James 015 – Becoming God’s Friend

James 015 – Becoming God’s Friend
James 2:25-26 • Dr. Andy Woods • February 3, 2021 • James


James 15 — Becoming God’s Friend — James 2:25-26

 James 2:23 — As you guys know, we’ve been doing the study on the book of James, about practical righteousness.  The first part of the book is about continuing to trust God as a Christian, and as we were saved by faith, but we continue to walk by faith, and as we continue to walk by faith, we are demonstrating a practice that is catching up with our high position in Christ Jesus.  So how, exactly, do we do that?

The first section was on trials; we adopt God’s perspective on the issue of trials and suffering.  These involve rejoicing in the midst of trials and not charging God foolishly in the midst of trials as we have talked about.

The second way we continue to walk by faith and demonstrate a practical righteousness that is pleasing to God is in James 1:19-27, where we obey His Word.  We are slow to speech and anger, and we take in His Word, but we don’t just sit, soak and sour; we aren’t hearers only, but doers.

The third way to manifest a practical righteousness that is pleasing to God is to get away from the idea of showing favoritism within the assembly; giving people preferential treatment on the basis of some standard that humans might value like wealth.  When we do that, unfortunately, showing favoritism that way, we are operating completely contrary to God’s character and God’s purposes.

So that is what we finished prior to Christmas break, and we reconvened afterwards starting our spring quarter and we got into this very controversial subject of “faith without works is dead.”  That is in James 2:14-26:  faith, unless it is accompanied by works, is dead.

We have done four teachings on this and this is our fifth, and I’m hoping that tonight will be our final teaching on that paragraph.  We try to make the point that this paragraph is not dealing with justification but with sanctification, the middle tense of our salvation.  It becomes obvious just by watching the context of this because at the end of James 1, he says to ‘help widows and orphans in their distress and keep yourself unstained by the world.’  That isn’t talking about how to become a Christian there, it is talking about how to live as a Christian.

Then, you follow that over into James 2, and it is about not showing favoritism in the church.  That’s not talking about how to become a Christian, it is talking about how to live as a Christian.

Then he starts talking about the fact at the end of the first paragraph of James 2 that we will stand before the Lord at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ and be rewarded or not rewarded based on how we live for Him while we are here on the Earth.  Again, that’s not a section dealing with how to become a Christian but how to live as a Christian.

Next week, if all things work out here in terms of my timing, though sometimes they don’t, but next week if we are finished with James 2:14-26, then we are going to move into James 3:1-12, which probably is one of the most convicting chapters of the whole Bible — would you agree with that?  It is dealing with taming the tongue, the 2×2 slab of mucous membrane between my gums that gets me into so much trouble.  So, taming the tongue is not a section on how to become a Christian; it is how to live as a Christian.  So, do you see the whole context here?  So, if everything in the surrounding context deals with not, how to become a Christian, but about how to live as a Christian.  I can’t come to James 2:14-26 and make it about if you or are you not a Christian? Because none of the other sections do that; they assume you are a Christian and they’re teaching us how to live as Christians.

So, what people do is to use special pleading with James 2:14-26, and they want to turn it into ‘If you don’t have enough good works, they you’re not a Christian at all.’  I don’t think James is talking about that given the surrounding context.  None of the surrounding context where this paragraph is found, deal with that, so why would James be dealing with it here?

Rather, James’ point and his thesis given in James 2:14; is that you have to have works for your faith to be productive; you have to have works for your faith to be useful.  If you have faith but you don’t have works, then basically what you have is a saving faith only, which is a wonderful thing to have because at least you’re not going to hell, amen?, so there isn’t anything wrong with just having saving faith by itself, but James says that God wants more from us; He wants to get us to a point where we don’t just have our fire insurance paid up because we trusted in Christ for salvation, but He actually wants to use our lives to advance His purposes.  So, He wants our faith to become useful; mature.

So, “faith without works is dead”— if you’re looking at this, saying, ‘Oh, I hope I’m a Christian.’  by demonstrating that you have enough good works is not James’ point; that’s not what James is dealing with. You’re forcing James to ask and answer a question that James isn’t interested in.  What James is dealing with is faith that exists, that is real — how does it now become productive in the life of the child of God? What he is dealing with here is the usefulness of faith.  Works accompany useful faith; he isn’t getting into the question of the existence of faith; he is assuming the readers have faith; now he wants them to become useful to God in daily life and in practical righteousness.

