Alfred Place Baptist Church

2:14 Salvation Through Faith Alone In Christ Alone

James 2:14 “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds ? Can such faith save him?”

James has just been writing about the day of judgment (v.12) and now he is asking what will bring a favourable judgment. What good will it be for someone to assure God the Judge that he did have faith when that man’s life was totally lacking in any deeds ? We all know the answer, “No good at all.” James asks us pointedly, “Brothers, can that faith save him when he stands before the Great White Throne ?” “No,” we all say. These are not trick questions. You don’t have to be a theologian or even a mature believer to answer them correctly. People on the fringes of the Christian church will know the answers. Here is a lost man.

This insistence on walking the walk as well as talking the talk is no original message of James’. All the Old Testament prophets were confronted with backsliding people who claimed that Jehovah was their God but who lived selfish uncaring lives, and all the prophets challenged and warned them. When John the Baptist was sent to disobedient Israel he preached that the people should produce fruit in keeping with their profession of faith in God. The Lord Jesus told his disciples that they should so live that the world saw their good deeds and gave glory to God. The message of the whole Bible is full of the emphasis that if you believe in God the it must show in your life. Every religion, and the conscience of every natural man, agrees with that.

Then why does James raise at this juncture, at such length, this theme ? All of the letter is about consistent Christian living, but here he is almost argumentative, and certainly combative, emotional, full of imaginative vivid language. He pictures a supporter speaking out in his defence – “someone will say this …” (v.18), and he bluntly addresses a man of ‘faith’ without works – “You foolish man” (v.20), and then he speaks intimately to his readers “You see …” (v.22), “You see ….” (v.24). This theme is obviously crucial to James. The reason is not because James and the apostle Paul were at loggerheads. When Paul initially went to Jerusalem one of the first persons he went to see was James (Galatians 1:19), and on his last visit, many years later (Acts 21:18) he went to see James again. Between those two visits, after fourteen years of evangelism and letter-writing, he visited Jerusalem again and told them of his plans to go to Greece, Rome and even further afield with his gospel. James was delighted to hear this, and alongside Peter and John the three of them gave the right hand of fellowship to Paul to take to the Gentiles the same message which all four of them believed (Galatians 2:9). So there is no evidence whatsoever that the Christian gospel James preached was any different from that declared by the apostle Paul. They loved one another: they would have laid down their lives for one another.

Why then the emphasis in this section of the James’ letter on works ? The answer is because the New Testament message of salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone was so familiar and so open to misunderstanding that it was being abused. That justification by faith alone is the New Testament message is undeniable. For example, the Lord Jesus told of a Jewish man who was working for the occupying Roman power, in fact he was enforcing taxation on his fellow countrymen and giving the monies to Rome while keeping a substantial part for himself. Hated men, this particular one’s life was in a mess, and one day, broken in spirit and feeling utterly wretched, he went to the Temple and cast himself upon the mercy of God. He stood apart from other worshippers. “He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner'” (Luke 18:13). The Lord Jesus saw it all and said that that very man went home justified before God. He had done no works. He simply humbled himself by crying to God for forgiveness as his only hope, and the Lord heard him. Christ says that quisling was declared righteous because he had confessed his sin and fallen before the pity of God.

That is the consistent New Testament message. Consider the great words of Paul to the Romans, “Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). Or think of his words to the Galatians, “A man is not justified by works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ … for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16). Or consider the case of the dying thief who had an evil life worthy of that atrocious death – at his own admission. He had no works at all to bring to God but cast himself on the love of Jesus who said, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). That is certainly the heart of the New Testament gospel, and of Christianity itself, and unless you understand the radical nature of this message – which makes Christianity different from every other religion in the world – you won’t understand James’s concern.

Let us step back and seek to understand what Christianity is, and that will put this section in its true context.

1. CHRISTIANITY IS THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Christianity is not a summary of good works which individuals, families, congregations and nations should perform. The emphasis of Biblical preaching is not love, social issues, miracles, holiness, soul-winning, decisions, revival, prophecy, gifts, but a living person, the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Other Biblical topics must take their place complementary to him. The centrality of Christ’s person and work is the unifying theme of the entire Scriptures.

