Drinking Deeply

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 at 1:08 AM

Genesis 15:6

A brief paragraph contrasting James and Paul for my religious studies class on Luther (hooray for being able to work on my (fake) reformed theology minor at Stanford University! Praise the Lord!) Only allowed 250 words, I went over by a hundred. But I can't do James 2 justice within the word count. So here we go:

A contrast of James and Paul's treatments of Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4, Galatians 3, and James 2.

Genesis 15:6
"And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness."
In Romans 4, Paul uses Genesis 15:6 in the context of being justified by works. He refutes the belief of being justified (counted righteous) by works (merit) with the idea of being justified (counted righteous) by faith alone. Paul puts the emphasis completely upon faith, as he claims that works has no part in it. In Romans 4 it is explicit. Paul clearly puts Abraham on the side of one who does not work but trusts in God (putting the emphasis on believing God), making justification by faith alone, rather than works and faith.

Along the same lines, in Galatians 3:6, Paul again quotes that same verse to demonstrate that God justifies man not by “works of the law” but rather “by hearing with faith,” putting the emphasis once again completely upon the faith rather than any of the works of the law.

James, on the surface, looks like he is contradicting Paul completely, stating in James 2:22-24 that faith without works is dead. Yet if we look at the verse in context, we find that the point that James is making is not in contradiction to the concept of justification by faith alone, but a response to a belief that it is possible for someone to have faith without bearing fruit of the works. James is rebuking those who have a faith that does not bear works, but he does not affirm that works form the grounds for one’s justification. Works are a demonstration of the existence of a real faith, but not the grounds upon which man is justified before God. The quotations of Genesis 15:6 only serves to emphasize that point, as he points to Genesis 22:1 in James 2:21 to show that Abraham demonstrated works as evidence that he had already been justified (counted righteous) on the basis of his belief.

What is our conclusion? God’s Word does not contradict itself. One obtains right standing before God by faith alone, but one demonstrates the existence of that faith by their good works done in faith. Those good works do not obtain right standing before God, it is only Christ’s good works that obtains it, and our faith in Christ that imputes His righteousness to ours.

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Blogger Joanna Martens said...

Living in such a "works-oriented" society it is easy to get caught up with, "If I do this, than God will do that..." which completely takes all honor away from Christ and puts blessing contigent on our efforts and work.  

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