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Ok, bibles under desks, no peeking…

Without looking at James 2 see if you can remember which way around his body/spirit illustration goes.

Is it:

Body / Spirit = Works / Faith

or is it:

Body / Spirit = Faith / Works


In other words, does faith enliven our works or do our works enliven our faith?


Got the difference?  Made your choice?

Ok, now you can check.



0 thoughts on “Ok, bibles under desks, no peeking…

  1. Rich Owen

    Ha ha. Nice one.

    What will really melt your ice lolly is the stuff in 1 John.

    Does sancification give us assurance, or does justification give us assurance?

    I've puzzled over that one often when reading Luther...

  2. Dave K

    Fascinating. Further proof James is an epistle of straw and knows nothing of the gospel :)

    Interestingly Calvin doesn't comment on this verse. The editor to the Calvin Translation Society version says:
    The last verse is left unnoticed, —
    James 2:26 “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works (or, having no works) is dead.”
    The meaning is not, that works are to faith what the spirit is to the body, for that would make works to be the life of faith, the reverse of the fact; but the meaning is, that faith having no works is like a dead carcass without life.

    One to muse upon.

  3. steve martin

    Our assurance certainly ought not come from ANYTHING that we 'do', 'say', 'feel', or 'think'.

    Our assurance ought come solely from what God has 'DONE' ...for us.

    That is why when Luther had doubts if he was doing the right thing, when he had doubts if he was even a Christian, or not, he wrote on the castle wall where he was in hiding, "I am Baptized".

    This was not some superstitious belief in a religious ritual, but rather an unwavering trust in what God had done for Luther in his Luther His name, adopting Luther.

    It is easy to see why Luther did not think a whole lot of James. The onus shifts from Christ's work to our 'works'.

  4. steve martin

    Paul certainly encourages us to 'do'. I don't think there is anything wrong with that at all.

    He does draw a real distinction between doing to get something (from God) and doing for the neighbor for the glory of God.

    I like how he speaks of baptism in Romans 6 and in Gal. 3:27 as how it provides everything that is needful.

    How much more justified or sanctified can one get if they have already "Put on Christ"? (in their baptism)

  5. Glen

    Don't get me wrong I think it's a cool little verse about faith. The key is to see that James is talking about the kind of faith that is true fairth - i.e. saving faith. (James 2:14) He is acknowledging that there's all
    sorts of religious sentiment that goes by the name 'faith' but it proves itself false because when it comes across real need it is not expressed in loving service. Such faith is not faith at all. True faith - saving faith - is always attended by works, and you could even say 'completed' by works. This is not in the sense of:

    False faith + works = true faith

    But in the sense of:

    True faith => works => the revelation that such faith was true.

    Once we have this in place then it's quite cool to know that faith is the body - the substantial thing. And works enliven faith.

    So often we think that the good thing about faith is that it helps us to do the substantial thing - works.

    James says something a bit different.

  6. Bobby Grow

    Good post.

    Also, why do we always think that the Bible is providing, in this context, an "if/then" situation? In other words, why can't it be that James is describing an "ought," which "our is" is always moving towards and away from, often at the same time?

    So true faith has "good works," but who says that we ALWAYS live out of true faith as Christians? Thankfully the Gospel has an more objective "edge" than that, it's Christ's good cross-works which are meritorious for salvation; not ours.

    The 5point syllogistic view on James doesn't seem to get this.

  7. Rich Owen

    I guess the issue I'm pondering out loud is Luther's faith in the external Word and how he considered his own works of love.

    @ Steve M - I guess I would have to say that from 1 John 3 and 4 we *should* be drawing assurance ... confidence even from our works... but we should do so on the understanding of what Glen and Bobby say above about faith in Christ's work.

  8. pgjackson

    Luther in his Romans commentary preface:

    'O, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith; and so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly. It does not ask whether there are good works to do, but before the question rises; it has already done them, and is always at the doing of them. He who does not these works is a faith-less man.'

  9. theoldadam

    Sure! Luther said that you could call him Dr. 'Good Works'!

    BUT ( a huge 'but')...

    not to gain anything at all from God. Works are directed towards the neighbor...not at God.

    They are a result of having faith.

    And there are no such a thing as Christian good works. Since everything that can do, a Muslim, or an atheist can do as well (except speak of Christ).

    Good works...great! But never to gain anything for the self. In Christ, we already have everything that is needful.

    They are solely for the good of the neighbor.

  10. Rich Owen

    Thanks guys - I'm with you totally on that. Pushing the envelope I spose...Not sure I've articulated the question very well. Perhaps it isn't even a question...

    What I'm thinking is that:

    True faith => works => the revelation that such faith was true

    is asking you to actually look at your own works FOR assurance which is what 1 John 3 is saying. Fine.

    But, does scripture compel us in the same (very specific) way to look to our union with Christ FOR assurance - that very lutheran of pastoral empheses.

    I know we can say so systematically that it does, but can we say so exegetically in the same way? (not that systematics and exegesis are mutually exclusive, but you get what i mean right?)