He is the subject of the prophets’ testimony: “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). “Written in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning me” (Luke 24:44). “… we have found him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote … Jesus of Nazareth …” (John 1:45). “You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (John 5:46). “To him all the prophets witness …” (Acts 10:43).

He is the subject of the Holy Spirit’s testimony. “But when the helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify of me” (John 15:26). “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and revealing it unto you” (John 16:14).

He is the subject of the apostles’ testimony. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be witness to me” (Acts 1:8). “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42). “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this scripture, preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:35). “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). “We preach Christ crucified” (I Cor. 1:23). “the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us” (2 Cor. 1:19). “For we did not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (2 Cor. 4:5). “I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ ..” (Eph. 3:8).

John Reisinger has observed, “Someone has figured out a very simple but effective way of testing every minister. The false preacher is always reminding us of what we must do. His message is constantly focused on man and is ‘do-centred.’ The true preacher keeps reminding men of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us. His message is focused on the Saviour and is ‘done-centred’.”

As soon as we say Christianity is Christ then every sentimentalist will warmly concur with us. “That is what they have been saying for years,” they will claim, while evangelicals, they judge, have been espousing creeds and doctrines about the two-fold nature of Christ, and a forensic justification etc. So we evangelicals have to add quickly that the Lord Jesus Christ we speak of is a very specific person defined by the history and the explanation which the writers of the Bible give him.

We hear people say, “All you need to do is to preach Christ.” “Which Christ ?” we ask. The Bible talks of “another gospel” and of “many false Christs” Jehovah’s Witnesses have a Christ, but not the Christ of the Bible. Mormons have a Christ, but not the Christ of the Bible. Christian Scientists have a Christ, but not the Christ of the Bible. Unitarians have a Christ, but not the Christ of the Bible. Modernists have a Christ, but not the Christ of the Bible. Some men preach a false healing message “in the name of Jesus” and make a lot of money from the miseries of their fellow human beings. The Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible has a name and a character and a reputation which is defined and safeguarded by the Bible alone.

“Isn’t coming to Christ like a great leap of faith into the dark ?” some people have asked. They have used this illustration: a certain house has a basement. The only entrance to the basement is a trap door, and the only light that falls into the basement is that which comes through that door when it stand open. One day the father of the family occupying that house is working in the basement. His little daughter is playing around the open trap door. He can see her in the light, but she can see him only faintly, if at all, in the dark. He tells her to jump through the door and assures her that he will catch her. She obeys instantly and, of course, is caught in her father’s strong embrace. Just as that little girl made a leap in the dark, we are told, so the one who believes in Christ makes a leap in the dark.

R.B.Kuiper comments about that story, “Perhaps the illustration is better than it intended to be. Did the girl really make a leap in the dark ? In a sense she did; in another sense she did nothing of the kind. She knew her father; she recognised his voice; she had experienced his love. Precisely her knowledge of her father accounted for what she did. Likewise, knowledge of Christ accounts for faith in him. No doubt, Paul had that in mind when he asked the rhetorical question, ‘How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed ? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard ? And how shall they hear without a preacher ?’ He drew the conclusion: ‘So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ (Rom. 10:14, 17) (The Bible Tells Us So, Banner of Truth, 1968, p.95).

We can summarise the Bible by comparing it to a three-act drama with one theme, and that is Jesus Christ himself. The outline is as follows:-

1] The first act of the play goes from Genesis to Malachi and its theme is “Behold, someone is coming.” The whole of the Old Testament Scripture is the story of the coming Messiah. One of the first people on the stage announces this theme by saying, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.”

2] The second act of the play begins with Matthew and goes through the four Gospels. Here the theme is “Behold, someone is here.” Again, one of the first men on the stage, John the Baptist, sets the theme by pointing to Jesus and saying “There is the promised lamb of God that we have been waiting for.”

