Posts Tagged Law

Dissecting the James Dilemma-Part 1

I have spent enough time both in and out of the flock to know which Bible verses give believers fits, and James 2:14-26 probably tops the list:

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:14-26 (KJV)

I must confess, I’m not entirely sure I’ve heard a truly satisfactory reconciliation of this passage in James and Paul, specifically,  “Therefore we conclude that man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28. I think the reason is because there is an attempted reconciliation where none is necessary.

Explanations usually begin with an acknowledgment of an apparent contradiction then employ circularity to explain why the two are not contradictory (e.g. the Bible cannot contradict itself, therefore there is no contradiction). Other explanations suggest James really means something other than what he is saying. These are equally problematic.

Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that all such explanations are necessarily aimed at an opposing logical fallacy, the straw man that the two are contradictory.

Paul clearly maintains that one is justified by faith, regardless of works. James clearly maintains that one is justified by faith and works. The assertion that these positions contradict each other is only valid if justification is a one-time event, and only a one-time event. If justification is both an event and a process, there is no contradiction.

Was Abraham justified by faith apart from works? Yes. Was Abraham also justified by his subsequent works? Yes.

To say that “faith without works is dead” means “faith alone is insufficient for justification” is simply a misunderstanding of the faith/works relationship. In James 2:22 he writes, “and by works was faith made perfect.” What came first? Faith, by which Abraham was initially made righteous. Then, works which worked to perfect that faith. Thus, Abraham was made righteous by his faith and continued to be made righteous by the perfection of his faith through works.

In Part 2, I will discuss the nature of works and whether any ol’ good works will do.

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Announcement for Office of County Judge

Yesterday, I announced my intent to file for the office of County Judge for Nolan County, Texas. The announcement ran in our local newspaper, so I thought I would share that bit of information here as well.

The front page article: Lopez announces intent to file for county judge position, along with the accompanying family photo.

The office will be on the primary election ballot in March and on the general election ballot in November. This is a new direction for me and my family, but one we have come into agreement about. We are looking forward to the campaign and the opportunity to serve the citizens of Nolan County.

Campaign and election news and updates will be posted on petermlopez.com (my firm website), so please keep updated there.

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Hebrews Bible Study Week 7

The goal for this week was to cover two chapters, but we only made it through chapter 8. I suppose it was a little ambitious to try and cover chapters 8 and 9, but 9 will just have to wait until next week.

In verse 1, the author is again referencing Psalm 110, a Messianic Psalm which the author has referenced repeatedly throughout the book of Hebrews. And he or she says:

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. Hebrews 8:1-2 (NASB)

The high priest, who is also the Messiah, has taken his place in Heaven and in the true tabernacle. This is the end of the need for sacrifices. The high priest has now entered the heavenly sanctuary and is now the mediator of a better covenant, the old now being obsolete.

So that it is clear, this is not a reference to the Abrahamic land grant covenant, but to the Mosaic covenant. Until the high priest became the mediator of the new covenant, the law was written in stone. Now the laws are in the hearts and minds of the believers.

This principle actually led to the liveliest discussion of the evening in our effort to determine when and how this imprinting upon the hearts and minds takes place. Does it occur upon becoming a believer, at baptism, during the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Without reaching definite conclusions, I think the general consensus was that (1) the Holy Spirit is the mechanism, and (2) it happens when the Holy Spirit becomes activated by faith in Jesus (which we also believed was distinct from the baptism in the Holy Spirit – which could happen simultaneously, but doesn’t always, or even usually).

We again were landed with a ministry opportunity which consumed a fair amount of the time, but the tradeoff was well worth it.

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A Different Type of Blog Listing

Beauty of the Bible was recently listed on an altogether different type of blog list, the Texas Bar Blog’s list of Texas lawyer blogs. It’s obviously not a list of exclusively legal or law-related blogs, but it is a list made up exclusively of blogs published by Texas lawyers.

There are also humor, food, news and other non-legal blogs. If you need a little more to read, you might check it out.

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Hebrews Bible Study-Week 6

My intention for week 6 was to cover all of Hebrews chapter 7. But, you know what they say about intentions (actually, I have no idea what they say about intentions, but it sounded good in my head).

Suffice it to say, we didn’t make it through all of chapter 7, but the discussion was great anyway. It seems that ministry opportunity after ministry opportunity has presented itself during our Bible study (and, henceforth, I will use that term loosely). I’m just trusting that God is trusting our little group with these ministry needs, and I am so thankful for our core group who is more than capable of ministering the gospel, ragtag bunch that we are.

