Faith, Works, & Justification: An Exegesis of James 2:14-26

In two sermons, Pastor Jay preached on James 2:14-26 which is the famous “faith without works is dead” passage. His sermon was based on a 30 page exegetical paper he did for school and wanted to provide it here as an additional resource to his sermons on this text since it is, as he says, an “often debated passage”.

He went on to say:

“I used the paper for the sermon and I thought that it would be profitable especially for those who like the languages and desire to go a little deeper into the passage. I feel that this passage is very important to understand biblical theology.”

The paper begins:

“Faith, works and justification in James 2 has created much controversy in the history of interpretation. Martin Luther said that the epistle of James is an ‘epistle of straw’. This paper will first demonstrate that there is no contradiction with Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith alone as he describes in Romans 4:1-8 and James 2:14-26. As a starting point we must say that these accounts must be harmonized. The two accounts that must be harmonized are James 2:24 (NKJV) where James states, ‘You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone’ and Romans 3:28 (NKJV), ‘For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.’…”

Download the entire paper in Word or PDF format.

The sermon outline deals with four aspects of true, saving faith:

True, saving faith is…

  1. Not an empty confession but a vibrant faith that works in conformity to the Word of God
  2. Demonstrated by works
  3. Not mere accent to a doctrinal creed
  4. Fleshed out by obedience
    1. The example of Abraham
    2. The example of Rahab

You can listen or download the audio for the first part of “Faith, Works, & Justification: Part 1” here or listen below:

You can listen or download the audio for the first part of “Faith, Works, & Justification: Part 2” here or listen below:

Christian Liberty Summarized

We are in the middle of our sermon series through 1 Corinthians with Pastor Jay Jesuroga. We have just finished up going through 1 Corinthians 8-10 (in 7 sermons) which is all about the issue of Christian Liberty.

In the first sermon, during the intro, Pastor Jay gave a 2 minute overview of chapters 8-10, which are all dealing with Christian liberty:


Pastor Jay liked  John Feinberg’s suggested eight tests for moral decision-making in matters that are not absolutes (issue that deal with Christian Liberty):

– The first question is, am I fully persuaded that it is right? Paul says (Rom 14:5, 14, 23) that whatever we do in these areas, we must be persuaded it is acceptable before God. If we are not fully persuaded, we doubt rather than believe that we can do this and stand acceptably before God. If there is doubt, Paul says, there is sin (v. 23). So if there is any doubt, regardless of the reason for doubt, one should refrain. In the future, doubt might be removed, and then one could indulge; but while there is doubt, one must refrain.

– Second, can I do it as unto the Lord? Whatever we do, Paul says, we must do as unto the Lord (Rom 14:6–8). To do something as unto the Lord is to do it as serving him. If one cannot serve the Lord (for whatever reason) in the doing of the activity, he should refrain.

– Third, can I do it without being a stumbling block to my brother or sister in Christ? Much of Romans 14 (vv. 13, 15, 20–21) concerns watching out for the other brother’s or sister’s walk with the Lord. We may be able to indulge, but he or she may not have faith to see that the activity is morally indifferent. If he or she sees us participate, he or she may be offended. As much as possible, we must avoid giving offense in these areas. This, however, does not mean one must always refrain. Paul’s advice in 14:22 is helpful. For one who believes he can indulge, his faith is right, but let him have it before God. In other words, he need not flaunt his liberty before others. It is enough for him and the Lord to know he can partake of these practices. In sum, if one truly cares about his brother’s or sister’s walk, sometimes he will refrain, and at other times he will exercise his liberty privately.

– Fourth, does it bring peace? In Rom 14:17–18 Paul says the kingdom of God is not about things such as the meat we eat or what we drink. Instead, it is about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Thus, believers should handle these matters so as to serve Christ. How would one do that? Paul instructs us (v. 19) to do what brings peace. Certain practices may be acceptable for one person, but if others saw him indulge, it might stir up strife between them. Hence, one must do what brings peace.

– Fifth, does it edify my brother? The command to do what edifies is in the same verse as the charge to do what brings peace (14:19). By juxtaposing the two demands, Paul makes an important point. Some activities may not create strife with another Christian, but they may not edify him either. One must choose activities that both bring peace and edify.

– Sixth, is it profitable? In 1 Cor 6:12 Paul addresses the issue of Christian liberty, and he reminds believers that morally indifferent practices are all lawful, but they may not all be profitable. They may be unprofitable for us or for our brother. For example, no law prohibits moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages or social dancing, but if my indulgence in either of these activities causes a brother to stumble, it is unprofitable for me to indulge. If the act is unprofitable, I must refuse to do it.

