is making an exact analogy between the faith of devils and the faith of the believer who does no works is fallacious because:

1. Christ did not die to save devils. The Gospel is not offered to them.
2. The passage mentions only belief in God. Monotheism is not enougth to save anyone.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

jazzycat said...

Matthew,
Thanks for answering that question.
Is this position that you take also a Free Grace Theology position?

You said: "The epistle is addressed to believers who were born-again and who had exercised saving faith."
James 1:1 says: James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
Greetings.

This would mean by your logic that all 100% of the jews alive in James's day were born again believers in Christ.

It is simply not true that doctrinal issues about the unsaved and lost are not covered in Epistles written to believers like nearly all if not all of Paul's epistles including Romans.

Jazzycat

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Jazzycat, we are not talking about Romans and the epistles of Paul, we are talking about James. We need to focus on the structure of that epistle.

With regard to the address to the 12 tribes, do you think that the epistle is addressed to every Jew or a particular group of Jews?

It is likely that the epistle has an early date and so the majority of Christians would be Jews. The majority of scholars maintain that the epistle is addressed to those who had been converted to Christianity. We read in Acts that the converted Jews in Palestine were scattered.

Can you show that the epistle is written to unbelieving Jews?

We read in chapter 2 'have not the faith of our Lord with repsect to persons.' This deals with men who have acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

jazzycat said...

Matthew,
Doctrinal issues are covered in Epistles written to believers including James. Who James was writing to is of little importance concerning Chap. 2.

I am glad that you do consider scholars in your study. I have been trying to find a commentary that agrees with your position. I have checked eight so far and all eight agree with me that the dead faith James is referring to is a false faith that does not save.
They are as follows:
1. Geneva Study Notes
2. John Gill
3. Barnes
4. Adam Clarke
5. Wesley
6. New
7. The Bible Knowledge Study Bible
8. Nelson Study Bible

Would you please list the commentaries that agree with your position?

Jazzycat

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Zane Hodges.

It is important to recognise that all commentators are fallible.

It is very easy for them to interpret passages according to the set of assumptions involved in a theological system.

Focus on James, Jazzycat.

We have a crucial question here. Is James talking about a genuine faith or a false faith?

We need every clue we can find in determining the answer to this crucial question. The identity of the audience is vital evidence.

If we want to understand what Paul says about the Church in Ephesians we need to know about the Ephesian church.

If we want to understand what Paul says about the law in Galatians, it is helpful to know the background of the Galatian church.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

jazzycat said...

Matthew,
Is Zane Hodges fallible?

Are the many commentators all wrong and Zane Hodges right?

Actually this passage (James 2:14-26) is so clear about dead faith not being a saving faith that it speaks for it's self. The fact that every commentary that I read confirms this just adds to my already sure confidence on the matter.

Verse 4 in Jude seems to apply to what Hodges and Free Grace theology is trying to do to grace. "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord."

I am not questioning your commitment to Christ one bit, but if you assert that the dead faith in James 2 is a saving faith, then I would read Jude 4 very carefully and consider if that is not essentially the same as Free Grace theology.

Jazzycat

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Jazzycat, I think that is just a cheapshot.

You have not given any actual evidence from the text of James chapter 2 or the rest of the epistle to demonstrate that dead faith is a false faith.

Does James say that the devils do not really have faith in God?

No, he upholds the reality of their faith- they tremble.

Obviously, this faith does not save them, because salvation is not offered to devils and it is only a monotheistic faith that is mentioned.

However, there is nothing in James chapter 2 to indicate that the faith of either the lax believer or the devil is false.

You have imported a theological assumption into this text which controls your interpretation of it.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Greetings Brothers,

If I may jump in and join you at this point in the debate, …

I find it interesting that free grace proponents are trying to CHAMPION a passage of Scripture for their cause that serves as one of the clearest passages of Scripture CONDEMNING their cause (not referring to your espousal of grace and faith, but to your denial of the relationship between saving faith and ensuing works). Put another way, while your resolved and vocal convictions regarding the instrument and grounds of salvation are to be commended, James 2, in its own words, speaks to your incomplete and solitary faith. Let me explain…

James could not be any clearer in both setting forth the truth (along with explaining & illustrating it) as well as applying it when in vv. 20ff he says “You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his FAITH AND HIS ACTIONS were WORKING TOGETHER , and HIS FAITH was made COMPLETE by WHAT HE DID. Here, the writer of Scripture provides not only inspired teaching regarding the relationship between faith and works, but rebukes those who think or speak otherwise. As Henry so aptly puts it in distinguishing the type works that are spoken of here, he says: “When Paul says that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law (Rom 3:28), he plainly speaks of another sort of work than James does, but not of another sort of faith. Paul speaks of works wrought in obedience to the law of Moses, and before men’s embracing the faith of the gospel; and he had to deal with those who valued themselves so highly upon those works that they rejected the gospel … but James speaks of works done in obedience to the gospel, and as the proper and necessary EFFECTS AND FRUITS of sound believing in Christ Jesus. BOTH are concerned to magnify the faith of the gospel, as that which alone could save us and justify us; but Paul magnifies it by showing the insufficiency of any works of the law before faith, or in opposition to the doctrine of justification by Jesus Christ; James magnifies the same faith, by showing what are the genuine and necessary PRODUCTS and OPERATIONS of it.” This being explained, I find the application so pointed and clear, it is as if James were speaking today, he could say, “What good it is, my free grace brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?”

The issue is not WHO James was talking to… that is clear, he was speaking to believers (found both in the reference to the “twelve tribes” as well as in the reverence to “my brothers” in v. 14). The issue is found in the fact that just as in the theology and practice of “free gracers today”, there were those in James’ day who though they understood the gospel in regard to the distinction between salvation by grace and salvation by works, failed to “go on” to understand that salvation does not stop with faith but that saving faith will manifest itself in life, including both righteousness and deeds. (Rom 5:21; Col 3:5-17) Note - Abraham’s faith was “made complete” by what he did. His faith and his actions were “working together”. The point is this: True saving faith that embraces the gospel does not stop at just assenting to the truth of the gospel but embraces the truth of the gospel which communicates not only the need of repentance of one’s former ways and deeds but the need for purification and cleansing and the need to put on the righteousness and behavior that becomes those who are in Christ.

Here even the expression – “though we are saved by grace, we will be judged according to our works” speaks volumes. Does not Peter say to believers “Since you call on a Father who judges each man's WORK impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” Did not Jesus himself in Mt 16 state “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to WHAT HE HAS DONE.?”

The error of free grace proponents is one common to other errors people make regarding the Scriptures. Often people want to say the answer is A and therefore B is wrong. Others want to say the answer is B and therefore A is wrong. But God’s wisdom surpasses them both. Often the right answer is A and B, while C and D are wrong. The truth is that (A) Salvation is by grace alone, and that (B) While salvation is by faith alone, that faith is never alone; while it can be shown that those who espouse (C) Works serve as an instrument or grounds of salvation, and (D) Once a person experiences faith, works have no place at all … are wrong.

