March 30, 2011

God's Righteousness and Our Justification

[21] But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— [22] the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, [25] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. [26] It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
(Romans 3:21-26 ESV)

In many ways, Paul’s letter to the church at Rome is like a good essay or research paper, similar to what you may have had to write in high school or college. Each passage is built on the one before it and that one built on the one before it. So, in order to understand this passage, or any other for that matter, as the original author intended, you first have to see and understand what comes before it.
The letter from Paul to the Romans begins with an apostolic introduction, in which he gives an expression of the Gospel that grounds it in the Old Testament. He next moves on to a greeting to the church itself. In this he tells of his desire to visit the church, having heard of their faith, and wanting to come there so that he might have an opportunity to share and instruct in the Gospel and so that he might also be edified by the saints there.
After those portions, in 1:16-17, Paul moves into, what is considered by many, to be the statement of the main theme, or thesis, of the rest of the letter: namely, the gospel as the power of God for salvation. This Gospel, and the salvation that it provides, is available for everyone who believes, solely on the basis of faith.
Immediately after this expression, it seems like Paul does a complete one-hundred-eighty degree turn about and goes from talking about our salvation, to talking about our condemnation. In verse eighteen and following of the first chapter, it says:
[Read 1:18-19]
From this verse, we see that God’s wrath is ‘ being revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.’ Paul then spends the next two and a half chapters unpacking exactly what that means, coming to a conclusion in verses 3:9 and following:
[Read 3:9d-18]
That doesn’t paint a very pretty picture for humanity, does it? If God’s wrath is against all unrighteousness of men, and all men are unrighteous, then God’s wrath is against all of mankind. We need to stop and soak that in for a moment. Most people’s default setting is not to think of themselves in that way. For most people, this default setting is to think of themselves, and other people, as essentially good. However, that is not what the Bible teaches. The bible teaches that all men are sinners and under the wrath and judgment of a holy God. Each and every one of us here, apart from Christ, is under His wrath and judgment. Understanding that is essential for understanding our passage today.

I. Justification through Faith

In verse 21, it begins with the phrase “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law… Before we go any further into this passage we have stop and consider the phrase the righteousness of God and its meaning.
If you are reading this passage in the KJV, NASB, or the ESV, the natural interpretation might be to see this as talking about God’s righteousness, that attribute (or element of His character) where He is, in and of Himself, holy, just, and good. While those translations are good and faithful to the original text, they could be misleading in this particular text. Here is why I think that. If you scan down to the next verse (twenty-two) you will notice that the main idea of this paragraph, the righteousness of God, is repeated. The difference is that this time, it is followed by the phrase “…through faith in Jesus Christ.” If this was talking about God’s attribute of righteousness, how is God made to be righteous through our faith? The very idea of that is utter nonsense.
So, what does this phrase, ‘the righteousness of God,’ mean? In the NIV, it offers us a different translation of that same phrase. It says ‘but now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known.’ They do that, probably, for many reasons, including grammatical reasons in the original language and for theological reasons, like I just expressed. I think that in this case, this translation is to be preferred. However, we still haven’t answered the question of what this phrase means, though looking at it from this translation helps.
This righteousness that comes from God is a status, a status of being in a right standing before Him. The teaching in the Bible, of how we are able to be righteous before God, is called the doctrine of justification. Justification meaning the declaring to be just or righteous before God and, as it says in verse twenty-two, this status is given to us through faith in Jesus Christ.
Not only is this right standing given to us through faith, but it is given to us apart from the law. In other words, this right standing before God is not given to us through obedience to God’s law. The Law was never intended to be a means of becoming right before God. The Law was intended to show sin to be sin. It was intended to convict and condemn people. It was intended to drive people to God’s grace and mercy in faith and repentance. It was intended to show people their need for a savior.
However, people missed that. All throughout history, people have missed that. They missed it in the Old Testament; so people wandered off into idolatry and paganism because those gods were easier to satisfy. They missed it in Jesus’ day and that’s why they nailed the Lord of glory to a Roman cross. They missed it in the Middle-ages and that is why Martin Luther and the rest of the reformers were labeled as heretics and schismatics by the church of the day for teaching that we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ’s perfect righteousness alone. And we miss it today, especially here in America where we do EVERYTHING our own way. I’m not just talking about other people either. I’m talking about each and every one of you. I’m talking about myself. Our natural mind-set is to try and earn God’s favor, but it doesn’t work like that. We are all unrighteous, as we are told in Romans 3:11, and under the wrath of God (Romans 1:18), and that we cannot be made to be right merely by observing the Law (Romans 3:20).