– Seventh, does it enslave me? (1 Cor 6:12). Many activities, wholesome and valuable in themselves, become unprofitable if they master us more than Christ does. As John warns, Christians must not love the world, but are to love God instead (1 John 2:15ff.). It is not that everything in the world is evil and worthless. Rather, our devotion and affections must be focused first and foremost on God. If we are to be enslaved to anything or anyone, it must be Christ.

– A final test is, does it bring glory to God? Paul discusses Christian liberty in 1 Corinthians 10, and in verse 31 he sums up his discussion by saying that whatever we do in these areas should bring glory to God. How does one know if his actions bring God glory? We would say at the least that if one answers any of the other seven questions negatively in regard to a particular activity, he can be sure he will not bring God glory if he indulges. Conversely, if the activity is acceptable on those other grounds, it should be acceptable on this ground as well.

In sum, Scripture distinguishes between actions covered by moral absolutes and those that are not. Believers must make up their own minds (under the Holy Spirit’s leading) on what to do in matters of Christian liberty. Personal preferences must not be imposed on others. In deciding what to do, one should use these eight tests taught by Paul. Each one must answer those questions honestly before God. Whatever decision stems from that process of questioning, each must have the integrity to obey.

From the second edition of Ethics for a Brave New World, due out in November. (via Justin Taylor)

Here are the 7 sermons on this issue:

Christian Liberty: 3 Principles Christian Liberty: 3 Principles – 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Minister’s Liberty: Financial Support Minister’s Liberty: Financial Support – 1 Corinthians 9:1-14

Paul’s Liberty Unused for the Gospel Paul’s Liberty Unused for the Gospel – 1 Corinthians 9:15-18

Paul’s Gospel Passion Paul’s Gospel Passion – 1 Corinthians 9:19-27

How to Avoid Spiritual Defeat How to Avoid Spiritual Defeat – 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Analogies Clarifying Christian Liberty Analogies Clarifying Christian Liberty – 1 Corinthians 10:14-22

5 Elements that Regulate Christian Liberty 5 Elements that Regulate Christian Liberty – 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1

Work Out, Aim High, Hold Fast & Hold Forth

As many of you already know, Pastor Jay was out of town this past week. What you may not of know is that he was enjoying some time at the Trinity Baptist Church of Montville’s 27th Annual Pastors’ Conference 2010.

He was very edified by one sermon in particular and wanted to share it with us. This from Jay:

“I had the distinct privilege of attending a pastors conference at Trinity Baptist Church. I was blessed beyond measure at what I experienced at this conference and wanted to share one of Pastor Al Martin’s sermons that he preached to the men at the conference as well as the entire Montville Church, last Monday night.

Albert Martin was an elder at the Trinity Baptist Church for 46 years and has recently stepped down due to age. He still continues an active preaching ministry and he conducts the pastors conference every October. I have to confess that for me this was some of the best preaching I have ever heard. There were only about 85 pastors at the conference so I got to meet Pastor Martin and spoke with him. I have a great respect for this man.

Just to give you what others say about Albert Martin let me give you a sampling. John Murray who wrote Redemption Accomplished and Applied, when he was asked to preach at the famous Leicester  Conference wrote, “If Al Martin is to be there I really think he should be asked to take the three evenings services you propose for me. He is one of the ablest and moving preachers I have ever heard. In recent years I have not heard his equal. My memory of preachers goes back sixty years. So, when I say he is one of the ablest, this is an assessment that includes very memorable preachers.” John MacArthur stated, ” I find Al Martin’s preaching to be sound, compelling… He cuts it straight.” J. I. Packer writes, Al Martin’s preaching is “very clear, forthright, articulate… He has a fine mind and masterful grasp of Reformed Theology in its Puritan- pietistic mode.” Joel Beeke, says, “Al Martin’s preaching excels in bringing home God’s truth to the conscience of people for every sphere of life. He aims to bring the whole word of God to the whole of man for the totality of the life.” Truly Pastor Martin is a gift that God has given to his church (Ephesians 4:11).

Much more could be said but check it out for yourself.”

Listen, watch, or download this sermon by Albert N. Martin entitled, “How to live as a Christian so as to give your pastors ground for holy boasting in the Day of Christ, “ from Philippians 2:12-16:

When Jesus Prayed: The Glory of God in Election

Pastor Emilio Ramos has been preaching through John 17. After one of the sermons he wrote the following:

In one sense we can say that John 17 takes one from glory to glory. Christ begins by communion with the Father and focusing on their fellowship which leads to Christ’s request for His personal return to the eternal glory which characterized the realm of the Triune God, the realm to which Jesus rightfully belonged (Phil. 2:6-7). The final section of this chapter concludes with Jesus’ request that believers, not only the apostles, but also those “who believe in me through their word” would see and participate in this glory (John 17:20).