Pastoral application is found in this:
1. There are some who are saved by faith who need to understand that the gospel is like a seed that must not only take root but that in taking root it will also go on to produce fruit. Some seem to claim the power and efficacy of a seed that one possesses but does not see the need or allow to take root. In other words, free grace proponents, while on one level your view of justification is correct, you need to go on to embrace the truth and exercise the grace of sanctification by understanding the link and relationship between justification and sanctification.
Titus helps with this when in ch. 2 he states “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
2. There are also some who under the name of “free grace” theology, may be hiding from the truth that while it is easy to claim God’s grace for justification, you have no desire to change, or to go on in righteousness, and so this position can serve as a cover for the unconverted.
Either way, though one is saved but needs to grow deeper in their salvation while the other is unsaved and needs to come to salvation, the truth remains the same, God’s desire for our lives is not only that we should think right (or even possess the right faith) but that we should act right and possess right attitudes as well.

May the exchange here in these forums lead many toward greater spiritual faithfulness and fidelity in Christ!

Jim said...

Tim, welcome here. I truly appreciate your willingness to fellowship and discuss these issues in a spirit of mutual respect and integrity.

You have brought some very good ideas forward in your remarks and I would say that I agree with your overall premise. I do not speak however in an official capacity for FG.

I would like to ask you a question however before I discuss your comments in more depth.

What does Paul mean when he says in Phil. 2:12 to "..work out you own salvation with fear and trembling"?

In Christ,
Jim

Brandon Presbyterian said...
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Brandon Presbyterian said...
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Brandon Presbyterian said...

Jim,

I thank you for your kind words and would like to reaffirm that I believe for the most part the debate between FG and Calvinists is one among believers. Hence, we can do so with the same goals in mind, that being that we all might come to a full and mature understanding of the Scripture and our salvation and that we might all grow up to completion in Christ.

While you have not stated specifically what aspect of Phil 2:12 you would like to see addressed (and I suppose to bring a question to follow), ...
Paul is encouraging his readers to continue living and keeping in step with God not only in and for the continued actualiztion of their salvation experience, something which called for a particular attitude and relationship toward God; but also in their attitude and relationship toward others.

Several key verses providing context for understanding the passage include 1:6, 9-10, 27-28, 29; 2:1-5, as well as the verses that verses that follow the passage such as 2:13, 2:14ff, etc; the greatest being 2:13 which provides the grounds for what is said in v. 12)

Jim said...

Tim, let me try to pinpoint my question.

Is the salvation referred to here a matter of eternal salvation? Y or N.

If no, what else would it be?

God bless,
Jim

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Jim,

Yes and no. (Here again, many try to make it A or B, but God's answer is something different, in this case C: A AND B)

One cannot deny the substantive link between matters of this life and matters of eternity. For example: Is "eternal" life only for the future? No.

Certainly the salvation spoken of has both present application along with future bearing.

Jim said...

Tim, that is a fairly pragmatic and elusive answer. :)

We know most definitely that works have no part in our salvation. Eph. 2:8-9.

Yet this verse refers to a present tense action which implies effort on our part.

Eternal life is granted to a person the moment he believes the gospel and receives Christ as his saviour.

What then is the implied purpose of working out our salvation spoken here by Paul?

I am really trying to make this as straight forward as possible.

God bless,
Jim

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

The problem is that salvation is seen exlusively by Evangelicals in terms of justification and eternal life.

There are other aspects of salvation- salvation from physical death, sanctification, deliverance from trial and temptation and receipt of heavenly rewards.

Thus, it is vital not to assume a meaning of 'save' in James 2 without clear reference to the context of the epistle.

James makes it clear that faith without works is dead, that is that it has failed to serve a purpose. But what purpose?

Those who want to make this failure a failure to receive eternal life need to show that James is saying that.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Jim,
My answer was not meant to be elusive, only faithful to the text (and broad enough given the text to address whatever concerns you might have)

You state works have “NO part in our salvation.“ Do you mean to infer with absolute and total exclusivity that works are not involved in our salvation at all? … Not only referring to the merit of our salvation, but also concerning the effects or fruit of our salvation?

You state “Eternal life is granted to a person the moment he believes the gospel and receives Christ as his saviour.” I agree. But do you then deny that though eternal life is granted to a person, that that life does not manifest and continue to manifest itself in a person’s experience over time?

God bless,
Tim

Jim said...

Tim, I understand your questions here and think this is exactly where the point of contention lies.

The problem with using works to "examine" our "saving faith" is that it is extremely subjective and therefore arbitrary. Further, it would be nearly impossible to define what amount or type of works were sufficient to confirm "saving faith".

Our initial salvation (the imputing of Christ's righteousness and His Holy Spirit) depend entirely on Christ's finished work and in no way is there anything we could contribute. In that sense, yes, there are absolutely no works required in salvation.

But as you are aware, the process of salvation, referred to as sanctification does require an active willingness on our part to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit. We are commanded to not quench or grieve the Spirit which would lead to a inhibited growth of our faith resulting in the absence of "works".

The point is that both Paul and James are referring to works as necessary not for the proving of our "faith" in the salvific sense, but rather in the testing and trying sense so that we may be perfect and complete lacking nothing, not being ashamed at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I want to keep my comments brief and to the point so that we do not cause unnecessary confusion. Please let me know your thoughts so far.

God bless,
Jim

p.s. I appreciate your articulate questions.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

The fruits of the Spirit are contrasted with the works of the flesh in Galatians. This suggests very clearly that they are works which are distinct from faith.

I see no convincing Scriptural evidence for a causal connection between faith and works.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

jazzycat said...

Matthew,
"Does James say that the devils do not really have faith in God?"

I think James is making the point that faith is deeper than just mere belief or knowledge. Faith involves a trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ for salvation. He is making the point that dead faith may involve a belief like the devils have (knowledge only), but that is not a saving faith which includes trust and a gratitude that produces good works.

"The fruits of the Spirit are contrasted with the works of the flesh in Galatians. This suggests very clearly that they are works which are distinct from faith."

Yes, but the fruits of the Spirit are given to believers only and therefore are more signs of the fruit that true believers with saving faith manifest.

Sorry if my reference to Jude offended you. That was not my intention.

Jazzycat

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Jim,

I understand your concerns and believe them on one level to be legitimate, especially considering that we are not infallible in our judgments. However, that being said, is it not also true that life according to the spirit is of a distinctly different nature than that of life lived according to the flesh. Life according to the spirit operates under different authority, serves out of a different motive, produces different results, serves a different end, etc. If this is the case, then shouldn’t a person who experiences and displays these distinctions in their life also gain an additional measure of confirmation and assurance that they are in Christ (i.e., possess and display saving faith), especially given that unbelievers live according to the flesh, while believers are no longer controlled by the sinful nature, but are enabled to live according to the spirit. Does not life, and peace, and righteousness, and participation in the acts of the Spirit point to the presence of the Spirit in one’s life, and thus provide a measure of affirmation and confirmation of one’s being in Christ? While one could present the argument based on the limitations of man’s subjectivism, is it not true that the difference in one whose heart and life which was dominated by Satan, resulted in death, etc…. that when their heart is renewed, their affections are changed, they begin to love God, respect his Word, hate evil, mortify sin, love God’s people, enjoy partipating in the worship and work of the church, etc., that they themselves (especially given the testifying and vivifying work of the Spirit cannot tell a difference (even if they may err regarding some of the specifics, that an overall difference, outlook, mindset, beliefs, and practices have occurred?) I admit that our works will always be tainted with sin, but that is not to say that sinless presence and work of Christ both in us and through us cannot be detected and taken comfort in.)