II. Was This a New Doctrine?

Next, in verse 21, it says, although this right standing before God was given through faith and apart from observation and works of the Law, ‘the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it…’ The Law and the Prophets, what in the world does that mean? The Jews saw their Bible (which, for the most part, is our Old Testament) as being divided into only two parts: the Law (the first five books) and then everything else, the prophets. So, what Paul is saying is that this isn’t some new fangled teaching that he has come up with; it has been around all along and has just been missed. He goes on to cite the greatest example of this in chapter four of this same book.
[Read Romans 4:1-12]
For a Jew, one of the most important things that set them off as different, as being in a special relationship with God, was their circumcision, however, they saw this as a work, an obligation of the Law and if they did it, they would be in a right relationship before God. But Paul throws their world upside down in this passage by asking “when was Abraham counted as being righteous? Was it before or after his circumcision?” As was seen in that passage, quoting from Genesis 15:6, which says that Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” In Genesis, this was before any of the righteous deeds that Abraham did. In fact, this was just after he had tried to pass off Sarah as merely his sister for the second time, but God came and comforted him and told him that he would have many offspring and Abraham believed God and was justified.

III. Who Can Be Justified

Paul moves on to answer the question: who can be justified? Is it only Jews? Is it only the Gentiles? Paul answers in verse 22, that this justification is through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. Amongst the Jews, they taught that in order to enter into the covenant with God, you first had to become a Jew. This meant that the individual had to get circumcised, go through certain ritual cleansings, and they had to forsake their birth family and heritage. Also amongst the Jewish Christians, there were certain groups that taught essentially the same thing: that, in order to become a Christian, you first had to become a Jew and live under the Law. That, what I just mentioned, was the problem in the church of Galatia, to which Paul wrote the book of the Bible that we know as Galatians.
We, today, may not have those same requirements that we place on people, but we may have a similar mind-set at times. Look at the type of people that you share the Gospel with. Who do these people look like? My bet would be that, in one way or another, these people look like you. People by nature are scared of the unknown, scared of people and things that are different.
However, what is Paul telling us here in this passage? He says that “there is no distinction.” At our very root we are all the same. We are all image bearers of God and we all have the same basic problem. “We have all sinned.” We have gone against the will of God at one time or another, whether in thought or by deed, whether actively disobeying God or just falling short of the standard he has set. It doesn’t matter, we have all sinned. It doesn’t matter whether you are the pastor of a church or the man who spends all his time in the bar. You have the same problem: on your own, you are not in right standing before God and need to be so.

IV. How Are We Justified?

1. By Grace

So, how is this accomplished? How are we, unrighteous sinners that we are, made righteous before a holy God? First, it is solely by ‘the grace of [God] as a gift.’ Our salvation is the result of God’s undeserved favor. As this text has already said, we have all sinned. As sinners, what we deserve is God’s wrath. Even though that is the case, God, in His infinite love has chosen to show us favor by offering us salvation.

2. Through Redemption

This justification was also accomplished by “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The word redemption, in the original language, was one that has its roots in the slave market of the day. In Paul’s day, they didn’t have banks like we have today; so, if someone wanted to start a business and didn’t have the money, they would have to go to and borrow from someone who did. Now, say the economy tanks, as ours has in the last couple of years, that person loses their business, and the can’t pay back the money they owe. That person, and their immediate family, would become the slave of the one from whom he had borrowed the money. That may sound strange to our ears, in the twenty-first century, but in the first century, that was just how they did business.
In order for the debtor to escape this slavery, there was one of two things that had to happen. First, if the creditor was generous, they would only make them work until they had effectively paid off their debt with their labor. The only problem with that is, that the slave-owner would have to continue to pay for the food and lodging of, sometimes, entire families, and thus, the poor sap who had sold himself and his entire family into slavery to pay for a business venture, would just continue to go deeper and deeper into debt.
The second possibility for escaping slavery was, if a wealthy relative, having heard about the plight of his kinsmen, went and purchased, or redeemed, the man and his family. The thought would be then; that this kinsman would own his relative, but out of honor would allow the man his freedom.
When I first wrote this sermon, and my wife was going over it to check my spelling and structure and what not, she made a note in the margin of my draft, which at this point asked “ kind of like Ruth, Naomi, & Boaz?” She was absolutely right. The book of Ruth is a beautiful picture of this very concept in the Old Testament. In that book, Naomi, and her daughter-in-Law, the Moabite Ruth, had both lost their husbands. In those times women could not work or own property, so these two women had no way of providing for themselves. However, there is a sort of ancient welfare system built into the Old Testament. Everyone who raised crops was supposed to leave a portion of their field un-harvested. This was so that if there was someone who could not provide for themselves any other way, could go out into these fields and harvest these portions and sell or eat them. Ruth took advantage of this for her mother-in-law and herself, but she happened to do so in one of the fields of a relative of her dead husband. This kinsman, Boaz, saw the predicament of this young woman, and acted the part of the kinsman or, as the Hebrews would call him, the Go’a l, and redeemed the young woman out of her situation by marrying Ruth and providing for Naomi.
At this point, you might be asking yourself, “ why does this matter? or why should I care? I am not a slave.” Well, in point of fact, you are a slave. We have all been slaves at one point or another in our lives. As Paul asserts earlier in this letter, and as I have already talked about, all people are sinners. All people have sinned. In John 8:34, it says that “everyone that commits sin, is a slave to sin” and if all have sinned, then all are slaves to sin. So, Christ has come to act as our Go’al, to redeem us, to buy us out of slavery. Since this slavery was to sin, and the wage or penalty of sin (as it says in Romans 6:23) is death, the debt that was paid was death. Christ died to buy us out of slavery.

