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James practical teaching on faith


Ernest Onuoha

Ernest Onuoha

The Apostle James is a practical Pastor and on his teaching on faith, he would want believers to put their belief into action. He begins with a supposition about a brother or a sister in need to whom philosophy or empty words or good wishes may not alleviate his/her situation. For him, concrete and demonstrable faith is what he/she needs to attend to his/her immediate need. Of course, he had argued earlier about true religion “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world”, (James 1:27).

Consequently, James’s teaching on faith seems to generate a great theological debate. For example, Martin Luther, that great reformer, battled the Catholic Church over the issue of how to receive eternal life called the letter of James “a right straw epistle”, meaning that there was nothing in it wood, hay and stubble. He was so insistent on justification by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone that he had trouble reconciling these truths with the teaching of James.

On the other hand, some people feel and think that James’s teaching on faith contradicted Paul’s teaching on grace. Paul had noted: “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”, (Eph. 2:8-9). However, we need to offer an opinion that James’s teaching on faith does not and should not contradict Paul’s teaching on grace.

Because a New Testament commentator had posited thus “works serve as the Barometer of Justification while faith is the basis for justification”. This implies that we need grace and simultaneously, we need to demonstrate our faith, particularly amongst God’s people, who are down trodden and burdened with challenges of life. That was why James was not ashamed to observe that faith without work is dead (useless and ineffective).

Our Lord Jesus Christ juxtaposed two situations in His teaching on giving help or not giving help to one in need. The gospel writer, Matthew, painted the picture thus “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’  And the King will answer and say to them,

‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”, (Matt. 25:34-40).From the Lord’s teaching above, the righteous would be confronted with those issues on the last day and to this, James will like the believer to have ready-made answer before the judgment seat. He confronts the believer with a naked situation and tries to reawaken him/her spiritually. What does he say? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

Unfortunately, many people are suffering and we seem to be living at a dangerous time of our lives. In short, things are not working. There is hunger in the land, unemployment, violence, people are owed arrears of salaries, and there is environmental degradation and pollution, all of which account for the death toll that has arisen astronomically. However, we need to accept Paul’s advice in his letter to the Galatians: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”, (Gal. 6:2). Necessarily, it is in helping one another bear burdens of life that we fulfil James’s practical teaching on faith. Therefore, determine to be an instrument in the hand of God today!

In this article:
Ernest OnuohaFaith
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