The problem here is that many misunderstand confirmation and assurance as if it were only static. In one sense it may be, in that on one level it depends on the object, not the strength of our faith (i.e., the one trusting in God’s grace and not his own works can have assurance). On another level, confirmation and assurance is proportionate and grows in accordance with one’s experience and display of evidence pointing to the truth one seeks to be confirmed in.

You state: “it would be nearly impossible to define what amount or type of works were sufficient to confirm "saving faith". I submit, based on Paul’s writing in Romans 8, that ANY works in keeping with the Spirit are evidence of being found in Christ, and thus possessing and exercising saving faith. The Spirit and life of the Spirit are gifts granted to and experienced by believers only. Unbelievers do not live according to the spirit but according to the flesh. Only believers are enabled to live according to the Spirit. In this light, evidence of the Spirit (his nature, his dominion, his fruit, etc.) provides a measure of confirmation to the believer.

Note – the emphasis I find many FG proponents assigning to Calvinists is not correct. Calvinists do not set out to do good works in order to gain assurance, but rather in abiding with the Spirit, participating in righteousness, fulfilling our calling, living out our new being etc., the fruit that ensues then provides additional confirmation.



You state “Our initial salvation (the imputing of Christ's righteousness and His Holy Spirit) depend entirely on Christ's finished work and in no way is there anything we could contribute. In that sense, yes, there are absolutely no works required in salvation. “ I note you have backed off of the absolute exclusivity in declaring that works have NO place in our salvation. Good. Now, let me ask – Is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness the all that God does for believers concerning righteousness, or does he follow the imputation of righteousness by beginning to work righteousness in us according to his Spirit in conforming us to the image of his Son? The point being, that if he in sanctifying us produces a difference in us (i.e., in our attitudes, our thinking, our affections, our practices, etc.), then should not evidence of those differences in us provide confirmation that God is at work in us and therefore we are in Christ (i.e., possess and display saving faith)?

You state “The point is that both Paul and James are referring to works as necessary not for the proving of our "faith" in the salvific sense, but rather in the testing and trying sense so that we may be perfect and complete lacking nothing, not being ashamed at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I ask: Is there also not a subjective nature when using works in the “testing and trying sense” you refer to? What are you testing, … if not that one is in keeping with the Spirit or not? You can’t have it both ways. If our works are effectively used in “testing”, they also provide a measure of confirmation and assurance.

God bless,
Tim

P.S. I’ve enjoyed the dialoge. I’ll check the site again tomorrow, but will be away from the computer tonight.

Jim said...

Brother Tim, let me first state that I truly appreciate the tone of your comments. It is evident that a savour of Christ is operating in you, and your calm demeanour exemplify’s that.

I say a hearty amen to what you have written here with few exceptions. While you obviously are comfortable with your faith and realize that the Holy Spirit is the one giving us life and expressing Himself, not every new believer has the same confidence that Christ has truly saved them and they are now a child of God.

I firmly believe that the true test of "saving faith" is not in works or fruit for that matter but in the word of God that illuminates our dark hearts and breathes faith into our being. It is only the Word that can confirm whether or not we are children of God. Now obviously children will act in a certain way. The problem comes when we begin to microscopically examine our actions as proof of "saving faith".

Tim, I think the question we need to answer is; does the Bible even mention a false or spurious faith as some would purport? IOW, is there a faith that seems to be genuine but in fact is counterfeit?

I personally do not see scripture proving these two distinctions.

I think this is probably the crux of the matter, I don't think you will find disagreement concerning the need of sanctification and the matter of God's imparting righteousness into us as we submit to His Holy Spirit vs. the imputation of righteousness at salvation.

I will try to address some of your other questions as soon as I can.

Again, it is a blessing to fellowship with you brother.

Jim

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

'I think James is making the point that faith is deeper than just mere belief or knowledge. Faith involves a trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ for salvation. He is making the point that dead faith may involve a belief like the devils have (knowledge only), but that is not a saving faith which includes trust and a gratitude that produces good works.'

I fail to see why you think James is talking about the nature of faith at all. I agree with you that faith involves trust, however, James does not contrast trust with any kind of false faith.

James does not make any attempt to explain what faith is. He takes it for granted that his readers understand this concept of faith.

James is talking about a faith that lacks works in contrast with a faith that does works.

There is absolutley no implication in James 2 of any kind of false faith.

James demonstrates the reality of demonic faith by showing that the devils demonstrate their faith by trembling.

What you are essentially doing is eisegesis. You are reading your concept of a false faith into a text that gives no hint of such a concept.



'Yes, but the fruits of the Spirit are given to believers only and therefore are more signs of the fruit that true believers with saving faith manifest.'

Or should manifest. My point is that Paul's contrasting the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit demonstrates that fruit is works. The force of Paul's doctrine of justification by faith looses its force if works and faith are not kept separate.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Brother Jim,

Let me reply in kind as I see the same in you.

Given the things we agree on, let me address where there appears to be disagreement.

You state “I firmly believe that the true test of "saving faith" is not in works or fruit for that matter but in the word of God that illuminates our dark hearts and breathes faith into our being. It is only the Word that can confirm whether or not we are children of God…”

I agree with you concerning the use and dependence on the Word of God as a test and provider of assurance. However, I believe Scripture itself attests to additional providers of assurance, for example the Holy Spirit himself who testifies to and seals the word of truth in our hearts. Additionally, one must see that Scripture not only speaks to what “coming to faith” in Christ looks like, but also what “abiding” and “living” in Christ looks like. In the same way that one uses the Scripture as the standard or guide concerning the former leading to confirmation and assurance, one can also use the Scripture as the standard or guide for evaluating the latter also providing testimony which either confirms or denies unity and/or conformity to and in Christ in that part of life. For example, when John in his first epistle states that those who did not remain with them proved by their going that none of them belonged to them, it was not their inward relationship with God that indicated their not belonging to God, but their outward acts (which agreed with and revealed their inward beliefs) that John says confirmed their not being in the faith (& thus possessing saving faith). If their outward acts (of not keeping in line with what the Scripture teaches) can prove their NOT being members of Christ, then it can be argued that remaining with the body and the true teaching concerning Christ provides a measure of confirmation for true believers (even if there are those who falsely assume this for themselves, not being true members – the abuse does not negate the benefit for those with proper use.) Another example (on the positive side) is that of Paul at the end of his life and ministry in looking forward and at the same time reflecting back states “… the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” In addition to stating where in the course of events he is, it can be argued that his having “fought the good fight” also serves to show that one can (even given the limitations of subjectivity) possess a measure of confidence of one’s participating in the Lord. This being the case, ones life also provides confirmation. Note – this is not to say that believers do not sin, for look at the life of Peter. However, even so, he too displayed evidences of saving faith through repentance, and continued walking with the Lord.


