Soteriology 009John 5:24 • Dr. Andy Woods • March 9, 2016 • Soteriology - The Doctrine of Salvation
Soteriology 09, John 5:24
March 9, 2016
If we could take our Bibles and open them to John 5:24 and as you’re turning there just a couple of reminders. The first one is next Wednesday we will not be meeting here; if you come in and you see the room empty you might think you’ve missed the rapture. So we’re not meeting, spring break, but the Chafer Seminary Bible Conference, which is open to everyone and it’s free I might add, is going to be taking place at West Houston Bible Church starting Wednesday afternoon and goes all the way through Friday evening. If you’re interested I’m going to be speaking there Wednesday at 3:10 p.m. And I’m just one of many speakers, it looks like they’ve got a great lineup of things going on. So we have a schedule and so forth on the name tag table, you can pick up if you’re interested in that. If you can’t make it in person they do a real good job with live streaming and archiving and all that kind of stuff.
Also Sunday night at Sugar Land Bible Church, this coming Sunday, the 13th, if you got the e-mail, we’re going to have a special guest; we normally don’t have a Sunday night service but we’re going to create one. Really it’s not going to be a service, it’s going to be a chance for him to come and speak. I just met him at the Steeling the Mind Conference that I just participated in, in Washington State and his name is Curtis Bowers, and he’s in town I discovered, but he had this particular Sunday night free. He is scheduled to speak at Sugar Creek Baptist Church to a group called Salt-Light Ministries Monday, not Sunday but Monday at 6:00 and he’s showing his movie. But when he comes and speaks for us Sunday night, March 13, at 6:00 he’s not going to be showing a movie, he’s going to be doing his presentation live, that I heard him give at the Steeling the Mind Conference.
Has anybody heard of Curtis Bowers? Okay, one, two. Let me just read the little excerpt on him so you know who I’m talking about: Curtis Bowers is a former Idaho legislator who has opened many eyes on the influence of the progressive agenda that it’s had on the United States of America through his award winning and number 1 bestselling video called Agenda: Grinding America Down. Now he’s exposing the same attacks on America through his sequel called Agenda 2: Masters of Deceit. If you want to understand the root of the problems that America is currently facing then this live presentation is a must see.
You won’t want to miss this tremendous opportunity so Curtis will be available here at the church Sunday evening after his presentation, not only to answer questions but to let you know how you can get his award winning video. The things that he shares is very eye-opening and it’s very well done, and he’s very articulate. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed but conservatives just don’t win anything anymore. Have you noticed that? We lose cultural issue after cultural issue. And there’s actually a reason behind it; it’s a longstanding campaign to kind of take over the key institutions of thought in America, to shift the way we think away from our Judeo-Christian limited government point of view into more of a collectivist mindset. So he explains this really well, what’s happening in schools and politics and media and it’s extremely eye-opening and you won’t want to miss this.
He is a committed Christian; he reminds me a lot of a man named Dr. Fred Schwartz, I don’t know if you ever heard that name. He started a ministry in the 1950’s called A Christian Crusade Against Communism and Dr. Schwartz put aside his medical practice and came to America and would go out into the universities and openly debate Marxist and Communist professors, to sort of expose the agenda that was taking place even in that day. Curtis reminds me of sort of a younger Fred Schwartz, using movies and cinematography to get his point across. He put his whole life savings together to create this movie and it just went global. If you Google Agenda: Curtis Bowers you’ll see it. And he’s literally gone all over the world talking about this. So we’re fortunate to have him come to our church and talk. I just want to make you aware of that.
Speaking of liberation we’re going to talk here about spiritual liberation, the doctrine of salvation. We’re on that section in the class entitled God’s One Condition of Salvation. What is God’s one condition of salvation? Faith alone in Christ alone. Anybody recall how many times the Bible says that? Close to 200 times.
Now what people do is they ignore the 200 clear verses and they gravitate towards the obscure ones that seem to contradict belief, God’s one condition of salvation. They gravitate towards the word “repent” and so we spent a session explaining what repentance means, and how repentance can be harmonized with faith alone. And then they gravitate towards the passages that call Jesus’ disciples to surrender to Him as lord. And this is a doctrine called Lordship Salvation; Lordship Salvation refers to the belief which says that the sinner who wants to be saved must not only trust Christ as his substitute for sin but must also surrender every area of his life to the complete control of Jesus.