3] The third act of the drama goes from the book of Acts to the end of Revelation. Here the theme is “Behold, someone is coming again,” and, as before the key personnel comes to the front of the stage and declares, “This same Jesus will come again in like manner.” That theme runs throughout these books to the last but one verse of the Bible where John, banished to the island of Patmos, cries out in hope, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”

The Bible from beginning to end is the story of the Son of God. Christianity tells the world the meaning of the story of the Lord Jesus. Paul saw himself and the early church as ‘ambassadors for Christ’ (2 Cor. 5:20). We love our church, and thank God for being a part of it, but we are not church ambassadors. We sincerely love Moses, but we are not his ambassadors. We rejoice in the truths of the doctrines of grace which men have called ‘Calvinism’ but we are not ambassadors for that system. We are ambassadors for our Lord Jesus Christ alone, because Christianity is Christ.

2. CHRISTIANITY IS BELIEVING UPON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

If Christianity is a person, then becoming a Christian must be a response to that person. What is needed to respond adequately to this person ? The Bible says it is faith. Notice how James, here in the opening verse of this second chapter, defines Christians as, “believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” (2:1). This is the key connection between this divine person and ourselves – faith in him. In the New Testament such faith always says three things;

1] ‘I Know Him.’ Without knowing Jesus Christ there is no salvation. A boy might knows the expletive ‘Jesus !’ and nothing at all more. To tell him to trust in a ‘Jesus’ which is a swear word is meaningless. He needs truth to fill the vacuum of that name. That truth comes from the Scripture. Christianity is the religion of a book, the Bible, and that books tells us such things about Jesus Christ as that he was born of a virgin (Matt.1:21-25), lived a sinless life (I Peter 2:22), was crucified for sinners (Romans 5:8), rose again from the dead (Luke 24:5 & 6), ascended into heaven (Acts 1:11), and is coming again (I Thess. 4:16).

John Reisinger vitalises those truths when he says, “On a specific, literal, twenty-four hour day in our calendar history in which the sun rose and set, a real virgin named Mary became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Nine months later on another real, twenty-four hour day, that same virgin gave birth to the Jesus who is Christianity. On another literal, twenty-four hour day about thirty-three years later, with each year consisting of three hundred and sixty-five days (except the leap years which contain one more), and each day being twenty-four hours long, this same Jesus was really crucified, he actually died and he was literally buried in a rock tomb. This rock was just as real as the rock in your rock garden. Three days later, this same Jesus rose from the grave and both talked and ate with his disciples. Forty literal days after his resurrection, he visibly ascended into heaven and his believing people fully expect him to physically return once more to this earth” (‘Sound of Grace’ magazine, August 1989, p. 2).

You can accuse that writer of tattooing the refrain ‘real, literal, historical days’ on your brain but his point needs to be made. There is no salvation without knowing Jesus Christ and that person as defined for us in the propositions of the Bible. He who rejects them rejects Jesus. Nothing could be more obvious than that one cannot believe in the Christ of Scripture without believing the Scriptural propositions about him. That is why we contend for the details of the New Testament, and why God sends a missionary, for example, to the street children of Manila, to give to those children knowledge about who is the Lord Christ, so that the name ‘Jesus’ is no longer a mere expletive to them. They cannot become his followers without knowing him. “This is eternal life,” said the Son of God, “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Every week someone knocks on the door and asks to enter the house to check a gas or electricity meter, or to talk about members of the household, or to carry our bags to the airport. The problem we have in allowing complete strangers to come into our homes and do things for us is that we need to know them well enough to trust them. But the knowledge involved in the Christian faith is not merely intellectual baggage, because true knowledge in the Bible invariably involves a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a knowledge that brings us into immediate contact with God himself. That is why a minister chooses the most memorable abiding biblical hymns to sing, and why we catechise our children in knowledge of the Saviour, and read the Scriptures at home, and attend the most biblical worship we can each Lord’s Day. It is all for knowledge sake. So a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ must first be able to say, “I know him.”