You also state “… does the Bible even mention a false or spurious faith as some would purport? IOW, is there a faith that seems to be genuine but in fact is counterfeit? I personally do not see scripture proving these two distinctions.” I agree with you. “Dead Faith” is an oxymoron! There is a counterfeit or spurious faith but by definition and comparison it is not genuine.

I agree concerning believers need for sanctification and that God works righteousness in us (not meritorious on our part) through his Holy Spirit.

Your fellow believer in Christ,
Tim

Brandon Presbyterian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brandon Presbyterian said...

Matthew,

I agree that James is “making the point that faith is deeper than just mere belief or knowledge.” But James goes further than just saying that “Faith involves a trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ for salvation.”, he applies it practically to the lives of believers in that saving faith will not simply offer glib remarks to those in need, but manifest itself through a different response. You are right, knowledge alone is not enough, but saving faith manifests itself in righteousness leading to life and peace.

You also state “The force of Paul's doctrine of justification by faith looses its force if works and faith are not kept separate.” On one level (justification) you are correct. On another level (sanctification) the Scripture speaks otherwise. The truth is that faith and works - while distinguished from one another (their nature, their relationship in regard to justification, etc.); their relationship to one another and their inclusion as well as participation together when applicable under God’s plan must also be considered.

Historically, the above truth has been hard for many to grasp. That’s why in Paul’s day, after teaching salvation by grace alone also had to go on to defend against antinomianism. On the one side, he battled those who wanted to be justified by works. On the other side he battled those who wanted to say that the doctrine of salvation by grace means it is okay to continue to sin. It is not the one principle concerning faith and grace that one must grasp, but the two principles. They are to be distinguished on the one hand (justification) yet they are not completely unrelated or independent (salvation by grace does not infer that it doesn’t matter how we live)

Blessings,
Tim

Jim said...

Tim,

I don't think either I or Matthew would argue about the need for sanctification and the obvious subsequent effects of works upon the same.

However, my question is directly related to the means of justification and as you and many others affirm the test of true faith vs. spurious or false faith as spelled out in James.

My contention is that dead faith does not denote false or spurious but rather inactive, dormant, or unexercised faith. An exercised faith will result in works.

I find no Biblical grounds (outside of James 2) for a spurious or false faith. Do you know of other references that would define what a dead faith is?

Perhaps this is a minor glitch in our agreement? I just wonder at the practical outworkings of each understanding though.

In Christ our Lord,
Jim

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Jim,
Your post, as always, is clear and helpful.

I admit I jumped in the middle of the debate and am not sure even now (even though I understand posters – as I understand it – seem to be doing two things: 1. Asking: Is there any such thing as dead faith? If so, what does it look like and how does it differ from others?; and (2) Is James talking about such dead faith, or simply referring to “inactive, dormant, or unexercised faith” of a true believer?) … what points each side of the debate are trying to make with their arguments.

Even so, with your post, there seems to be more agreement between us than I originally thought, and I think your final statement “Perhaps this is a minor glitch in our agreement? I just wonder at the practical outworkings of each understanding though.” Summarizes the ultimate questions being asked well, and provides place for helpful discussion.

The only caveat or concern I think I need to express up front though, is where you state your question is directly related to the “means of justification” , I’m still not sure exactly what you are asking (as it relates to James 2). Also, there is room for confusion in that while issues of justification can certainly be deduces from this text, I would submit that justification is not the lone issue here, but as many have pointed out previously the issues of justification and sanctification and the relationship between the two are certainly in focus.

First, the question of whether James is speaking to a dead faith (unbelievers) or to “inactive or unexercised faith” (believers?). I believe the principle taught in the text has something to say concerning both issues. On the one hand James speaks of Abraham’s faith being made “complete” by what he did. On the other hand, James in illustrating the belief of demons, certainly references that which is not saving faith. The principle lesson of the text deals with the fact that there is a relationship between faith and works; that faith (of a saving sort) while it requires more than just knowledge or belief alone (such as that exercised by the demons) is also incomplete unless it is joined with resultant works. To illustrate this, our love for our mate, is not complete unless it proves itself in being worked out. Pastoral applications include both:

(1) the need for those who attempt to rest solely in their knowledge of Christ and salvation without going further to put their trust in and secure the redemptive mercies found only by those in Christ … to recognize their remaining outside of a reconciled state with God, to realize they do not stand justified in their current state, and to embrace Christ through faith as both he and true faith are represented and offered in the gospel (i.e. assent alone is not enough; one must actually look to, unite with, and rely on Christ - not simply on the knowledge of Christ’s atonement but the power, provisions and effects of his work through personal and substitutionary exchange.)
(2) the need for those who believe in Christ through true and genuine faith to complete that faith even according to their actions. The principle is that true and genuine faith will produce results… so if there are areas where we fail to see the results, we need to reexamine all the issues surrounding the source – i.e. our faith as it applies in that context of our lives, etc. For example - Is our faith genuine and real in that area of our life, or given the fact that we’ve come to believe in Christ as redeemer and king, this might be an area where we have not yet come to embrace him fully and live for him the way we should (… could be for a variety of reasons). In short, since believing/saving faith will result in works, if we fail to see the results, we need to turn to God. (i.e., “I believe, help my unbelief”, etc.)

You state “An exercised faith will result in works.” This is true, but one can go even further to say that genuine faith will result in works. i.e. I would submit that (short of reasons that might explain why one doesn’t proceed according to their beliefs… i.e. simultaneous issues coming together, etc.) that true belief will manifest itself. As humans, we act in accordance with our beliefs.

You ask: “Do you know of other references that would define what a dead faith is?” Examples are resplendent throughout Scripture such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. of those who though they claimed faith in God, did not possess saving faith. This was not faith of a saving nature, but false representation that failed in practice to display the life and participate in the acts/works of the Spirit.

Communicating not simply for the sake of unity, but unity in the truth.,
Tim

Jim said...

Tim,

Again thanks for your continued patience and lengthy replies. I think it would be easy to go down rabbit trails with all the added information. However the main thrust of my question is proving whether or not faith can indeed be false?

Jesus never said, oh ye of false faith, or if your faith is genuine, or let your faith not be spurious. He simply said that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you could move mountains. All of His miracles were related to faith and yet we could safely assume that not all the people who were healed also received eternal life.

So the context of faith in James is not that of faith leading to salvation but rather a faith that activates one to works. James is speaking to Jewish believers who are now indwelt by the Holy Spirit and yet who also understand the law and considered themselves somewhat better than the gentiles.

While the Pharisees did consider themselves religious and keepers of the law, the never openly confessed to trusting in Christ alone for their salvation. So I don't think they really exhibited any type of false faith.

Faith at its core is a God given gift, but one that must be exercised and strenthened through diligent prayer and meditation in the Word.

I fail to see how James could be challenging his brothers in Christ to prove their "saving faith" by their works. Why would he call them brethren and ones who hold faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Rather he is exhorting them to examine exactly how this faith is operating in them.

If I understand this correctly, the underlying premise for taking James as a test of "saving faith" is due to the poor spiritual quality of many churches and the possible attendance of truly unregenerated people who assume a salvation simply by association. That is a cultural context that James did not write about, especially in light of the fact that these brethren had fled due to persecution.