This remarkable request by Christ is based upon His own accomplishments. That is, Jesus can confidently intercede for these things knowing the absolute efficacy of His own death, atonement, and resurrection on behalf of His people (John 10:28 cf. Mt. 1:21 | 1 Cor. 15:3-5 | 1 Pet. 3:18). In chapter 17, we are drawn into the fellowship of the Triune God of Scripture to enjoy the glory of God.

to enjoy the glory of God
…we are drawn into the fellowship of the Triune God of Scripture

It is further remarkable that we are given such an intimate insight into the consciousness of God the Son as He prays to God the Father. The prayer is remarkable for numerous reasons too many to detail here. One amazing glimpse given us by this prayer is Jesus’ concern for the elect of God. Jesus prays for those who were “given” to Him by the Father. The repetition of this concept reinforces the fact that this is no auxiliary topic for Christ (John 17:2, 6, 9, 24). Instead, election is as precious and central to Jesus as the authors of Scripture themselves. Election displays the sovereign glory of God for whom alone it is the prerogative to have mercy on who He wills and harden whom He wills.

Lamentably, the doctrine of election has been despised and rejected by much of the church today. Instead of delighting in what God delights in, namely, His sovereign freedom to choose who He wills, man spirals out into unbiblical philosophical conjecture endeavoring above all things to preserve the freedom and dignity of man. Yet this was not the posture of the apostles.

Paul begins with the doctrine of election and predestination as he writes to the Ephesians. Far from being something Paul relegates to the world of academia, he encourages the local churches with these truths as he explodes in doxology of the glory of God’s grace revealed in them.

Ephesians 1:3–4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love

John 6:37 “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.

John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
Also see, Psalm 135:4 4 “For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His own possession.

Romans 8:33 “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies

2 Thessalonians 2:13 “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” (my emphasis).

in the heart of Christ
the glory of God takes utter preeminence

Finally, there is another connection between God’s sovereign election and His glory that we need to see in Jesus’ prayer. Verses 1-5 opens up this prayer which is often referred to as Jesus’ high priestly prayer as He intercedes for His people, yet Jesus has yet to request something on our behalf. This is because the glory of God takes utter preeminence in the heart of Christ. All of God’s chosen people love to have it so. God’s people ought to follow Christ in this.The glory of God ought to be preeminent for us as well. We must like Jesus pray, “Lord not my will but your will be done” (Mt. 26:39 | Lk. 22:42 cf. Phil.1:20).

Soli Deo Gloria

Pastor Emilio Ramos

Listen to his sermons though John 17.

The Ruthless Progression of Sin

After Pastor Emilio Ramos preached “Assurance, Prayer, & Deadly Sin ” from 1 John 5:13-17 he wrote the following:

1 John 5:16 contains what some have called the most difficult passage in Scripture. The substance of the controversy deals with what John calls, “sin leading to death”. The majority of interpreters breakdown the passage into two ultimate views. One being that John is referring to God putting to death a believer for sinning in such a way that death is chastisement for persisting in that sin (cf. 1 John 3:4, 6, 9; 5:18) and thus protecting the purity of the local church as well as the testimony of the Lord. The other view is that John is referring to apostasy and thus the sin spoken about here is committed by an unbeliever who has forsaken their confession which gives way to final spiritual death such as with the secessionists in 1 John 2:19. Whatever view one might take, all agree that sin is utterly destructive and leads to death in one way or another to one degree or another.

In James 1:13-15 we are given what could be called the ruthless progression of sin. Ruthless, because the ultimate outcome of sin is death (Rom. 6:23a). Scripture teaches, ‘the soul that sins will die’ (Ezk. 18:4). James gives a graphic description using the terminology of hunting to portray the nature of sin’s progression. Verse 13, begins by giving us the proper theology of sin sometimes called hamartiology from the Greek word meaning sin harmatia. James teaches that temptation, where this progression begins, does not come from God, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” God is not to be conceived of as the author of sin, sin does not spring forth from Him, He does not create or generate evil in people.

