To recap, in Part 1 that the ‘works’ of James’ faith with out works is dead can reconciled with Paul’s fruits of the Spirit. In Part 2, I argued that the Council of Jerusalem was in essence a debate about Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith which in the end James agreed with.
There is the story about the prospector in Colorado back in the nineteenth century who discovered a source of lead ore. So he started a mine. However, he found that the ore was difficult to separate from the rest of the material that was extracted. The lead was amongst a heavy black mineral he was unfamiliar with. After some time somebody else came along looked at this waste residue, examined it and had it tested and found out that it was actually high grade silver ore. So the prospector had actually stated a silver mine though he was unaware of it. When we first come to faith we might think that we are taking out a fire insurance policy but we are getting actually something far more valuable. We are entering into a relationship with God through Christ, becoming children of God by adoption. We tap into a rich seam of God’s grace and love, but all too often we act as if we are unaware of its true worth. Sometimes it seems as if we are picking out the lead and leaving the more valuable silver as dross. When we read through Romans, despite the reality check of chapter seven, part of us, at the back of our minds, thinks that this is to good to be true. Therefore it is easy to fall into the faith plus works mentality. The prodigal son in the parable expected that he would have to work as a slave for his father so that he might work his way back to his father’s good books. Instead he was surprised to be welcomed back as a son. Of course, if the prodigal son had somehow turned up unexpectedly and demanded to be restored as a son and tell the father to kill the fatted calf to celebrate his return without a hint of remorse he would have been unlikely to find that his father would agree to his demands. In the parable itself it was the very fact that the prodigal was penitent and humbled that enabled the father to restore his son. But the elder brother in us fails to accept God’s grace when he bestows it on others, especially after we think we have been let down by them. So we expect others to jump through hoops that we are not prepared jump through ourselves.
For a moment let us look at the relationship between natural parents and their offspring. What would it take for natural parents to disown their children? Despite the sleepless nights, nappies to be changed, the babies being sick all over them, etc., most parents will still love their children. Of course, they do expect their children to grow up and be less dependent on them. The children themselves do nothing to earn their parents love, especially in their early months, the parents love them because they are their children. Likewise, with God, He first loved us and while we were still sinners Christ died for us. However, if all we think we are doing as we mutter a version of the ‘sinners’ prayer’ is buying a fire insurance policy then we will be looking for exclusion clauses that will exclude us form its protection. They will be prone to fear. They begin to doubt the sufficiency of Christ as a covering. The danger might be after all that they might wish to exchange that for a nice set of the “emperor’s new clothes.”
David Rose, 2018.