3. Through a Propitiation

The third way that our justification is accomplished is through “God put[ting] forward [Christ] as a propitiation,” as it says here in verse twenty-five. Once again, Paul uses a big theological word here and unfortunately, it is not one that we can dodge. We just have to deal with it.
Now, if you are reading out of the New International Version (NIV), you are not going to see the word propitiation here. Instead, it reads ‘sacrifice of atonement.’ While the NIV is a good translation and is beneficial in a great many things, I think it misses the mark here. What Paul has in mind here, isn’t just a sacrifice or even just a sacrifice of atonement. Paul has in mind a very specific way in which this atonement, this reconciliation is affected.
The term propitiation, once again in the original Greek of the New Testament, is drawn from pagan temple rituals. First century pagans believed that their gods were fickle or capricious. In other words, their moods could change at the drop of a hat. Since they believed that the production of crops, the bearing of children, and pretty much every other aspect of their lives depended on the gods looking with favor upon them, they would perform certain ritualistic sacrifices to turn away the gods’ wrath and make them propitious, or favorable towards them. The New Testament writers took the core concept of that word, removed the pagan concepts that were attached to it, and used it to describe a part of Christ’s work on the Cross.
Unlike the Pagans of the first century, our God, is not capricious. He is not undeservedly angry or wrathful towards humanity. God has every right to be angry. His anger burns against all those who are unrighteous in His sight, which includes all of humanity. This would leave us all in a rather hopeless state, except now, God has put forward Christ as a means of appeasing His wrath so that He might be able to look with favor upon us.
At this point, we need to be careful. Some people would see this as pitting a loving Jesus against a wrathful God. This however, is not the case. The God who, in this book is depicted as being wrathful towards and hating sin, is the same God as in John 3:16, that loved the world, the corrupt, filthy stinking world, so much that He gave his only son so that all who believed in Him would have eternal life. That is why it says that God, that is God the Father, was the one that put Christ forward as a propitiation.
In the text it says that this propitiation, was “ through [Christ’s] blood.” This doesn’t mean that all Christ had to do was to prick His finger and spill just a drop of blood. In Leviticus 17:14, it tells us that “the life of every creature is its blood; its blood is its life.” So, when the Bible talks of us being forgiven and reconciled by the blood of Christ, what is meant is that Christ’s life was given, or rather, his death was the means by which these things are accomplished. In the same way Christ appeasing the wrath of God could only be accomplished by the giving of His life.
This propitiation was necessary, as it says at the end of verse twenty-five, “to show God’s righteousness.” In this instance, and the next, it is talking about the attribute of God or the element of His character where He is holy, just, and good. This propitiation, then was necessary “to show God’s righteousness because He had passed over former sins.” He had left former sins unpunished. Believe it or not, the fact that God has left any sins unpunished is a major problem. In order for God to be truly just, He has to punish sin. If He doesn’t punish sin, then he is not just. If He is not just, He is not perfect in all things, and if He is not perfect in all things, He is not God. So, if God is to be true to His own nature, He has to punish sin. However, in His divine forbearance, that is His patience, He passed over former sins. He passed over the sins of the faithful amongst His covenant people, the Jews, but also amongst His covenant people from all nations and times, all those who would come to Christ in faith.
Christ’s propitiation shows the righteousness of God, because, in His death on the cross, the penalty for sin was paid and God’s justice was fulfilled. This allowed God to maintain His justice, yet still declare sinners to be righteous in His sight.


