Busy Day

Posted by Paul

Today is quite an unusual day. Today I will have made two trips to the airport. The first, which I have just returned from, was to take my parents to the airport.

My parent’s story is quite an amazing one. It started well over a year ago when my parents told us (my brother, myself, and my wife to be) that they had decided to adopt a little girl from China. Our first reaction, to be frank, was shock. But it did not take long for the shock to subside, and the excitement to take over. This leads us to today. I have just returned from taking my parents to the airport where they will hop on a flight to California where they will then leace for China. In just over two weeks they will be home, and we will have our new sister Grace Elyse Shirley. We will not be able to talk on the phone with Moma and Dad so we have started a blog to stay in contact. We would love for you to participate in this process with us, and I sure under the circumstance you will enjoy a “where I am now post.”

My second trip to the airport will be this afternoon for myself. I will be heading out to California myself for the Shepherd’s Conference. I am very excited, but at the same time I will miss my wife. In fact, for a very special reason I feel bad leaving her at home; she is pregnant! She is almost 8 weeks along, and we could not be more excited. After losing a baby last year we are happy that this pregnancy seems to be so strong. Last Wednesday we weny for our first sonogram. My child is about 1.5 inches long and has a strong heart beat. We went straight from there to kinkos. I made 12 blown up copies of the sonogram; I am not sure what I am going to do with them but I have them. What a gift it is from God to be respobsible for a life.
This is a very exciting time for our family, and we praise God for the gifts that He has given us. I am so thankful for a new sister, and a new child of my own. We are fervently praying that just as my parents are adopting Grace into the Shirley family that God will adopt both Grace and our child into His family.

Don’t forget to keep up with The Shirley’s Adventure to Grace Elyse.



Scattered thoughts on James 2:24

James drives home the point of his first illustration of living faith by explaining God’s terms for salvation. Individuals are not justified by dead faith (faith alone that is without works). Here in this verse James answers the question raised in vs. 14, “can faith without works save?” The answer is no. Faith must be accompanied by works because of the very nature of faith. Abraham believed God’s promise of many descendants, and because of that belief he trusted God even when God asked him to sacrifice his only son. True faith will always make a difference in your life because of the nature of faith, and because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. There is no other way to be saved besides uniting yourself with Christ through faith. And when you unite yourself with the body of Christ you will receive his Spirit which will change the way you live. No one can be saved without becoming a new creature, and by the power of the Holy Spirit the new creation will produce such righteous works as repentance, submission, obedience, and love for God and fellow believers. The faith of the individual in vs. 14 is not real because it has not united him with Christ, and brought about a change in his life through the work of the Spirit. Acts 8:18-22 is the perfect example of someone who only had a shallow conviction of the truth with no true faith. This man saw the obvious truth that there was power in the Gospel, but he did not understand that power or how it worked. He tried to receive the power of the Gospel on his own terms instead of on God’s terms. Isn’t it ironic that he tried to pay money for something that God offers for free.

Abraham’s Living Faith: James 2:20-23

James continues his discussion on faith by again pointing out that “Faith without works is useless” (vs. 20). In verse 18 James demanded that these people, who claimed that a profession without any works was enough to be saved, demonstrate their faith in some way. The problem was that they did not have genuine faith, and by demanding that they demonstrate their faith James proved that they did not really have faith. James pushes on in verse 20 and asks “since you were not able to demonstrate your faith can you at least recognize now that your faith is useless.” It is important to note that both pistij and evrgwn have the article making them the faith and works already mentioned. So, faith that is only a shallow conviction in the broad knowledge of God without a godly life is useless. avgh carries with it the idea of fruitlessness, or lack of production. In other words, “faith without works doesn’t work.” Matthew has some serious words for someone like this in Mt. 7:19. Unfortunately it is clear that these people with dead faith were not willing to admit that James was correct. This is why, through the use of a hypothetical man, he refers to them as foolish. Their inability to understand the truth was not due to an ambiguity to the truth, but rather a reluctance to accept the truth. They were not willing to be taught. What we will see in the verses to come is that the faith of James’ opponents grows even dimmer when compared to the living faith of Abraham, and Rahab.James begins with one of the greatest example of faith recorded in the Scriptures, the faith of Abraham. What James shows his readers is that Abraham believed that God is one, and his works proved it. James also provides his readers with a question to ponder: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?” In response to this question someone might say that James is teaching justification by works, however to hold this interpretation is to misunderstand James. Let me give you several reasons why I would say this. First, the word justify (dikaiow) in the NT can have several different meanings. It can mean to be declared righteous which is most commonly used by the apostle Paul. It can also mean to vindicate, prove right, or demonstrate. The second of these two meanings is less common in the NT, however there are examples of it.

