Paul and James: Are We Justified by Faith or by Faith and Works? -- By: Steven J. Lawson

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 03:2 (Jul 2011)
Article: Paul and James: Are We Justified by Faith or by Faith and Works?
Author: Steven J. Lawson

Paul and James: Are We Justified
by Faith or by Faith and Works?1

Steven J. Lawson


Joel R. Beeke

Read Romans 3:21-28; James 2:14-26

We’ve got to get the doctrine of justification right for several important reasons. First, this doctrine not only lies at the heart of the gospel; it is the gospel. Second, justification is the greatest antidote to heresy. Nearly all heresies have stemmed from a misunderstanding of this doctrine. Third, justification is a great incentive to a revived church. Only God can send revival, but true revival is never without a rediscovery of such basic biblical truth as justification by faith alone. Fourth, justification greatly impacts a vast array of pastoral problems, such as the lack of assurance of faith and an inability to handle trials Christianly. Fifth, the whole of the Christian life is little more than an ongoing discovery of the glory and power of justification. The tragedy of our Christian lives, and the reason there may be so little power in our ongoing sanctification, is because we have ceased to wonder at our justification.

It is one thing, however, to acknowledge that it is crucial to get justification right for many important reasons, and another thing to practically and pastorally answer the question: who is justified? Assume for a moment that you are a pastor and that your church requires for membership a verbal testimony of credible profession of faith before the pastor(s) and elders. Let me introduce you to two men, Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith, two typical test cases, who are applying for membership in your church and desire to partake of the Lord’s Supper. In the presence of your elders, you ask Mr. Jones, “On what basis do you believe you are a Christian and should be received into the fellowship

of this church?” Mr. Jones responds, “Well, I believe that my entire life shows that I am a solid Christian. I’ve grown up in the church and have always been religious. I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and have soundly Reformed, biblical beliefs. I read the Bible and pray every day, and never miss a church service. I give my money to the church and I am very generous to Christian organizations and charities. I attend as many Reformed conferences as I can. I am a faithful husband, a good father, and a loyal worker. On these grounds, I believe that I am a Christian and I trust you will receive me into your church fellowship as a fellow believer and Christian.”

You then ask Mr. Jones to...

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