Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 3 * BOOK 53
James 1:24 – 3:6
Let’s get into our study of James, and in the last program we were down to verse 9 of chapter 2. And remember that James is writing the legalistic point of view of law-keeping.And as we pointed out in the last program, not a word yet about being led of the Holy Spirit, but in his little epistle it’s only “know the Law and keep it, for these Jewish believers”All right now it just continues on, verse 9.
“But if ye have respect to persons,…” In other words, he said earlier in the chapter, if you’re going to put the rich man in a place of preeminence and you’re going to put the poor downtrodden man over here, then you’re guilty of bad religion.
“…ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law (the Ten) as transgressors. 10. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Well, you see the Lord said the same thing. And the Law got meticulous to the place that even if you lusted in your thoughts, the Lord Himself said, “that when you lust in your thoughts you’re breaking the commandment of ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery!’” And so the Law, as I’ve said over and over through the years, was severe. The Law was demanding. All right, getting back to the text. If you break one, you’re guilty of breaking them all.
“For he that (is the Law) said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” Not just part of it, all of it. My what a horrible state to be under, see? All right, now then verse 12.
“So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.”
Now I pointed this out in our seminar the other night at Oklahoma City, in Romans chapter 2, again for the sake of comparison between James’ and Paul’s writings, and it’s not a contradiction. One is just as much the truth as the other, but one is more applicable to us than the other because it’s addressed to us in the Grace Age, the Church Age.
I told my group the other night, I wonder how many church members across America even know that this verse is in their Bible. Not many. Because if they did, they would look at Paul in a little different light instead of scornfully putting him down, ignoring him and having nothing to do with his epistles. But they’d better wake up because this is how this Age is going to judged. Not according to the Law of liberty, but according to this Scripture right here.
“In the day (Paul writes) when God (the Sovereign, Holy, Righteous God) shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, (He’s going to be the judge remember at the Great White Throne where all the lost will be gathered – and he will judge them) according to my gospel.” So the lost that have lived on this side of the cross, won’t be judged by the Law or religion. Every man woman and child that has lived on this side of this Age of Grace is going to be judged by Paul’s Gospel. Now you all know what Paul’s Gospel is, don’t you? But I’m sure there are some out there in television that probably don’t. And we’re going to look at it so that there can be no mistake. Paul’s Gospel of Salvation was given to him by the resurrected Lord, and is found in I Corinthians chapter 15, verses 1 through 4. It’s been a while since we’ve put it on the air. I guess it’s about time we did it again. I wasn’t intending to use this, this afternoon, but we just go as the Spirit leads. Here’s Paul’s Gospel, and this is the Gospel by which mankind is now going to be judged. Verse 1.
I Corinthians 15:1
“Moreover, brethren. (now remember Paul is writing to believers) I declare unto you (not a gospel, but) the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received. and wherein ye stand;” These Corinthians had already believed the truth of his Gospel. Now don’t forget, what were these Corinthians maybe a few months or years back? Pagans, idolaters, worshippers of the mythological gods and goddesses. But now, because they had believed Paul’s Gospel, Paul could call them brethren. All right, verse 2.
I Corinthians 15:2
“By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” He says, “It’s by this Gospel that you’re saved, if you keep in memory.” In other words, if you know what it is, and you’ve believed it.
I Corinthians 15:3a
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received,…” In other words, they had never heard it from anybody else. Paul alone was the apostle of the Gentiles. (Romans 11:13) Peter, James and John haven’t been to Corinth. Paul alone comes into this pagan city. And this is what he presented to them for salvation.
I Corinthians 15:3b-4
“…how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4. And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” Now folks, that’s Paul’s Gospel (that we must believe in our hearts for salvation) in this Age of Grace. It’s plain and simple. And that’s what you have to share with people around you.
You know, for those of you out in our television audience, I shared something with the studio class just before we started this afternoon. A lady out in Montana (and she’s going to be thrilled that I’m sharing it with my nationwide audience) had a young man come to her door selling ice cream – and while she was looking at the order list, I just happened to come on television. You know, that’s what the Scripture says about Ruth landing on the field of Boaz, “she happened.” Hey, with God nothing just “happens.” It’s what? Predetermined appointment with destiny.