This passage is really dense with information. Though I have tried my best to unpack this in such a way that it would be understandable, I know that there are those that, for whatever reason, may not have gotten it all. So, if you walk out of here this morning with nothing else, I want you to know that on the cross, the God and savior of this universe has done a great and mighty work. He is seeking to restore fellowship with a remnant out of all humanity. For all those that come to Christ in faith God, will declare to be upright in His sight. God has already bought you out of slavery from your sin. He has already sent His one and only Son to bear the penalty of your sin and His wrath and judgment on the Cross. So, have you put your trust Christ?

March 29, 2011

Faith That Works (James 2:14-26)

[14] What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? [15] If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, [16] and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? [17] So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
[18] But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. [19] You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! [20] Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? [21] Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? [22] You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; [23] and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. [24] You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. [25] And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? [26] For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
(James 2:14-26 ESV)

The opening line of the passage under examination introduces us to the main theme of this section (Davids 1982, 120) with two rhetorical questions (Moo 2000, 122): “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (ESV).” The first question is a third-class conditional sentence (Blomberg and Kamell 2008, 129), indicated by the presence of the ἐάν and the subjunctive mood of the main verb λέγῃ, meaning that this is a hypothetical situation (Moo 2000, 122). However, as the same author points out, just because this is a hypothetical question does not mean that the situation is without any real basis in his readership.

The initial use of the word πίστις, Blomberg points out “is moved forward for emphasis, showing that 'faith' ... is the key concept to be explored in this passage (ibid.).” There are differing interpretations about the concept of faith here. One author asserted that this cannot mean the theological concept of faith, but must mean the Christian faith in general (Dibelius 1976, 151-2), while all the others seemed to take it as the more theological concept of faith. At this point, all the authors surveyed, with the exception of Adamson, seemed to prefer the NIV and NET's translation of λέγῃ with “claims” (Blomberg and Kamell 2008, 127) rather than the literal “says” (ESV, HCSB, KJV, and NASB). The claim to have faith is not the same thing as genuinely having faith (McCartney 2009, 155) and this, no matter “... the content of the faith in terms of orthodox belief , pious, expressions, prayers, etc. (Davids 1982, 120),” is only that, a claim. Additionally, as Blomberg also points out, “someone can 'claim' to have faith even when they do not (ibid.).” In the next clause of this sentence, James uses the term ἔργα (works; ESV, HCSB, KJV, NASB, NET, NRSV) , which is probably “... better translated 'deeds' [or] 'acts' … to avoid confusion with Paul's teaching on nomistic religion, i.e. 'works of the law' (Martin 1988, 80-81) (see NIV for this translation).”

The second rhetorical question begins with the Greek particle “μή” indicating that the expected answer is “no” (Moo 2000, 123); BAGD s. v. “μή,” III.C.1). Moo additionally points out that the article used with πίστις is used anaphorically (Moo, ibid.) which may be defined as “... denoting previous reference (Wallace 1996, 217).” So, this may be translated as “this faith” indicating the type of faith as defined in the previous question, i.e. faith that does not have works (ibid., 219). Some have argued that the salvation that is in view in this question is not eschatalogical salvation, but merely temporal deliverance from some calamity (Moo 2000, 123). However, “the eschatalogical ring of [this] question is unmistakable” especially in view of other places in James where this same verb, σῶζω, is used in this sense (cf. 4:12; 1:21; and 5:20) (Davids 1982, 120).

In the next two verses, James presents a situation regarding the condition of some fellow believers to illustrate the point that he has just made. The sentence is once again a third-class conditional sentence, indicating, though not demanding, that this is a hypothetical situation (Moo 2000, 124). Indeed, Martin, going against the majority of scholars, thinks this is an actual situation in the church (1988, 84), which James is now using to illustrate his point.

In this illustration, the author includes both brothers (ἀδελφός) and sisters (ἀδελφή) in the faith as a means of indicating the inclusiveness of this situation (Blomberg and Kamell 2008, 130). Also, he may have included “sisters” because “women often comprised the more desperately needy and were the more easily overlooked in his society, especially when they lacked provision and protection by a father or husband (ibid.).” The text next states the condition, “poorly clothed and lacking in daily food (ESV).” “Poorly clothed” could literally be translated “naked,” from γυμνός, but could also indicate a person that is only wearing an inner layer of clothing; so, we are probably “to envisage a person inadequately dressed for the conditions … (Moo 2000, 124).” The next phrase probably connotes that the condition that these individuals were in, lacking proper clothing and daily food, was a continual state of affairs (Moo 2000, 125).