So, his thesis is that works must accompany useful faith.  Then he backs up his thesis with five illustrations, three of which we’ve covered:

  1. You will have a desire to, if you have resources and see someone in need, a propensity, if your faith is a useful faith, to help that person financially. James 2:15-26
  2. The demonic monotheist, James 2:18-19, and here he is arguing from the lesser to the greater, basically saying, ‘Look even the demons who believe; the demons believe,’ we understand that, right? They’re not going to heaven because the plan of salvation is not open to them, but they believe in Jesus in the sense that when Jesus was on the earth, they knew exactly who Jesus was.  They said, ‘Have you come to torment us before the appointed time?’  So, demons have a very high theology, Christology, belief in God’s powers, etc, and James’ point is, ‘Look, even the demons themselves who have faith, their faith is practical because they at least tremble, which is an outward manifestation. ‘ So, if the demons have some kind of practical dimension to their faith, arguing form the lesser to the greater, how much more should the child of God pursue practicality in their faith?
  3. Abraham, James 2:20-24, which is probably the ultimate example for his Jewish audience because Abraham is the foundation or the beginning of the Hebrew race, so if you can document your case from Abraham, you should have won over your Jewish audience that James is addressing a Hebrew Christian audience. Here, he gets into the subject that Abraham was justified by faith alone in Genesis 15:6. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness.  Then 20-30 years pass, and Abraham is justified a second time; he didn’t get saved again but justified just means a declaration of righteousness.  He was justified a second time, not in the eyes of God, but now in the eyes of man; not vertically but horizontally because God told him to do something hard: to sacrifice Isaac, and they had waited and waited and waited, when you read the Genesis  God says now, ‘Sacrifice him.’  Because Abraham was willing to do that physical action because God told him to, at that point, he was justified a second time not in the eyes of God; he already had that in Genesis 15, but now in the eyes of his fellow man, because now his faith was obedient to the point where God could actually use him in a very special way.

So, that is basically what is going on here with the illustration of Abraham, and this is where it gets tricky because James 2:24 says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”  Unless you understand this chart (see slide on Harmony Between Paul and James), that verse will throw you into a tailspin.  In fact, it does throw most Christians who aren’t taught well on that into a tailspin.   It threw Martin Luther into a tailspin.  Martin Luther, who was so into justification by faith alone, hated the book of James because of that verse.  to him, it contradicted salvation by faith alone, which was what Luther’s emphasis was, so he actually took the book of James in his German translation, and put it way in the back in the appendix.  Because at first glance, it looks as though James 2:24 contradicts everything that Paul said in terms of salvation by faith alone.  That is because Luther never included his chart here in his translation, had he included it, the confusion would have disappeared because Paul and James used the same word, ‘justification,’ but in different senses.

Justification is just a declaration of innocence.  When Paul talks about it, he is generally talking about the fact that we receive it when we trust Christ for salvation.  In the Old Testament sense, that is what happened with Abraham in Genesis 15:6.  When James uses the word, ‘justification,’ a declaration of righteousness, he is talking about the evidence of usefulness of the believer’s faith, not before God, but before man.  Justification in the Bible can be used in either sense. Here is how it is used in the horizontal sense:  in Matthew 12:37, you see in brackets the Greek word for ‘justified;’ it is the same word that Paul uses over and over again, but here, Christ is warning us against false teachers.  So how do you discern a false teacher versus a true teacher?  It is like a tree bearing fruit.  A good tree will bear good fruit, and a bad tree will bear bad fruit.  That is how you can tell from the outside if someone is a good prophet and a righteous teacher because their lifestyle and their teaching that you can see aligns with God’s Word.  You will notice that when Christ talks about that, He uses the word, ‘justified’ there:  Matthew 12:37, “For by your words you will justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  He is talking about an outward analysis where you’re trying to figure out if someone is a false prophet or a true prophet, so it’s the same word, ‘justified;’ he is just not using it in the vertical sense but in the horizontal sense, and that’s all James is doing.

James is saying that Abraham was justified by works, not vertically before God because salvation is not by works, but horizontally before man because his faith was no longer just a saving faith at this point; it was a serving faith because of his obedience.  So, we aren’t made right with God by our obedience; we are made right with God through our faith in His Son and the transferred righteousness is transferred to us at the point of faith alone.  My good works don’t gain me any merit before God; the only thing that gains me merit before God in that sense is faith alone in Christ alone.  But if my faith is going to become a useful faith, I need to start obeying God, and as I start doing that, then my fellow man can see it, because they’re probably being blessed by my obedience, so now I am justified not in a vertical sense, but in a horizontal sense.  So, James is dealing with the horizontal sense; Paul is dealing with the vertical sense.  There is no contradiction between Paul and James when you understand this.