And Lordship salvation people basically say if you haven’t done both of those things then you’re not saved. They would call what you have a false conversion. You are a mere professor but not a possessor.
I gave you the quotes from John MacArthur, his sermons and his books where he teaches this, J. I. Packer, and others but the only thing we’ve gone over the last couple of sessions is sort of explaining why this doctrine of Lordship salvation is a problem—it’s not the right gospel. Seven problems Lordship salvation, six of which we’ve covered. Lordship salvation changes the gospel away from what Jesus has done for me and I am receiving it now as a gift by faith; the spotlight is no longer on what Jesus has done, the spotlight is now on me and what I do. I forsake, I surrender, I submit, and that becomes a doctrine of works.
Lordship salvation places an impossible burden on the unsaved; you are asking unsaved people to do something they can’t do. Lordship salvation confuses justification (how we’re saved) with sanctification (how we grow). So we do believe in Lordship and discipleship but we do not put it under the category of justification, which is achieved only as a result of faith but under the category of progressive sanctification. Lordship salvation confuses the result with the requirement of salvation. Lordship salvation, as we talked about, fails to make basic dispensational distinctives, instead choosing to build its presentation of the gospel from passages where the Lord Jesus and John the Baptist was offering Israel the kingdom.
And then Lordship salvation ignores the concept of a carnal Christian. We’re not applauding carnal Christianity, we’re simply saying it’s possible. But under lordship theology you shouldn’t have a carnal Christian, you shouldn’t even have a backslidden Christian because the condition for being justified is total surrender to the Lord. So if someone today claims to be a Christian but they’re not totally surrendered to Christ, what we would say is there’s a possibility they may be a carnal Christian. Lordship salvation people would say no, they’re not a Christian at all. Do you see the difference there?
And then one little point here that we didn’t touch on yet, this is why I had you turn to John 5:24, Lordship salvation destroys the assurance of salvation. What do we mean by assurance of salvation? Assurance of salvation is the idea that you can know, not 99%, not 99.999%, but 100% that you’re saved. Under the doctrine of Lordship salvation you can never really know if you’re saved because Lordship salvation revolves around this anachronism TULIP. TULIP is sort of the pneumonic device to explain Calvinist teaching; a lot of this comes from very strong Calvinistic teachings and that kind of thing. And the “P” at the end of the pneumonic device stands for the perseverance of the saints. And what they mean by that is if you really are a Christian then you must persevere in works until the very end of your life and if you have not persevered in works until the very end of your life then you were never saved to begin with.
Now what we teach, and I’ll be going through this later on in the course, not tonight but down the road, we teach something called preservation of the saints, where God preserves us based on His promises, and that’s called eternal security. But that’s not what Lordship salvation means by the “P”, when they use the word “P” they mean it’s Perseverance in good works, as evidence of saving faith. And if that’s what you believe you can really never know you’re a Christian. Why is that? Because perseverance in good works is never objectively defined. How many good works do I have to do? How consistent do those good works have to be? How fast do they have to come? How frequent are they? What good works are you talking about?
And because those questions are never answered with precision people that believe in the perseverance of the saints idea never really know that they’re saved. And you see, Lordship salvation goes right hand in glove with this because what they’re saying is you’re not a Christian at all unless you’ve totally surrendered your life to Christ. So therefore all Christians must be persevering Christians and if you are not a persevering Christian then there’s always a doubt in your mind, maybe you were never saved to begin with.
So I’ll just be completely honest with you, in the Christian life I’ve had tremendous ups and I’ve had tremendous downs. I’ve had some successes and some effectiveness; I’ve had some failures. If I lived my life based on looking at myself and my performance, some days I would think I’m saved, some days I would think I’m not saved. And that’s basically what the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints does; it gets people’s eyes off of Christ and His promises (and He cannot lie, right?) and it gets it onto ourselves. And whenever your eyes are on yourself sometimes you’ll be happy with yourself, other times you’ll be disappointed. So during those times of disappointment if you believe in perseverance of the saints you’ll think you’re not saved today. Maybe you need to receive Christ again. Maybe you need to believe again. Maybe it didn’t work the first time.
