Are You Ready – Right Now?

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He was Rabonni.  Master.  Teacher.

He taught his students in terms of the spiritual despite the fact that their preconceptions kept them hearing, more often than not, in terms of the physical. They were looking to overthrow the Emperor of Rome; He was looking to overthrow the Prince of the power of the air,

Now imagine if Jesus had begun his very first Bible class with the twelve following introduction:

“Men,” he says, “Big changes are on the horizon. Judaism and the old Mosaic regime is about to come to a close. The Ten Commandments will no longer be in effect. Animal sacrifices will cease. Circumcision of the flesh will be a thing of the past. There will be no more High Priesthood – at least, not as you know it now. The Sabbath, with all of its fleshly ordinances, will be brought to an end. Regulations that your families have kept for generations will be made obsolete. What was once unclean will now be considered clean…”

How do you suppose Peter, James, John and their fellow-classmates would have responded to that kind of information?

Of course, these statements were correct (Romans 7:2, 6; Ephesians 2:14-15; Colossians 2:14ff; Hebrews 8-10), but it’s obvious they wouldn’t have been in any way prepared for them. Yes, the law was for Israel only (Deuteronomy 4:7-8), yes, the law constituted a temporary system (Jeremiah 31:31-32), yes, the law was about to become obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), and a new and better was about to be established; but none of these twelve freshmen were mature enough to stomach that kind of doctrinal meat – at least not yet.

Jesus knew that – and that’s why He waited; He did not tell them what they were not ready to hear. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).

Christian teachers need to remember this important principle today. Typically folks have to get the hang of addition, subtraction and division before they wrestle with algebra, geometry and physics. They learn the basics and fundamentals first, then they are incrementally challenged with higher mathematics.

What is true in the realm of academics also ought to be true in matters pertaining to the Faith. Typically people need to learn the difference between the Law of Moses and  the Law of Christ before they’re told that instruments of music in worship are sinful.  It’s not that instrumental music is an inconsequential matter and shouldn’t be addressed (Colossians 3:16-17); it’s a matter of readiness and timing.

We can convey the right information at the wrong time in the learning curve. What did Jesus tell the twelve? “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them YET.”

When we fail to prepare the heart – soil of our peers, try simply to win doctrinal arguments, and/or show others just how much (or little) we know about the Bible, more often than not, we shut out the very souls we were meant to convert. When we force information upon them when they’re not ready to hear it, we’re simply scattering the Seed-Word on blacktop.

It’s not that our friends will never accept the truth at some point in the future; it’s that they usually aren’t ready at Bible study #1 for deeper concepts of doctrine. It’s addition – then algebra, Testament – then worship, milk – then meat (cf. Hebrews 5:12ff).

Jesus, the Master Teacher, knew that. He prepared the hearts of his students for the reception of important truths. He reiterated ideas. He gave little tests. He spoke in figures and parables. He planted little seeds of faith, water them, fertilized them and then he waited for growth and maturity.

Christian teachers and evangelists would do well to remember his example.

 

Does God Have Alzheimer’s?

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MY FRIEND HAS been carefully monitoring her grandmother for some time.

There have been signals.  Telltale signs.  Inexplicable actions.

Lately they have been much more pronounced and observable.  This is not simply “old age”; this is symptomatic of something far worse.  Her grandmother doesn’t just forget something, she simply can’t remember.  She can’t recall people or how to do the simplest of tasks.  Faces have no context.  Loved ones are total strangers.  It’s as if her mind is a sort of computer hard drive that has been irrevocably erased.  The data is all gone.  The external components are still intact, but there are no files to open and review.

Now my friend’s family has been forced to make a heart-wrenching decision—to put grandmother into a nursing home.  Grandma will never return to her old homestead.  Her home with its treasures and precious memories will be emptied and divided among her loved ones.  Alzheimer’s has claimed yet another unsuspecting victim.

What would it be like to not be able to remember?  What would it be like to forget?  What would it be like to lose the ability to function normally because your memories are being incrementally erased from your mind?  Imagine her dreadful plight.  She can see, hear, and move, but she can’t remember.  Names mean nothing to her.  Every face is an unknown.  She is an infant in an old woman’s body, at best.  I shudder to think about it.  I am sad for my friend and her family.

