Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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We Get Letters – (On James 2)

Kris Braddock sure knows how to cause trouble.  An internet visitor to our web site took issue with Kris’ article entitled “Saved by Faith… But What of Works?”  And then he had the audacity to write me to complain!  Anyway, among other standard Calvinistic arguments he made, he said the following:

“Succinctly stated, the passages in Ephesians and James can ONLY be reconciled as follows: ‘Faith is the ROOT of our salvation. Works are the FRUIT of our salvation.’  Faith is the CAUSE of salvation and WORKS are the EFFECT, or RESULT of salvation.”

Below is my quick reply to him.

Mr. _______________,

I appreciate your response to brother Braddock’s article.  While I am sure he can speak for himself, as your post was sent to me I want to address what I believe to be a misconception you have concerning what the article taught, and what we believe.

First, we do not teach that we earn our salvation.  Most religious people have been so influenced by Calvinistic teaching they believe that to say that obedience is necessary to salvation is the same as saying that we must earn our salvation.
This does not follow.  God supplies our salvation through His grace.  We can not earn salvation.  We agree on this.  I would venture that we would also agree in saying that salvation is conditional.  Our disagreement would be with regard to what the conditions are.  You teach faith only, we teach faith accompanied by obedience.  (The saving faith mentioned in James 2).

Your contend that:

“the passages in Ephesians and James can ONLY be reconciled as follows: “Faith is the ROOT of our salvation. Works are the FRUIT of our salvation.”

This is simply not true.  In fact, such a conclusion is necessary only if you accept your premise that we are saved by faith only, which James 2:24 denies.

Consider the Cause/Effect relationship of both Ephesians 2 and James 2.

Faith is the cause, Salvation is the effect (Ephesians 2:8-9). Works are the cause, Justifiction is the effect (James 2).
When we speak of Salvation or Justification, in both instances we speak of individuals who enter into fellowship with God as their sins are remitted.  In both instances, the effect (Salvation/Justification) comes as a result of the cause (Faith/Obedience).

Your explanation simply can not be correct because it puts works as an effect (fruit), rather than the cause mentioned in James 2.  In effect, you must explain away the passage because of your incorrect premise that required obedience equals a meriting or earning of salvation.

James 2:24 says, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”  He clearly shows that justification is the result of works.  You wish for us to believe that works are the result of justification.  This is a clear distortion of James’ statement.

Martin Luther labored under the same misconception as you do, that salvation comes through faith alone.  As such, his honesty required he reject the epistle of James as an epistle of straw.  I would assert that if you believe that faith alone saves you have no recourse, you must reject James’ epistle.  Your “reconciliation” of the two passages is not valid.
If however, we understand that we can not earn our salvation (What Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly teaches); but we also understand that God requires obedience (works), and will not save man without such obedience (What James 2 clearly teaches); there is no conflict between the two passages at all.

Thanks again for your consideration, and please keep reading the material at our web site.

Sincerely,

Stan Cox