2] “I Believe What Jesus Did and Said Is True.” A child discovers who the Jesus of the Bible is, but does he believe it ? He does not know everything about him, but he knows a growing number of facts about Jesus’ teaching and mighty works. His mind has been at work about them. Does he believe that they are true ? Why should he believe ? Two things will help him. Firstly, the loving credible people who tell us these facts. For example, a daughter never knew her grandmother, but her mother speaks to her about her own mother many times, and tells her of her grandmother’s life, sayings and of the adventures she had with her. By this the grandchild believes that her grandmother existed and did those things she has been told. She believes them on the testimony of her own mother whom she has found to be eminently trustworthy. In a similar way we believe what Jesus said and did to be true because of the testimony of Matthew, John, Peter, Mary and the other eyewitnesses who commend him to us in the Bible. The evidence is overwhelmingly strong. The child’s mother is so trustworthy that the child is compelled to believe what she says about her mother. She cannot resist believing in her unseen grandmother; her faith in her is constrained by the words and spirit of her own mother. She trusts her mother’s words as truth; she has evidence that is sufficient. So the apostle Paul for example, lists the number of people who saw the resurrected Christ, and he says that there were five hundred who saw him on one occasion, most of whom were still alive when he was writing his letter to the Corinthians (I Cor. 15:6). “Go and talk to them,” he could say. “They are not charlatans, nor were they in a form of hysteria or a trance-like state when they listened to Jesus.” Paul says, “And I saw him too on the road to Damascus.” We believe that Paul is speaking the truth. So we accept the New Testament is true on the evidence of the people who did see Jesus.

Then, secondly, we believe because of the nature of the message itself. The opening chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith speaks of Scripture in terms of the “heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), … the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection … abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God.” What beauty is in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ – the great parables, the Sermon on the Mount, the striking discourses of John. They are an Everest of grandeur, but also we find here the most tender and relevant of counsels. How different they are from the writings of other great men whom we respect for their modesty. In the gentle Christ we discover the most staggering claims to be the judge of the world, to be pre-existent, to raise the dead, to be absolute God. These claims are backed by extraordinary works, and endorsed by a blameless life, and enriched by the most profound teaching. All this is credible as the manifestation of God. All that we would look for in the living God we find so accessibly in Jesus Christ. So we believe in the truth of these writings on the grounds of the material which we are given and from the witness of those who present it to us. Thomas’ belief in the risen Christ was based on the fact that Jesus was alive, but it was a faith which acknowledged, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

3] “I Trust Him.” This is the very heart of the Christian message. Don’t stop at the level of correct biblical knowledge, or in believing these things to be true. Entrust yourself to him, because he invites you. “Come to me,” he says. The truths of the Bible are like signposts which point you to Christ. You do not sit at the base of the post and think you have arrived at your destination. You follow the direction of the sign. All the Bible points you to the Lord Jesus.

What am I to do with this Lord Jesus Christ of whom I have learned from the Bible and whose life and teachings I now believe to be true ? The Bible tells me to trust in him. The good news is what God has done outside of me in the actual person and historic work of Jesus Christ. The gospel is a message of historic, objective reality. It is not good news of my own spiritual pilgrimage, faith and experience but of the experience of the Son of God. Look to him, the gospel says. He came, born under the demands of the royal law, fulfilling every single demand. He did love his neighbour as himself, and he loved God with all his heart and mind. He was the only true man to be without sin. But important as his spotless life is what was more important was what he did with it. He laid it down in death. Assuming the full liability of our guilt and sin, bearing our blame and shame in his own body, he died as a substitutionary sacrifice on behalf of sinners. All God’s judgment, without restraint, fell on him. All God’s righteous claims against the sinner were fully satisfied by the death of God the Son on our behalf. Jesus did not die in order to make God love us. That is utterly untrue. He loved his own people before the foundation of the world. It was because God loved us so that he provided this way of salvation. It all sprang from his boundless love. The Lord Christ died in order to remove those barriers which were in the way of our receiving the blessings of his love.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has dealt with all our sin and guilt. That means for the those covered by that provision their sins are as though they never were. It is an incredible concept. Our sins do not control or modify our relation to God now. It is as if they were not there. The Saviour has taken away all the sins of the past, of the present and of the future and has put them away for ever, so that we are now whiter than snow. The Roman Catholic cannot believe it. There is an egotism in their old man-made system that makes them cling in self-pity to some remnants of guilt so that they can feel sorry for themselves. “I shall deal with those sins during my time in purgatory,” every Roman Catholic says. For them the Son of God did half a job when he died on the cross, or maybe 90% of the job, but the rest is left for the sinner himself to do.

