Testing of Faith
Sunday we dive into the Book of James. Already this week, James will challenge our common ideas of grace. We know that ‘it is by grace that we have been saved, through faith – and this is not from ourselves, it is a gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.’ (Ephesians 2:4-9) Yet James says, ‘Faith (the receiving of grace) without works is dead.’ How are we to understand this?
It has been an age-old struggle for people to understand the relationship between ‘grace and works’ when it comes to faith and salvation and the ‘good life.’ It also reveals the struggle we often have with understanding the relationship between the saving work of Jesus Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.
Among followers of Christ, it has been my experience that each of us tends to swing toward one side of the pendulum between ‘grace and works’ – emphasizing one belief or expression more than the other. And thus, our dilemma. If we swing toward grace we are in danger of making ‘grace cheap’ and downplaying the importance of works. If we swing toward works we are in danger of engaging in a ‘works righteousness.’
James is not attempting to swing us in either direction, even though it may seem he wants us to swing toward works. Sometimes he is providing a corrective to cheap grace. Most of the time it is a both/and.
I’m looking forward to exploring this relationship between grace, faith, and works on Sundaywith you and see if the both/and approach to grace/works doesn’t help us understand James’ challenging words for us.
Sunday we begin, James 1:1-12. I invite you to engage. Read the text before Sunday and ask: How can one have joy in the midst of trial and challenge? How can one ask God for what they need and not doubt? How does someone in ‘humble circumstances’ take pride in their high position? How does a rich person take pride in humiliation? How is it that one can persevere under trial?
I believe a powerful insight into the answers are connected to our understanding of grace and works.
See you Sunday,