The first group of people to seek justification by faith alone was first
century Christians, for that is to whom James was writing (read carefully
Jas.2:14-26 and context).
The relationship between what we believe and how we act in reference
to it is something that is repeated over and over again throughout the
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians he spent the first part of that letter
(chapts.1-3) in talking to them about God's marvelous grace and all that
it had accomplished. Then as he began the last part of the epistle, he
started with "I therefore...", i.e., "if you fully appreciate
all that God's grace has done for you, here is how your lives will be impacted."
He then talked to them about their "walking" (manner of life):
worthily of the calling wherewith you were called (4:1-16); not as the
Gentiles (4:17-32); in love (5:1-2); as children of light (5:3-14); carefully
(5:15-21). From this he moves on to specific relationships that will be
impacted for the better: wife- husband (5:22-33); child- parent (6:1-4);
servant-master (6:5-9). Finally, Paul orders them to "be strong...stand",
On the same occasion that the Ephesian letter was written, Paul penned
an epistle to the saints and faithful brethren in Colossae. He began by
speaking of the preeminence of Christ (read carefully 1:14-29 and notice
the words and phrases suggesting supremacy). This was followed immediately
by a lengthy section in which the apostle spoke of some practical consequences
of true faith in Christ's preeminence. The true believer will be narrowminded
(2:1-23), for if Christ is all that Paul claims he is we need nothing or
no one else. My life will be radically changed (3:1-17), as will the same
relationships Paul had written to the Ephesians about (3:18- 4:1). And,
I will be prayerful, walk wisely, and watch my speech (4:2-6). We see the
same thing in the Roman letter. After developing the great theme of justification
by faith (chapts.1-11), Paul begins chapter 12 with, "I beseech you
therefore...", much as he had done in Ephesians and for the same reason:
if we truly believe what has just been said, the admonitions which follow
should not be difficult. What Paul says in the balance of this great treatise
is designed to show how those who have been justified by faith are to live.
Just as we see the wind only as we see tumbleweeds rolling across highways,
faith is proven by and seen solely in obedience. Let's not sing with misty
eye "Amazing Grace" unless our lives are "unto the praise
of his glory" (1:6,12,14). Nor should we be critical of those who
would substitute human systems in the place of Christ when our lives fail
to reflect submission to the One who's will is all-sufficent. And let us
not preach "faith plus works" to those of the "faith only"
persuasion and then fail to "present your bodies a living sacrifice..."
(Rom. 12:1-ff). Remember: "thou that teachest another, teachest thou
not thyself?" (Rom. 2:21).
Do we truly believe? Fine. Now let's prove it.