(Continued from last issue)
c. A third explanation would apply this to God.
1) In God mercy always triumphs over judgment and justice. God loves everybody. This is the modern conception of God, also of the Three Points of 1924. Explain. This is also the Arminian conception of present day so-called evangelicalism. Explain.
2) This is wickedly erroneous. First, there is no place in this conception for the righteousness of God. Man does not care about God or His righteousness. He cares only for himself. Secondly, this reasoning also does away with mercy. God’s righteousness is surely a merciful righteousness. However, His mercy is also a righteous mercy. How wondrously this is revealed in the cross of Calvary. Explain
2. Its meaning.
a. We must all appear in judgment. The judgment here I interpret to refer to the Judgment Day.
b. That mercy rejoices against judgment means that the child of God, being merciful, can place that mercy over against the judgment, have peace, be confident and rejoice.
c. Unto him who showed no mercy, no mercy shall be shown. We understand, of course, that this is stated of the wicked that will go to hell. Mind you, he never showed mercy! How about the Red Cross, Committees for Relief, etc. No mercy? The text says: No. No mercy outside of salvation. Explain. The reprobate never performs one single deed of mercy. Another terrible indictment against the theory of Common Grace.
d. But mercy rejoices against judgment.
C. Verse 12.
1. God will judge us by the law of liberty.
a. What is liberty? Liberty is not moral sovereignty, that man is the captain of his own soul, the master of his own destiny, that he sovereignly charts his own course. Liberty for the creature (fish, bird, plant) means to live unmolested its own life. Life for man is to move about, unmolested, in the sphere of the friendship and service of the living God. Now in principle. Presently in everlasting and immortal perfection.
b. What is the law of liberty? The law here refers not only to the Ten Commandments, but to the Word of God, as in James 1:23-25. This Word has become for the child of God a law of liberty, because the Word of God has become his only norm and ride of life, according to which he conducts himself, and, conducting himself according to this law, he receives liberty, is free, tastes and experiences this wonderful liberty’.
c. God will judge him by that law, that is, through that law. His judgment will be based upon our fulfilling of the law of liberty.
2. Therefore mercy rejoices against judgment.
a. This does not mean that our conduct is meritorious. This is Roman Catholicism. We will be justified in the Day of Judgment not because of our works. We are always saved by grace, for Jesus’ sake.
b. But, that I am merciful is because I have received mercy. And, 1 received it only for Jesus’ sake. Only because Christ has died for me. My merciful conduct is always the fruit of the cross. God, therefore, will judge my work as His work wrought in me only for Jesus’ sake.
V. Verses 14-17.
A. The harmony between James and Paul.
1. It is alleged that there is conflict. James, then, emphasizes works; Paul emphasizes grace and faith. It is said that Luther considered this epistle for some time to be a straw epistle.
2. However, there is perfect harmony between James and Paul. James does not contrast faith and works, but he draws a sharp contrast between a living faith and a dead faith. Paul, however, does the same: Rom. 6:1-4; 6:12-14; Eph. 4:20-24; 5:1-5.
3. This is beautifully stated in these verses.
B. What is this dead faith?
1. Notice what we read in verses 1516. This faith is mere intellectual knowledge of the truth. It is historical faith, an intellectual knowledge of and agreement with the truth. The devils have this also. See verses 18-19.
2. This is a faith without works. You believe that God is one; the devils believe this also. You take great pride in what you know, may be able to discourse about the truth. You probably give your brother or sister your sympathy, give him the address of a relief agency, but do nothing to help him (her) in their misery?
3. Your faith is dead, because it stands alone, by itself, without works.
4. A dead tree may be rooted in the fattest earth, but it will never produce fruit. A dead post may be set up in the richest soil, but it will rot away.
a. A dead faith is a faith which does not produce works, because it is dead.
b. The natural man is dead. He does not produce one good work. This is true, in spite of the teaching of Common Grace. Fact is that man is dead. He is all darkness and corruption. He may know much about the truth. But, this is also true of the demons. But, he has no life. His faith is merely historical, produces no good works.
C. How different is a living faith!
1. True faith presupposes, first of all, that we are by nature, of ourselves, dead in sin and in trespasses. Explain.
2. True faith presupposes, secondly, that in Christ alone is all our blessed and complete salvation. He is all our salvation, in God’s counsel upon the cross and now spiritually by His Spirit.
