Lord, let my soul live and praise You, and let Your uprightness help me. Amen.
Text: James 2:10-17
For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
“Law of liberty?” What is it? It is the eternal purpose and immovable rule of love and grace concerning our salvation by faith in Christ alone. This love – fulfilled by Christ and poured out in our hearts, worked in us by the Spirit – is “the law of liberty.” Whoever in faith does not now recognize that he is free from all the demands of the law, having died and having been buried with Christ, and that he is made alive in love, raised with Christ from death, he does not know the law of liberty and cannot understand what it is. But whoever is united with Christ in living faith has entered into a new relationship both toward God and men. The old command of love, which was a demand of the law, has become a command of love, a law of liberty. If anyone says he has faith, but does not know love, his faith is dead and nothing, and he is a servant of sin.
Among those who think they are saved there are many who live in the house of bondage, labor in their own strength, rely on works, and do not understand that the way is impassable. They ought to see that the holy demand of the law is perfect love, that the least transgression of a single commandment violates the whole law, destroys their whole works-righteousness and pours forth the curse of sinners upon them, but they do not see it. – Others want to be saved by faith, but think that they have a saving faith because they hold it as true that there is a God and that Jesus is God’s Son. O how do empty words and useless thoughts help against sin, death, and the devil? – No, faith alone justifies. A person is saved by faith alone and not by the law. But saving faith is active in love (Gal 5:6). Therefore James 2:17 says: “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead… You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”
On the other hand, whoever believes from the heart so that in faith he flees from sin to Christ and receives his righteousness and his victory over the devil, his life and love, his freedom and salvation in God’s Son, that person has saving faith, and shall surely inherit the kingdom of God. Whomever the Son has freed is free indeed, a descendant of Abraham and an heir according to the promise. O how living and powerful true faith is! It is constantly active in removing the guilt of sin and keeping the conscience clean. But just as tirelessly it is active practicing love, thanking the Lord, and showing mercy toward mankind. May none of us deceive himself in bondage to the law or dead faith!
We pray You, merciful God, give us Your Holy Spirit. Through Him create true faith in our hearts, and increase it, and urge us to every good work. Amen.
Our faith, it is a light
Deep in our hearts now hidden,
That breaks forth ever bright,
By truest Morning bidden;
It fills the soul with joy,
Renewal, holy life,
And Jesus’ attitude.
Faith pours forth from itself
The gifts of Jesus’ favor
And gladly shares its wealth
Of riches with its neighbor;
In Jesus we have more
Than we shall ever need;
The light of grace shines forth,
The Lord’s name praiséd be.
Breithaupt: Forsøger eder selv, Om I I troen ere L 494:2-3 tr. DeGarmeaux;
tune: O Gott du frommer Gott (ELH 470); alternate hymn: Hark! The voice of Jesus crying ELH 191:2