But it occurs to me that God also has a similar affliction—figuratively speakingHe can’t remember like He used toPerhaps it might be more appropriate to say that “He DOESN’T recall as He used to…”  No, that’s not a misprint; The “Ancient of Days” doesn’t recall things as He once did.  You might say it’s a divine form of Alzheimer’s.  Don’t believe me?  Read the following passage and pay special attention to verse 34:

31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their [b]hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

You may be thinking, “But Mike, how can this be?  God is incapable of not remembering.”

In order for us to address this apparent dilemma, let’s notice a few Scriptural points:

  1. God is all-knowing (1 Samuel 2:3; Psalm 139:1-6; 147:4-5; 40:5; Matthew 10:29-30; Romans 1:19-20.)
  2. For God to not know or remember something would mean that He is not omniscient.
  3. God remembers sin in the sense that He knows everything, past, present, and future.
  4. Under the Law of Moses, sins were remembered each year on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16; 23:26-32)—

“But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year” (Hebrews 10.3).  This annual remembrance was necessary in order that God’s people a) would be made conscious (Hebrews 10.2) of the enormity of their transgressions as well as b) what was required in order to atone for them.  Sin is a type of debt (Romans 6.23.)

So when the high priest offered the blood of innocent animals on behalf of the nation, the people were forced to see and remember the consequences—both physically and spiritually—of what they had done.

Think of it this way.  Think of paying off your car loan.  Each month the bank remembers that you have a car payment—and every month it mails you a reminder.  You pay on the debt for several months in a row until eventually you pay off the car and the entire debt is—to borrow from Jeremiah—“remembered no more.”  Now once the loan is paid off, does the bank forget that you bought the car, or that you had a bill to pay?  We would agree and say, “Of course not.”  The bank still keeps a record of your debt, but it acknowledges that the debt has been cancelled and, therefore, no longer held against your account.

Well, God has a record of our sin—because He can’t forget anything, but now under the new and better covenant (Hebrews 8;6ff), there is no need for perennial, repetitive sacrifices (i.e., bank reminders.)  By virtue of the “once and for all” (Hebrews 10:5-18) payment/sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9.13-15), God no longer remembers our sins (Isaiah 43.25) or charges them against our accountHe treats us as if we had never sinned; He, in essence, forgets (Jeremiah 31:34b; cf. Micah 7:18-20.)

How Did Jesus Lead?

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The Leadership Principles of Jesus #1

“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up…” (Mat. 17:1a; cf. Mark 9:2a).

1. Jesus didn’t just SEND His disciples; He LED His disciples.

OBSERVATION:  A leader goes before and with his followers.  He takes them along with him and shows them the way.

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“Jesus…led them up on a high mountain by themselves” (Mat. 17:1).

2. Jesus didn’t merely lead His disciples; He lead them to a HIGH MOUNTAIN.

Mountains matter in Matthew’s account (cf. 5-7; 14:23; 15:29-38; 24-25; 28:16-20).  God spoke in the Old Testament to Moses (Exo. 19-20) as well as Elijah (1 Kgs. 19:12) on a mountain.  Peter later referred to this place as “the holy mountain” (2 Pet. 1:18).

OBSERVATION:  A leader doesn’t simply move his followers from one location to another; He challenges them and takes them to a higher place.

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“And He was transfigured before them.  His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light” (v. 2).

3. Jesus didn’t simply change Himself; He TRANSFORMED His disciples.

Scripture declares that the Lord was transfigured before Peter, James, and John.  The Greek word is metamorphoo—from which we get our English words “metamorphosis” and “metamorphic.”  It refers to a change on the outside that comes from the inside (e.g., like a caterpillar into a butterfly).

Jesus was still Jesus—but He was dramatically different (Lk. 9:29); His appearance was miraculously altered.  Unlike Moses, who reflected God’s glory (Exo. 34:29-35), Jesus by contrast, actually radiated His Father’s brilliance from within Himself (cf. Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3) as a reminder of a) His heavenly origin (John 3:33; 6:33, 38, 41-42, 50-51, 58; Eph. 4:10), b) His pre-incarnate splendor (John 1:14; 17:5; Phil. 2:6-7), c) His exaltation from the grave (Mat. 28:3), and d) His eventual and final coming at the end of time (Acts 1:11; Col. 3:4; 1 Tim. 6:13-16).

Peter, James, and John were strongly affected by the transfiguration.  Years later, Peter commented on this very circumstance and said, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.  For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’  And we (emphasis mine—mb) heard this voice which came from heaven…” (2 Pet. 1:16-18a).

