This is the 10th post in a series, for the previous post please click HERE.
I have already addressed the common SDA prooftexts, but I have found since then that there remain a few that need some individual attention. A big one is James 2, this is their theological magnum opus, it is my experience that SDA use this chapter as authoritative over the entire cannon of scripture. Even to the point of causing blatant contradictions in their own teachings.
I am going to point out before starting that the word Sabbath is never mentioned once in the entire chapter. That should pretty much end the discussion right here, however this chapter is abused by many to deny salvation by Grace alone through Faith alone. And to be quite honest, to the casual reader, this could cause confusion as it appears to contradict other very clear passages. With a careful reading and comparison of other scripture this clears up easily.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. James 2:21-24 ESV
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness Rom 4:1-5 ESV
In Romans the singular referent is Genesis 15:6 while in James the referent is both Genesis 15:6 and Gen 22:16-18. I think that it is fair to note that the events in Gen 15 precede those in Gen 22. I realize that is kind of obvious, but you would be surprised how few out there actually pick up on this subtlety.
James is not negating that we are justified by Grace alone through Faith alone. In verse 22 James states “faith was active along with his works”. Be referencing both passages of Genesis James is illustrating that works was a product of the faith and grace that had already transpired. I would say that works can thus be a subjective means of evidencing that divine faith and grace are present in one’s life. I say subjective for two reasons.
- James does not reference a specific sin that will not be present in the Justified, wherewith one could be used as a litmus test.
- James does not state that all laws must be obeyed perfectly to be justified however he maintains that in breaking one we have broken all.
Below are the referents in Genesis that James and Paul allude to for your review:
And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Gen 15:6 ESV
“By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Gen 22:16-18 ESV
Below I will explain how James 2 fits in to Ephesians 2.
and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. James 2:23 ESV
It is primarily because of the above verse that I understand James 2 as an exposition of Ephesians 2:10. See below for this verse in its context.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV
In Ephesians we get a step by step outline of Justification by Grace and Faith unto good works. It is clear that the works are a miracle in and of themselves because the referent for “it” in verse 8 is both Grace and Faith. Saving Grace and Faith are both gifts from God.
There is nothing that YOU do to earn them. This is a mystery, some say that you have to accept the gift (Rom 10:9), some say that It’s God who chooses you because we are predestined from the foundations of the world (Eph 1:4). I think scripture supports both views on this. I don’t see this as contradictory teachings, but rather an acknowledgement of divine paradox that is beyond our comprehension and can only be read about in scripture. When we apply philosophy to reconcile this mystery I think it does more harm than good.
That said, the works come after this miracle of Justification. This is why James links the two together. If someone is wholly impenitent but declares that they have faith it is entirely likely that they are lying or at the very least mistaken with regards to their faith. Knowledge of God is universal (Rom 1:20) but penitent faith is divine (Matt 22:14).
Something I want to make clear though is that one does not have to repent of breaking the old covenant Sabbath. As I have made clear in previous posts the Sabbath pointed to Christ and is now obsolete. When an SDA reads James 2 they are trained to imagine the word “Sabbath” in almost every single verse even though it is contained in none of them. This is a very important and tragic fact that one must keep in mind when they are speaking to an SDA about James 2.