Steve Runge on Faith without Works in James 2:14–26

The Logos’ FaithLife blog has a post sharing the work of Scholar-in-Residence at Logos Bible Software Steve Runge from his forthcoming commentary on the book of James.  It’s very good.  Here it is in part:

James also offers an unnerving follow-up question at the end of verse 14—one that anticipates a negative answer. His question calls into doubt whether such a faith could save someone. Warning: We need to pay close attention to what James actually says and not mistake it for what he does not say. The focus here is not disputing whether faith is the basis of salvation. Instead, just as James contrasted the merits of hearing versus doing, he contrasts the value of faith alone versus faith that manifests itself in works. And just as James argued that hearing should lead to doing (1:22–25), he posits that faith—if it really exists—should lead to an outward expression: works. From the outset James shakes us by implying that a workless faith may not be a saving faith. This is only an implication of his wording, but it has caused no shortage of heartburn for theologians over the years. [Bold Italics, mine]

I appreciate his direction to pay attention to the text and what it actually says and be careful not to read into it what we want to see or what it doesn’t say. This is an important aspect of doing good Bible study.  You’ll need to read the whole post, and probably get the commentary, but he’s got a hard hitting conclusion for this portion of James:

If someone consistently claims to have faith, yet consistently fails to demonstrate it in their life, James’ challenge is fitting. Can faith that is never seen really be a saving faith? Is it really there if it is never seen? God is undoubtedly the final judge of such things, but there are no “do-overs” when we stand before the judgment seat.

Ouch!  He’s right, you know.  I recently went golfing with some friends as part of going to a minister’s retreat and getting ordained that night.  In golf there is a thing called a “mulligan” or as Runge calls it a “do-over.”  If there are any second chances in life, they come now not later.

Lord, help me to be someone who does not just say I believe,  but be a person who backs up my claims of faith with action in the here and now.  Amen!

As a Pentecostal, I want to say that this is where we can get help in living a life of faith that is backed up by actions, it is through the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in us who empowers us to live the faith and action filled lives… Ask him and he will help you!  Afterall he is the helper!  🙂



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