And before I was taught correctly I used to think that way but now my whole worldview is different because I no longer spend my life looking at myself, which is a depressing subject anyway. I’m looking at Jesus and what He has done. So I’ve had some up days and down days, good days, bad days but my assurance of salvation doesn’t waver from day to day because I’m looking at Christ and His promises and He can never lie. And it’s a wonderful way to live.
But Lordship salvation people have no such assurance. And when you talk to Lordship salvation people and you actually start getting into their minds, you’ll see that they’re haunted by this issue: maybe I’m not saved. In fact, when I first came to this church there was several Lordship salvation people here, and one of the things I noticed about them, they all kind of hung around in kind of a flock, a group, is they would emote or cry, at the slightest issue they would start shedding tears.
Now I’m not against shedding tears, you know Jesus wept and so forth, but the amount of crying that these people did was abnormal. It was crying beyond what circumstances dictated and at some point I had to ask myself, where’s the joy of the Lord in these people. I mean, is that the Christian life, we’re supposed to go around crying all the time? And finally I discovered the reason they were crying is because they never got this issue settled. They never really came to an iron clad conclusion in their mind regarding the assurance of salvation.
So Lordship salvation destroys assurance of salvation and it puts someone in a state of bondage. She loves me, she loves me not; he loves me, he loves me not. Today I’m saved, tomorrow I’m not saved, but the next day I am saved, but the day after that I’m not saved. Constant introspection, constant looking at one’s self will destroy, it will annihilate the joy of the Lord in a person’s life and their assurance of salvation.
Notice what John Piper says: “No Christian can be sure that he is a true believer. “Hence, there is an ongoing need to be dedicated to the Lord and to deny ourselves so that we might make it.” Now this is an evangelical that’s talking this way. One of the things that sort of shocking to me is why don’t more people look at that and say that’s not the gospel of grace at all, that’s works is what that is. But that is what this doctrine, the perseverance of the saints in works does to you. It takes away the joy that the Lord would have you to experience because you’re His child.
And so a lot of people look at the doctrine of the assurance of salvation sort of like the weather report, you know, there’s a 70% chance of rain today, there’s an 80% chance of sunshine tomorrow or whatever, and we’re always given these percentages of probabilities and a lot of people look at their salvation that way. So you ask them if they’re saved—oh, I’m about 70% sure I’m saved. The week after that they may have had a down week, well, today it’s down to about 60-65% chance that I’m saved.
And may I just say to you that is not what God has for you at all. Look at this promise here from John 5:24, Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” So notice the promise from Christ, who cannot lie, he who believes in “Him who sent Me, has” present tense, that’s in the present tense there, “eternal life.” If you believed in Christ, trusted in His provision, then the promise from Christ to you, not based on you and what you do, based on what He’s promised is that you already possess eternal life.
And you listen to a lot of Christians and they say I can’t wait to die and go to heaven so I can have eternal life. Well, that’s not the biblical teaching; the biblical teaching is you have to have eternal life now, it’s a present tense possession. You say well, I don’t feel like I have it. Well, what does feelings have to do with anything? It’s an objective promise from God. And that’s how you live your life as a Christian, you don’t live based on feelings. I have emotions too, sometimes I feel very good, sometimes I feel very bad, but I don’t live my life based on my emotions in any given circumstance. I live based on what Jesus, who cannot lie, has said to me.
It’s like a pilot, a pilot doesn’t fly a plane based on his or her emotions because a lot of times a pilot will tell you it feels like the plane is upside down as they’re flying, but they do not dare take their eyes of the object and truth of the compass and turn aside towards feelings. If they turn aside towards feelings then their eyes are off of objective truth based on what a compass says, the plane will crash. Well, that’s how it is in our spiritual life; we live based on the objective promises of God, not based on what my emotions say at any given moment.
So he “has eternal life, he does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death unto life.” “has passed out of” is in the perfect tense in Greek; “has eternal life,” present tense, “has passed out of” perfect tense. The perfect tense means a onetime action in the past, it happened once and it has ongoing results. So the moment you trusted in Christ the promise of God to you is that you have already passed out of death into life at the point of personal faith in Christ. It doesn’t matter how you feel or what you think or what your personal philosophy is; it only matters what God has objectively declared.