Again, I trust we can continue to seek unity in Christ and for the truth.

God bless,
Jim

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Tim,
I am sorry, I think you may have confused my quotation of Jazzycat with my own comments.

I do not think one can make an essential distinction between trust and knowledge. Trust is essentially grounded in the knowledge of a truth. I would dispute attempts to argue that 'knowledge is not enough'. Belief is essentially knowledge of the truth.

If the faith that justifies necessarilly results in the works of sanctification, I find it very difficult to see how one can make the clear distinction between justification and sanctification that is so vital in combating the infused righteousness of Romanism.

I think the Calvinist doctrines of Perserverance and sanctification provide little in the way of assuracne or practical distinction from Romanism.

I think your assement of Paul's controversies is unsound. While Paul certainly strives against those who encouraged licentitousness, he never does so by defining faith in such a way as to make it necessarilly entailing works. Rather, he stresses the need to die to the flesh and to walk in the spirit.

As for dead faith, I have been debating this subject with Jazzycat. It seems clear to me that there is nothing in the text of James chapter 2 to imply that dead faith is false faith. Rather, it is dead because of its practical uselessness in the Christian life.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Jim,

I don’t think it’s a question of whether faith can be false or not, but rather whether one can falsely equate what they possess and exercise with true saving faith. Faith, on one level, is simply belief (including trust)… what one believes in (be it Christ or ultimately something else even if they claim it to be Christ when it is not). So the question is not whether faith can be false, but whether one can falsely assume and conduct themselves as if the faith they possess is saving faith when indeed it is not. This is not only possible but is found among many, perhaps even many who claim to be evangelicals, but one day might hear the words from Christ – “I never knew you.” All the more reason for one to examine both the Scripture and their own faith.

I think it safe to argue that Jesus refers to faith of a “Christian nature” (using a general term to avoid rabbit trails). For example, Elijah and the worshippers of Baal.

You state “So the context of faith in James is not that of faith leading to salvation but rather a faith that activates one to works.” I think it helps to understand salvation on a larger scale – not simply that of justification, but also salvation as deliverance from unrighteousness and evil as well as salvation in the sense of delivery into and enablement into purity, righteousness and holiness (including the works associated with them). For example, you can’t exclusively say that “…the context of faith in James is not that of faith leading to salvation…”, for doesn’t James himself ask “Can such faith SAVE him?” This being said, I think you are right in saying James refers to “a faith that activates one to works.” The truth is that both are true. Faith that does not manifest itself or result in works of holiness is not of the “saving sort.” It is at best incomplete, or perhaps no faith at all. Bottom line – James is saying that the type faith that SAVES (not only when it comes to justification but sanctification as well) is that which has the right object (Christ), that not only thinks right and displays trust and conviction concerning what one believes, but ALSO is completed (through the relationship between faith and works) according to acts/works/practices of holiness. Application: If we do not do right, is it because we do not think right, because we do not actually believe, or is it because there is a breakdown (for whatever reason) between what we claim to believe and the results that should bring about.

You state “While the Pharisees did consider themselves religious and keepers of the law, the never openly confessed to trusting in Christ alone for their salvation. So I don't think they really exhibited any type of false faith.” The Pharisees falsely claimed to worship the God of the Old Testament. The truth was, in not knowing Christ, they did not know the Father either.

I agree that faith is a gift and can be strengthened.

You state: I fail to see how James could be challenging his brothers in Christ to prove their "saving faith" by their works. Why would he call them brethren and ones who hold faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Rather he is exhorting them to examine exactly how this faith is operating in them.” I do not believe James’ ultimate goal was for them to “prove” their saving faith by their works. However, in explaining the relationship between faith and works with the hope that they would display saving faith through their works, both the works and the salvation (participation in righteousness) would serve on one level to “prove” or “confirm” their possession of true faith and their participation in Christ.

Regarding the context that James wrote about, the applications you refer to (good ones I might add) are common to the sin nature and fallen condition of man and will be found among those who remain unsanctified in those areas regardless of what the overall picture looks like. Note as well in chapter one that these believers were still “facing trials of many kinds.”

In sharing gifts and edifying one another
Tim

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Matthew,

If I understand you correctly when you state that “Trust is essentially grounded in the knowledge of a truth”, I would have to (on one level) respectfully disagree with you.
I think of the illustration D. James Kennedy has used before of a tight-rope walker who stretched a wire over a canyon and asked the crowd who believes I can make it to the other side. They all cheered and shouted “Sure you can” to which he responded “Which one of you now is willing to climb on my back and go with me” to which there were no takers. There’s also the illustration that one may possess knowledge that a chair will hold them up, but there’s a difference between the cognitive thought and the active trust in walking over to bend down to sit in the chair to test or prove that it will hold you up. A better way to put it is that saving faith (belief) posessess BOTH a component of knowledge AND a component of trust. Therefore belief is not just “essentially knowledge of the truth” but also personal confidence and reliance upon the truth.

You state: If the faith that justifies necessarilly results in the works of sanctification, I find it very difficult to see how one can make the clear distinction between justification and sanctification that is so vital in combating the infused righteousness of Romanism.” First let’s look to the Scripture. Note what it says about grace and the link between what has taken place and (even if it has not done so already, what we can be assured at some point in the future…) will take place. Romans 8:29 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likness of his Son…” Titus 2:11ff “For the grace of God that brings salvation [i.e., includes Justification] has appeared to all men. IT teaches us to say ‘No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age [Sanctification], while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, who gave himself for us to redeem us from ALL [fully attained through Glorification]wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Acts 20:32 "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Romans 5:17 “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of GRACE …REIGN IN LIFE in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” Rom 5:21 “so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also GREACE might REIGN THROUGH RIGHTEOUSNESS to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The list could go on. Bottom line: The Scripture is replete with verses that point to the fact that the gospel is not just for CONVERSION of status (i.e., unrenerate to regenerate) but comes with POWER for TRANFORMATION. Though this does not manifest itself all at once, but is more likened to a seed that grows and produces fruit, the seed of the gospel will not remain dormant but will bring about change for righteousness.

Regarding distinctions between Romanist & Calvinist doctrines of perserverance & sanctification – there is a great difference between the infusion of righteousness (such that one possesses that which is meritorious) and the filling with Christ righteousness (which is not meritorious on our part). One leads to pride and boasting, the other to humility and thankfulness.

You state “I think your assement of Paul's controversies is unsound. While Paul certainly strives against those who encouraged licentitousness, he never does so by defining faith in such a way as to make it necessarilly entailing works. Rather, he stresses the need to die to the flesh and to walk in the spirit.” What does walking in the Spirit entail … if it does not include works?

Regarding dead faith and false faith, see my discussion with Jim.

By the way, you have one of the coolest (most eye-catching pictures/icons), what does it represent? I looked up dyspraxic, but I’m still unclear.

Blessings,

Tim

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Tim, thanks.

I did not create the icon, so I cannot tell you why my photgraph looks like that.

Dyspraxia is a disability that affects physical and mental co-ordination.

Walking in the Spirit indeed involves works. However, if one does not walk in the Spirit and one allows the flesh to lead, then oen will fall into sin and will fail to do works.

