Justification according to Paul verses James.
To enter into this discussion that has reeked havoc in churches for many generations, a topic that helped the motivation of the prodestant movement split, first we need to understand what justify means according to scripture.
In the book of acts Paul had this to say about our topic of the “justification” through the Christ.
“by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses”.
This shows us that justification is not a singular thing or a solo event but many things or a proccess.
Paul uses the words justify and justification differently than James, which causes confusion and splits among the greater body of believers. Paul uses the term “justify” in all its forms to mean aquited or exonerated from the charge of being a sinner as seen here; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified [g]freely (from this charge) by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a [h]propitiation (payment to free from charge) by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, for Him to be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Meaning to stand for and defend against the charges of sin. The Son of God in this way obtained our aquital
James on the other hand uses the same term “justify” to mean confirm. In order to have the justification James talks about, there has to be a test. And because we participate in our salvation by “pressing in to lay a hold of why Christ laid hold of us”. It is that God who gave us our sovereignty as being made in His image, does not take that back.
In order for salvation to work in our lives we have to cooperate with God. God can do anything He wants but what He wants is a relationship. And this relationship requires us to participate. We must “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling”. We have a responsiblity but not according to the Law of Moses, but to the law of faith.
Paul’s use of justification brings us out from underneath condemnation and judgement of that law. That “the law was added to make sin exceedingly sinful” by multiplying aquisitions against us. That one is aquited and exonerated from the charges of sin and justification here is to be free from these charges.
James uses the same word “justify” to mean “having passed a test“. Both of these mens concepts of having been aquited and having passed a test are appropriate and can be used for having been vindicated, also meaning to be proven.
Just as Hebrews 2.3 says “how shall we escape (charges, judgement and condemnation) if we neglect such great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him”.
The word confirm in this text is synonymous with vindicated and having been corrected. As if from standing on trial or under investigation and examination. Tobe free and clear is to be justified.
If someone asserts a thing to be true, they should be able to provide proof for it to be so. The proof provided by James is his use of the word ” justified’ by James. The proof is in the put in. When what was put in comes out, there is a confirmation that the thing has the thing that is said.
So when let’s say a bottle has a certain fluid in it, it can be verified by pouring it out and examining it to be true. Then there is a confirmation. And in the case James uses with Abraham to be justified in the faith, Abraham had to understand that God would send His Son into the world to save people from charges of sin. And he did.
The glorious thing about this account, is that when Isaac asked his father “where is the sacrifice” Abraham said “God will provide a sacrifice”, showing us that he knew God wasn’t going to let Isaac die. In this way Abraham received his own son back from the dead by faith, because for Gods promise to be true that from the loins of Abraham that “he would be the Father of many nations”, then God couldn’t let his son die. This was Abraham’s test and justification.
Just as Jesus Christ said “Father, I have finished the work you have given me to do. I have given those you have given Me your word and they have kept it.” (Let us now see the vindication and justification of the 11 disciples.)
They know that I have come forth from you and I go back to you and they see Me again no more”. (John 16.8 + 17.12) Yeshua/Jesus knew this because He asked them and they answered. (John 13) Kinda like a school teacher asking questions and getting correct answers. They know they did their job.
So too we see here again with James, 2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces [a]patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be [b]perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” This is why God is just and the justifyer of the one who has faith in His Son. Because God examines how well we follow Him and how obedient we are that we may be found worthy.
And if this seams strange to you, we need to go no further than to look to Peter speaking by the Holy Spirit saying “be ye Holy as I am Holy” and Paul doing the same thing said “therefore having these promises, let us work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” and “come out from among them and be ye separate and I will receive you and ye shall be My sons and daughters”.
So why would believers get involved in arguing over these terms to justify themselves over the other. For this reason Paul said ye are acting like foolish men. They were using common courts to settle issues, and these embarrass the body of Christ for driving in these wedged among fellow follower’s of Word.
May the God of Heaven keep you clean, clear, sanctified and justified, preserved and prooven “in Christ” where all the Heavenly deliciousies are kept. Amen!
The Kingdom of God is still at hand.