Now compare John 5:24, back to this quote by John Piper, “No Christian can be sure that he’s a true believer, hence there is an ongoing need to be dedicated to the Lord and to deny ourselves so that we might make it.” I mean, do you want to live under that promise, by that particular John, John Piper, or do you want to live under this promise, by John the apostle who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and recorded Christ’s words.
And a lot of times people think that when you start talking about the assurance of salvation you’re conjuring up some odd doctrine that no one has ever believed before, but I just want to point out that this is the normal doctrinal approach; what I’m teaching now at one time used to be the majority opinion. And you see it in how Dallas Theological Seminary was started in the 1920’s. “We believe it is the privilege not only of some but of all by the Spirit through faith who are born again in Christ as revealed in the Scriptures to be assured of their salvation” when? “from the very day they take Him to be their Savior and that this assurance is not founded upon some fancy discovery of their own worthiness or fitness but wholly upon the testimony of God in His written Word.”
So the Word of God teaches people, not some but everybody, that the moment they take Christ as their Savior by faith alone is the moment they can be assured of their salvation. Why? Because their assurance doesn’t come from their own worthiness or fitness; it comes from the object of the written Word of God, passages like John 5:24, from God who cannot lie. [John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”]
And I can’t tell you what a big issue this is when you get into the minds of people through counselling. Christians everywhere who are under a very strong dose of Lordship salvation, whether it be from Calvinism which teaches you must persevere to prove you’re saved, or Arminianism which teaches you must persevere or you’ll lose your salvation. You see a heavy dose of Calvinism or Arminianism will lead you to a loss of assurance of salvation. Arminius says you lost it; Calvin and his followers will say you never had it. So either way, if I backslide and so into sin, if I’m under Calvinism I’ll think well, I need to get saved again because I never had it in the first place, not again but I need to get saved the first time. Arminius will say you lost it and you need to get it again, you need to get saved again.
See, I’ve been in churches where people get saved every single week, the same people. I’ve been in churches where people give altar calls and I’ve watched the people that go forward in these altar calls and a lot of times it’s the exact same people. And I say well wait a minute, Sister So and So, or Brother So and So got saved last week, why are they “getting saved” again? Well, the reason is they don’t have any real teaching on the assurance of salvation. So what happened is they had a down time during the week, and they don’t understand the doctrine of the assurance of salvation so they think to themselves well, I guess I lost my salvation if they’re under Arminianism, or I guess I never had salvation to begin with if I’m under Calvinism so I’ll go forward again. When in reality what’s happened to them is they’re saved is they are God’s child, they’re saved, they fell into sin, their saved condition is not in jeopardy but they’ve fallen out of fellowship with God. See that? Their position is the same, it’s unalterable but the moment by moment fellowship has been broken.
It’s like my wife and myself, we’re married. I can go home tonight though and treat her poorly and yell at her and scream at her, the next day we’re still married, right? Hopefully. [Laughter] But what has broken is not our position as husband and wife; what has broken is our moment by moment fellowship and enjoyment of each other. See that?
So that fellowship will not be restored until I apologize for my actions. When I apologize for my actions it doesn’t make me more married; I’m just as married then as I was before the problem started. The fellowship, though, has been broken and an apology or humility or a contrite spirit, what that does is it restores broken fellowship.
So that’s what happens to people, they get saved and they go and they sin and they feel so bad about themselves they think they never had salvation to begin with, or they lost it when in reality they fell out of fellowship with God. And what they need to do is exercise 1 John1:9, agree with God about their sin, 1 John 1:9, and as that is exercised fellowship between God and His child is restored but the position of God and child is unalterable. [1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”]
And that’s what David was experiencing all those years when he committed adultery and murder and all of that, and he was hiding and running and hiding his sin. He didn’t stop being a child of God; what was broken was the fellowship that he had with God and that’s what he’s talking about in the Psalms when he says the heavens became like brass, and how blessed is the man whose sin is forgiven, whose transgression is covered. It’s not talking about David getting saved again, it’s talking about the fellowship being restored.
