Manifest Faith: James 2:14-26 Part One
Much of our culture has lost its way in thought due to the negative influences of Post-modernism. It has caused some to question the very fundamentals of their faith. Some begin with an open mind but end with it slammed wide open as it is filled with even the most improbable of notions, at the hands of moral relativism. Our culture, no doubt, but the church is also being infected by this reasoning.
The Letter of James was written to impart practical absolute truths to the Christian faith and it is for believers who face the very situations that our culture presents. It can also inform our world that Christianity is about doing and not just talking. James is about truths enforced with divine wisdom for a people at a crossroads in religious thought and Post-Modernism has helped us reach this crossroads—for good or bad. Understanding the whole of this letter will better help us grasp the theological principles of our text under discussion.
This letter is the very wisdom of Christ made plain and practical. As our culture gropes for modernism and relativity we must reach their grasping hands with transforming truth. It is difficult, if not impossible, to make Jesus Christ of the 1st Century relevant to modern peoples of the 20th Century. Jesus is the Incarnation of the person of God, but He also existed as an actual historical man in an actual time and place. We are to demonstrate (as The Body) Jesus to the world so that they can see His eternal relevancy; the need for a Savior; faith in our Lord, be filled with His Holy Spirit that has come with enablement, and identify with our Lord in the waters of baptism. Evangelism must never supersede the need to disciple (See Matthew 28:19, literally “go” or “move” with imp. to “teach”)
Just before a sharp increase in public doubting, brought about by myths—partially revived by Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code or Simcha Jacobovici-Charles Pellegrino’s The Jesus Family Tomb theory—Dr. Josph Stowell wrote a book entitled The Trouble with Jesus (A Christianity Today’s Gold Medallion Book Award Winner 2003). Chicago Annually holds a Leadership Prayer Breakfast, the first Friday after the week of Thanksgiving. In this book Stowell tells us that attending the Breakfast was the religious thing to do. He admits that he has attended the Breakfast for 15 years (at the time of the book) and that up until a couple years ago the name of Jesus was freely used in prayers and sermons.
Stowell also goes on to say that at the 2003 Prayer Breakfast “new” change was introduced. The name of Jesus was never mentioned in any prayer or sermon. Instead, says Stowell, the emcee opened the service by expressing to the audience that diversity of religion in America now demands a new representation regarding the expression of our faith. The emcee continued to call for a “new wind” of cooperation and tolerance. Such interfaith language only set the tone for the rest of the Breakfast. Before the Breakfast ended a representative of Islam chanted, a Rabbi prayed, a Catholic priest took his turn and then a Protestant minister prayed, both without ever mentioning the name of Jesus. At the end the entire group held hands and prayed together.
Modern culture is replete with this philosophy in almost all areas of human thought, e.g. religion, politics, sociology. The need to herald to a lost and confused world the name of Jesus and its saving, healing, and delivering power should be foremost (c.f. Acts 4:12, Colossians 3:17). The Letter of James as a whole, and certainly the discussion in James 2:14-26 clearly compels believers to make their faith practical, to demonstrate authentic faith.
This faith, demonstrated and visualized, can help to bring certitude and faith to the skeptics and the Gnostics of our time. Intellectual demonstration is limited, but a Christian lifestyle with mercy, love, and justice at work can also aid in informing any person’s doubts. The Inquisition has served to springboard doubt and unbelief because it is the antithesis of Christian works. Guided by the wisdom of Christ, through the pen of his brother James, we can allow our “light” to “so shine before men” so that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (See Matthew 5:16). We can impact our culture positively with authentic Christianity.
The purpose of this discussion, on James 2:14-26, will be to get to its meaning by first looking at its historical and literary contexts. Secondly we will ask some questions of the text to help us in the interpretative process. Thirdly, we will seek to answer those questions by doing some word studies and syntactical analysis. Finally, we will seek to apply the passage to contemporary audiences.
1. Zodhiates, Spiros. Faith, Love & Hope: An Exposition of the Epistle of James, (1:1) Copyright © 1997, Dr. Spiros Zodhiates
2. Stowell, Joseph M. The Trouble with Jesus © 2003 by Joseph Stowell