The trio didn’t concoct what happened to Jesus on the mountain.  Rather, they were first-hand eye-and-ear witnesses of the divine glory of Jesus!  They went from humble Galilean fisherman (Mat. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11) to devoted apostles of the Lord who were willing to live, preach, suffer and die for Him (cf. Acts 4-5, 12)!  Like their Master, they too were transformed (cf. Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18) into lights in a world of darkness (Eph. 5:7-8).

OBSERVATION:  A real leader must first change himself before He can expect his followers to change.

Was Muhammad Really A Champion of Women’s Rights?

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MY COMMENTS CONCERN an article which appeared in the Friday, May 24th issue of the Anniston Star.

Specifically, I am referencing the FAITH section of the paper (i.e., Religion Roundtable) where local religionists respond to questions of faith, interpretation, and practice.

Mr. Muhammad Haq, cleric for the local Anniston Islamic Center wrote: “Prophet Muhammad was not only a champion of human rights (emphasis mine, mb)–including women, children…”

With the utmost kindness and respect to Mr. Haq, both history as well as Islam’s two most sacred books (the Qur’an and the Hadith), tell a very different story.

Consider:

FACT:  Muhammad engaged in wife-beating–with the authorization of the Qur’an.  The Hadith (which records the traditions or sayings of Muhammad and is second only to the rule of the Qur’an) says he hit his girl-bride, Aisha (who was between the ages of 6-9): “He (Muhammad) struck me (Aisha) on the chest which caused me pain” (Muslim no. 2127).  The Qur’an says, “If you fear highmindedness from your wives, remind them (of the teaching of Allah), then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them (emphasis mind–mb).  If they obey you, you have no right to act against them” (Sura 4:34).  The Pickthall translation of the same passage says, ‘Men are in charge of women because Allah hath made the one to excel the other…  As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them (mb).

FACT:  Muhammad was a polygamist and treated his wives with disdain.  Hussein Haykal (popular Muslim biographer who authored The Life of Muhammad) says, “the wives of the Prophet went so far as to plot against their husband.”  Haykal then explains the motivation for their conspiratorial behavior.  “He (Muhammad) often ignored some of his wives, and avoided others on many occasions.”  Ironically, Muhammad supposedly received a revelation from God that a man could have no more than four wives at one time, but he himself had fifteen (cf. Sura 33:5).

FACT:  Muhammad claimed to have received a divine revelation which sanctioned him to marry Zainab, the divorced wife of his adopted son (Sura 33:37).  Oddly enough, the divorce was caused by the prophet’s own “admiration” for Zainab’s beauty.”

No, Muhammad was no champion of human rights, and certainly no champion of women’s rights in particular.

The sinless Christ (John 8:46) is the ONLY prophet who truly championed the role and rights of women (Gen. 2:18; Prov. 18:22; 31:10, 28; Gal. 3:28).

He alone deserves our allegiance (John 14:6).

Is There Really Only One?

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ARE YOU SITTING in front of your home computer?  Give this a try, please.  Do a Google search and type in, “The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches Concord Baptist Church,” or simply copy and paste the following address into your browser window:  http://www.concordbaptistchurchcc.org/Hiscox_Standard.pdf.  Your screen should open up to a PDF copy of an old book which at one time was a part of Princeton Theological library.  Each page of the publication has been scanned and then turned into a document for you to read on line.

“The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches” was written by Edward Thurston Hiscox and first published in 1890.  Mr. Hiscox was born Aug. 24, 1814 in Westerly, Rhode Island:  http://baptisthistoryhomepage.com/hiscox.edward.t.bio.html.

But go back to the Standard Manual in the PDF and then scroll down all the way to page 22.  At the top left of the page you’ll find the page number.  You’ll also notice “CHAPTER IV” in capital type.  Underneath that it says, “CHURCH MEMBERSHIP.”  Since this book is referred to as a manual for Baptist churches, I wanted to see what Mr. Hiscox had to say about how an individual might become a member of the church.

Now start reading please at the beginning of the paragraph.  Read it slowly and thoughtfully.  Watch the opening sentence, “It is most likely that in the Apostolic age…” (emphasis mine—mb).

