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Faith: True or False?

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
September 8, 2022 4:00 am

Faith: True or False?

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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September 8, 2022 4:00 am

James taught that faith without works is dead. This seems to contradict Paul’s teaching that no one will be justified by works. Discover the important distinctions between deeds done for salvation and those resulting from salvation, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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The Bible tells us in the book of faith without works is dead. At first glance it seems to contradict the apostle Paul's teaching that no one is justified by their works.

So how are these two ideas reconciled today on Truth for Life. Alister Ben teaches the important distinction between needs done for salvation and deeds done as a result, some were looking at James. It's important to remind one another as we saw last time.

The contrast that James is addressing here is not a contrast between faith and deeds. It is rather a contrast between true faith and false faith. True faith which James shows is linked inseparably to good deeds and a false faith which James points out is one that is barren and useless this distinction.

This contrast is a crucial contrast because audit hinges matters not only of time, but also of eternity and therefore the challenge that is presented in the question of verse 14 is one to which we need to pay most careful attention. Look at his question. What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds. Here's the individual who is making big boss and big claims about their understanding of faith. But in actual fact they are good on words and they are absent in deeds. Their lips have much to say in their lives have little to show have belief without behavior. They espouse a creed but there is no accompanying conduct.

James is making it quite plain that a sincere claim to have faith is not necessarily synonymous with a sincere faith. We can be sincere in our claim and had me sincerely wrong hands. The nature of this passage in verses 15 and 16. He underscores the useless nature of such a claim when he says let me illustrate this for you. The futility of mere words seeking to alter the circumstances of the needy. The poor will not thank us for our kind wishes. Normal God, thank us for just simply saying that we have faith if wishes were horses, then beggars were dry, but they don't they don't because wishes cannot transform the circumstances. That's the illustration he provides. You might just as well do nothing. I stand there and make such statements and then in verse 17, the application of his illustration in the same way he says faith by itself, lonely faith is dead. James would have had access to a number of occasions when Jesus his brother was the teacher we know of course that James through much of Jesus life did not believe that Jesus was who he said he was. It was only after the reality of the resurrection that he came to believe himself, but he would not of been unfamiliar with the clarity of Jesus teaching and not least of all in this kind of area. So for example, he may well have as a reference point. Matthew chapter 25 at where Jesus in the second half of that chapter speaks about the separation of the sheep and the goats very straightforward picture isn't anybody could understand what Jesus was saying they would routinely have known that experience either by doing it themselves from the realm of shepherding or as a result of seeing it take place in the course of the week.

But what Jesus goes on to point out is that those who enter into his kingdom will be those who have done certain things and this is what he says I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me I was in prison and you came and visited me and then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when did we see you hungry, when did we see you as a stranger invite you into our houses or when did you need clothes and we gave you close in the King will reply and tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me and then he flips to the other sides and in any says, and the people will be separated from me, and cast into hell will be those who saw people needy, and so on and did nothing about it until staggering statement somewhat chilling statement isn't.

James says, faith by itself, lonely faith if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Of course it would be possible for us to jump to a false conclusion on the strength of Matthew chapter 25 and also on the basis of James 270 and some do and this is how they understand they say well I read Matthew chapter 25 and apparently the way that you get to heaven is by giving closer people don't have clothes or by welcoming them into your home. If they don't have a place to say and so on. Because that's what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 25. Isn't it yes but it's the same person who when a religious almsgiving gentleman by the name of Nicodemus came to see Jesus. Under the cover of darkness that Jesus said to Nicodemus I tell you the truth, you will never see the kingdom of God are enter the kingdom of God unless you are born again.

In other words, that which is referenced in Matthew 25 is not the ground of entry into heaven for background of entry into heaven is the is the work of Jesus. But those deeds are evidence of the fact that a man or a woman has been made new by the work of Jesus.

So that is why you see what James is doing is of such pressing importance. He is making it clear that the presence of these deeds cannot be used to argue the presence of faith by the absence of these deeds may be used to argue the absence of it is very very possible to collapse a biblical understanding of the gospel into an amalgam of charity and morality, and indeed, the history of the church history of organizations bears testimony to what happens when an individual or an organization or a church congregation or a denomination takes is it where its focus from the work of Christ on the cross in the gospel and attaches it to that which emerges from that truth but dare not supplant that truth and it could happen is easily here at Parkside church is anywhere else. Verse 18 someone will say you have faith and I have deeds.