3. When we have that faith, we are united with Christ, live out of Him, and therefore must bring forth fruit.
VI. Verses 20-24.
A. Verse 20.
1. Who is this “vain man”? In Ecclesiastes the word, “vain,” means “purposeless.” Here it means: empty. devoid of all spiritual wealth and content. This is the man who divorces faith from works, who thinks that his faith without works can save him. They are also the ones whose faith never involves them in any sacrifice. This man is vain, empty, a hollow vessel, an empty cup, a mere shell.
2. And James declares, in verse 20, that his faith without works is dead. The word, “dead,” here means: barren, fruitless, and therefore correctly translated in the Revised Version. James does not merely say that his faith itself is dead, but he emphasizes that it is fruitless. O, he may have a wonderful knowledge of the truth. Explain. He may know all about God and about Christ. But, for the rest his faith leaves him cold. Spiritually and personally, he has no experiential knowledge of all these things. His faith is indeed dead, barren.
3. And to show that faith without works is dead, he points to the example of Abraham, that this faith of believers was justified only in the way of a living faith.
B. Abraham was justified. What is justification?
1. Justification implies two things. It is a legal concept. Negatively, it means: no condemnation. We appear before God, the Judge of all the earth, and we are not condemned. And, positively it means that we are declared heirs of everlasting life. Justification is a legal concept. God declares, upon the basis of His law, that we are free from sin and guilt, and also that we are heirs of and have the right to everlasting life.
2. What a wonderful blessedness is this justification!
a. First, I am a sinner, in myself utterly unworthy and condemn able. I can do nothing to pay my guilt. I can never satisfy God’s justice, do what His justice demands, and this justice demands the bearing of His eternal wrath in perfect obedience (. There is no possibility of salvation without this complete satisfying of the righteousness of God. I am therefore hopelessly lost.)
b. Secondly, this justification is wholly of the Lord. It is an eternal fact, in God’s counsel. In God’s counsel Christ is our Head. Eternally God willed for us a hopeless misery in order that He alone might save us. Man cannot and may not contribute anything. This justification is realized, in time, upon the cross. Then Christ suffered and died for all my sins, paid my debt, atoned for all my guilt, merited everlasting life and glory. And, thirdly, it is God Who bestows this justification upon me. He unites us with Christ, convicts us of sin, leads us to the cross, bestows upon us the assurance of our forgiveness, and that, for Jesus’ sake, we are heirs of everlasting life and glory.
C. Abraham was justified. How?
1. James does not say, literally, “by works.”
a. His works did not produce his justification. This is what Rome believes. God, then, accepts our works as meritorious.
b. This, however, is obviously impossible. In the first place, James does not say literally by works, but out of works. Secondly, this would be impossible for many reasons. On the one hand, we read that God justifies the ungodly. So, we are ungodly. Hence, God does not justify good people, but hopelessly bad people. Besides, objectively, God’s justification of the sinner precedes his faith. We are justified because of Christ’s work upon the cross. He alone is our righteousness. Then, upon the cross, He blotted out all our sin, paid for all my iniquity, merited for us everlasting life. All this happened upon the cross, and therefore surely before our believing in Him. Then it must also be plain that our faith can never be the ground of our justification. Finally, we are justified because of God’s good pleasure. This must be obvious. To be sure, we are justified because of the sufferings and death of Christ. But, that He dies for us, could die for us, is only because He is our Head eternally, and as such came into this world with our sins, the sins of the elect upon His shoulders.
2. Abraham was justified, received it into his consciousness, out of works.
a. His faith wrought with his works. These works of Abraham were possible only by faith. Faith wrought with his works. It was only because of the union between his faith and his action, suggested and indicated by the word, “with,” that his action was possible.
b. And by his works was his faith made perfect, was it completed, finished. Abraham believed unto the end; his faith ran its full course: he did not stop believing; the process of faith was finished and he received his reward.
D. Abraham as justified. How?
1. Many other incidents in the life of Abraham could be cited: his leaving of Ur of the Chaldees and the birth of Isaac. Also these events were possible only by faith.
2. This incident is selected by James because it illustrates so beautifully what he has been saying.
a. How Abraham had believed since God called him out of Ur. 25 years he waited for the birth of Isaac. Finally Isaac was born, but only after both he and Sarah had died, according to Hebrews 11:12.
b. And now he must offer Isaac, slay him. Notice how he believed unto the end. Was not Isaac the son of the promise? Would not his death be the end? Surely, not another could take Isaac’s place, inasmuch as he was the son of the promise. But Abraham believed that God would raise him from the dead. His work wrought with his faith, was possible only by faith; he believed in God, Who always raises the dead; and by his works, because he went to the very end, his faith was finished, ran its course, and he received Isaac as in a figure from the dead.
c. We, too, must believe as Abraham did. We must walk in the way of the Lord’s commandments; we must trust wholly and unconditionally in God. Then we shall be justified, i.e., be justified in our consciousness, experience its blessedness, know that we are righteous before God, now and forever.
