By Faith Alone?
James 2: 14-26
The contemporary opinion is that we are justified by faith alone or by belief alone. That all we really have to do is declare a belief in the Word of Jesus and that with this, the road to the Kingdom of Heaven is automatically open.
That since Jesus has died, His Blood, through the fact of this our declaration would without further ado wash away our sins. In some of the other articles (The Encyclopaedia of Spiritual Concepts), several quotations from Jesus Himself disputed this claim but here we want to examine the words of James the brother of Jesus to show that even His Disciples and Apostles believed in the importance of works (righteousness) in the salvation of individuals.
By reading these verses, it is obvious that James did not believe in a vicarious washing away of sins and that as far as he was concerned, what was to set mankind free from sin was not only the belief in the Word of Jesus, but also the adherence to this Word in its entirety. James 1:22 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” is clear enough but he went on in James 2:10-13 “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. (11) For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” said also, “Do not kill.” If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law. (12) So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. (13) For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Where then did this teaching of a vicarious sacrifice come from? It obviously did not stem from the disciples, even though these showed a great lack of understanding for their Master’s Word while He was still with them.
It is obvious that with the development of the early Church came schemes designed to win adherents. There arose those who appointed themselves leaders of the Church and whose main aim was earthly expansion and influence. These then introduced concepts which were entirely contrary to the Word of Jesus and also to His original disciples. In order to win adherents to themselves, they had to look for a bait. They had to look for a kind of dogma that appealed to the human spirit. A dogma that appealed to the indolence that today still plagues the whole of mankind.
Since the demands of Jesus was deemed too rigorous and not altogether appealing to the generality of the people, it was better to withhold this Word and introduce in its place a teaching that was more “gentle”, more popular. Since they feared that with the rigours that accompanied the Teachings of Jesus, the generality of the people would not find it appealing and that as a result they might lose adherents, they felt that they had to introduce a substitute in Its place.
In this way, they could tell people that all they had to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven was offer one offering or the other and that their sins could be forgiven by some sort of earthly penance paid to the Church, and that the Church fathers could forgive their sins once these offerings were offered.
The people of course flocked to the Church. They could now allow all their passions to run uncurbed. They could do anything, even kill as long as at the end of the day they went to Church and asked for forgiveness.
This false teaching it could be argued, which was in common with all other religions was solely responsible for the unbelievable spread of evil for centuries. People felt that they could do evil. They could allow all their faults to run riot. After all, all they had to do was go to Church and all these sins would be wiped clean. After all, the Church father was an envoy of God and he had the power to forgive sins.
We therefore had a situation whereby for centuries and even until today evil was left unchecked because there was no question of any responsibility. The Church fathers had said that there was no responsibility. After all they were envoys of God; so they knew best. Having now been relieved of the responsibility of having to think things through himself, man could now do whatever he wanted to his neighbours. Through this, unknowingly, he put himself in the power of the Church and this could now do as it wished, holding the power of life and death over whole peoples.
The spreading of this concept of “By faith alone” is more or less responsible for the horrible state of affairs on earth today. Since the people felt and still feel that there was no need for them to do any work on themselves, evil now took hold of the entire human race. All the Words of Jesus were no longer read with any understanding. The teaching of old which had said that there was no responsibility must be right since also it coincided with our own high estimation of ourselves and our tenacious indolence.
It is now time for us to wake up. There is nothing like “By faith alone”. All the Words of Jesus speaks to the contrary and even the words of the Apostles speaks for the absolute importance of works (spiritual works). It is time to rouse ourselves and ignore all these teachings of the past and also at the same time abandon our customary comfortable, self-complacent way of looking at things.
The belief in the Word of Jesus and the adherence to this Word is the only way. This adherence is the works which must accompany the belief we have in Him and His Word. We should just not be hearers, but also doers.