From the WCF 20.3:
"They who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, do practise any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life. (Gal. 5:13, 1 Pet. 2:16, 2 Pet. 2:19, John 8:34, Luke 1:74-75)"
- Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
- 1 Peter 2:16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
- 2 Peter 2:19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
- John 8:34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
- Luke 1:74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
- Luke 1:75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
The entire section in question is more about the tyranny of views such as Rome's that would seek to bind men's consciousness. See especially the previous Section 2 of the same chapter in the WCF. God alone is the Lord of our conscience
and we are responsible only to His authority.
means we are delivered
- from the guilt of sin and the curse of the moral law;
- from the bondage of sin as an inherent principle of our nature; we are delivered from the evil of afflictions and the sting of death (The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, but Our Lord has delivered us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.); and
- from the bondage of Satan and the dominating influence of this present evil world.
- from the victory of the grave and everlasting damnation.
Thus we have peace with God. Our liberty, however, is not absolute. Ultimately we have opportunity to serve God according to His will without hindrance from man, and as long as we do not hinder our fellow man, who has equal liberties and rights in organized societies. It would be nonsense and wicked for a man to make his Christian liberty to obey only God
a plea to disobey God, as he does whenever he violates any of the principles of natural right or of revealed truth which express at once the unchangeable nature and the all-perfect will of God. There can be no liberty which sets a man independent of that will; and this is always the will of God concerning us, even our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3).
This section cannot be teaching that sin destroys the relationship with God to the point of unbelief
, for this contrary to the perseverance of the saints taught in Scripture (John 10:28-30; Rom. 8:28-39; 1 John 2:19). Though the elect may for a time fall into radical sin (such as Peter's denial of Christ), God restores them to fellowship with Himself and assures their eternal salvation. This salvation involves the work of the Trinity. All who are chosen by God the Father, redeemed by Christ the Son, and given faith by the Holy Spirit, are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end. They persevere in faith because He preserves them (John 3:16; 6:35-40; 6:44;10:27-29; Rom. 8:28-39; Phil. 1:6; 2:12-13; Eph. 1:13-14; Jude 24-25).
We are God's workmanship (Eph. 2:10). If God is not able to equip His covenant people to persevere, then He cannot really offer eternal life. Confident Christians are more fruitful.
James is not teaching a works based salvation
. The problem is solved when we realize that James is condemning a profession of faith without any evident fruit. Paul everywhere notes that faith unites to Christ and that union produces fruit in the lives of believers. James is challenging the man who says he has faith in Christ but there is no fruit. His faith is like the bare belief that the demons possess about Christ but everything in his life points to something else than the kind of faith that is Spirit wrought and that produces Christ-likeness in real believers.
When James speaks of Abraham he is speaking of Abraham's faith being justified not in a forensic sense but that his faith is justified by his works. It is shown to be genuine faith
in the works that it produces. Thus the same notion that Paul has that faith and good works are distinct but never separated is maintained. One has to do more than simply quote the verse but to follow James' reasoning. He is clearly not saying: "Paul said a man is justified by faith but I say that a man is justified by faith and works." He even asks whether a false faith can save a man before pointing out how Abraham's faith was justified as genuine by the fact that, when push came to shove, Abraham's belief in God caused him to act in a way that demonstrated the fruit of the reality he possessed.
that Paul commends is not the faith
that James condemns, and the works
that James commends are not the works
that Paul condemns.
Regardless of how one formulates this, two facts stand out:
1. When Paul uses justification language, he is using it in the judicial sense of "not guilty based on the imputed righeousness of Christ
2. When James uses justification language, he is using it in the way of showing something to be genuine
. They are not addressing the same issue. Paul is addressing legalism, whereas James is addressing antinomianism.
James clearly supplements Paul's teachings, both men united in that justification is by the grace of God alone through faith, and that faith will result, necessarily, in works. In condemnation of the worldly nature that had befallen some in the church (James 1:27; 4:4), the over fifty commands in the one hundred and eight verses in the book teach us the practical nature
of our belief, that we are called to put our faith into action
, and this action is the key distinguishing mark of the true believer.
Works were, are, and always will be fruits and evidence of justifying faith. A person's gifts cannot be accepted before the person himself is accepted. If the person is a criminal, in the eyes of the law an appeal to gifts is seen as bribery and a perversion of justice.