Luke 7:35 (NASB95): “Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

1 Timothy 3:16 (NASB95): By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.It is best to view this second meaning as the meaning intended by James. To paraphrase James we could say “was not Abraham’s faith vindicated/demonstrated/proven when he offered Isaac his son on the alter?” This meaning fits best into the overall teaching of James; particularly within the context of this passage. Remember, just three verses back James demanded that these people demonstrate (or vindicate/prove) their faith and they were unable to do so. These people had abused the beliefs of Abraham to the point where they thought their empty confession of the shema could save them. It is only natural for James to show that Abraham’s faith was not just a mere profession but an extremely active principle. Abraham trusted God so much that he was willing to kill his own son to obey God (Genesis 22:1-22). Another reason to translate dikaiow as vindicate/demonstrate/prove is the chronology of events recorded in Genesis. If we were to take the view that Abraham was pronounced righteous by God on the basis of his works when he offered Isaac then we would have a pretty serious problem trying to harmonize this passage with Genesis. James states that Abraham was justified by what he did in offering up Isaac. Compare that with Romans 4:10-11 in which Paul states that Abraham was justified before he was circumcised. If we go back to Genesis we will actually see that Abraham was circumcised before he offered up Isaac (Genesis 17). The point is that the outward works demonstrated what James opponents were not able to demonstrate that Abraham had saving faith. Look back at Romans 4:10-11. The outward works in Abraham’s life were not the foundation of his justification they were a “sign” and a “seal” of his justification. As James puts it “his faith was working with his works.” Abraham’s faith was not just a saying-only faith, but a saying and doing faith. He heard God’s word and humbly received it (1:21). “As a result of the works, faith was perfected” in the life of Abraham. It was not as if Abraham had a defective faith that needed to be completed by works, but rather his works brought his faith to a point of maturity. This word translated “perfected” (evteleiwqh) is another tough word to translate because it can have several different meanings. When you have a word that can mean many different things it is always good to look at how the author uses them. Here is a list of the different ways that James uses this word:

James 1:4 (NASB95): And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:17 (NASB95): Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
James 1:25 (NASB95): But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but 1an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

James 2:8 (NASB95): If, however, you are fulfilling the 1royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

James 3:2 (NASB95): For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.

There are a couple of different translations for this word including perfect, complete, and mature. If fact in John 19:30 this is word he used when He cried out “It is Finished.” So in the case of Abraham his faith was not only demonstrated by his works, but also brought to maturity by his works. Joseph Mayor put it this way, “as the tree is perfected by its fruits, so faith [is] by its works.” Further proof that works are the “seal” and “sign” of faith is found in vs. 23. By his good works Abraham fulfilled what the Scriptures said about him in Genesis 15:6. Going back to vs. 21 this is further proof that “justified” should be translated as vindicated/demonstrated/proven. In Genesis 15 Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness; in Genesis 22 Abraham was willing to offer Isaac on the alter and it proved that Abraham believed God. Therefore Genesis 22 proves what Genesis 15:6 said about Abraham to be true. The emphasis of James is on the amazing faith of Abraham, and what it enabled him to do. God made some amazing promises to Abraham about his descendants and in Genesis 15:6 Abraham believed in God and His promises. It was almost thirty years later, in Genesis 22, when Abraham’s faith was demonstrated when he was willing to offer up the fulfillment of God’s promise, Isaac, because God had commanded him to do so. Hebrews 11:17-19 gives us a glimpse into the thinking of Abraham. Here the writer of Hebrews tells us that “by faith Abraham…offered up Isaac” because “…he considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead…” Abraham had so much faith in God that he knew God would not take back his promise by taking away Isaac. As a result of Abraham’s faith cooperating with his works he was declared righteous by God, and he was called the friend of God. He endured through the trial and demonstrated his salvation (1:12). In John 15:14 Jesus said “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Is there anyone, except for Christ himself, who better demonstrated his friendship with God? Abraham’s faith was the foundation of his justification, and his works were the vindication/demonstration/proof.” Through this cooperation of faith and works Abraham had peace with God. This is something that we all need, because if we don’t get right with God we will be at enmity with Him. If there is going to be peace then there has to be justification by faith alone. This is the way that God chosen to make salvation available, and it is the only way to open salvation up to very people group in the whole world. Anyone can have faith. As we will see in the next example of living faith it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do you can have faith. The only hindrance to faith is, pride. We must come to God on his terms.