With regard to Romanism, you would maintain that you cannot boast of your works because God supplies the ability for you to do them. The Roman Catholic also maintains that his works are given to him by grace
and so he cannot boast.

I agree with you that sanctification is part of the Gospel and is just as much a part of salvation as justification.

However, the works of sanctification result from the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life, rather than as a result of the faith that is instrumental in justification.

I would further maintain that sanctification is not an inevitable process and may end in failure and judgment in this life. The fianl completion of sanctitifcation is eschatological, wehn we are made perfect. Hence, the need for our striving to submit to God and the possibility of failure in this, with the result of chastening and at worse physical death.

The analogy with Blondin is inadequate.

For one thing, their lack of trust indicated that the crowd may not have been so certain of the deed's accomplishment.

However, that may not have been the only issue involved. Fear of heights, even with the certainty of getting to the other side may have deterred them.

Both the analogy with the chair and Blondin are inadequate in that they involve activity on the part of the person who trusts. With saving faith, the trust is merely a passive trust in what has already been accomplished. No actually activity is necessary in appropraiating it, merely the faith alone.

A better analogy would be my faith that the mail will arrive on Tuesday. I know that there is an organization dedicated to ensuring that my mail will arrive on Tesday. My faith in that is a mere passive knowledge of the existence of the post service and its work. Obviously, they are fallible, but if the post service were run by angels and thus, completely reliable, the principle would be the same.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Rose~ said...

Hey, Brandon, I created that avatar for Matthew, so ... thanks!

My thought when I created it was of how we only see a little slice of each person in this blog world. Therefore, we can see Matthew's eyes clearly, but the rest of his face is colorless and obscured. Get it? (I don't know if I ever even explained that to Matthew!)

Good conversation, btw, guys. :~)

Rose~ said...

Oh, I forgot - Hi Jim! Did I tell you much I love the post with the church sign? Well, let me tell you again: I love it!

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

No, you did not, Rose~.

Thanks for explaining it now.

God Bless

Matthew

Jim said...

Rose, you are too kind. It's too bad not everybody can see the humour in that one. :)

Jim said...

Tim,

I have not given up...just been busy lately. This thread is getting so long I am losing the jist of the main argument.

Tim, I would completely agree that the faith James is discussing is in regards to the sanctification of the believer and not his initial justification.

However, I still contend and will continue to do so that there is no Biblical basis for false or spurious faith. However, if you can prove from other references besides the text in question that there can be types of faith other than true faith, I will be willing to concede error.

My point is that while faith cannot be spurious or false, it nevertheless is not enough to say we simply have faith and not do anything in obedience to God's word. James was simply pointing out the error of these messianic believers who thought that all they needed was to be justified postionally and therefore neglected the practical outworkings of sanctification and it's evidences of works and fruit.

He was not casting doubt on their position in Christ, but rather on their relationship to Christ as seen through their relationship to their fellow believers regardless of ethnic background and financial status. They were simply being carnal christians who were not exercising the faith they had received and therefore did not express the reality of a life lived by the Spirit.

There is definitely the need to examine the fruit of our christians lives, but our confidence should never be in the works manifested (no matter how convincing) but in the received rhemas from God's word which give us an unshakeable faith.

Seemingly so close, and yet so far?

In Christ,
Jim

jazzycat said...

Jim,
This has really been a good exchange of thoughts that you have hosted. Tim has been doing such a great job of defending Calvinism that I hate to come back in. However, I am intrigued by your last post and I just had jump back in.

You said, “They were simply being carnal christians who were not exercising the faith they had received and therefore did not express the reality of a life lived by the Spirit.”

I have a three questions about this statement.
1. What is a ‘carnal Christian’? Please define.
2. Since they are not exercising the faith, how should they exercise the faith they received?
3. Do these ‘carnal Christians’ pass the Christian test Paul gives in 2 Cor. 13:5?

Have a Happy Easter.

Jazzycat

Jim said...

Jazzycat, those are fair enough questions and I will do my best to answer them.

Perhaps you two could also answer my questions on the last comment.

1. Proof for spurious or false faith other than in James.
2. Please use chapter, verse, and exegetical context to explain why and how you believe it.

God bless,
Jim

jazzycat said...

Jim,
I would like to offer the following for an answer to your last question about proving a false faith. I have some others but I thought I would stick with the words of Jesus.

From Matthew 7:21-27:
Jesus in verse 21 finishes up the Sermon on the Mount to his disciples by warning that not everyone will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven who just merely professes faith by saying Lord, Lord, but that only he who does the will of the Father will enter. Doing the will of the Father means not only talking the talk of faith, but also following that up with action and deeds. Therefore, the ones who say Lord, Lord have a false profession and Jesus tells them in verse 23 to ‘depart from me, I never knew you’ and turns them away from heaven. In verses 24-27 he says that he who hears these words and puts them into practice is like one who builds his foundation on the rock (the rock being faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ) is wise. He hears the words and puts them into practice. The phrase, ‘puts them into practice’ would not be needed if the foundation were no more that a claim of faith. He thus acts on his faith by being obedient to the Word of God. He goes on to say in verses 26-27 that everyone who hears these words (Word of God) and does not put them into practice is like a man that built his house on sand…….. These are false professors as they hear the words (i.e. claim faith) but do not put them into practice. They simply claim to have faith, but their heart has not been changed so as to live what they claim.

Jesus is telling us that our faith will not be judged by our words (rhetoric), but by our actions. Just as you would expect that someone who claimed to be a believer in and supporter of the Boy Scouts to either give of their time or money, you would also expect that someone who claims to have faith and love for Jesus Christ would produce some kind of fruit (especially with the added power of the Holy Spirit). Jesus says elsewhere, if you love me, you will obey my commands (though not perfectly of course). Jesus is speaking to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, but there is no wiggle room to claim that these false professors will enter the Kingdom of Heaven as Jesus says point blank that they will not. There is also no doubt that Jesus is also talking about people who claim to be Christians. This passage in Matthew 7:21-27 gives the same message from Jesus that James gives in Chapter 2 of his Epistle.

In Tim’s last post he gave Scripture reference on top of reference that connected the dots on how fruit and deeds flow from true saving faith. The gospel comes with power to believers and to believe that a true believer will not show some fruit is to deny the power of God the Holy Spirit.

I will be away from blogging for a few days, but I will check back soon.
Jazzycat

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Jazzycat, why do you think that all believers love Christ?

If it is denying the power of the Holy Ghost to hold that believers might porduce no fruit, how is it not denying the power of the Holy Ghost to hold that believers may commit sin or to fail to do good works that they might have done upon occasions?

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

jazzycat said...

Matthew,
Found a computer to use. I guess I am a bloggint addict
Good question.
Before regeneration a sinner has neither the will or the ability to seek and love God. After regeneration, a sinner has the ability to seek and love God though not perfectly. He still has the ability to sin (Rom. 7).

The point is that regeneration comes with power and to deny that this new position in Christ can possibly produce no fruit is to deny that power. But the sinful nature is still active, so the redeemed still stumble and sin.
Jazzycat

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

If th enew nature is still active, why is it not possible for the believer to fail to produce any fruit or to fail to love Christ?