So this young man who wasn’t even her routine driver came to the door and she brought him in and I had just come on. She catches us on Sky Angel. And she said, “Les, he was glued to that TV.” And so she said, “I noticed it and I just kept looking at his order book for the whole half-hour program. He did interrupt your teaching once by saying, “Who is this guy anyway?” She said, “Oh, that’s just a cattle rancher down in Oklahoma.” But by the time the half-hour was over I could tell that the Lord was dealing with him and as we were walking to the front door, the young man said, “I’ve always been scared to death of religion.” He said, “I won’t go with my wife to church because it scares me to death.” But he said, “This guy doesn’t scare me.” And so she said, “Well wouldn’t you like to have the joy and the salvation that he’s been talking about?” And he says, “Yeah.” And Les, she said, “I led him to the Lord right there in my front door! And sent him on his way rejoicing.”
Well you see, she knew Paul’s Gospel, and you and I have opportunity after opportunity to just simply share this simple fact that Christ died for our sins – He paid the price. And He was literally dead. He was buried for three days and three nights to prove it. And then, through the power of the Sovereign Almighty God, He was raised from the dead, victorious.
And then Paul goes on in this same chapter to teach that, because of His resurrection now, we also can have new life. Well, that’s Paul’s Gospel and that’s the message that every human being is going to be judged on in this Age of Grace. Not whether they kept the Law. Not if they’ve been good, but rather, have they believed Paul’s Gospel?
Let’s come back to James. And so the comparison is, James is still telling his Jewish people here, they’re going to be judged by the Law of liberty. Oh, those early Jewish believers before Paul are going to be in glory, because they believed what was presented to them by Peter, the apostle of the Jews (Gal. 2:8-9) about 10 years before Paul’s Gospel came on the scene. At that time, those early Jewish believers had to believe that Jesus was their promised Messiah, the Son of God. They also had the works requirement of repentance and water baptism. (Acts 2:38) I trust you never try to mix them together, because they won’t mix. Law and Grace simply cannot mix. Too many try to add things to Paul’s Gospel that God did not put in there! Now can you see that beautiful difference between Law and Grace? Now verse 13 in James chapter 2.
“For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” That’s not very nice language is it? But you see, we trumpet the Grace of God. God is saving sinners for no other reason than the fact that He loved them and He gave Himself for them.
All right, now here we come to the big area of James that causes so many questions. And it shouldn’t, if you understand where James is coming from. He’s a legalist. He is still a practitioner of Judaism but he has recognized Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises, and so he was part and parcel of those Jewish believers that Saul of Tarsus hated so. And persecuted – but he, as yet, knows nothing of Paul’s Gospel of Grace. If he did, it would be in here, but it’s not in here. Now verse 14.
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?”
Now, when you’re under a legalistic system, the answer would have to be what? No. Do you remember way back in Exodus, I made the point about when Israel was encamped around that tabernacle – now build a picture in your mind. The Twelve Tribes, four on every side of the tabernacle. Now with those several million Jews, that put some of them in the outer perimeters of the camp quite a ways away from the altar, didn’t it? And those of you who’ve been with me now, all these years, you remember I drew the analogy, what if one of those Jews way out there on the corner of the camp had broken the Law and he rummaged up a lamb, or brought one of his own, and he took the lamb all the way up to the tabernacle andpresented it to the priest as a burnt offering for his sin. Well, he came back to his tent justified because he had done what God had said to do.
And don’t ever forget, what does the Book of Hebrews say? “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission…” So this first Jew does it all – ‘A-okay.’ He recognized his sin. He did what the Law demanded. Took it up to the priest and his case was settled.
All right, so a couple of days later his neighbor does pretty much the same thing and he suddenly is driven with guilt for having broken the Law, but he stops to think what his neighbor did. And so he rationalized it and he said, “Now wait a minute. I know I’ve sinned. I don’t have to take that lamb all the way up to that altar like my neighbor did. God knows my heart. He knows I’m guilty. I’m confessing my sin, but I’m not going to take a lamb.” Now you remember way back then, what was my question? Was that man made right with God? No. No. Because he didn’t follow God’s instructions in doing what the Law said.
And so you always have to look at the big picture. And James is coming from that same point of view. How can a man under the Law possibly be right with God if he doesn’t fulfill the works that the Law demanded? I mean all of it!!
Okay, I can go one step further with that same analogy. Let’s say the third neighbor commits a sin on the outer perimeters. And he knows what the other two have done. But now he rationalizes and he says, well since my neighbor took a lamb up there I guess that’s what I’d better do. So he negotiates for a lamb and he takes the lamb up there, not because he’s convicted in his heart. Not because he is a man of faith, but he’s doing what his neighbor did. Was that man justified? No. No, because he didn’t do it by faith. He did it because his neighbor did it. Now am I making myself plain? Under the Law you did it all right or it was worth nothing and so you either did everything that was prescribed or they had no forgiveness.
All right, now James is making that same analogy and that’s where he’s right on for James.