“What exactly was the Apostolic age?” you ask.  The Apostolic age was that period of biblical history during which the apostles, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13-15; Acts 1:8; 2:4), led the first-century church—from Pentecost in A.D. 33 until the end of the first century, when the revelation of God’s word was completed.

Initially the Word of God (e.g., the New Testament) was revealed to the twelve (2 Peter 1:21).  They spoke it and then eventually wrote it down as it was given to them (1 Cor. 2:6-16) in pieces—in parts (1 Cor. 13:9).  With the passing of time, those documents were eventually gathered, collected, copied and finally put into the format of what we know as the New Testament or Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now keep reading and pay special attention to the next phrase in the online PDF.  Mr. Hiscox says that during that time period when the early church was being led by the Holy Spirit (i.e., the Apostolic age), “there was but ‘one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,’ and no differing denominations existed.”

Did you catch that?  There was only one Lord, there was, by this particular time, only one valid baptism (see Wayne Jackson’s article, “Is Holy Spirit Baptism Available Today?” at https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/519-is-holy-spirit- baptism-available-today), and one faith (Eph. 4:5).

“One Lord, one faith, one baptism, and no differing denominations existed…”  Mr. Hiscox, a Baptist, admitted that in the first century, during the Apostolic age, there was only ONE faith, not many.  “Mike—what are you saying?  What does that mean?”  That means in the Apostolic age, when the apostles were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of Christ, there weren’t 33,000+ different religious faiths as we have today, there was only one system of faith—the faith (singular).  Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blYqM4HaWdw.

There was no Baptist faith, no Methodist faith, no Episcopalian faith, no Presbyterian faith, no Lutheran faith, no Charismatic/Pentecostal faith, no Anglican faith, no Mormon faith, etc., there was only one faith—THE faith.    

Got your New Testament and an on-line concordance?  Look up the phrase, “the faith” in your Bible.  Sometimes “faith” refers to an individual’s level of trust in Christ (Acts 6:8; 11:24; 1 Cor. 2:5; 15:14), but sometimes “faith” refers to “the faith” (e.g., the body of doctrine known as the gospel of Christ—the system of faith, cf. 2 John 9).

Note several examples:

  • Luke said a great many priests were obedient to “the faith” (Acts 6:7b; cf. 2 Thess. 1:8).
  • Elymas the sorcerer tried to the proconsul away from “the faith” (13:8).
  • Paul exhorted disheartened members of the church to “continue in ‘the faith’” (Acts 14:22; cf. 16:5).
  • Felix and Drucilla listened to Paul preach about “the faith” (24:24).
  • Paul told the church at Corinth to “stand fast in the faith” (1 Cor. 16:13).
  • He later exhorted them to examine themselves to make sure they were “in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5).
  • Paul himself had left Judaism and converted to “the faith” (Gal. 1:23; cf. 3:23).
  • The apostle urged the congregation at Colossae to continue in “the faith” (Col. 1:23).
  • He condemned those men who failed to care for the financial responsibilities of their family, and in so doing, had denied “the faith” (1 Tim. 5:8).
  • The same apostle spoke of those who would eventually depart and fall from “the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1).
  • Jude reminded his readers to contend earnestly for “the faith” (Jude 3; cf. Phil. 1:16).

Remember the passage that Mr. Hiscox alluded to in Ephesians 4:4?  Paul said there was “one Lord, ONE FAITH, one baptism…”  What’s the one faith?  Again, it is THE faith—the system of faith, the body of doctrine, the gospel—as opposed to “a” faith (i.e. one of many faiths).

Now go back to Mr. Hiscox’s book online and re-read the sentence:  “It is most likely that in the Apostolic age when there was but “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,’ and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act, constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership.  In that sense, ‘baptism was the door into the church.’  Now it is different…”

Why, my friend?  Why is it different?  Why are there thousands of faiths today as opposed to ONE FAITH?  Why, as Mr. Hiscox correctly pointed out, during the Apostolic age when the twelve were guided by the infallible Holy Spirit of God that baptism was the door into the ONE FAITH in the first-century, but now it is different?  Since according to the ONE FAITH/doctrine immersion was the one door/way into the body (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:27) of Christ (Gal. 3:27), what occurred to change that?

Mr. Hiscox was absolutely correct.  In the first century there was only one faith.   Protestant denominationalism didn’t come into existence until the early 16th century as a reaction to medieval Roman Catholic false doctrines and practices.  History itself concedes this point (http://whyaretheresomanychurches.com/).

