The Book of James was probably written sometime around 49 AD (although some believe it to be written at a later date) to Jewish believers. The main purpose of the book was to show the Jews that it wasn’t enough for them to profess faith in Jesus, but that genuine faith would be evidenced by the works in their lives.
Although initially this message seems contradictory to the gospel, that one is saved through faith and not works, all James is saying is that one’s faith is proven by the fruit of their lives.
You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
According to the Hebrew-Greek Lexicon, the word “justified” can mean “to show, exhibit, evince…” So it’s not saying that someone can save themselves by earning it, which totally contradicts the message of free salvation through faith.
Real, active faith causes the believer to make decisions in life that can only come from a trusting relationship with God. Going to church and doing church service is great, but doesn’t necessarily require a lot of faith. Active faith can only come from relationship with Him. It’s the kind of faith that changes people’s lives:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
On an unrelated topic, what God really spoke to me through the Book of James was the importance of communicating with full honesty of heart. Even if my heart is wrong about something, if I communicate it, that’s when it can be brought to the light and be healed. I don’t want to speak based off what other people want to hear or what I’ve been taught, but I want to speak in fear of the Lord as best I can. Not that I can ever be perfect in teaching (and thankfully God doesn’t require me to), but I do want to speak only from my own convictions and understanding, not someone else’s:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle
We also studied the Book of Galatians, which for me, is one of the most powerful books so far from the New Testament. It just brings so much light to the truth of the freedom we have in Christ.
Paul wrote this letter to the churches of Galatia who were struggling with the concept of circumcision. Though they had initially believed they were saved through faith alone, an antagonistic group called the Judaizers tried to convince them otherwise:
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard?
This teaching about freedom from the law brought healing in my relationship with God. Without being aware of it, I thought that if I didn’t earn my way, either through being right or through being perfectly righteous or what have you, God wouldn’t respond to any of my prayers.
Even as I typed up this blog entry, I prayed that God would lead me in my writing so that I could communicate with integrity, and this little thought of fear popped up that said, “Oh you haven’t done enough or spoken enough to Him today to earn that prayer.” I thank God that He’s brought this wrong way of thinking to light so that I can push back this religious mindset and be free in my relationship with Him throughout the day!
Every part of our relationship with God and what we’ve received through Christ comes through faith. This is why it’s so important to build a trusting relationship with God and remove any doubt of His love and goodness toward us from our minds. If we constantly doubt Him and His love for us, how can we ever come to fulfill the greatest commandment?
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
And even this process of removing doubt and fear comes through faith alone! If we truly believe we can get to this point of love for God, then we will receive it, because it is God’s will that we love Him with all of our heart, soul and mind:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
Along with the concept of faith, I’m starting to believe in dreams again. I didn’t even realize it, but I had become skeptical of them. Maybe that’s because my life hasn’t necessarily turned out the way I imagined it, but I’m realizing that that’s probably a good thing. God has been blessing me beyond my imagination, especially in this season of studying the Bible. He’ been leading me to start believing again, but this time to dream with Him, not just through my own narrow, self-centered lens. And he’s been teaching me to not focus on the challenges that stand in the way because that is the destroyer of faith.
But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Thank you God, that you have made a way for us to walk in the way Jesus did, through faith, as Your children!
For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
…for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.