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?…” Just like the fellow that wouldn’t bring the lamb. Oh he knew that he was wrong, and he knew that God had to make restitution, or had to forgive him, but he wasn’t going to do the works that would be required, so could that man have forgiveness? No. Of course not, all right read on. Verse 15.
“If a brother or sister be naked, (or in need of clothing) and destitute of daily food, 16. And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled; (with my goodness, my attitude, my compassion) notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” Nothing! Doesn’t do any good to tell anybody how badly you feel for them, how sorry you are for them, and send them out into the cold without a coat. So what is James teaching? Common sense. Now you bring it into our own scenario as believers today – it’s the same thing. If you have a neighbor who has a need and you’re in a position to fill that need, what are you to do? Give him what he needs. I think we all realize that. And we don’t just simply say, “Well, I’ll pray for you and I hope God gives it to you.” No that’s not sufficient. All right, so here’s where you can make some application, that it’s the same scenario, even though we’re under grace, yet if there’s a neighbor who is in need and we have the wherewithal to help fill that need and we don’t do it, then we’re going to be held accountable. And so we’re to do it. We’re to do good works for all the right reasons, even in this Age of Grace. Now verse 17.
“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” Well, we can agree with that up to a point. But now I’m going to bring you back to Ephesians chapter 2 where Paul, I think, gives us our Grace Age answer to such a scenario. And let’s just start with verse 4. Now here’s the Pauline concept as over against James. James just simply says, “If I don’t see works, then you don’t have faith.” Paul says, “If you have faith, you’re going to have works.” We don’t have to worry about it. They’re going to come as naturally as sunshine follows the dark.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together (or made us alive) with Christ. (by grace ye are saved;)” In other words, God has accomplished it of His own volition, when He sees our faith, of course. Now verse 6.
“And he hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places (or the heavenlies) in Christ Jesus: 7. That in the ages to come (for all eternity) he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Kindness and love and mercy and Grace – they all mean the same thing, see? Now verse 8:
“For by grace (by God’s unmerited favor) are ye saved through faith;…” Not works. Faith! By believing it. No questions asked. Trusting it. All right, but God doesn’t stop there. The moment He saves us, God enters into our being whether we realize it or not, and He’s not going to slap you down. He’s not going to put you on an operating table. He’s not going to put you under some water. God, by His invisible powerful way of doing things, is going to enter into your life and your life is going to be changed without your having to really lift a finger. Why? Reading the verse again.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: (because) it is the gift of God:” (you don’t work for it, it’s unmerited favor) 9. Not of works, (you don’t go visit the fatherless, and the widows to gain salvation) lest any man should boast.”
Now here’s the verse I was heading for. Takes me a while to get there, doesn’t it? Verse 10. For once we are saved, once we have entered in by our faith in Paul’s Gospel (that Christ died, was buried and rose from the dead), we’ve entered in by faith then:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,… “ Whose workmanship? God’s! God moves in and He works a work in our heart and life without our lifting a finger, so we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,…”
Now I always have to emphasize that word ‘create.’ Who alone can create? God. So the moment God sees our saving faith, He begins to create in us that wherewithal to do what? Do the good works. And the believer is going to do good works. Now that doesn’t mean you all have to be missionaries. It doesn’t mean you all have to be Sunday School teachers, or deacons, or preachers or any of those things. No, no, no.
Our good works can be manifested thousands of ways and the Lord will direct you. You know, I’ll never forget a lady I had in my class up in Iowa. Oh, she was bemoaning, one night, that she had no gifts and she couldn’t do anything for the Lord. Good heavens, every Saturday night she had 50 college-age and high school kids in her living room waiting for me to teach. And I said, “You think you can’t do anything?” That was her gift. The kids just worshipped the ground she walked on. But, they sat there and they just soaked up the Word of God because of her. And it’s the same way with any one of you, you can practice a gift and the Lord will work in you without your even realizing it.
All right, so, “We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” There’s not a command here that says, “Get out and visit the fatherless and the widows, like James did.” Paul was telling us that when we become a true believer, and the Holy Spirit begins to work the work in our lives, you’re going to do good works. Now, some more than others, of course. But listen that’s the way it is. All right reading on, finish the verse:
“…which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” In other words, He set the stage that we could walk a walk of good works because of what God has done for us. Not because of what we do for Him. It’s because of the out-working of what He has done for us.
Come back to James and let’s read verse 17 again:
“Even so (James says) faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
Well, I maintain it’s impossible to have faith without works. The two are going to go hand-in-glove. But James doesn’t teach that scenario because James is still under the legalism of the Law.