And so we teach assurance of salvation at this church and a lot of places will not teach the assurance of salvation and the reason they won’t teach the assurance of salvation is because it’s a great way to control people. I could say oh, Sister So and So, Brother So and So, you didn’t show up to Wednesday night Bible study, I guess you’re not a true Christian. Or I could drop the hint, maybe you’re not really saved because you’d be showing up more regularly if you really were saved. Oh, the offering has gone down this month, well you all better start giving money into the offering because you need to prove that you’re Christians, right?
So you lose a way to control people once you start teaching on the assurance of salvation. And a lot of spiritual leaders aren’t willing to relinquish that control because dangling hell over everybody’s lap week after week, sermon after sermon is a tremendous motivational tool. And a lot of spiritual leaders think well, if I teach the assurance of salvation then I’m going to lose control over these people when in reality there isn’t a greater more motivating force in a person’s life, in terms of service, once they discover the doctrine of assurance of salvation. Do you know why? Because now they are showing up to Wednesday night Bible study and giving in the offering, not out of fear but out of gratitude and worship for what God has done.
And if Satan can get you distracted in anything he wants you to be worried about whether you’re saved because if your mental energies are focused on whether you’re saved or whether you’re not saved your mind is divided and your mind is not being channeled into the productivity that God has for it because the Bible, as you know, speaks against a divided mind.
I like to use this example of the bridge. I’ve used this before, you’ve heard this before, forgive me, but when they were building the Golden Gate Bridge in northern California, in San Francisco, anybody travelled across the Golden Gate Bridge? I mean, it’s a very long drop to the water and if you fall of the bridge, and this is why a lot of people jump off that particular bridge to commit suicide, once your body hits the water it’s like hitting concrete, you die immediately.
So they were building this bridge and workers every once in a while would fall to their deaths, and so the workers were divided, should I concentrate on building this bridge or worry about my own survival and security. So their minds were divided and the building of the bridge was very slow. Well someone had a bright idea, here’s what we ought to do, let’s just put a big net underneath the builders and this way they won’t have to worry about their security any longer because they know that even if they fall they won’t perish, they’ll hit and be braced by the net instead of hitting the water. Now once that security was established through that net what happened, do you think, to the productivity of the builders of the bridge? Did it increase or decrease? It increased dramatically.
And you see, this is what the doctrine of the assurance of salvation does for you. You are no longer worried, am I a Christian, am I not a Christian, am I serving God out of fear, am I serving God for the right motives, am I persevering enough? But that whole issue has been settled in your mind and now you’re serving God based on thankfulness to Him, gratitude towards Him; you can’t believe what He’s done for you. So how could you not lay your life at His feet and do what He’s called you to do. It’s a totally different motivation for service, it’s no longer fear but it’s out of worship and gratitude. And this is why the doctrine of the assurance of salvation is such a big deal, I believe, to the life of a growing Christian. But Lordship salvation, probably my biggest problem on the list of seven things that we’ve covered with Lordship salvation is that it denies the assurance of salvation.
So problems with Lordship salvation: it changes the gospel, it places an impossible burden upon the unsaved, it confuses justification with sanctification, it confuses the result of salvation with the requirements for salvation, it fails to make dispensational distinctives, it ignores the reality, the unfortunate reality of the carnal Christian, and it destroys the assurance of salvation. So we’ve gone over two major areas that seem to contradict faith alone: repentance and Lordship. And those are two big, BIG areas, that’s why I slowed down.
But let’s move on to our third area that seems to contradict belief, God’s one condition of salvation. And that’s in John 1:12, take a look at that for a minute if you could. And that’s this verse here that says we need to receive Christ. A lot of people talk, they say you need to “receive Christ.” They don’t say you need to believe in Christ, which the Bible says 200 times, they say you need to receive Christ. And they get this from John 1:12, which says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who” what? “believe in His name.” So using the word “receive in the Bible is fine as long as people understand based on the same verse that “receive” is sometimes used as a synonym for what? Belief.
See, the operative word all the way through the Bible is “believe.” And sometimes it’ll use a synonym, like “receive.” So I think it’s okay to ask people to receive Christ as long as you explain to them what receiving Christ is. Receiving Christ is a synonym, different word, same meaning for believe; and believe as we have talked about in this course means to trust.
