Many try to discredit the Bible based on its supposed “contradictions.” But the truth is that God purposely uses such things to confound those who are wise in their own eyes (1Cor.1:27, Luke 10:21). In fact, He gives the proud just enough material in His word for them to build a case with. In other words, they have “just enough rope to hang themselves.”
A great illustration for this point is the seeming contradiction between Apostle Paul and James. In Rom.3:27-28 Paul says, “a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” But James in 2:24 says, “by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” And yet they both mention Abraham to prove their points and both even use the same Greek word for “justified.” However, they don’t use it in the same sense, for they are both addressing two different matters. Paul was addressing work-righteousness and the false belief that one could earn salvation, whereas James was addressing false professions of faith and those who try to use God’s grace as an excuse to sin.
For example, in Rom. 4:3 Paul appeals to Gen. 15:6, where Abraham is “justified” (counted righteous) by simply possessing the gift of faith God had freely given him….BEFORE he had performed any works of obedience. Whereas James in 2:21 appeals to Gen. 22, where Abraham’s faith is “justified” (proved) by being granted the power to exercise it in the offering of Isaac on the altar…… a work he was enabled to perform.…..AFTER he had already been justified by God’s grace.
Did you catch that? Both Paul and James are actually presenting two sides of the same coin. Like all the other supposed “contradictions” in the Bible, they are actually in perfect harmony. Both make it clear that works are not the means of salvation, but the outgrowth of salvation. Likewise, true God-given faith always manifests itself in works of obedience and in the ability to trust Jesus alone for salvation. However, a faith that doesn’t work proves to be the “faith” of devils, for it contains no God-given power to prove its claim. And it can only trust in its own powerless works rather than fully trusting in Jesus alone and His finished work on the cross.
Perhaps this is why James 2 becomes a “noose” for those who want to try to establish their own righteousness. And since they lack the ability to harmonize their case with the rest of Scripture, they often end up trying to prove that Paul was only addressing the Jewish “oral law” rather than God’s law. But ironically, by still subtly trying to establish the principle of law for their justification, they only dig themselves deeper by promoting a “do more, try harder” moralism that makes God’s grace seem like something that just “helps those who help themselves.”
That is not a saving grace, but a fall from grace that makes it look like we have to meet God halfway by somehow contributing to the finished work of Calvary by “cooperating” with His grace, where Jesus just merely “fills the gap.” This version of “grace” is a faulty foundation that’s built upon the sinking sand of humanistic philosophy rather than the solid Rock of Jesus Christ, who actually “fills all things” (Eph.4:10).
So friend, remember God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1Pet.5:5). Repent by turning away from your own futile attempts of trying to justify yourself and put your trust in Jesus alone to save you. For only Jesus’ merits have perfectly satisfied God’s holy law, so that guilty sinners who come to God for mercy can be made righteous through Him.
—Readers with questions or comments are free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
2 thoughts on “Justified by Faith”
I know you think that no one is listening, but these words you’ve shared have been so encouraging to me.
A few days ago, I had two lengthy phone conversations with two dear friends–one still mixed up in dominionist/charismatic teachings and another attending an “old school” evangelical church where the bible is taught but some of my children were bullied and nothing was ever done with the exception of the bullies being “confirmed” a few weeks later (a powerless gospel). Friend number one proceeded to read a prophecy some “big wig” had sent her about “conquering the world” to spread the gospel and told me how she was suffering an illness because she had been “confessing the wrong kind of words lately”. I kept quoting Bible refutations to her and praying that God would give her ears to hear. Friend number two is distraught that we are “home-churching” as that isn’t the structure God left for His church. She spent more than an hour going through all the many reasons we need to come back to the “church”. Among them, “because we will grow spiritually from the persecution and trials that our family experiences there.” I answered that one firmly. If my children are experiencing bullying in the church, than it is no longer a church operating in the power of the Holy Spirit.
BOTH of these friends have pushed me that we should go to church and that there is “no perfect church”. Over the weekend, my husband and I watched a documentary called “U.N. Me” which uncovers some of the horrible things going on in that institution. When questioned about terrorist sponsoring and violent countries being given a seat at the U.N., a representative of that institution responded, “there are no perfect countries”. The “no perfect church” bit is a lie right out of the mouth of satan. It allows for every sort of wicked behavior and false doctrine to run rapant in the “church”. It didn’t hit me how much of a lie it was, until I heard it applied to the U.N. And your article is a reminder that even the act of once a week sitting in a pew is a “work” and nothing more.
There is a church that pursues the Word of God with passion and allows, through faith in Jesus Christ, for the sanctification of souls through that Word. It is a church that doesn’t give sin a pass and strives to live out the gospel out of love and devotion to a Savior God. It is a church, unified through that very Word, that covers the entire earth and sits only under the Head who is Jesus Christ. It is a church, as you so eloquently pointed out, which is justified by faith alone.
Thanks for your word of encouragement “just1ofhis” and you’re right that I just feel like a voice crying in the wilderness most of the time.
Yet, obviously God’s word pricks the hearts of those who God intends to bring to glory. That’s why I write for Him. Even if it’s “just1” of His elect who has ears to hear and eyes to see the true gospel set forth in these articles, then my work is not in vain.
It’s true that it’s so difficult to follow the narrow way, while most go down the broad way of destruction.
However, this is what we are called to do.
By following Jesus we have counted the cost and see Him as gold and the world as rubbish. By following Him, we have accepted trials and tribulations here, for even the best of this life is either mixed with crosses or curses.
You are truly an encouragement. Keep your eye on the goal “just1ofhis,” put the hand to the plow and never look back! The world is not worthy of you.