But if only I can let the truth of the New Testament be the whole truth about the way things are between me and God, that there is no barrier whatsoever, no impediment and no further purging of sin to do, because by himself the Lord Jesus purged our sins in his own body on the cross. It is all forgiven sin. That is the only way a Christian is permitted to look back at the falls of his life. Does not the wrong assumption that all is not right between ourselves and God, and that there are years in purgatory ahead of me, however I live, encourage a little less commitment, and discipleship and struggle with remaining sin, and too much fatal complacency. “All my guilt has not been dealt with, and I myself will have to deal with it when I die,” says the Roman Catholic. Does not that attitude encourage a spirit of, “Let us continue in sin” more than any message of free forgiveness ?

The good news is that Jesus Christ has dealt with it all so that there is absolutely nothing left. The single determinant of our relationship with God today is what happened on the cross of Golgotha. Nothing else matters; nothing else is relevant. There are only two factors in the equation, what Christ did and how God responded, and the way you feel and struggle, and your experiences and failings are utterly irrelevant. The one thing relevant is what Christ did on the cross. If you believe that still God has something against you for which you must spend centuries in purgatory that serves as the basis of an unconscious grudge that somehow justifies you being careless with your language, permitting a lapse here and a fall there. I want you to know, in the depth of your hearts, that Jesus Christ has made a good and decent and proper job of the work God gave him to do. The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all, and he dealt with it all in such a way that I don’t have to deal with it.

Let me underline this once more, or you will never grasp James’ concern. The Lord Jesus dealt with our sin and guilt all by himself. “He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (Hebs. 7:27). “Now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebs. 9:26). “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people” (Hebs. 9:28). He made a purging of our sin not by enabling you to do something, nor by inspiring you to choose, nor by encouraging you to repent, nor by exhorting you to faith, nor by commanding you to live a holy life, nor by pleading with you to do good works. If our standing before God depends upon my own repentance, or faith, or compassion, or good works then before God I have no hope, because the best that I do is mixed with my sin. So the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God himself does something, and does it utterly alone. None of us were there giving him encouragement, and his Father had forsaken him. He was alone on Golgotha, and he there and then took responsibility for every single aspect of all our guilt and shame. What could be more glorious than that ? Jehovah Jesus came and dealt with our sin, and he dealt with it so competently that there is nothing whatsoever left for us to deal with. You cannot add to that redeeming work. You do not contribute a little bit of yourself, two pennyworth of Christian experience, half a pound of suffering, a few marks of grace, some pains in providence, a bit of witnessing – just to make the cross perfect. Never !
“Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow.”
There is nothing in the world more glorious than that. We do nothing. We do not become more moral, and more religious, and walk to the front, and get baptized, and make some resolutions to live a better life. We do not think of what we are going to do. Christ has done it all by himself. God is satisfied with it. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are satisfied. Then let your conscience be satisfied with it too. Let you past be satisfied, if God is satisfied.

What then is to be our response ? Love him ? No. Work for him ? No. Our only response is to receive Christ and his salvation as he is freely offered to us in the gospel. Look away from yourself, from your life with all its efforts and all your works and come close to Christ. Close with him ! Surrender all you do, and rely on all that the Lord Jesus has done. Leave your case with him. Entrust yourself simply to him. Look to him; the dying Israelites looked to the brazen serpent, and in looking lived. Take refuge in the blood and obedience of Jesus Christ.

“Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress;
Helpless, look to thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.”

It is not bare faith that saves, it is Christ who saves through faith in him. Saving faith is the eyes looking to Christ alone; the hands taking Christ alone; the feet coming to Christ alone; the mouth crying to Christ alone; the stomach feeding upon Christ alone. Not anyone else.

Upon a life I could not live, upon a death I could not die. Another’s life, another’s death I stake my whole eternity.

The apostle John says it: “This is the record, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his son. He that hath the son hath life; and he that hath not the son of God hath not life” (I John 5:11 & 12). It all hangs upon having the Son by faith

The contribution which I make to my salvation is my sin and need. I am saved wholly by the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. My faith is the connection that joins me to him and to all his glorious accomplishments and status. That is Christianity – believing upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are saved.

3. SINNERS WILL ABUSE CHRISTIANITY.

True believers will not abuse this grace. The cross of Jesus will not let them. Love so amazing so divine demands their souls, their lives their all – not in order to be saved but as the mark that they have understood and appreciated that salvation which is only in Christ. Christianity is receiving Jesus Christ alone by faith as our Saviour. When we receive him we receive everything that God gives us in him. Forgiveness and eternal life is found in him. Every blessing is ours only when we are truly united to him.

These people of whom James is speaking have failed to see this. They think that simply adding faith in Christ to their lives is enough. They think that just by acknowledging the truthfulness of Christianity is enough. These are people who have never personally and knowingly gone to Christ with empty hands and pleaded his mercy alone to save them. Who do we rest all our hopes on for salvation ? The Lord Jesus Christ. When we trust in him we trust him as our prophet to teach us how to live, our king to rule and protect us and our priest to atone for us. He is one person and we receive him equally as much as our Lord when we receive him as our Saviour. It is just as biblical for me to say, “I trusted Christ as my personal Prophet, as my personal Priest, and my personal King” as it is to say, “I trusted Christ as my personal Saviour.”

In the New Testament the apostles never urged men to believe on Christ the Saviour apart from believing upon him as Lord. They never offered the saving benefits of the work of the cross apart from his person as Lord and King. They never appealed to a sinner’s will to believe without first instructing men with truth as to who this Jesus is. Our whole person, consisting of mind, heart and will (Rom. 6:17) receives a whole Christ as prophet, priest and king. Imagine someone saying, “I love the truth that my sins were punished on the cross, but I will not submit to his total control of my life, goals and money.” This whole letter of James is the apostolic denial of such a religion. God will not save you on those terms of yours. Taking Christ’s benefits as Saviour, while refusing his person as Lord would mock every purpose of God in salvation. “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds ?” No good at all. “Can such faith save him ?” No it cannot. If the apostles heard someone saying, “you can believe in Christ as your Saviour, but not as your Lord” they would consider that to be blatant heresy.

James’ controversy with men is not over believing facts about Jesus Christ but over submission to the Lord to whom the facts testify. God is not pleased with millions of people claiming to believe and celebrating once a year Christ’s birth and once a year Christ’s death while their lives are not acknowledging that he is Lord and Saviour.

“Come to Christ,” says the gospel. “Come for full salvation and forgiveness. All you need you find in him.” To come is not to approach an altar because he is not there. He is not in the communion cup, or the baptistry. He is not at the end of a list of three propositions that you sign. He is not found at the end of an intellectual decision made by man’s will. The Christ who alone can save you is and always has been the Lord of glory, and as such he is seated on the throne of the universe in heaven. Looking to him for salvation is to see him there in all his majesty offering sinners all his accomplished benefits. They are one package: forgiveness and eternal life as well as the responsibility of serving and following him from this day on. Faith in him as Saviour with the proviso that you refuse to submit to him as Lord cannot save us. It never has and it never will. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. No one ever got right with God by pursuing good works. Pursue the one whose good works were all accepted by God – the Lord Jesus Christ. When you have him you also have the acceptance of God in him.

GEOFF THOMAS October 18 1998