How To Energize Our Faith: Reconsidering The Meaning Of James 2:14-26 -- By: John F. Hart

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 12:1 (Spring 1999)
Article: How To Energize Our Faith: Reconsidering The Meaning Of James 2:14-26
Author: John F. Hart


How To Energize Our Faith: Reconsidering The Meaning Of James 2:14-26

John F. Hart

Professor of Bible
Moody Bible Institute
Chicago, IL

I. Introduction

The members of a small group Bible study gather to discuss personal evangelism, none of whom have ever persistently shared their faith. How passionate do you suppose their conversation will be? The members of another small group Bible study also meet to discuss personal evangelism. But in this group, each Christian is taking bold steps to win others to Christ. They are actually doing evangelism, not just talking about it. It is not too difficult to visualize how differently each group might present their beliefs about reaching the non-Christian for the Savior. Nor is it too complicated to understand how one’s belief in evangelism might be energized by the work of evangelism. Good works bring vitality and spirit to our faith. At the risk of oversimplification, this elementary but dynamic principle is what pervades Jas 2:14–26.

Because of various theologies and dogmas, evangelical exegesis of James 2 has unfortunately maintained a fixed focus that has obscured its perception of the chapter. In fact, I find that the traditional perspective of James 2 is so ingrained in our thinking that it is difficult for us to examine the passage with freshness and openness. The major traditional perspective on James 2 that stands out as a barrier to exegesis is the proposition that true faith always results in consistent good

works in a believer’s life.1 James 2 is most often used as the proof text for this conception.2 According to this viewpoint, James 2 is addressing the problem of people who falsely profess to have faith.3 False faith, it is reasoned, is merely an “intellectual” faith inadequate to produce the necessary good works that prove that such a person is a true

Christian. Support for this definition of faith is thought to be resident in the statement of Jas 2:14, “Can such faith save him?” (NIV), or that of 2:17, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is de...

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