"But someone will say, You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
Embedded in this verse is the seed of a doctrine of universal salvation, if you want to look at it a certain way. James is quick to dismiss that possibility because he clearly tells us that faith without works is ineffectual, but just for a moment let's entertain the thought.
He writes, "someone will say...you have 'faith' and I have 'works'." While I have emphasized the way this verse reads to highlight the point I'm about to make, I don't think this emphasis is beyond the text. This text, in fact, seems tailor-made for the culture in which we live today. I can't tell you the number of people I know who would say Jesus is my savior, but that doesn't mean he has to be everyone's savior. The argument is then broadened from salvation being by works or by grace to salvation being via wholly other means. I don't think there are very many buddhists out there who believe Buddha saves them. And there shouldn't be ANY Islamists out there who believe Mohammad is savior. These men were prophets and/or expositors of a religious or philosophical system. There are, they say, many paths to God. Jesus is just one of them.
But there are so many things Jesus said and did that make this argument so improbable.
"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me."
"I and the Father are one."
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
"Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (spoken before the crucifixion and resurrection)
I just don't think these are the words of someone who intended us to believe there are many paths to God.
But now I'm starting to create an argument. And you can't argue someone into the Kingdom. I can, however, let my works speak for themselves and lead a person to faith! And my faith in Christ certainly can inspire others to good works. And so the principle of faith WITH works comes forward. Both are necessary for salvation.
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.