What about these passages that say “believe” and “work.” Take a look at Ephesians 2:10 for a second, here’s another passage that seems to contradict faith alone, a passage like this that says believe and work. Ephesians 2:8, 9, and 10, and watch the order very carefully here. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Now most people cut the verse off right there, but verse 10 comes right after it, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
When do the good works come? Before salvation or after? Clearly they come after. Ephesians 2:8-9 very clearly says we are saved by faith alone, not by works. But then the wonderful thing about God is once the child of God is saved He wants to start using that child of God to advance his purposes on the earth. He wants to, it’s His plan to do good works through you. The good works did not get you saved to begin with; the good works come, when they come as maturity comes, after one is saved.
And that’s how to handle these passages related to good works. You don’t put good works on the front end; good works typically will follow on the back end. Take a look at James 2 for a minute; you all know these verses. These verses have struck more fear into the hearts of more Christians, probably than any other verses I know of.
Verse 14, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,  and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and be filled, and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?  Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’  You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.  But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?  You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;  and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUS-NESS,’ and he was called the friend of God.’  You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.  You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.  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?  For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
Now what have we been saying over and over again? We’re justified before God by faith and not by what? Works! You say well wait a minute, pastor, James 2:24 says the exact opposite. It says, “You see that a man is justified by” what? “works and not by faith alone.” Now the book of James was very troubling to a Protestant Reformer named Martin Luther. Luther’s whole crusade is “the just shall live by faith,” that was his key doctrine. We are saved totally on the basis of faith alone in Christ alone, and then Luther, he built his case on the book of Galatians which quotes an Old Testament prophet, which says, “the just shall live by faith. [Galatians 3:11, “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.”]
And Luther actually called the book of Galatians his wife, which I think is German, if Hans were in here he could correct me on this, see if I’m right, mein frau, my wife, that’s how Luther referred to the book of Galatians. And when he fought the Roman Catholic hierarchy in debating they would always quote the various Popes and Monks and Priests and Luther would say I have a Pope that’s higher than all of them and that’s Paul in the book of Galatians. That’s what he stood on and gave us, this great doctrine, we’re justified by faith alone.
Well, then Luther looked at the book of James which says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” [James 2:24] And Luther started to attack the book of James. In fact, in The Luther Bible he put James in the very back, like in the Index section, and he would say things about the book of James, that it is an epistle of straw, he would do these ad hominin attacks against the book of James because at first glance, when you read it, it seems to contradict justification by faith alone.
But may I just say to you that Luther, at least in his interaction with the book of James, had it wrong because James and Paul are friends, they are not enemies if you understand that James and Paul are answering different questions. If you think James and Paul in Galatians are dealing with the same question then it looks like they contradict each other and that was Luther’s mistake. James and Paul are not asking and answering the same question; James and Paul are asking and answering different questions. And when you understand the different questions these two biblical writers are dealing with then James and Paul become very good friends and not enemies at all.
What is Paul dealing with in the book of Galatians? He is dealing with self-righteous Judaism. He’s dealing with people that think they can earn justification or favor from God through good works. And Paul is attacking that, attacking that, attacking that. What is James dealing with? The same question? Not at all. James is dealing with what we would call dead orthodoxy. James is not even getting into the issue as to whether his audience is saved; the saved status of the audience is presumed all the way through the book of James. That’s why he calls them “my brethren” all the way through the book. That’s why he says in James 1:2-4 your faith is being tested. [James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”]
You can’t have your faith tested unless you have it to test. See? That’s why he calls them, James 1:18, “born from above.” Over in James 4:5 he tells them that they have the Holy Spirit inside of them. James 4:5 says, “Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’?” Notice the word “us,” James says I’m saved, by using the word “us” he’s saying you’re saved, the Holy Spirit is in you.
So James is not dealing with people that are trying to get saved through good works. James is dealing with people that are saved, they’re going to heaven but God is not using them the way He wants to. And that’s what we call dead orthodoxy, people that have their fire insurance paid up, they’re going to heaven but the Lord wants to do so much more through their lives to reach others, and the Lord, for whatever reason can’t use a person because they haven’t grown.
