A Screen Door in a Submarine Part One

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James 2:14-26

One of my favorite Christian recording artists is the late Chris Mullins and one of my favorite songs of his is “Screen Door”. Which ends with this verse:

It’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine

Faith without works, baby, it just ain’t happenin’

One is your right hand, one is your left

It’s your light, your guide, your life and your breath

Faith without works is like a song you can’t sing

It’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine

Faith without works, like a song you can’t sing

It’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine

Today’s verses were sent to me by one of my oldest and best friends in response to an ongoing exchange we had had over whether we need works to keep our salvation or is works are required for salvation. We have probably argued this point for over thirty years and neither of us has changed our position, although I keep hoping that he will come to reason. If one just had these verses from James then they might come to the conclusion that yes we do need works. However, James does not stand alone and must be read in light of the entire Bible. If read that way then James seems to say that works will be the out pouring of our faith and a result of our salvation. Works will never save us and we cannot lose what Christ has guaranteed us, eternal life with Him. The thief on the cross never had a chance to do good works and yet Jesus told him that he would be with Jesus in paradise. We are saved to do good works.

To say that we have to have or do something in order to either get or retain our salvation diminishes Christ’s finished work on the cross. It says that that was not enough and we have to do something also. Yes, a Christian will have good works. But the Christian will be no more saved after their good works than before. I think the good works are not for us but to show unbelievers who Christ is and get them to want to know Him more.

Finally a little history, Martin Luther really struggled over including James in the German Bible because he thought it stressed works too much and could lead to the conclusion that works and not faith alone were needed for salvation. Fortunately he reconsidered and kept James.

Have a blessed day,

David

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About dwwork

The name of this blog is taken from 1 Peter 3:13 - “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience. This verse became special to me over ten years ago when I was asked to teach an adult Sunday school class on Christian apologetics. This interest grew over the years to the point that I took some graduate level classes in apologetics. I think the best way to be prepared to give and answer to everyone who asks is to know scripture. It is my hope that through these short devotionals the reader will become more familiar with each verse. I have tried when possible to make them personal hoping in some small way to show that God’s word written over two thousand years ago is still relevant today. In the writing of these short devotionals I have been able to better understand how God’s word impacts my life. It is my hope that you too will come closer to our Lord Jesus and develop a closer relationship with Him. Finally, if the reader finds anything in conflict with scripture please let me know. God’s word is the final authority always overrules anything I might write. David
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