VII. Verses 25-26.
A. Rahab believed. What?
1. What was Jericho?
a. Naturally, it was the gateway into Canaan. Where was it located? Why is it the gateway into Canaan?
b. Spiritually, it was heathen, worldly, represents the world in the account of Joshua They had heard of Israel, and of the exploits of Israel’s God. But they were the enemy of Israel, and determined to resist unto the end. We read of Jericho that it was straightway shut up, so that none might enter it or leave it.
2. Who was Rahab?
a. She was a citizen of Jericho. Besides, she was also a harlot.
b. We must not minimize the word, “harlot.” It must not be spiritualized. It means exactly that it says.
3. Rahab chose for Israel against Jericho.
a. Humanly speaking, she would surely choose for Jericho. Was not Jericho impregnatable? How could Israel possible capture this stronghold? Besides, did not Rahab belong to this city? Was she not a harlot, and therefore really a part of this city and its life? Did she not love Jericho and its life? Did she not hate Israel and Israel’s God? How could she possibly change? Besides, why should she escape? What right did she have to this escape? And what right does she have to Israel’s inheritance? Was there any reason, in her, why she should escape Jericho’s destruction when all the rest were destroyed? Was she any better than they?
b. Yet, she chooses for Israel against Jericho. She did this by faith. Hebrews 11 informs us to this effect.
1) She believed in God, in the forgiveness of her sins, that she was righteous before the Lord. She believed this.
2) By faith she confessed her sin, forsook her evil way, confessed her adultery, and threw herself upon the mercy of Israel’s God.
3) By faith she was no longer a harlot, but the Rahab who chooses for the kingdom of the Lord and sought Israel’s salvation.
4. How must this be explained?
a. We must bear in mind the narrative, and the messengers whom Joshua sent to Jericho. We should have this story in our minds, as narrative in the book of Joshua.
b. We must note the remarkable words of Joshua 2:9-13. Please notice what she says to the spies. We should take careful note of these words and try to digest them.
c. They had preached to her, had told her of Israel’s God, that He is God alone, of Israel and its unique position among all the nations of the: world; they had instructed her in her own sin, had proclaimed to her the word of salvation.
d. And she had believed, and had begged them to remember her. And then we read of the scarlet cord, the symbol of her own sin and also of the blood of Christ.
B. Rahab believed. How?
1. Please notice how her faith was tested and tried! It was a considerable time after her meeting of the spies that she was finally delivered. Note what all took place before her deliverance was effected. We may read of this in the book of Joshua. And during all this time she continued to believe.
2. Also, because of her faith, she was a marked woman. She was no longer a harlot and, of course, Jericho knew this. She had adopted Israel’s life, and this, too, was known to all. Hence, her faith had placed her in great danger.
3. What added to her danger was that Israel, whose life she now loved and lived, lay outside the gates of Jericho. Notice now what she does and how she acts. She chooses for the spies, does all she can to protect them, will not return to her former way of living.
4. This also applies to us. We cannot serve two masters, God and Mammon. We must walk in faith. We must love the Lord. And hate and forsake the world, and place all our confidence in God.
C. Rahab believed. Her reward.
1. James is emphasizing a living faith. We also read this in verse 26. She was justified, not by works (we also saw this in connection with Abraham), but out of works.
2. What would have happened to Rahab had she not believed? Of course, we realize that this could not possibly happen, inasmuch as God finishes His work. But the point is that James speaks of a living faith. What would have happened to her had she not continued to believe, had she failed, to hang out the red cord? She would have perished. But she believes unto the end. And in the way of her living faith she received a name and place among Israel, the people of God, and becomes a mother of our Lord.
3. We, too, must walk by faith. O, it is a good thing that Rahab appears here in James 2. She was a harlot. This means that also for such there is salvation, according to and by the mercies of God. We, too, must walk and live out of Christ. In the way, by God’s grace, we, too, will experience the blessedness of justification that our sins are blotted out, that we are heirs of everlasting life and glory, that one day we will be glorified forevermore.