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God’s Grace in the Book of James

June 26, 2017

The book of James is known especially for its emphasis on good works (faith without works is dead). Martin Luther disliked James because he saw little of God’s grace–an emphasis of the apostle Paul in books like Romans and Galatians.

But James does portray a graceful foundation for his emphasis on good works. In 1:17-18,21 he mixes agricultural and “birth” metaphors to point to God’s gifts (grace) from above. The “word of truth” of 1:18 becomes the “implanted” word in 1:21; and this “plant” produces “first fruits” (God’s new “creatures,” who are “brought forth” or “birthed” by the word of truth).

So through the word of truth implanted from above, the (heavenly) “Father of lights” gives the “perfect gift” that produces new creatures, new children (of the Father), who receive with meekness the implanted word from above (1:17-18). This Father’s gift–that enables the birth of new children and empowers them to become new creatures–is especially what Paul means by “grace.” For both Paul and James, grace is God at work, producing new life in new children (of God).

This divine word of truth is able (powerful) to save (the souls of) God’s new children (1:21). God’s grace here is not primarily mercy (or forgiveness); this grace is God working in us to save us from present selfish desires and sin, and from eternal death. Those receiving this good and perfect gift from the Father of lights will not waver in darkness.

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From → Book of James

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