Thomas Constable says it the best: “‘Abraham was declared righteous more than once.  Most interpreters understand the first scriptural statement of his justification as describing his ‘new birth,’ to use the New Testament term (notice Genesis 15:6).  This is when God declared Abraham righteous.  James explained that (notice length of time here) about 20 years after Abraham was declared righteous, he was ‘justified’ again.  Scripture consistently teaches that believers whom God declares righteous never lose their righteous standing before God (Romans 5:1; 8:1; et al).  They do not need to be saved again.  Abraham’s subsequent second ‘justification,’ evidently refers to a second declaration of his righteousness.  James said this second time Abraham’s works declared him righteous.”  In the sense that “They gave testimony (bore witness) to his faith.  Works do not always evidence faith, but sometimes they do.  They do so, whenever a person who has become a believer by faith, continues to live by faith.”   

Interrupting the quote for a minute, in Genesis 15:6 Abraham became a believer by faith.  In Genesis 22, twenty years later, he was not just someone who became a believer by faith, but he was continuing to live by faith.  God said, ‘Kill Isaac,’ and Abraham was willing to do it.  Continuing with the quote, Thomas Constable said, “Abraham is a good example of a believer whose good works (obedience to God) bore witness to his righteousness.  He continued to live by faith, just as he had been declared righteous by faith.”

 So that is what the Abraham illustration is really about.  Now real late in the game last time, I threw this hand grenade at you, and I don’t know if you had a chance to absorb it since it came at you so fast, but I want to very briefly go back to James 2:23 in the Abraham illustration and give you further explanation of this.  Look at 2:23 concerning Abraham: “and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ now that is a quote from Genesis 15:6 — when Abraham was made right with God initially, but you see the ‘and’; the conjunction?  I have the ‘and’ underlined;and he was called the friend of God.”  I have in [Genesis 18:17}.

This is important to understand:  Abraham was made right with God in Genesis 15:6, but Abraham did not become God’s friend until Genesis 18:17.  Why is that?  Because it is in Genesis 18:17 that Abraham was qualified to receive additional insight, and it relates to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah where the Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?’  In other words, ‘I need to let Abraham in on what I am about to do concerning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because he is now not just a believer,  but he is my friend, and with friendship comes additional insight.’

There are a couple of passages that tells us that Abraham was God’s friend: Isaiah 41:8 and 2 Chronicles 20:7, so I want you to see something, and this is what I didn’t have a chance to explain very well last time.  There is a difference between being a believer in God and being a friend of God.  The distinction comes from what Jesus said in the upper room when He was speaking to 11 people, the only unbeliever in the group, Judas, had left the room in John 13.  When Jesus spoke these words in John 15:14,15, He was talking to 11 saved people in the upper room who had been with him for about three years.  He said to them at the very end of his earthly ministry, the final week of His life on earth, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.”  See the condition there?  “You are My friends if you do what I command you15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

You will notice that at this point they had just become His friends, formally He looked at them as slaves in the sense that they really didn’t have additional insight, but now, three years have passed, and they’ve graduated into friendship because they’re actually willing to do what Jesus told them to do in daily life.  Now they were entitled to insight that they didn’t have formally have in those three years.

This is what is happening in Genesis 18:17. He is graduated from being just a believer to friendship because there is a condition for friendship, that condition is “If you do what I command you…,” which is obedience.  See, once a Christian starts to obey God to the best of his ability under His power, the game just got upped.  They are now a friend of God; they were going to heaven before, but ow they’re a friend of God, so they get additional insight that they didn’t have before.  This is what’s happening to Abraham, and that is why two verses are quoted there in James 2:23: the justification verse and the friendship verse — those are two different stages of spiritual development.