  11. theoldadam

    I see what you mean, Rich. But I think this (from Luther) may illuminate the assurance question a bit more:

    “One thing is sure: We cannot
    pin our hope on anything that we
    are, think, say, or do” (Smalcald
    Articles III:III:36; Tappert 309).
    “Let us thank God, therefore, that
    we have been delivered from this
    monster of uncertainty and that now
    we can believe for a certainty that
    the Holy Spirit is crying and issuing
    that sigh too deep for words in our
    hearts. And this is our foundation:
    The gospel commands us to look,
    not at our own good deeds or
    perfection but God himself as he
    promises, and at Christ himself, the
    Mediator. . . . And this is the reason
    why our theology is certain: It
    snatches us away from ourselves
    and places us outside ourselves,
    so that we do not depend on
    our own strength, conscience,
    experience, person, or works but
    depend on that which is outside
    ourselves, that is, on the promise
    and truth of God which cannot
    deceive” (LW 26:387, Commentary on
    Galatians, 1531).

  12. pgjackson


    Surely there is such a thing as christian good works. There has to be differences in the good works done by a christian and a Muslim, on a whole number of levels.

    But you're right, good works earn us nothing. There's nothing meritorious with God about them at all.

    I don't think that means they can't be directed at God though, e.g. the good work of praising his name.

    Aren't all good works directed at God? Aren't we to love the Lord our God with all our etc. etc. etc.

    Not to earn anything from him. But flowing from true faith.

    Maybe I'm just confused at yr terminology?

  13. theoldadam


    You make some excellent points.

    We can't really tell Christian good works, because we do not know the heart or the motivation. Only God does.

    And I never meant a pure motive yet.

    Maybe that's why the Bible tells us that "all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags".

    We are to love God and our neighbors as ourselves. But we fail at that all the time.

    He loves and forgives us anyway (of course). But in Christ, we are made righteous, completely, and not by anything at all that we do.

    So, we are freed to help the neighbor. (which we do to a greater or lesser degree each day)

    Good works are good, but we ought not look to them for assurance.

    I certainly do not want to stand or bow before my Maker and look to anything at all that I have done for proof of anything.

    I think it is a matter of focus and emphasis. If we focus on Christ and emphasize what He has done for us, then we will be less apt to have our works on the brain and to taint what we do with some ulterior motive.


  14. Rich Owen

    @theoldadam - yep, good quotes - thanks.

    That has very helpfully shown what I'm highlighting. Luther adamantly teaches faith in the external word, assurance from the external word. All true and i am very glad he does. BUT is it that neat and tidy?

    How do i know i belong to the truth?

    Luther says - don't look at your deeds, look at Christ and his deeds and set your heart at rest - that is how you know.

    1 John 3 from vs 17 says

    If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. *This then is how we know that we belong to the truth* and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.

    Which seems to say look at your deeds and set your heart at rest ;-)

    To vaguely answer my own question, I'd probably say something like:

    God is lovely, the loveliness of God in the face of Christ sets my heart ablaze which then moves my will to serve him. He came while i was still a sinner full of compassion to bind my wounds by receiving his. He met my need wonderfully, fully, more than i can imagine such that he sits me with him, sharing his throne. I see my brothers need and my heart is moved to compassion and pity which i express through action while he is still in his great need.

    I know this work of love does nothing to my justified status. If anything it would earn me hell fire because even though i loved my brother, there were ungoldy motives somewhere down the track, but it matters not... i have one who stands in my stead etc... It wasn't righteous in and of itself, but it was *right*. Therefore, I know because i was moved to action in this way as someone who has received the word of the gospel ("i am baptised!) that the love of God is in me and that I belong to the truth because i am living as Jesus lived (1 John 2:6).

    The two seem to go together.

    My question modified again then: Does Luther put them together anywhere?

  15. theoldadam


    I am not an expert on Luther, but to my knowledge Luther keeps Law (works) and Gospel (grace) separated and distinct.

    He's says somewhere that if the Law is not kept separate from the Gospel than you wouldn't be able to tell a Christian from a Jew. (something like that)

    Because the law is written upon our hearts and the Old Adam is all about 'doing' for righteousness sake, it is far too easy to put a drop of the poison that is works, into the glass of pure fresh water that is grace.

  16. Heather

    Interesting discussion.

    I know next to nothing about Luther but you all remind me of

    And I heard a voice from Heaven saying to me, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they shall rest from their labors, and their works follow them. Revelation 14:13

    The order is: die in the Lord, with deeds following. That also resonates with the Lord's parable about the sheep and goats. He very much focuses on "works" there. That part of Scripture has haunted me for a long time but I think He has finally allowed me to see that it is not the "works" that make a difference. There is also the passage that indicates there will be those that say Lord, Lord, didn't we DO all those things for You?

    What matters (I think) is whether those works were done as acts of obedience--while being motivated by a heart that has been humbled before the Lord and is responding out of love. In other words, "good" deeds can only be counted by God as good if they are covered with Christ's blood.

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