Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
The letter of James in the New Testament gets a lot of bad press. Theologicans of a more literal bent like to portray it as contradictory to Paul’s writings. After all, they say, James teaches a dependence on works, while Paul asserts that salvation is by grace through faith alone. What’s more, they say, pointing the skewer straight at a Lutheran, Luther didn’t really trust James. Ha! Take that!
Let’s unpack this situation for a moment. James was one of the writings which was slower than some to be recognized by Christians. That was not due to any concerns about the content. On the contrary, because the name “James” was very common, and because the letter was not altogether well identified, it was slow to be adopted. It became recognized as canonical on the strength of the content, rather than becaue of a known author.
What about Luther, then? Granted, Martil Luther was on the forefront, the cutting edge, of the Reformation. He didn’t use James very much, but he was very familiar with the text. There’s no doubt about it. He translated it carefully into German. Luther’s hesitation, again, was not due to the content but due to the fact that the author was unidentified.
How about the alleged argument between James and Paul? Please read Ephesians 2:8-10 and note that verse 10 follows immediately on the heels of verses 8-9. Christians are saved by grace through faith, with the intent that they will do good works. After all, God, the one who is good, likes good works since they are good.
How does that reconcile with James? James never asserts salvation by works. But in chapter 2 verse 18 he says he is unable to show his faith apart from works. So he does good works. After all, they are good. They are used to care for our neighbor and our world.
What will we do, then? We hold to faith in Jesus. That living faith expresses itself in good works toward our neighbor. The Scripture is consistent.
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