This chart is on the difference between Salvation and Friendship (see slide).  What is the condition for salvation?   Faith alone in Christ alone.  Abraham got that in Genesis 15:6.  What is the condition for friendship?  Obedience.  What is the Scripture for salvation?  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  You have that one memorized, right?  That is a great Scripture for salvation.  Well, what is a great Scripture for friendship?  The one we just read, John 15:14, “You are my friends, IF you do what I command.”  Salvation is dealing with which phase of salvation?  Justification.  Friendship is dealing with which phase of salvation?   Progressive sanctification.  ‘Well, why should I get saved? So I don’t have to go to hell.’  A person gets saved, and the benefit is that they are saved from sin’s penalty at the point of faith alone in Christ alone.  ‘Okay, well if I already have that, why should I graduate into friendship through obedience in daily life?’  Because it is friendship that entitles you to additional insight.  See that?

Backing up here, once you understand that, you can start making sense of verses like this in John 2:23-25, “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in [that is the Greek construction ‘pisteuō eis’] His name, observing His signs which He was doing24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”   Now when I am trying to figure out what a commentator believes on the issue of grace, the first thing I look at is how they handle this verse here.  Do they understand the difference between salvation and friendship? Most commentators don’t.  You have this situation where Jesus is performing miracles, and you have people believing in Jesus.  Then John 2:24 says that Jesus would not entrust Himself to them.  So, what 99% of the commentators do is to say that these people weren’t really saved; they’re not going to heaven.  The problem with that is it says they ‘believed in’ His Name; in other words, they fulfilled the condition of salvation — there is only one condition for salvation:  faith alone in Christ alone.  It says it as clearly as it can be said in Greek.  You will see it in the purpose statement of John’s gospel; this is why John wrote His gospel, John 20:30-31, “Therefore, many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”  There is pisteuō eis; you will find pisteuō eis in John 3:16 and any other salvation passage in the gospel of John.

So, when it says many believed in His name, to say, well, they weren’t really Christians, is to take pisteuō eis, and interpret it differently than you would anywhere else in John’s gospel.  These people were saved.  We are going to die and go to heaven and see all these people.  The big argument is that they didn’t have real faith.  This is what the reformed camp says; they had miracle faith, but not saving faith.  I have seen that language thrown about by a lot of reformed interpreters.  ‘Oh, they just had miracle faith.’  Well, what does John’s purpose statement say?   “Therefore, many other signs…”  Isn’t that miracles?  Why did Jesus do miracles?  To put on a magic show?  No, he is proving who He was as the Son of God with the hope that people would believe on Him for salvation.

John’s purpose statement says that you can believe in Christ on account of His miracles.  He uses the words, ‘signs,’ pisteuō eis, which is the exact same thing that is going on in John 2:23, “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name observing His signs which He was doing…” In other words, these people fulfilled the condition of John’s purpose statement.  You see the signs, you recognize who Jesus is, you trust in Him for salvation.  If you study this exegetically and grammatically, syntactically, and consistently, there is no way you can make any case that these people were not true believers.

Well, if they were true believers then why does John 2:24 say, “But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them?”  Why would He say that?  Why would it say, of Jesus, that He would not entrust Himself to them in 2:24, when 2:23 indicates they were true believers?  It is very simple:  these people were believers, but they had not yet graduated into friendship because they had no track record of the condition for friendship:  obedience.  So, they were not qualified.  What is the benefit of friendship?  Additional insight.  They were not yet in a position where they were qualified for additional insight because there was no track record of obedience in daily life.

Now the disciples in the upper room had graduated; they weren’t just believers anymore; now they were friends because they had met the condition of obedience, and now they are qualified for additional insight.

This is the position that Abraham, in our illustration, is now in, and that’s why John 2:23 doesn’t just quote one Old Testament passage; it quotes two:  Genesis 15:6, when Abraham was made right with God because of his faith and Genesis 18:17 where he was now qualified to receive additional insight concerning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because he now had a life of obedience before God.  Not perfect obedience, but he was at least willing to obey God; the will was there.

Maybe this will help.  All friends of God are believers (see slide on Believer vs Friendship); everyone who is a friend of God is already a believer, but not all believers are friends of God.  It is really sad to watch, but you can go through your whole life as a Christian and never graduate into friendship because you trusted Christ for salvation, but you keep going back to the sin nature over and over again, and there is no will to fight it under God’s resources.  So, you keep returning to it again and again; yes, you’re going to heaven; that is great, you’re saved by grace, but your understanding of the Bible was exactly the same as it was last year.  Your level of spiritual insight is exactly the same as it was five or ten years ago because you haven’t fulfilled the condition of friendship and haven’t graduated into greater insight that God has for you but is waiting for you to graduate.  See that?