And James is going to say no were not going to build a play that game were not going to be able to separate them from one another. The idea of faith being simply an Orthodox ascent to certain truths is also dealt with in the 19 facts you believe there is one God that's jolly good, but even the demons believe that and they shudder James again would've known that when Jesus came into an area often times it was the demons who were able to identify him. And James is pointing out you can have an Orthodox understanding of the God, but you won't be any better than the demons. If you if you do so. In other words, information plus a little perspiration is not the same as the transformation that God brings about when he gives us birth through the word of his truth and turns his people into those who are producing force for as verse 18 meaning stray very far from it. In chapter 1 he chose to give us birth is God's initiative remembered through the word of truth as God's instrument that we might be kind of firstfruits of all he created.

That's God's intention. He produces the sentence so James is tackling the individual who says well I I actually have an Orthodox view. I do believe I do believe there is a God. While that's very good and I even actually believe that Jesus was the son of God. That's also very good, but you haven't even got beyond the demons classroom yet and the person may be prepared to say and not only do I believe in a God. I believe that Jesus is the son of God, but I also believe that it is very important to do certain things like feeding people and giving close to folks who are are cold at night.

All of that put together is not what James is referencing here in terms of saving faith receipt what the Bible makes clear to us is that were not in need of an educator were in need of a Savior. There is an educational dimension to coming to saving faith insofar as there are propositions that are laid out for is in the Bible that are to be believed by the believing of those propositions is not to be equated with genuine saving faith because it is possible to believe propositions intellectually without consenting to the impact of those propositions in our lives and we know that from from easy illustrations throughout every aspect of our days. There is no intellectual road to God in the sense that we can simply decide to put the pieces of the puzzle together and get their know we need God to do what only God can do and that is to wake us up to our need of a Savior, which is very different from being wakened up to an interest in the deity or being concerned to acknowledge that there is an existence of a superpower order. There is some great unmoved mover of the origin of the universe or that we are prepared to give credence to the idea of a prophet who roamed the Galilean hillsides we can do all of that and yet still have no notion of what it means to have our sins forgiven two of our lives, invaded by the explosive power of a new affection to be convinced within our hearts that God is who he claimed to be in so long. There is great potential or lonely faith and a lonely faith says James is a dead faith.

It is no good. It is dangerous.

It is unhelpful. It will take a man or woman eventually into hell. That's why it's so significant. Now he says what I like to do at this point is call a couple of witnesses in defense of my thesis and so he's going to call first of all, Abraham that won't be a surprise. He's the daddy of them all. Is it where we might say so well known for his place in biblical history and that is going to call Rahab the prostitute, which is more surprising and unlikely illustration. What is he doing in this well he is destroying the pretense of those who imagine that simply they are declaring of belief without evidence in their lives is saving faith, you foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless. Let me call to witnesses. First of all let me call Abraham was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar and goes all the way through the staggering statement in verse 424 you see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone is justified by what he does not by faith alone. Were we going to do in this let me answer the question for you, and then we can unpack it now and at a later time, two things will be helpful in tackling what is an apparent but not a contradiction number one recognizing that what Paul is dealing with in Romans is different from what James is dealing with in James coming from two different starting points. Paul is starting from the point always pointing out that that works have no value in bringing a man or woman into a relationship with Jesus. As we come along zero. I did this and I did this and I did that it would regarding set me on the basis of that and Paul says no, it would be possible for you could never be good enough. Do enough in order to be accepted by God. Therefore, you'll never be accepted by God, on account of of what you do. James is not at that point James is picking up the people who profess to have come to our knowledge of Jesus and James is insisting that I genuine awareness of who Jesus is and what he is done will be evidenced in good deeds and that those good deeds are not the ground of our acceptance with God, but that they are the evidence of our acceptance with God. So again we ended last time. In Ephesians 2 it is by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God not of works, so that no one should boast.