Why is it not a denail of the power of the Holy Ghost to hold that a believer can stumble and sin?

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Rose
Thanks for the explanation and nice job with the “avatar.”

Jim & all,

I agree with Jim that what is in primary focus is the sanctification of the believer.

Given the fact that James writes to “brothers”, I agree with Jim when he says “He was not casting doubt on their position in Christ, but rather on their relationship to Christ as seen through their relationship to their fellow believers regardless of ethnic background and financial status. They were simply being carnal Christians who were not exercising the faith they had received and therefore did not express the reality of a life lived by the Spirit.”

Even so, I still submit that several issues come under examination given the greater principle (relationship between faith and deeds) James has addressed.

1. Examination of whether one is a “brother” or not. Given the fact that James, when writing to the church uses the word “brothers” (Note – this term is not an indicator that 100% of those included in the hearing of the letter were actually saved, but rather it refers to both the general audience (all the believers) as well as specifically to the believers themselves. Hence, in the hearing of the letter, it would still be incumbent upon those in the hearing of the letter to discern whether they were of the “brothers” or not. In other words, while James addresses the relationship between saving faith and the expression of faith regarding believers, the question still remains for those in the hearing of the letter whether they were true believers or not. For example, Jesus in the sermon on the mount says “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose,, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” In other words, while the greater principle of how saving faith will be complimented or completed by deeds, one’s lack of deeds could be caused, not just by the lack of believers to act in accordance with the calling and faith they possess, but by one not possessing the faith to begin with. This is exemplified in Jesus’ teaching regarding the builders, that some may simply be resting in the hearing of the words, but that will not be sufficient to save them when tests come.

2. Distinctions between the faith of justification and faith in specific applications. As strange as it may sound, there are situations where believers trust in God for salvation (justification), but fail to trust in God in specific situations or applications. Here their lack of deeds can result from lack of faith. For example, one may trust God to save them eternally, but when their child faces a surgery that could cripple them, they may not display the peace, the confidence, etc. that they should because they may not have come to fully embrace the fact that “In ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, …” Hence, a lack of Christian fruit and actions can serve as a sign that a Christian needs to go back and examine their beliefs (not necessarily justification, but God’s ability to provide in and through all situations).

3. Distinctions between inconsistencies in acting according to one’s faith and not possessing the faith to begin with. (Ultimately, the term “carnal Christian” is an oxymoron. While we know practically, there are believers who act not in keeping with Christian principles, we also must profess their actions are not consistent but rather inconsistent with who they really are.) (Sometimes we know what we are to do and we just don’t do it. Other times we may not even know what we are to do. EITHER could result in lack of Christian works). This being said, when believers actions are not in keeping with Christian principles, one must ask the question: is it due to the believer failing to act in light of the faith he possesses (due to sluggishness, laziness, fear, etc.) or (as in#2 above) is it because in that area of his life he has not come to possess the measure of faith (incl. knowledge) he needs. For example, some believers continue to cuss, to covet, etc. because they have not come to see that there is anything significantly wrong with it. These works, (& the lack of Christian works/deeds/attitudes, etc in the given situation) is not simply being “carnal” in the sense of acting against what they believe, but in their failing to believe what is right.

You state “However, I still contend and will continue to do so that there is no Biblical basis for false or spurious faith. However, if you can prove from other references besides the text in question that there can be types of faith other than true faith, I will be willing to concede error.” Do you deny that one can put their faith in the wrong OBJECT, and that if so, that faith will not save? While the faith is real, the confidence it will save them is false.

You state “…it nevertheless is not enough to say we simply have faith and not do anything in obedience to God's word. James was simply pointing out the error of these messianic believers who thought that all they needed was to be justified positionally and therefore neglected the practical outworkings of sanctification and it's evidences of works and fruit.” I agree.

You state “There is definitely the need to examine the fruit of our christians lives…” I agree.

You state “… but our confidence should never be in the works manifested (no matter how convincing) but in the received rhemas from God's word which give us an unshakeable faith.” Yes, but there is DIFFERENCE between the CONFIDENCE we gain through the promises and the CONFIRMATION we gain through the outworking and evidences of the Spirit in our lives. ………For example, should a person who professes faith in Christ, but NEVER sees ANY change (in his attitude, his behavior, the way he treats others, the way he responds to situations) in their life REST COMFORTABLY? … or does the lack of the Spirit’s presence & power raise legitimate questions? The issue I believe is that many who oppose Calvinism seem to twist Calvinisms true teaching, from that of the use of works as a measure of confirmation for true believers, to that of being able to infallibly use and discern works as a measure of justification (something true Calvinism does not teach).

I think, in our case, closer than we think, … when the terms are defined.

In Christ,
Tim

Brandon Presbyterian said...
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Brandon Presbyterian said...

Matthew,

It is possible for a believer to act either in keeping with his new nature or in giving way to the law of sin.

The point though is that our calling (and God's purpose for our lives) is for us to no longer live like we did before but to keep in step with his Spirit. He has given his Spirit, even that these differences might be realized in our lives. So their IS a relationship between our Saving Faith ... and our receiving the Spirit... and our participation in newness of life (incl. good works). The relationship cannot be denied. Those who receive the Spirit (by faith) will be led to participation in good works ... for that is the heart and mind and intent of the Spirit. While we may fail and while we may sin, the Scripture is clear that the salvation of the believer is with the view in mind that God's people would participate in righteousness and good works (Titus 2:14).

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Indeed, we receive the Holy Spirit who leads us to do good works. This is God;s will for our lives.

As a result of saving faith, we receive the Spirit. It is not saving faith that leads us to do good works, but the sanctifying work of the Spirit in our lives.

My point about sin is that the difference here is extent. Jazzycat holds that my allowing the possiblity of comoplete ruin in a believers life is a denial of the power of the Holy Spirit. However, he allows that a believer may fail in part.

The quetion between our respective positions is whether there is the possibility of a Christian's falling into a state of ruin or apostasy.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Jim said...

Tim, again I say an amen to your comments. It seems you have a grounded view of scriptures and obviously try to reconcile calvinism with the word rather than vice versa. I will try to address some of the details separately in future posts so that we can clarify some of the smaller points.

I think we agree on the basic premise for sanctification and possibly some minor misunderstanding in the parables and certains phrases used by Jesus and Paul lead to that confusion?

Without divine revelation we will simply be mere academic christians who fail to apply the power of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives and gain clear illumination from the Light God imparts.

I welcome your further comments and suggestions. I hope to review this thread and post subsequent related topics soon.

God bless,
Jim

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Matthew,

Regarding our works and the Spirit, I agree that it is the Spirit that leads to our good works. However, that is not to say that there is not a relationship between saving faith and good works. While the faith itself is the originator of the good works, it is also true that in accordance with faith grace is supplied that results in good works. You seem to want to completely separate the two, while the Scripture paints more of a "package deal" if you will, where God in providing redemption and salvation, does so with the end in view, works in the individual toward that end, and supplies grace that is necessary toward those ends. Not only is this so, but the works, while being ENABLED by the Spirit, RESULT from and are fruits of (& are MOTIVATED by) the FAITH expressed by the individual and according to the Spirit.