In the face of this need, someone among the congregation responds with “Go in peace, be warmed and filled” (ESV). Dibelius describes this first portion as a “Jewish word of farewell which means something like 'may it go well with you' (Dibelius 1976, 153).” There is some debate over whether the next two expressions should be taken in the middle or passive voice. If taken in the middle, which Martin prefers (1988, 85), they would mean “warm yourself, feed yourself” and if taken in the passive, it would mean “be warmed and be filled.” Whichever is the case, “the point is the same: confronted with a need among his brothers and sisters, this 'believer' does nothing but express his good wishes (Moo 2000, 125).” Blomberg, quoting Johnson, says “It is not the form of the statement that is reprehensible, but its functioning as a religious cover for the failure to act (2008, 131).” It is this kind of faith that shows itself to be dead and worthless (McCartney 2009, 157)

In verse eighteen, James once again puts forward an interlocutor to oppose, but if read naturally, this person would seem to support James' position (Blomberg and Kamell 2008, 132). McCartney identifies eight solutions (2009, 158-60) for this difficult text:

Fix the text so that it reflects what is more appropriate for the context. Two emendations have been suggest: (a) the original text read “you have works, but I have faith,” or (b) the interlocutors statement has been lost to history and all that remains is James' response. Either option is questionable at best. (McCartney 2009, 158).

The interlocutor is an ally, not an opponent of James (Adamson 1976, 124-25). This doesn't seem to fit the text though, because the introductory phrase, “someone will say,” always is used to set up an opposing viewpoint. Also, the insult in verse 20, “O foolish man” would not seem to indicate that the person he is referring to is any ally. (McCartney 2009, 158)

The interlocutor's words stop after the first few words of verse 18, which should be read as a question: “Do you have faith?” However, the contracted conjunction κἀγώ between “you have faith” and “I have works, would not seem to allow for this. (ibid.)

All of 2:18-19 represents the opponent's Paulinist viewpoint which is questioning James if all he believes is Jewish monotheism (ibid., 159)

All of 2:18-19 represents the interlocutor's view which is that of an “unbelieving Jew who is critiquing Christian reliance on faith (ibid.)” and is a partial ally of James.

All of 2:18-19 is the interlocutor speaking and we are to follow the Byzantine textual tradition on the first sentence, so that it reads “show me your faith by your works...” instead of “show me your faith without works...” With this solution, the interlocutor is ridiculing the notion that faith can be shown through action.

James simply got mixed up and used the wrong personal pronouns. However, if this were the case, since this is an encyclical letter, this sort of error never would have made it past the first round of copying (McCartney 2009, 159-60)

18a represents the position of the interlocutor; however, instead of the personal pronouns being taken to refer to his faith as opposed to James' works, rather they are used as saying “one person says this, another that (ibid., 160).” This is what is considered to be the consensus view among modern commentators (Blomberg and Kamell 2008, 133).

Blomberg proposes a ninth option, which he says is the best, but is hardly ever considered (ibid., 134). In this view, verse 18a should be seen as indirect discourse. What this means is that James is rephrasing the position of his opponent; so, the personal pronouns in the texts are taken literally: the “you” (σύ) refers to the interlocutor, while the “I” (ἐγώ) refers to James. One of these last two positions seems the most preferable in light of the challenge that James presents next: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (ESV).”

The phrase “You believe that God is one” in verse nineteen does not indicate a personal trust in God, as in the Pauline sense of “faith.” Rather, it reflects a sterile recitation of creed, specifically the Jewish Shemah (Martin 1988, 89; Davids 1982, 125). James, here is not denigrating this confession, he is merely arguing that it is not sufficient to save a person which is demonstrated by the next line: “Even the demons believe—and shudder (ESV)!”

In verses twenty through twenty-six, James presents two examples of the concept that he has been proclaiming up to this point: Abraham and Rahab. In verse twenty there are a couple of bits of lexical information that are worth mentioning. “Foolish” translates a word that literally means “empty” and probably connotes “a lack of understanding … with the implication that the intellectual failure has moral bases or implications(Moo 2000, 132).” Also, the word “ἀργός” is a contraction of “α-,” the negative prefix, and “ἐργόν” (work) and so the phrase could be translated “ without works, does not work (Moo 2000, 132; Witherington 2007, 477).”

