I had to laugh at God's providence this week. I read James 2, and Ephesians 2 at the same time. If you don't realize how funny this is, seriously go read both and note the times that they are seemingly contradictory. One could easily miss the great similarities of these two chapters of the Bible because they are so differently written. Paul is all high and lofty, throwing in these amazing transcendent explanations of the entire plan of salvation from the beginning of time while at the same time reminding us that this is not a self-justifying faith, and James is down and dirty calling us out in our laziness and judgmental attitudes. You could even read James 2:14-26 and Ephesians 2:8-9 and think that the Bible obviously contradicts itself. And therefore, if it contradicts itself in this one place, how many other places are contradictory? And if that doubt is legitimate, well then we might as well just put the Bible away, not place our hope in it, and try out something else that seems a little more logical, or at least easier to figure out.
But rather than lose heart, I choose to dig. As one of the elders at our church likes to remind us, it's all about context, and no one verse was made to stand on its own to explain the entirety of God's plan for all eternity, even though some of them come close. The Bible is an unfolding of the story of redemption over millennium. We can spend our entire lives exploring the mystery of Jesus revealed in scriptures and still have so much we don't understand.
I know, this is a study of James, but I'm going to diverge into Ephesians 2:1-10 for a sec, mostly because this paragraph is one of my go to scriptures when reminding high-schoolers of the gospel. Revel in it for a bit if you will:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.You just have to LOVE when God puts in the most amazing use of that little contraction "but" to just blow our minds with his plan. This is the cross, inserted precisely in the moment of dire wreckage, that causes our hearts to wonder at the love so richly poured out by the blood of our Savior!
But how in the world does this passage, and James go so neatly together? Did you catch the last sentence?
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.We are created in Christ Jesus for good works! We who are the bride of Christ, the bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, bride of Jesus, are made for good works. And these aren't just random, haphazard good works, because God in his sovereignty prepared them for us, and us for them. So we are to walk in them. What are these good works? God already told us that in James! Praise be to God that this book of his redemptive history ties all together, and has the power to relieve our lost, doubting hearts from fear and worry!