What is your views concerning the possibility of a Christian falling into a state of ruin and apostasy (or not persevering)?

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Jim,
I too look forward to addition discussion in the future as time and opportunity permits us.

You are right in that the Word is the authority, and is of utmost concern. Any "ism", be it Calvinism or any other is only relevant and truth as it is founded and to the extent it is supported by the word. That being said ...is why I believe Calvinism (when properly understood, defined and applied) is so valuable, as I believe it is what the Word teaches. Calvinism, in its purest form, teaches that saving faith is not only associated with a status change (i.e. from unregenterate to regenerate) but is also linked with good works as saving faith not only precedes good works but also leads to good works. (granted...these works are enabled both in and through the Holy Spirit).

In closing, let me repeat that in light of much of what I read by those who oppose Calvinism on the Internet, before one joins with them in opposing Calvinism, one should be sure that it is Calvinism and not the twisted & erroneous doctrines proposed or supposed to be Calvinism that they are opposing. There is a big difference between looking to works as a measure of confirmation and looking to works as a predominate or only means of confidence concerning salvation.

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Matthew,
I just noted on the "Unashamed of Grace" blogsite (http://unashamedofgrace.blogspot.com/) that you have a post regarding Blondin's illustration, an illustration I referred you to on this site. While you certainly have the right to post on that site whatever you choose, given our recent discussions, I was a little disappointed and taken back to see that while you did not see fit to raise your objections to the illustration here, you would take the illustration and list your criticisms of it there along a reference to "preachers" who use the illustration.

Rather than jump back and forth, let me provide a defense to what you have written, particularly your third point where you state "In contrast, when we believe on Christ for salvation, we are justified through our confidence in what Christ has done for us. The faith is in Christ's work. We are not saved by doing anything:" ... by pointing out that while salvation is by faith alone, there IS an active component of believers in saving faith, ... a component that deals not with the grounds of our salvation, but rather one related to faith as the means of our salvation.

Had you raised your concerns here rather than there, it would have saved you from making that mistake.

All this being said, I hope we can continue in cordial and honest conversation and debate together.

Tim

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Tim, I raised the substance of the post here in this thread. I do not think I said much in the post that I did not say here.

I am sorry if you felt it was appropriate for me to let you know. However, you opportunity to read and reply ot my response to that illustration here.

I am sorry, I do not understand what the active component in faith is. Do you think that you can choose to exercise faith?

With regard to faith and works, I see no Scriptural data to suggest that faith must necessarilly result in works.

I hold that a Christian mya fall into serious sin or apostatise, in which case they will face chastening. If continued, the sin will result in physical death and the loss of all rewards and privilege in heaven.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Matthew,

I do not feel any need or desire to address any further the placement of the comments, but am happy to simply go on dealing with the substance ... that is ... the active component found in saving faith.

While it is true that believers are saved upon the GROUNDS of what Christ has done alone (and has nothing to do with what we can contribute), it is also true that when it comes to the INSTRUMENT or MEANS of our salvation, that is, faith, that the individual participates. For example, in Isaiah 25:9 we read "In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation." Again in Jeremiah we read "I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the LORD.' "

This is NOT to say that believers do ANYthing meritorious when it comes to salvation. However, the individual is called to respond by exercising the faith he has been given, not as a means of earning salvation, but as a means of receiving and manifesting salvation.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I think trust is passive.

I trust the mail to arrive tomorrow. I did not choose to trust in Royal Mail. It has simply been revealed to me that Royal Mail exist and that they are usually efficent enougth to deliver the mail most days.

My trust is merely a passive assent to the truth.

Of course, I could harden my heart to this truth. If I was convinced of the inefficency and uselessness of Royal Mail I could convince myself that the mail was not going to show up tomorrow by ignoring the evidence.

Thus, I do not believe there is any active component in saving faith.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Brandon Presbyterian said...

Matthew,

I doubt you'll find many, if any believers that would agree with you on this.

Theologians agree there is a volitional element (fiducia) to faith. As Berkhof puts it "This is the crowing element of faith. Faith is not merely a matter of the intellect, nor of the intellect and the emotions combined; it is also a matter of the will, determining the direction of the soul, an act of the soul going out towards its object and appropriating this. Without this activity the object of faith, which the sinner recognizes as true and real and entirely applicable to his present needs, remains outside of him."

Turrettin distinguishes the elements of faith (parts &/or consequences of) to include: cognition, intellectual assent, trust, fleeing for refuge, embracing self-consciousness of true actings of faith, with Consolation and assurance of hope.

Let me quote R.L Dabney - "The Scriptures describe faith by almost every imaginable active figure. It is a 'looking' (Is XLV:22), a 'receiving (Jn 1:12-13), an "eating" of Him (Jn vi:54), a 'coming' (Jn v:40), an 'embracing' (Heb xi:13), a 'fleeing unto' (Jn v:40), and 'laying hold of' (Heb vi:18), etc." I ask you, do we not read that "his disciples put their faith in him."(Jn 2:11), that even as he spoke, many "put their faith in him" (Jn 8:30)? Even beyond this...(as we discuss the relationship between faith and works) in the account of the friends who carried the paralytic to Jesus, was it passive intellectual belief that led them to do what they did?

The point is this: While the primary element of faith is trust, the trust of saving faith includes not only the trust associated with "pistis" - 'to be pursuaded that a person or thing is trustworthy' (in the Niphil form - 'to be trustworthy'; but also in the Hilphil form - 'to regard as trustworthy', & 'to place one's trust or confidence in'); but the trust of saving faith includes trust associated with "fides" which can be defined as 'confidence exercised in regard to any person or thing', or as Heinsius has defined it "that state of mind in which a man receives and relies upon a thing as true." As Hodge puts it "to believe, then, is to live by or according to, to abide by, to guide, conduct, regulate, govern, or direct the life by; to take, accept, assume or adopt as a rule of life; and, consequently, to think, deem, or judge right; to be firmly persuaded of, to give credit to; to trust, or think trustworthy; to have or give faith or confidence; to confide, to think or deem faithful." Delitzsch describes faith "as the most central act of our being; the return to God, the going out of our inner life to Him." "This longing after God's free, merciful love, as his own Word declares it - a longing, reaching forth, and grasping it; this naked, unselfish craving, feeling itself satisfied with nothing else than God's promised grace; this eagerness, absorbing every ray of light that proceeds from God's reconciled love; this convinced and safety[craving appropriation and clinging to the word of grace; - this is faith."

While I could quote many others, a simple study of the greek will show that saving faith possesses and displays an active and continuing element essential to its very nature.

Matthew, this is not just some "out there" theological concept, but the experience of every believer. I ask you, are you sure you've come to embrace Christ (...and not just passively assented (or responded) to the teachings (& promises) of Scripture? Is it simply a matter of misunderstanding faith (you really possess) or of mistaking something other than faith for faith? Something else to consider, could this misunderstanding be related your views of free grace theology, which also is known for extending the passivity of believers beyond the bounds of the grounds for salavation to other aspects of salvation in a believer's life?

Significant matters for consideration,

Tim