First, James makes an appeal to Abraham: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works…?” The “οὐκ” in this question indicates that the answer that he expected was “yes” (Blomberg and Kamell 2008, 136; Davids 1982, 127). The fact that Abraham is called “our father” does not prove that the writer or recipients were Jews because, while he was the physical ancestor of the Jews, he was also considered to be the spiritual father of Christians as well (Rom. 4:16f; Gal 3:7, 29) (Dibelius 1976, 161).

Since the time of the Reformation, the usage of δικαιόω in this verse has sparked a great deal of debate and discussions (McCartney 2009, 161). Certainly not least among these is Luther's own comments where he said that it was:

“... in direct opposition to St. Paul and all the rest of the Bible, it ascribes justification to works, and declares that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered up his son. St. Paul, on the contrary in Romans 4 [:3], teaches that Abraham was justified without works, by his faith alone, the proof being Genesis 15 [:6], which was before he sacrificed his son.” (Luther 1962, 35)

There are five meanings that McCartney identifies (2009, 162-3) in biblical literature: (1) “to give justice,” (2) “to declare someone to be righteous,” (3) “to prove or demonstrate that someone is righteous,” (4) “to clear a dept obligation,” and (5) “to cause someone to behave righteously.” Meanings 1 and 4 can be eliminated because they do not fit the context. Meaning 5 is barely possible, but is extremely rare (McCartney 2009, 163). This leaves only the forensic or demonstrative meanings. In Paul, the primary usage of this verb is the forensic one. However, in this epistle, James is not arguing against some form of nomism, where someone would try to earn favor before God by works of the Law, he is arguing against a work-less faith. So, in this context, Abraham's “readiness to sacrifice Isaac was proof of his faith and revealed the basic relationship of obedience (Adamson 1976, 129).” This point is made explicit in the next verse where it says that “... faith worked together with his works, and was made perfect by his works (author's translation).” According to Moo, verb τελειόω, could mean “reach its intended goal;” so, here, “Abraham's faith … reached its intended goal when the patriarch did what God was asking him to do (Moo 2000, 137).” This obedience, in offering his son as a sacrifice, fulfilled, or brought to completion (McCartney 2009, 169), what was earlier said of him, that he “believed God, and it was counted to him righteousness.” So, now, James reiterates his main point that “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone,” which, as has been shown, means that they are shown to be righteous by works working together with faith and not by faith apart from works.

As a final example of his point, James presents the Canaanite harlot Rahab. Although no “justifying” word is spoken of her in the text of Joshua 2, she is shown to be righteous by the fact that by faith she took in the Israelite spies (see Hebrews 11:31) (McCartney 2009, 171) and thus, her faith was wedded with action.

In verse 26 he restates the central themes of this passage “that faith apart from works is dead,” closing a literary bracket around the discussion of faith, works, and salvation (Moo 2000, 143).

At the end of his chapter on this passage, Moo (2000, 144) points to a quote from Luther that summarizes the meaning of this passage:

O, when it comes to faith, what a living, creative, active, powerful thing it is. It cannot do other than good at all times. It never waits to ask whether there is some good work to do, Rather, before the question is raised, it has done the deed, and keeps doing it. A man not active in this way is a man without faith. He is groping about for faith and searching for good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Nevertheless, he keeps on talking nonsense about faith and good works. (Luther 1962, 24)


  • Adamson, James. 1976. The Epistle of James. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Erdmans.
  • Blomberg, Craig L., and Mariam J. Kamell. 2008. James. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Davids, Peter. 1982. The epistle of James: a commentary on the Greek text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  • Dibelius, Martin. 1976. James : a commentary on the epistle of James. Trans. Heinrich Greeven. Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
  • Luther, Martin. 1962. Martin Luther : selections from his writings. Ed. John Dillenberger. New York: Anchor Books.
  • Martin, Ralph. 1988. James. Word Biblical Commentary. Waco: Word Books.
  • McCartney, Dan. 2009. James. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.
  • Moo, Douglas. 2000. The letter of James. Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  • Wallace, Daniel. 1996. Greek grammar beyond the basics. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.
  • Witherington, Ben. 2007. Letters and homilies for Jewish Christians : a socio-rhetorical commentary on Hebrews, James and Jude. Letters and Homilies to Hellenized Christians. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic.

March 23, 2011

What I am Reading

 I know that all of you woke up this morning and thought to yourselves: "What is David reading?"  Well, I am glad you asked, because I wanted to share it with you.

Gagging of God, The

In this Gold Medallion Award-winning book, Professor D. A. Carson helps evangelicals respond to the question, "Is Jesus the only way t God?" The Gagging of God affirms the deep need for the gospel's exclusive message in today's pluralistic global community. It shows how the many ramifications of pluralism are all parts of the whole, then offers a systematic Christian response.