I hope that helps a little bit and that is the significance of Abraham becoming a friend of God in Genesis 18 as opposed to just being a believer in YHWH in Genesis 15:6. That rounds off our illustration of Abraham.

Now as time permits, James has a fourth illustration that he uses to show that faith must be accompanied by works if it is to be a useful faith, and that is the prostitute, or the harlot, Rahab.  See her mentioned illustratively in James 2:25. “In the same way,…” Just as Abraham graduated into a useful faith, the same thing happened with Rahab.  “…was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works…” Now Luther wouldn’t like that, would he?   “…when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?”  Remember the story of Rahab in the book of Joshua?  Remember the children of Israel came out of the 400 years of Egyptian bondage.  They went to Mt Sinai (per my old map, and a controversial discussion regarding Mt Sinai’s actual location — is it in Saudi Arabia, or in the Sinai Peninsula?  This is an old map.  If you want to put Mt Sinai in Saudi Arabia over in Midian, go for it.  If you have a nice map, email it to me).  They came out of Egypt where they’d been for 400 years, went to Sinai, received the Law; were going upward to Kadesh Barnea where they saw giants in the land.  Then God began to work through the kids, and they were going around in the east, finally the Joshua generation was poised to enter Canaan as you can read about in the book of Joshua.

Remember that they sent out spies and Rahab, the Canaanite, who lived in Canaan, and what she was willing to do?  She was willing to hide the spies, and she did that at risk to her own life.  So, if she had gotten caught by the Canaanite people groups for helping the Jews this way on this spy mission, then she could have been killed, but she stepped out in faith and was willing to hide the spies.  When she did that, what does the Bible say here in James 2:25?  “In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?”  So, when Rahab did that, she was justified by works.  Now what kind of justification is this talking about?  Is this justification vertically to God?  No.  Why?  Because Rahab, the best we can tell from the book of Joshua, was already a believer in YHWH.  She was already right with God by way of faith.  Just as Abraham was before he was willing to sacrifice Isaac.  So someway, somehow, the message of YHWH had gotten to her in Canaan, and she believed.  When you go to the book of Joshua 2:9-13, it is very obvious that she is already a believer in YHWH.  What does she say to the spies there?  “…and said to the men I know that the Lord has given you the land, s[o I know that you’re going to come in here on this conquest and you are going to win], “…and that the terror of you has fallen on us,…” The Canaanites were more scared of the Israelis than the Israelis were of the Canaanites.  She says, ‘We are afraid of you.’  “…and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.  For we have heard…” Now we aren’t sure how this message got to them, but they were aware of God.  “…how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt…” Now that was 40 years back when that happened, and the Canaanites and Rahab knew about it.  “…and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed….”  Now that is what the Joshua generation, Moses and then Joshua, did to those two trans- Jordan kings, and Rahab knew about that.  Verse 11, 11When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man…” 

Isn’t it interesting that before God gives His people the victory, that he had already prepared the enemy for defeat by psyching them out?  You need to understand that as you walk with God as you come upon against godless people at your workplace, your boss — you need to understand that God has already given you the victory, and He has already done something in the heart of that person to give you the victory that you can’t even see.  That is what is going on here in this Canaan conquest.  Rahab the harlot says, “and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.  Does that sound like a woman who has faith in YHWH?  Absolutely.  She just asked for one thing:  she says, “…Now therefore, please swear to me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”  She is saying, ‘We know you’re going to come in here and utterly defeat us.’  She probably had more confidence in the victory of Israel than the Israelis had at that point.  This is how God can work in the hearts of people without us even being able to see it.  She says, ‘I know you’re going to come in here and have tremendous victory; just spare my family.  Could you do that?

So, you will notice here that when you look at this woman, Rahab, there is no doubt in my mind that she was a believer; she was a believer in the Old Testament sense of the word, just as Abraham was in Genesis 15:6.  So, she was already justified— vertically right with God because she fulfilled the condition of faith alone.  But when she stepped out on the limb as she did and hid the spies at risk to her own life, that is when she was justified a second time.  Not before God, but before her fellow man.  So, her declaration of righteousness that she already had was now practical.  See that?  So, she is justified in the horizontal sense, and that is what James 2:25 is saying — contrary to what Luther thought these passages meant, James is not saying that Rahab was made right with God through her good works; that is not what James is saying.  What he is saying that Rahab was already right with God through faith, and now her faith was not just a saving faith but a serving faith; a useful faith; productive faith.  So, when your faith becomes useful, it usually blesses someone else.  Now the usefulness of your faith is vindicated in the eyes of your fellow man.  That is what happened with Rahab, and why she is used here as an illustration.  So, she was justified, see our chart here on Harmony Between Paul and James, and how Paul and James each uses, ‘justified.’  She was justified the way that James is using it — not vertically but horizontally.  She was justified not in the Romans 5 sense, but in the Matthew 12:37 sense.