The ultimate origin of sin is deeply mysterious but we dare not attribute sin’s beginning with God directly. Here James gives one explanation of where sin comes from. It springs forth from the heart of man! First, man is tempted and thus presented with the possibility of sin, though at this point no sin has been committed per se. James says that man is “enticed”. Much the way that a wild beast is lured into a trap, or a fish is baited onto a hook, man is lured, enticed, drawn toward the bait through various temptations. Man is carried away and enticed “by his lust” (v.14). At this point he may have reached the point of no return. We could say at this point: lust has been conceived and all that remains is for sin to be born. Once Sin has been born through whatever wicked thought, word, or deed of man’s heart, it brings forth death (Gen. 2:17).

we must take sin deadly serious
Sin’s progression can be very fast pace and at times it is so deceptive…

Sin’s progression can be very fast pace and at times it is so deceptive that one can hardly pin point where they went wrong. All in all, we must take sin deadly serious because it is serious. Consider the following texts,

Matthew 5:29 “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

Matthew 18:9 “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.” (also see, Mk. 9:47)

Romans 6:6 “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin”

Romans 8:13 “for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Galatians 6:7–8 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

Paul tells the Colossians that they must mortify their sin, put it to death (literally in the Greek), their old self must be put aside they must put on the new man with its new affections and ambitions.

Colossians 3:5–6 “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience,”

sin will show us no mercy
its only design is to lead us away from the mercy and grace of God

Perhaps the most deadly aspect of sin is that it is deceitful. The deceitfulness of sin renders sin too toxic to tamper with. We must put on the Lord Jesus Christ, we must put on the armor of God whereby we will be able to withstand the devils fiery darts. One thing is for sure if we deal lightly with sin sin will deal ruthlessly with us, sin will show us no mercy because its only design is to lead us away from the mercy and grace of God.

After considering the sin leading to death and sin which does not lead to death, John makes this wise statement, “all unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17) so as to say, ‘be not deceived’ just because your sin does not lead you to the sin in view in verse 16, sin is ultimately sin, “all unrighteousness is sin” and “sin is lawlessness”

(3:4b). Play with none of it that you may live.

See the outline, listen to clips or listen/download the entire sermon:

Foundations of Christian Joy: Peace in Christ

After Pastor Emilio preached Friday’s sermon, entitled “Principles of Christian Joy – Pt 3” from John 16:29-33 he wrote the following:

The peace that a Christian possesses is “in Me” as Jesus said.  This union reminds us of the Vine and the branch metaphor that Jesus has already taught in John 15 describing the believers union with Christ that results from faith; bearing in mind that “abiding” language is indicative of faith.

It is only because of this indissoluble union that we have in Christ that the believer can overcome the world and experience the peace Jesus left to the believer.  We can search for peace in the world through having a good career, plenty of money and financial stability, or through family moments that are treasured through the years, yet none of these equal to or are comparable with the peach that Christ gives.

First and foremost the peace Jesus gives is peace with God (Rom. 5:1, 15:33 | Acts 10:36 | 2 Cor. 5:18-20 | cf. Is. 57.19).  Where there once was nothing but blackness, darkness, and enmity; through Jesus, we have come to know God in a favorable way.  We have gone from enmity to amenity.

To describe the indescribable peace that has been accomplished through the cross of Christ, Paul unleashes both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of this peace when he writes to the Ephesians that we have been reconciled “to God through the cross”,

Ephesians 2:14–17 “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near.”

In John 16:33 Jesus gave His disciples both the reality of the world’s adversities or “tribulations” as well as the peace that was found in Him because He overcame the world.  So then, it is for us that Christ overcame the world.  When Scripture declares that Jesus overcame the world it means that Jesus overcame our worst enemies comprised of society, sin, and Satan.

overcomes society

To overcome the world means that Jesus overcomes the wicked world system of fallen humanity that is under the powers of a diabolical hostility against God and His Christ.

1 John 2:8 “On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.”

John 8:12 “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

overcomes sin

To overcome the world means that Jesus has overcome the power sin by making an end of the debt or the wages of sin thereby removing sin’s dominion over the life of the believer.

Colossians 2:13–14 “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

1 Corinthians 15:56–57 “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

overcomes Satan

To overcome the world means that Jesus has defeated the god of this world, Satan, by living a perfect life, dying a perfect death, and conquering over death and the grave which have long been the devil’s tool of enslaving man.

Hebrews 2:14–15 “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”

1 John 2:13-14 “… I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one… I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”

1 John 3:8 “… The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”

The Joy of the believer is rooted in Christ because although they face the malice of the most evil of enemies in society – sin and Satan – Jesus overcomes our enemies and turns His people into fellow heirs to participate in the victory of the Son of God.  The result is that in Jesus the believer has hope that will rescue them from all of their sorrows, they have full access to the Father where they will find the help to face the evils of their day, and peace that surpasses understanding enabling the believer to walk a life of blessed joy in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

Soli Deo Gloria