After an initial survey of pluralism, The Gagging of God divides into for parts. PART 1 looks at the history of pluralism, especially the revolution in hermeneutics, literary theory, and epistemology. PART 2 addresses religious pluralism, notably the work of John Hick and David Tracy, and of inclusivists such as Clark Pinnock and John Sanders. It argues for the Bible's foundational "plotline," and addresses the uniqueness of Christ. PART 3 analyzes the Christian's stance in a pluralistic culture across such diverse fields as education, law, and morals. PART 4 looks at how pluralism has penetrated the evangelical camp and offers a thoughtful look at how to evangelize in a postmodern generation.

Following Jesus, the Servant King: A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship (Biblical Theology for Life)

Throughout the Old Testament and into the New, God not only demands righteousness from his people but also showers on grace that enables them to act. Jesus, of course, provides the ultimate fulfillment of these twin aspects of God's relationship to humanity. In biblical terms, Jesus is the King who demands righteous obedience from his followers, and Jesus is the Servant who provides the grace that enables this obedience. So what does it mean to follow Jesus? What does God expect from his followers, and how can they be and do what is required? Jonathan Lunde answers these and other questions in his sweeping biblical study on discipleship. He surveys God's interaction with his people from Eden to Jesus, paying special attention to the biblical covenants that illuminate the character and plans of God. He offers Bible students and teachers---such as pastors, missionaries, and lay leaders---the gift of practical biblical teaching rooted in the Bible's witness on the vital topic of discipleship.

Wilderness Survival

With concise explanations and detailed illustrations, survival expert Gregory Davenport covers the five basic elements of survival - personal protection, signalling, finding food and water, travel, and health - providing the reader with complete information on how to stay calm and alive until rescue arrives. It is completely updated with information on keeping yourself safe and healthy in the wilderness. It is a comprehensive, well-organised, and user-friendly guide to staying alive in the backcountry.

The Atlantis Complex (Artemis Fowl, Book 7)

In the seventh Artemis Fowl title, the 15-year-old mastermind focuses his ingenuity on global warming while struggling with a devastating illness. After Artemis invites four fairy friends to Iceland for a demonstration of his latest invention, the Ice Cube, it becomes clear that he is suffering from the Atlantis Complex, which manifests as obsessive-compulsive behavior, paranoia, and multiple personalities. If this weren’t enough to worry about, a spaceship crashes and disgorges amorphobots programmed to kill. Colfer keeps the action moving with laughs and gadgetry as he bounces between several plotlines that spotlight peripheral characters.

March 18, 2011

Root Beer

Over the weekend my family and I tried a little experiment. I don't know what prompted me, but Wednesday or Thursday of this last week, I thought to myself: “I want to try to make root beer.” How hard can it be? So, I did a little research on the Internet to find a recipe and here is what we came up with:

1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon root beer extract
2 liters water

1 empty, sterilized 2-liter soda bottle
a funnel

Pour sugar and yeast into bottle. Swirl sugar/yeast mixture around in the bottom of the bottle form a bowl-shape. Pour extract into bottle. Fill bottle half-way, using this opportunity to rinse the spoon and funnel and utilize the extract left on them, then cap the bottle and shake it until the sugar/yeast mixture is dissolved. Fill the bottle the remainder of the way up, making sure to leave an inch or so at the top. Cap the bottle and leave it some place warm, dry, and out of direct sunlight for 3 to 4 days, until the bottle is hard when squeazed. During that time the yeast will convert the sugars in the solution into CO 2, thus carbonating the beverage. As a warning, the root beer will have negligible amounts of alcohol in it, but not enough to get anyone drunk.

We tried this recipe, and the results turned out pretty well. We had only a couple of complaints about it. First, there was a bit of a yeasty flavor to it. Second, it wasn't sweet enough. So, we made up another batch, adding half-a-cup more sugar and a tablespoon of vanilla extract to the concoction. We will see how it turns out in 3-4 days.


After a little experimenting, we came up with the final results of:

1 ¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon root beer extract

Prepare as above only allow to sit for 7 days. The result come out to be a root beer that tastes very similar to Barq's root beer.