An Update on Dr. Morris

Here is the latest update on Dr. Henry Morris from ICR:“As of now, things are moving slowly in the rehab center. Dr. Morris is in good spirits and insists on doing as much work as ICR can provide him. He has very little control of his legs while standing, although in bed he can move, flex, and exercise them. He still has no sense of balance and gets nauseated when standing.

Thankfully, the treatment has shown less damage than at first thought and perhaps more improvement than usual in this short time. It seems your prayers are being answered! Dr. Morris has enjoyed all the visits and appreciates your concern. There is no radio or TV in the room, and he seems to like it that way. He mainly lies in bed and reflects on God’s goodness and occupies his time in prayer. He also has been witnessing to everyone who comes in, and has passed out Bibles to many of the staff.”

You can read this update in its entirety at: ICR Update

Piper Recovering

Tuesday John Piper had surgery for prostate cancer. Here is the lastest update from Desiring God Ministries:

Update on Surgery February 14, 20061:30 p.m.: We got word that John Piper is out of surgery. His wife, Noël, reported that the procedure went “beautifully.” So praise God with us and continue to pray with us for John’s recovery. We will keep you updated.11:30 a.m.: The doctors reported to Noel that John’s prostate has been removed successfully and things are going well from what they can tell. They are now beginning reconstruction. After that, Pastor John will have about a 1-hour recovery period before he is taken to his room where Noel will be able to see him.

Prayer: Please pray for the recovery period and the coming days of healing.

For more information on this story, as well as the latest updates go to desiringgod.org.

A Discourse on Faith: James 2:18-19 (Pt II)

Here in vs. 19 we find James’ response to those who have a shallow conviction with no expression of faith. The first thing that we see is that these individuals believed in the one true God. This is a direct reference to Deuteronomy 6:4. This was a very important confession. This passage is known as the “Shema” which is Hebrew for hear. This became the Jewish confession of faith, recited twice daily by the devout Jew. The purpose of these words was to give a declarative statement of the truth of monotheism in a polytheistic world. There is no doubt that James and his readers would have been very familiar with this passage. But as was the case in vs. 14 there is a verbal profession that never goes beyond words. It is interesting how James describes their belief. He does not say that they believe in (en) God, or (epi,) on God which are the normal preposition used in the NT. Instead, James says that they believed that (hoti) God was one. This was the problem, this individual believed in a creed but never had the distinctly Christian trust, and commitment (a commitment that would lead to obedience) in Christ. What this person believed was true, but it was not the “power of God unto salvation.” All that this person had was a shallow conviction about the common knowledge of God. “This common knowledge can no more connect a man with God that the sight of the sun can carry him up to heaven”
With a touch of sarcasm James commends a belief in the “shema.” The problem is that their belief in the one true God was no different than the belief that the demons have. The demons, particularly the devil, undoubtedly have a great degree of knowledge about God. As Jonathan Edwards put it “[the devil was] educated in the best divinity school in the universe, the heaven of heavens. He must…have such an extensive and accurate knowledge concerning the nature and attributes of God, as we, worms of the dust, in our present state, are not capable of. And he must have a far more extensive knowledge of the works of God, as of the work of creation in particular. For he was a spectator of the creation of the visible world.”

The Bible records many events for us in which the demons displayed a great knowledge of the character of God.
Mark 1:22-24 They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

Acts 16:16-17 It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.”

In both of these cases the demons involved were correct in the assessment of who Jesus was. Their belief was orthodox (correct) but their character was evil. The fruit of their belief was the fear of immanent judgment rather than repentance. What is ironic is that the people claiming to have faith believed the same thing that the demons did, the only difference was that they did have any reaction at all. At least the demons shuddered in fear! These people, just like the demons, believed the truth of Deuteronomy 6:4 but did not obey the command of Deuteronomy 6:5. They believed in the one true God but did not love him with all their heart and soul. Belief like this is useless! It is the same kind of belief that the demons have, and it is the same dead faith that James has been talking about.

The lesson that we should all learn from this passage is that for a person to believe the doctrines of Christianity merely from the force of arguments, as discerned only by speculation, is no evidence of grace. You cannot choose the terms that you are going to come to God on. God has made salvation available to us, but we must be willing to submit to Him. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that going to church, memorizing Scripture (remember the shema), and saying the right things are going to make you right with God. God has a plan, and that plan is that men can only come the Father through Christ Jesus His Son.