It says there in James 2:25 that she was justified by works.  See our chart and the word, ‘works,’ and how Paul used the word, ‘works,’ as how to gain favor with God.  How James uses the word, ‘works,’ he is speaking of the believer’s moral deeds.  Rahab, a believer, manifested moral deeds which vindicated the usefulness of her faith which already existed in the eyes of her fellow man because her fellow man was being blessed by the usefulness of her faith.  That is what useful faith always does:  it always blesses someone else that’s why James 1:26,27 say that if you have useful faith, you will help widows and orphans in their distress.  If I go out and help widows and orphans in their distress, does that make me a Christian?  No, that would be salvation by works.  What makes me a Christian is faith alone in Christ alone, but when I go out and help widows and orphans in their distress, now my faith is not just a saving faith, but a serving, useful, productive faith, and my fellow man can see it because they’re the ones being blessed by it.  I guarantee you that these spies were blessed by Rahab.  And I guarantee that the widows and orphans will be blessed by useful faith.  Hopefully that helps somewhat with Rahab.

  1. Now we have our last illustration, James 2:26, the illustration of the lifeless corpse. “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” What will we do with this word, ‘dead?’  What does ‘dead’ mean?  Does death mean non-existence in the Bible?  It never means that; it might mean that in the 20th and 21st centuries medical vernacular, but never biblically.  Death always means separation.  We have gone through this.  Not death, but the word.   Old Testament use of the word right out of the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, standard Hebrew Lexicon, and it defines death as separation, not non-existence.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon takes the Greek word, ‘death,’ ‘thanatos’ and defines it as separation, not non-existence.  In fact, when you die what will happen to you exactly?  The body and the soul separate — that’s what death is.  That is what happened with Jesus in Matthew 27:50 — “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.”  What does that mean?  His body and His soul separated.

Who was the first martyr of the Church age?  The same thing happened to him as they were pummeling him with rocks.  It says in Acts 7:59, “They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Because as he is dying, the soul and the spirit are separating — that’s what death is.  Now when your souls separates from your body, does that mean you stop existing?  No.  It is just a separation.  Remember the rich man who died in unbelief in Luke 16 in the story that Jesus told?  It said, “the rich man also died and was buried.”  Did he stop existing?  Not at all.  It talks about how he lifted up his eyes in torment.  Does that sound like he stopped existing?  Not at all.  He saw Abraham from afar, he cried out, he said, “I am [present tense] in agony25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things,…” [He could think backwards].  So, you notice at the beginning of that paragraph, it says he died and the rest of the paragraph that he did not stop existing, so what does it mean that he died?  That the body and the soul separated.

The believer goes into God’s presence.  The unbeliever goes into this place of conscious torment.  Dennis Rockser says, “The word ‘dead’ in Scripture always carries the idea of ‘separation,’ never non-existence.  At physical death there is a separation of the soul and spirit form a person’s body, yet that person continues to exist either in Heaven or Hell.  When we see the body of a deceased person lying in an open casket at a funeral, we do not conclude that the person never really existed in the first place. Just as there is a separation of the soul and spirit from the body without denying the reality of the soul and spirit, James {2:26] is not denying the existence or reality of initial faith in Christ for first-tense salvation among his readers whose faith was separated from good works.”

You will notice here in James 2:26, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead so faith without works is dead.”  Now, when Paul uses the word, ‘faith,’ what is he talking about?   Saving faith.  When James uses the word, ‘faith,’ he is talking about serving faith.  We have given you this quote of Lewis Sperry Chafer differentiating between saving faith and serving faith — two different things.  “The justified one, having become what he is by faith, must go ahead living on the same principle of utter dependence upon God.”  The faith that saves, I have to keep living by that principle as I go through life’s difficulties and as I step out and trust the Lord and try to serve Him in daily life.

