Tag Archives: Galatians

James vs. Paul: A contradiction?

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about faith in my sermons on Sunday mornings. We have seen that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). We have defined faith as follows:

Believing in something so much that you ACT on that belief without hesitation.

Faith isn’t merely saying you believe in something but living like you believe in that something.

As we talk about faith there are many who want us to talk about James 2. Many people have an opinion one way or the other about this passage. Many in the churches of Christ love this passage and use it to talk about the things we do as Christians. Some people dismiss this chapter because they believe in the “faith alone” passages of Romans and Galatians. Which is it? Are we saved by faith alone or do works come into play?

Paul says this:
Romans 4:1-5
​”What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

He also says this:
Galatians 2:15-16
“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

So it seems that we are saved by faith alone. This is true, but you must understand the type of works that Paul is talking about in these passages. He is not talking about the works done as a result of faith. He is talking about the works people do in order to fulfill the law – as in the Old Testament Levitical Law System.

People believed that if they followed the rules of the Old Testament to the letter they would be found righteous. The problem with this is if you break one of the laws even once you have been found unrighteous, and there is no undoing that stained record. A person cannot justify themselves by following law.

But James says this:
James 2:14-17
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

So which is it? Do you need works for Salvation? James thinks so, but he is talking about a different kind of works entirely. He is not talking about following a religion legalistically. He is talking about a life that shows its faith by what it does.

The kind of deeds James is referring to have to do with faith. Faith without action is mere words. It’s not faith at all. If we are going to claim to have faith then there needs to be evidence of it by the lifestyle we show daily. Your lifestyle, the deeds you do daily, shows whether or not you have faith.

James and Paul are not in contradiction with each other. They both believe that faith shows itself in what we do (Galatians 5:6).

So, you are not saved by proving yourself worthy. You are saved by a faith in God that expresses itself daily in a lifestyle of love for God and others and trust in the Creator to sustain and fulfill you.

So are you saved by faith? Yes! But faith cannot be defined without action. May your life reflect that saving faith, and may others see that faith in you.


Are You the Puppet or the Puppeteer?

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I have two dogs. One is a black Lab, and the other is a Weimaraner. The Lab is docile but mischievous, and the Weimaraner is curious, hyper and ditzy. The Lab’s name is Katy and the Weimaraner’s name is Mija.

I have not been incredibly fond of Mija. She steals food from Katy, is overly rambunctious, and excited pees on my floors. She is also difficult to take out on a leash.

When I first started walking with Mija she would be all over the place. She would try to yank my arm out of socket. Then she would wrap me up in the leash. Then she would be between my legs. Then she would be sniffing something interesting and not want to keep going. She desperately wanted to be in control. But there was one problem for her. She was on a leash, and I am bigger than her.

When she would be all over the place and not listening to commands, I would get frustrated. OK; that’s an understatement. Nevertheless, the more frustrated I got the worse she behaved. I actually had to finally put a choker chain on her as we went for walks. She learned by way of this very quickly.

If you’ve never seen a choker chain for a dog, it works like this: the more they pull away, the tighter it gets around their neck. So, in essence, when they pull away they are choking themselves, but when they behave and walk as intended, then the collar loosens and they are comfortable again. I know that some people think this is cruel, but it works quickly and effectively.

After one session on the choker chain Mija is walking on the leash fine and doesn’t need it. Now, if I wait too long before walking her again, chances are that she will re-develop bad habits again, and we may have to re-introduce the choker chain to remind her of the rules to walking on a leash.

As I think about Mija, however, I realize that I shouldn’t get too frustrated with her. So many times I am just like her, only God is the one giving the directions.

What Mija doesn’t understand is that I have to curb her wild instincts so that she won’t get in trouble, and so that we can help her survive in a comfortable lifestyle as part of our family. It is a blessing for her to live with us.

What I don’t understand often times is that God is doing the same thing. He is trying to give me direction for my life, but I want to do things my own way. If only I would trust that God’s way is best, I would find out that life is so much richer. When I try to do things my own way, something always goes wrong.

In Galatians it talks about how everyone who has been baptized into Christ has clothed themselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27). Romans 8:9 says that we who are “of Christ” have the Spirit of Christ living inside us as well. Inside and out we are covered in Christ. Today I heard a preacher talking about how often we try to fit Jesus and his will into our lives instead of trying to fit our lives into His will. It’s much like trying to tell God what you’re both going to do that day.

“Jesus, I know it would be more beneficial to worship with the Saints this Sunday, but I’m so tired, so I think we’ll just stay home today.” When it’s written like this it seems pretty silly, but we do just this every time we choose to tear someone down or get drunk or disobey our parents or mess around with someone who isn’t our spouse. We even do this when we make a choice not to do something that we should be doing. James 4:17 says, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

We are called to allow the Spirit of Christ to be in control. When we don’t, He allows us to reap the consequences of our actions, and we can choose to learn from those consequences like Mija did on the choker chain, or we can remain stubborn and live a life far short of what God has intended for us.

You see, God has this wonderful plan for your life so that it can be the best life possible (Jeremiah 29:11), but if we don’t allow Him to be our puppeteer – if we try to cut the strings and still claim to be His – then we end up with a very messed up life indeed.

This coming Sunday is the beginning of a new year. It’s a great time for a fresh start, and God is great about allowing us to start over any time we are ready. Are you ready to make the decision to allow God to help you find true life in the midst of this messed up world? Are you tired of always messing up because you are always in control? He created you. You are His, and He loves you beyond your comprehension. He has a great plan for you. Do you trust Him?

If you’d like to know more about giving your life to God and having your sins washed away so that you never have to worry about them again, please feel free to contact me. You can reach me at the office at 979-245-1611 or via email at jddobbs@verizon.net. God bless you, and may you have a truly happy new year as you allow God to be in control once again.


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