Then what is he saying the very next verse for we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, so that they are the evidence of not the ground but James is say I don't want to hear from you folks just gravitating on about what you believe and telling me things that stir around in your head's lonely faith is dead faith. The other thing that we need to recognize and with this we must all is that James and Paul are using justification in two different ways.

The verb did Cairo is used in the majority of times in the way that most of us have been taught to understand it in terms of being declared righteous not being made righteous.

All right, that justification in that sense is the opposite of condemnation that in condemnation.

We are declared guilty in being justified. We are declared not guilty by those who are declared not guilty still know themselves to be wretched sinners. How then can those who are sinful people be declared not guilty on the strength not of anything done by them not actually have anything done in but on the strength of dumb something done for them so that our acceptance before God is an account of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished and, indeed, until we understand that use of the verb to justify most of us will make a complete shambles of trying to understand what James is doing here so so why don't I just and by and by at least making an attempt to make sure that we understand what what Paul is doing with justify and then will come back to our James is doing with justify turn to Romans chapter 3 for just a moment I'm going to take you on a whistle stop tour of a few verses in Romans, Paul is explaining chapter 1 that we have exchange the glory of God. In chapter 3, he is explaining that we have fallen short of the glory of God and our predicament is such that in verse 19 now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced in the whole world held accountable to God. Here we are. No one will be declared righteous in his sight declared righteous in his sight.

Notice by observing the law water through the law we become conscious of sin and then in verse 21 he explains how it could possibly be that those who have exchange the glory and fallen short of God's glory may come as he mentions it in Romans five to rejoice in the hope of glory. How is this possible, because verse 21 and three a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known and this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. To all who believe. To all who cast themselves consenting on Christ.

This makes perfectly plain is that you can never be so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace, and none of eyes could ever be so good that we are beyond the need of God's grace as Jerry Bridges so encompasses all the income is a person who sitting here this morning and whose life is the look back on it is our Royal shambles. Who feel that they have blotted their copybook so severely who have marred their lives who have turned their back on God will destroy things to of wasted his time and wasted their time and invaded others' lives and harmed them and hated God and they say there is no possibility for me.

Luke in here to all who believe. To all believe you are not so bad as to be beyond his reach than the spotlight spins around and catches the smog on the self-confident and the religious and the people who are so secure in their own goodness and shakes us up and says listen here. You're not good enough to get into heaven without our Savior. You will on that day have only one defense you will only have one plea that you may enter and that plea is Christ Jesus paid it all.

He did it and I look to him the wonder of justification by faith is that God has brought into tying his great exercise so that when a man or woman comes to rest in the work of Jesus, that man or woman need never ever fear that God will go and muck around and rake around in that which he has forgiven.

We need never fear that the penalty will be reintroduced, it is forever and for all time. He will discipline us the work of God in sanctification is an ongoing war by the work of guarding justification is a finished work. That's why there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. Does that describe you in Christ Jesus. Not interested in Christ Jesus.

But in because you have cast yourself up on caught up in the arms of his mercy.

My sin or the lists of this glorious thought my sin not in part but the whole is nailed to his cross and I bear it no more.

That's the issue, and my dear friends if you do not have that conviction within your heart that God does not bring it to you despite all of the ceiling of the evil one against you, then you probably need to get down on your knees and cry God be merciful to me, the sinner, and he will save all who believe. And he will bring you into an experience of genuine expressions of his wonderful love race while we left Abraham kind of come back to the presence of deeds in our life be our only argument for the presence of real faith, but the absence of deeds can be a strong argument for the absence of true faith listing to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Alister also explained today that you could never be so bad that your beyond the reach of God's grace and you can't be so good that your beyond the need for God's grace.

While this encouragement and this warning are a part of the lessons found in the book that we want to recommend to you today a book for young children titled little pilgrim's big journey part two. This tells the story of Christiana, a girl who along with her brothers, navigates a host of challenges. On her way to the celestial city.

Your children will enjoy this captivating allegory of the teachers about the tests and trials of the Christian life. Request your copy of little pilgrim's big journey part two when you give a from Bob Lapine. What could a highly respected, devoutly religious, spiritual forefather possibly have in common with the woman of ill repute, we will find out tomorrow Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by truth Learning is for Living

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