Now consider the implications of our brief study:

  1. If the Bible is the inspired word of God—and it is (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and if until the New Testament was finally and completely brought together (Eph. 4:13), there was only ONE FAITH (see above), how can we today—as mere humans (Prov. 14:12; Judg. 21:25), sanction what the Holy Spirit of Christ obviously did not? How can we have thousands of religious bodies, all wearing different names, all authorizing and following different and often contradictory practices, and still be pleasing to the Lord?  The answer is, we can’t; it’s simply impossible (1 Cor. 1:10-17; 2 Thess. 3:14; 2 John 9).
  2. If Jesus is married to the church, and He is (Rom. 7:4), but the church is many and not one, then He’s a polygamist with thousands of wives (Mat. 19:6). That means while He taught and commanded monogamy, He actually practices the very opposite!
  3. If Jesus is the head of the body/church (Eph. 1:22; 5:22; Col. 1:18), and He is, but the church has many bodies not one, then He’s over a grossly deformed, totally handicapped figure. Can one head be connected to and control thousands of separate and distinct bodies?
  4. If Jesus is the King of the kingdom/church (Mat. 16:16-18; Col. 1:13; 1 Tim. 6:15), and He is, but the kingdom is divided into thousands of divided and antagonistic factions, then He plead for (Mat. 12:25; Luke 11:17) and prayed for (John 17) unity, but He accepts and actually endorses division, dissention, schism and discord!

“Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:3-6).  Dear reader, are you a member of the ONE FAITH?

Is Jesus Deity?

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THE WATCHTOWER SOCIETY makes some startling claims about Jesus.

Go to their official website and you will discover that they urge readers to “consider what the Bible really teaches about Jesus Christ,” and then informs them:

  • He was God’s first creation and therefore had a beginning.
  • He is not equal to God and “never even considered trying to be equal” to God.

It doesn’t take exceptional insight to see where this is going.  Clearly, JW doctrine wants people to believe that Jesus is not deity.

Does the evidence of Scripture confirm this idea?

Open your Bible and then study the following:

  1.  Jesus is recognized as deity.  He was to be called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (Mat. 1:23).  When Thomas saw the resurrected Christ he said, “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28).  Paul said explicitly, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).  As Stephen stood at the threshold of death, Luke records that he called on “God saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59).
  2. Jesus possesses the attributes of deity.  He knows all things (John 2:25; 6:64).  He is all powerful (Isa. 9:6; Heb. 1:3).  He is eternal (Mic. 5:2).
  3. Jesus’ works are those of deity.  He has power to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7; Eph. 1:7).  He gives eternal life (John 10:28; 17:2).  He will judge the world (John 5:22, 27).  He controlled nature (Mat. 8:26).
  4. Jesus is worshiped as deity.  He is worshiped by angels (Heb. 1:6) as well as by man (Mat. 2:1, 2; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 18:26; 28:9, 17; John 9:38; Phil. 2:10), and yet only God is to receive such homage (Exo. 34:14; Mat. 4:10).

No, the Bible does not support WatchTower dogma.

Jesus is deity; He is God.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).

Can You Describe Jochebed’s Faith?

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“So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive’” (Exo. 1:22).

“And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi.  So the woman conceived and bore a son.  And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months.  But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank.  And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him” (Exo. 2:1-4).

Consider Jochebed’s Faith:  

  • Despite Pharaoh’s decree, this mother was UNSWAYED by his threats; she worked her faith (Heb. 11:23).
  • Despite Pharaoh’s decree, this mother kept her son in the SHADE of her private care; she worked her faith (Exo. 2:2).
  • Despite Pharaoh’s decree, this mother MADE an ark to protect her son; she worked her faith (v. 3a).
  • Despite Pharaoh’s decree, this mother LAID her son in an ark along the bank of the river; she worked her faith (v. 3b).
  • Despite Pharaoh’s decree, this mother made sure her daughter STAYED and kept eyes on her little brother; Jochebed worked her faith (v. 4).
  • Despite Pharaoh’s decree, this mother soon became the NURSEMAID to her boy—she worked her faith (vv. 7-9).
  • Lastly, despite Pharaoh’s decree, this mother CONVEYED the will of Jehovah to her boy—she worked her faith (Heb. 11:24ff).

“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas. 2:17).

“But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:20).

“You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24).

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (Jas. 2:26).