March 8, 2011

Book Review - How Should We Then Live? by Francis A. Schaeffer

I was assigned to read this book for the senior seminar of my degree program at Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, Missouri. Even though this was assigned reading, I had been wanting to read it for some time.
In this book, Francis Schaeffer i charts the rise of western culture in the Greek city-states and the Rome through the middle ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, up to the mid-seventies and the beginnings of our current post-modern age. In this treatise he shows that all of the freedoms that we love and cherish here in the West were founded on Christian principles and, now that our culture is largely abandoning their Christian heritage, our culture is in decline.
One of the most eye-opening quotes in the book is on page 227:
“Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire(1776-1788) said that the following fie attributes marked Rome at its end: first, a mounting love of show and luxury (that is, affluence); second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor (this could be among countries in the family of nations as well as in a single nation); third, an obsession with sex, fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity; fifth, an increased desire to live off the state. It all sounds so familiar. We have come a long road since our first chapter, and we are back in Rome.”
In other words, all the things that once marked Rome in its decline, now mark our culture.

What I Liked:
This book really opened my eyes to how all of the intellectual movements over the last 2,000 years are linked together. I especially appreciated how Schaeffer showed how the various philosophical movements were linked to the various artistic movements, and how these, in turn, effected society. There is much more that could be said here, but this must suffice for now.

What I Didn't Like:
Nothing to put here.

My Rating:
5 out of 5

iRecognized internationally for his work in Christianity and culture, Francs A. Schaeffer authored more than twenty books, which have been translated into many languages and have sold millions worldwide. Schaeffer passed away in 1984, but his influence and legacy continue worldwide. - taken from the back cover.

Book Review - Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People

Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People from the publisher, Zondervanin exchange for a review.

Knowing Koinē Greek is very important to me, because it is the language that God chose to write the New Testament in and, if that is the language he chose to convey his message of salvation, I, as someone who aspires to the ministry of His Word, should be sure to know that language. That being said, it has been nearly five years since I took Greek, and through the course of time my knowledge of this language has lessened dramatically. That is why this book was of so much interest to me.
In this book, Constantine Campbelli seeks to give several bits of practical advice to help people retain their knowledge of Greek after theological training or, like me, to get it back.
The Chapter headings for this book are:
1. Read Every Day
2. Burn Your Interlinear
3. Use Software Tools Wisely
4. Make Vocabulary Your Friend
5. Practice Your Parsing
6. Read Fast
7. Read Slow
8. Use Your Senses
9. Get Your Greek Back
10. Putting it All Together

What I Liked:
First, this book helped me remember why I started working with the Biblical languages to begin with. Second, it really gave me a gut check about how much I had actually learned in the first place, but also gave me confidence that, with a few simple routines, I could get my knowledge of Greek back and take it further. The thing that I liked most about this book though, was that the simple advice that he gives for retaining your knowledge of Greek, or getting it back, could work for any language.

What I Didn't Like:
There is really nothing to report here. The only possible complaint that I would have is that I wished he would have fleshed the book out a bit.

My Rating: 5 out of 5

i Constantine R. Campbell (PhD, Macquarie University) is a senior lecturer in Greek and New Testament at Moore Theological College in Sudney Australia. He is the author of numerous books, including Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek, which is also published by Zondervan. Dr. Campbell is a public speaker, musician, and author, and lives in Sydney with his wife and three children.

March 7, 2011

Root Beer

Over the weekend my family and I tried a little experiment. I don't know what prompted me, but Wednesday or Thursday of this last week, I thought to myself: “I want to try to make root beer.” How hard can it be? So, I did a little research on the Internet to find a recipe and here is what we came up with:
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon root beer extract
2 liters water

1 empty, sterilized 2-liter soda bottle
a funnel

Pour sugar and yeast into bottle. Swirl sugar/yeast mixture around in the bottom of the bottle form a bowl-shape. Pour extract into bottle. Fill bottle half-way, using this opportunity to rinse the spoon and funnel and utilize the extract left on them, then cap the bottle and shake it until the sugar/yeast mixture is dissolved. Fill the bottle the remainder of the way up, making sure to leave an inch or so at the top. Cap the bottle and leave it some place warm, dry, and out of direct sunlight for 3 to 4 days, until the bottle is hard when squeazed. During that time the yeast will convert the sugars in the solution into CO 2, thus carbonating the beverage. As a warning, the root beer will have negligible amounts of alcohol in it, but not enough to get anyone drunk.

We tried this recipe, and the results turned out pretty well. We had only a couple of complaints about it. First, there was a bit of a yeasty flavor to it. Second, it wasn't sweet enough. So, we made up another batch, adding half-a-cup more sugar and a tablespoon of vanilla extract to the concoction. We will see how it turns out in 3-4 days.


After a little experimenting, we came up with the final results of:

1-1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon root beer extract

Prepare as above only allow to sit for 7 days.  The result come out to be a root beer that tastes very similar to Barq's root beer.