Paul says that’s how our spiritual gifts are to be used — in faith.  ‘Whoever has the gift of prophecy, let him prophesy according to the measure of his faith.’  Romans 12:3; Romans 12:6.  Now typically Paul is talking about saving faith, but here he is talking about serving faith because it requires faith to step out and serve God.  You have to keep trusting Him just as you trusted Him to get saved to begin with.

When it says here that ‘”faith without works is dead,” given the chart of Harmony Between Paul and James and looking at how James uses the words ‘faith, works’ and what death means biblically, what is James saying in James 2:26, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.”  Here is James’ point:  “faith without works is dead,” or separated.  If you’re a Christian who believes in Christ for salvation but there are no good works in your life, faith and works or faith without works dead in the sense that works is separated from your faith.  If works is separated from your faith, that means that you have a saving faith but not a serving faith.  See that?  He isn’t saying that you’re not a Christian.  He is saying that the two are separated; dead; what separation means.

So “faith without works is dead” is separated from works, making it mere saving faith than serving or useful faith.  You don’t yet have serving faith because faith and works are separated.  You have a saving faith, praise the Lord for that, but you don’t have a serving faith.  You have an existing faith, but not a productive faith.

So, faith and works have to be joined in order for saving faith to become serving faith.  That is James’ point.  ‘Wait a minute, Pastor, are you saying what I think I hear you saying?  Can you have saving faith only and not serving faith?’  Reformed theology will deny that; they will say very boldly that you can’t have just a saving faith.  They say that if a saving faith is not a serving faith, then it is no faith.  That is their interpretation of this passage.  Why do they say that?  Because they have a presupposition that they’re reading the text through.  The presupposition is Calvinism, which is a philosophical construct imposed on the Bible.  That construct says, unless you have works and you’re persevering in good works, then you aren’t a Christian.  You have a miracle faith but not the true faith; that is reformed theology.  James isn’t even dealing with this subject at all.  James is dealing with people who have a saving faith, but it is dead because it is separated from works, so they have a saving faith only, but not a serving faith.  ‘So, Pastor, are you saying you can have a saving faith but not a serving faith?’  It doesn’t matter what I am saying; we all understand that. That’s what James is saying.  He is saying you can have a saving faith, but not a serving faith.  It is just dead; separated from works, and it isn’t useful to anyone.  ‘Well, the Bible doesn’t really teach that, does it?’  Sure it does.  It deals with people who have a saving faith but no serving faith all the time.  Have you read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 lately where Paul says, 10According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it.  But each man mut be careful how he buildings on it.  11For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw…  14If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.”  What is he talking about?  He is talking about believers showing up in heaven by the grace of God and they are evaluated at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. They’re not evaluated because they’re saved, but their works are evaluated because the works determine reward, see that?  Which are things we receive at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ above and beyond salvation.  He very clearly talks about people whose works will be tried and will be consumed by the fire because they are wood, hay and stubble, but not gold, silver, and costly stones.  He says in 1 Corinthians 3:15, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss;… [what does the rest of the verse say?]… but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

 He is talking about people in heaven and they’re happy to be there, but they smell the smoke on their garments, basically.  What is Paul saying?  If that is your circumstance, you’ll be in heaven, but you won’t be fully rewarded the way God wants you to be rewarded.  Because you’ll have a saving faith only but not a serving faith.  Everyone gets all upset that you can have a saving faith only but not a serving faith because I am contradicting Calvinism, which is a gnostic presupposition, gnostic meaning secret knowledge.  You have to sit under their teachers to learn this Calvinistic system, and you have to believe that first, then you must interpret the Bible through that lens.

Once my wife posts this on YouTube and it is out there, everybody will say I’m a heretic, but I am not.  I am just interpreting the Bible as it is written, not through the Calvinistic lens because the Calvinistic lens says that if you have saving faith and it isn’t serving faith, then you never had saving faith.  I am saying that you can have saving faith, go to heaven, never having graduated into serving faith or friendship with God. And in point of fact, that is Paul’s whole point here in 1 Corinthians 3, because he says, is this not in your Bible, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”  Why is he saved?  Because he has saving faith.  Why are his works burned up?  Because they weren’t of serving faith.  So, can you have saving faith but no serving faith?  Yes.  So why did James write this book?  To kick us in the backside so that we will have both — that is why James wrote this book.

Oh, and by the way, you know that you’ve graduated into both when you start to control the 2×2 slab of mucous membrane between the gums called the tongue, which will, if anyone comes next week, we will deal with next week.