So Paul is dealing with self-righteousness Judaism, doing good works to get saved; James is not dealing with that question at all. He’s dealing with what we would call dead orthodoxy. Both men, Paul and James, use the word justification but they mean different things through the use of that same word. When Paul uses the word justification he’s talking about the declaration of innocence before God, like a jury verdict, that a person receives the moment they trust in Christ.
When James uses the word justification, remember the verse, James 2:24, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” James isn’t talking about a declaration of innocence before God, he’s talking about the evidence of the usefulness of somebody’s faith, not before God but before man. So he’s not questioning whether these people have faith, what he’s questioning is before man, not before God, before man is their faith useful, is God using them to reach others.
Both Paul and James love the book of Genesis. When Paul quotes the book of Genesis he typically counts, in Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him unto righteousness.” James quotes that verse 2 but that’s not his primary text. When James quotes the book of Genesis he quotes Genesis 22; remember what happened in Genesis 22? Abraham was willing to what? Sacrifice Isaac. So Genesis 15:6 is when Abraham got saved, or justified before God. Genesis 22 is when Abraham’s faith became what? Useful and it was justified before man, because he did something tangible, he was willing (at God’s command) to sacrifice Isaac. And there are seven chapters, are there not according to my old math, between Genesis 15 and Genesis 22.
And see, I think we have an unrealistic expectation we place on the new believer. We say you’re saved, man, you’d better start producing fruit pronto. And if they don’t start producing fruit pronto, by the way, we never define to them what the fruit is they’re supposed to produce, they’re supposed to figure that out on their own, but if they don’t start measuring up to some standard then we all sit around and say well, I don’t think so and so is a believer. I don’t think so and so is saved. When in reality it took Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism, seven chapters or twenty years for his faith to become productive.
So, you know, I’m just kind of the view that we ought to cut people a little bit of slack here and quit putting, unloading dump trucks of unrealistic expectations on people. I mean, let’s get back to the Word of God and start looking at these things biblically. When Paul uses the word “faith” he’s talking about justification but guess what? The faith by which you were justified before God, you’ve got to trust Him for next month’s mortgage payment too, don’t you? Or you get laid off from your job, the same faith that saved you, you’re now going to have to keep trusting the Lord to get you through the next emergency, and the next emergency, so now your faith that saves is now being stretched and it’s now contributing, not to your justification, which is a done deal, but to your what? Progressive sanctification.
Peter was saved, wasn’t he? And then Jesus says okay, I’m going to walk out here on the water, the Sea of Galilee, and I want you to walk out with me, or come out to me. Actually Peter asked the Lord to come out, if I remember the story right. So Peter is walking out on the water to the Lord and as long as his eyes are on the Lord everything is fine. But then he looks at the wind and the waves so his eyes are off the Lord, and he starts to what? Sink! Now at the point of sinking are we going to say Peter is not a believer? Of course not, of course he’s a believer. His faith failed, though, not in his justification, which was a done deal, but in his what? Sanctification! So James is talking about faith in the sanctification sense; Paul is talking about faith in the justification sense.
Both men, Paul and James, like to use the word “works” but they mean two totally different things by it. When Paul uses the word “works” he’s talking about people that think they can curry God’s favor by good works, and Paul condemns it. When James uses the word “works” he’s talking about the believer’s moral deeds and he’s trying to encourage that in people to get them away from simply dead orthodoxy. So if you understand that James and Paul are addressing different issues then the so-called contradiction that Luther believed existed between Paul and James quickly disappears.
See, here’s what the whole thing looks like. And this is what the story of Abraham really is designed to tells us. A person hears the gospel and they get saved, they are justified before God at that point; it’s a done deal, their position is eternally settled. But then God begins to grow them up, He starts to bring them to maturity, usually through trials and things like that. He gets them in an environment where they can be taught correctly. He gets them into the spiritual disciplines, like praying and reading the Bible, worship, those kind of things. And what happens is a person starts to grow and they start to develop, and then they reach a point where God actually starts using them to bless other people.
