Just Part II
Updated: Jan 21, 2022
For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned, Matthew 12:37.
Is there anyone so foolish as to think that Jesus Christ is proposing an alternative plan of salvation? Is he suggesting that with proper words a man can be saved and by improper words he is damned? No, he is not. He is reiterating the theme that, by their fruits ye shall know them, Matthew 7:20. He solemnly warned the Pharisees and all who listened; O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, Matthew 12:34.
The mouth is a window into the heart. The Apostle Paul made that clear when he said, For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, Romans 10:10. As usual, Paul explains to the Gentiles what the Jews heard from Jesus Christ. It is his job. When a man believes in his heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that he has risen from the dead, his mouth will give him away. What is in the heart will eventually come out of the mouth. The mouth cannot change the heart, but the heart can change the mouth.
As a young man recently converted, I was on a construction crew. When one of the foremen heard that I was a student in a bible college, he confronted me in a crowd of men and inches from my face said every blasphemous and unclean thing that he could think of. When he got done, he asked me what I thought of that. In one of my few Spirit filled responses in those days, I stayed silent for a few moments and then calmly said, "A man speaketh out of the abundance of his heart". Slowly, the crowd around us began to snicker and to laugh at him.
There are many things that justify a man.
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Romans 3:24.
For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified, Romans 2:13.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law, Romans 3:28.
Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification, Romans 4:25.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him, Romans 5:9.
I suppose that the simplistic solution is to say that we are justified by grace through our faith in the the blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that by being so saved we have fulfilled the works of the law. It would be true to say it but it would also obscure the multifaceted richness of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that the apostles, especially Paul went to such great lengths to explain to us in each and every aspect of our justification, and to anchor each of them in the law of God.
The problem with the cults and with so many medieval Catholic and Protestant explanations of salvation is that they are like the five blind men and the elephant. Each blind man groped and felt a different part of the elephant and declared the whole elephant to be constructed as he felt when he groped that particular body part. One man feeling the trunk thought the elephant to be a large snake. The other feeling a leg thought it to be like a tree trunk. The next feeling the elephants side thought it to be like a wall, and so on. So do the treatises on salvation differ as theologians pick and choose verses from scripture.
Part of the development of dispensational theology was a desire to reconcile verses that appeared unreconcilable on the surface. Certainly, when Moses declared that a man could put his hand on the head of his offering that it would be accepted to make atonement for him, (Leviticus 1:4); we should not expect the Lord to accept such today. This is why we are told; Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, 2nd Timothy 2:15. We must pay attention to transitions in scripture as they occur.
The concept of justification confuses far too many people. Can a man be justified in carrying a large bag of groceries out of a store? Yes, he is justified to do so based on his having paid for them and having a receipt to prove it. There is a concept in law called justifiable homicide. To kill in self defense is a justifiable reason to kill. To be justified is to have a competent person or court declare your action to have been justifiable. Only in the matter of redemption through the person of Jesus Christ and a relationship with God by grace through his promises can a person be considered just without works. Regardless of how much faith you have, God will not justify you for carrying stolen goods out of a store.
Now consider Abraham. We have two major places in the bible wherein far too many theologians have stumbled. For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God, Romans 4:2. Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?, James 2:21. When Martin Luther dismissed the Book of James as a straw book, he can be excused. He had no great body of learning in front of him. He had no concordances or computer search engines. He was wrong to dismiss James but he could not reconcile justification by works with justification by faith.
Our modern day dispensationalists find another way out. "Look", they say, "James is written to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. That's not us." Neither are we in Colosse or Thessalonica. I'm not named Timothy, Titus or Philemon. Can I wiggle out of those books? Am I to conclude that Abraham was saved twice, once for the twelve tribes and once for us Gentiles? Or should I examine each text and understand why they say what they say?
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?, Romans 4:1. The Apostle Paul is seeking here to discuss Abraham's flesh before he was circumcised to show us that God imputed righteousness to him before he was ever circumcised. Abraham became righteous in the eyes of God for no other reason than having believed God. Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness, Romans 4:3. Is James speaking of the same thing? No, he is not.
James refers to the time when God told Abraham to offer up his son Isaac. That is years after the time to which the Apostle Paul made reference. Did God impute righteousness to Abraham over again when he offered up Isaac? No, the Lord made an entirely different promise to him.
Genesis 22:16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
Genesis 22:17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
Genesis 22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
What God has done here, strictly based on the obedience of Abraham, is to expand and certify the promise that the Messiah would come out of his loins and would indeed be great. James and Paul are not speaking about the same time, the same promise, or the same results. I can understand men emerging out of the dark ages mixing something like that up. I find it much harder to understand men with King James Bibles when they retreat to a bible correcting Protestant like John Nelson Darby to wiggle out of plain texts.
Did Rahab the Harlot get imputed righteousness by hiding Israel's spies? No, James didn't say that. There was justification to not kill her along with the rest of Jericho. There was justification to let her and her family live. How anyone can mix that up to make it be at odds with justification by faith is puzzling at best. The context of James' remarks about works entirely revolve around God's people doing just what the Apostle Paul told them to do; This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men, Titus 3:8.
How are good works profitable to men under the ministry of the Apostle Paul? Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise; Ephesians 6:2. Obeying your father and mother is a work which carries a specific promise with it. Works perfect faith. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works, James 2:18. I know of one way and one way only to make my faith visible. If Darby or Larkin found another way, it certainly wasn't found in scripture.
Simply put, faith without works is dead. When Abraham had faith, he produced works. He did not get declared righteous by his works, nevertheless his faith compelled him to believe God and to subsequently obey him. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them, Ephesians 2:10. God can justify giving you long life if you obey your parents. You are not justified therein by faith. That justification came by faith which produced works.
We have attained unto an age in which the vilest of men are often called believers because someone remembers them having said a prayer. Their faith has never produced any works in them. It has never compelled their mouths to speak. Our theologians have excused this blasphemous attribution of faith to such men based on Romans 10:13 and by ignoring Romans 10:14. They double down on the fraud by excusing an utter lack of works by inventing a split between Paul and James.
Whether or not there are differing plans of salvation throughout scripture is not settled by this post. What is settled is that using James's declaration of a need for works and Paul's reminder that Abraham was made righteous by faith is no proof of dispensationalism. Doing so is a sloppy and ill-informed use of scripture and a failure to rightly divide the word of God properly. They are not talking about the same time, the same promise or the same result.