This question came in via Twitter after Sunday’s message on 1 John 2:3-6, which dealt with “keeping His commandments.”
Question: “If we know a tree by its fruits and are told faith without works is dead… do you believe it’s possible for someone to call themselves a Christian and never have fruit or good works in their life?”
There is a lot to unpack here. The goal of gathering as a church is to provoke one another to love and good works. Sometimes when I’m called to defend infantile Christians, I feel like I’m encouraging carnality. Please know that I’m not. I want all of us to walk in the light, hand-in-hand with Jesus!
With that said, justification is separate from works (Rom 4:5). I am justified by faith (Ibid). When I am justified, I am forgiven (Eph 1:7), I am sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13), I am adopted by the Father (Rom 8:15), I am redeemed (Eph 1:7), I receive eternal life (John 3:16), I’m baptized by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13); etc. I can’t lose any of those things, even if I do it wrong. And some people will: “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet only so as through fire.” 1 Cor 3:15.
It’s true there are lots of warnings about living wrongly. I believe that the”fruits” warning to which you allude, which is found in Matthew 7, is a reference to false teachers and it lines up with my premise about 1 John. Don’t listen to someone who discounts their words with their actions.
As to the argument is James, I try to to keep this blog to one page but it’s an interesting study to compare and contrast Abraham’s faith experience in Genesis 15:6:
“Then he believed in the Lord; and He credited it to him as righteousness.”
And Genesis 22:
“He said, ‘Do not reach out your hand against the boy, and do not do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”’
In Romans 4 Paul referred to Genesis 15 to make his case of justification by faith. In James chapter 2, James used Genesis 22 to make his case for justification by works. I submit that the first was justification before God, the second was justification before man (Abraham, himself in this case). I believe that we can understand much of the apparent difference between James and Paul if we understand Paul was concerned about our justification before God and James wanted his congregation to get off the couch! 🙂
We all love babies; 25-year-old babies make us cringe. Don’t be a baby any longer than you have to be! (Hebrews 5:11-14) 🙂
P.S. If someone persists in acting like the Holy Spirit does not reside in his heart, share Jesus with him!