So Paul is dealing with the front end of the equation, James is dealing with the back end of the equation. And if you understand that they’re asking and answering two different questions then the contradiction between James and Paul disappears. I mean, the doctrine of salvation is a glorious thing, it’s not just hearing the gospel and trusting in Christ so I won’t have to go to hell; it’s growing to the point of usefulness. James is dealing with the usefulness side of the equation, Paul is dealing primarily, not exclusively, but primarily with the front end of the equation, how do you get your foot in the door to begin with. There’s no contradiction between James and Paul at all.
But if you don’t understand that they are touching different sides of the doctrine they look like they contradict each other. It’s like taking three people and you blindfold them and you have them touch an elephant. Think of three blindfolded men touching different parts of an elephant. And one guy has a blindfold on and he’s got the elephant’s trunk and he’s trying to explain what he’s touching, he says it feels like a giant tube. And then another guy is touching the elephant’s foot, and he’s touching the elephant’s toes and he says I feel five lumps here. And then another guy has got his hand on the elephant’s side, he’s blindfolded, and he says it feels like a giant wall.
So you’ve got a tube, five lumps and a giant wall. Now at first glance you would think man, those guys are all contradicting each other, until everybody’s blindfold is taken off and you realize they’re not contradicting each other at all because all they are doing is touching different sides of the same animal. See? No contradiction whatsoever. That’s how to understand Paul and James; it’s not to pit them against each other, it’s to understand that they are asking and answering two totally different questions.
So works do not come at the front end of the equation to curry favor before God; they come with spiritual growth and maturity and usefulness. And so when we run into these passages dealing with works we have to put works in their proper place. And always try to harmonize the more obscure passages with the clear ones. For example, notice Galatians 3:11, to me this is a very clear passage. “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident;” let me read that again, “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident” for it is written, here’s the Luther verse, “THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.’” So it’s very clear here that we are not justified before God through good works.
Take a look at Romans 3:20 for a second, “because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” So it’s very clear here we’re not justified before God by good works.
Take a look at Romans 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from” what? “works of the Law.” And when he keeps saying “works of the Law” he’s dealing with religious folks, in this case religious Jews. Paul knew all about these kinds of people being a recovering Pharisee himself. Right? He spent his whole life thinking that I’ve got to do X, Y and Z to get God’s favor; that’s what these Pharisees were teaching. Paul was saying you can’t get God’s favor that way, you only enter into the favor of God through faith alone.
So Ephesians 2:10, James 2:14-26 need to be understood in light of these very clear passages. However, we do not throw out Ephesians 2:10 or James 2:14-26, we simply put them in their right orbit, on the back end of the equation dealing with somebody who’s been saved for a long time and is now arriving at a place of maturity where they’re no longer just in dead orthodoxy but they’ve grown to the point where God is actually using them to expand His purposes upon the earth.
So repent does not contradict God’s one condition of salvation as we’ve explained it. Lordship does not contradict God’s one condition of salvation as we’ve explained it. Receive or accept Christ does not contradict God’s one condition of salvation as we have explained it. And works do not contradict God’s one condition of salvation as we explained it, when we put works in their proper place in the doctrine of salvation, not on the front end but on the back end.
And I was going to get into this tonight but I’m out of time so we will save it, not for next week because we won’t be here, but the following week, the whole controversy about baptism, because there are some passages at first glance that look like if you’re not baptized (I’m talking about water baptism now) you’re not a Christian. And I’ll show you how to navigate through those. As a matter of fact, in the state of Washington, at this last conference I was at, I got cornered by a guy who started to what I call asking statements, what he was asking me questions but he really wanted to weave in his little angle on things you know. And what he was really getting at is you have to be baptized, water baptized, to get to heaven. And he took me to 1 Peter 3:21 and some of the others. [1 Peter 3:31, “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”]
And if you don’t work your way through these passages you’ll be kind of unsettled by them because at first glance they look like you’ve got to be baptized to get to heaven but I’ll show you that those passages are not teaching that. We’re not marginalizing baptism at all, we think it’s a sign of obedience to be water baptized. It just is not what we would call salvific.
You know, if a person receives Christ and then drive home in their car from the camp meeting where they received Christ, and they never get baptized, we don’t teach that such a person will go to hell. We’ll talk about that next time. Anyway, I’m done talking, you guys need to go get your kids, you can do that, it’s 8:00 sharp, and if anybody has any questions we can try to answer those.