We did, however, cover the first 10 verses of chapter 7, which is progress from the pace we were on in chapter 6 (summary part 1, part 2 and notes). So, for that, I am also thankful.

We spent a fair amount of time recapping what we learned about Melchizedek in week 3 because it has, in real time, been over a month since we discussed it. To this Melchizedek, Abraham apportioned one tenth of the spoils (from his battle with the kidnapping kings). We discussed this as the first reference to the Mosaic law of tithing. Also, that the author of Hebrews suggests this as a tithe:

And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. Hebrews 7:9-10 (NASB)

And, although we are not under the law of Moses, the spiritual principle of making the whole holy by tithing remains operable. And, while we give our tithes to men, Jesus receives them in heaven, “In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on.” Heb. 7:8. Thus the principle of the tithe predates the law of Moses and continues on through the New Covenant.

As I mentioned, the balance of our discussion time was spent ministering to the newest member of our group. It was yet another unexpected, but totally awesome week. May there be plenty more of them.

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What if God had Texted the 10 Commandments

The youth at our church (RAMP – forgive me, I am out of the loop on this particular church acronym) are so clever. The result of said cleverness: Texting the 10 Commandments.

It’s quite entertaining, worth the short time it will take you to read it. There are a couple of versions, one original and the other attributed to someone else. Enjoy!

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Proposed Amendment to the Ten Commandments

Admittedly, I wrote this in my newly-saved days, in response to all of the email forwards I was getting. But I thought it was pretty funny then, and I happened across it today, and I still think it’s pretty funny:

The Lord’s House Bill No. 0001

AN ACT of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, relating to the distribution, dissemination, and/or duplication of electronic message transmittals (e-mails) the subject of which is, involves, or in any manner relates to the Lord God Almighty, the Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the believers and followers thereof, and/or any combination thereof.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY THAT:

The HOLY BIBLE, OLD COVENANT and NEW COVENANT, the Books of THE EXODUS, Chapter 20; THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SAINT MATTHEW, Chapter 34; and THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SAINT MARK, Chapter 12 are hereby amended as follows:

THE EXODUS, Chapter 20:1. And God spoke all these words:
20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
20:4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
20:5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
20:6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
20:7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
20:9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
20:10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.
20:11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
20:13 “You shall not murder.
20:14 “You shall not commit adultery.
20:15 “You shall not steal.
20:16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
20:18 “You shall not delete any e-mail you receive concerning me or my kingdom and you shall immediately forward same to all of your neighbors.
20:18 20:19 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance Ex 20:19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW, Chapter 22:34. Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.
22:35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
22:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
22:37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
22:39 And tThe second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
22:40 And the third is: ‘Forward all e-mails you receive about me and my Father to all your neighbors that you may prove your love.’
22:4022:41 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two three commandments.”

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARK, Chapter 12:28. One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
12:29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
12:31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
12:32 The third is this: ‘Forward all e-mails you receive about me and my father to your neighbors out of love. There is no commandment greater than these.”
12:32 12:33 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 12:33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

If anyone is interested in printing this, here is the pdf file (The Lord’s House Bill).

YOU CAN FORWARD IT TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS, AND ASK THEM TO FORWARD IT TO ALL OF THEIRS.

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Question: Can You Be Legalistic About Anti-Legalism?

I hope that I am as anti-legalism as they come (which is funny seeing as how I am a lawyer by trade).  However, I was wondering if you can actually become legalistic about being anti-legalism.

I hope to one day be as bold and comfortable in my own skin about my views of legalism as the Apostle Paul was, but I sure want to avoid becoming legalistic about it.  It’s just something I have been thinking about lately.  Any thoughts?

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To Which Well Are We Drawn?

My wife, my mother and I were returning from a trip to Dallas a couple of weeks ago, and we began discussing John 4. The question was posed, “Why do we still thirst?” It’s clear from the text of John 4 that if we drink of the water provided by Christ, we will not thirst.

John 4:1 Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3 He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. 4 And He had to pass through Samaria.

5 So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; 6 and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

11 She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?”

13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”

It has been my experience that most Christians I know try quite to hard drink of the water Jesus claims to provide, yet they still thirst (myself included). Therein lies the problem. We try really, really hard to drink of the right water, but our very effort indicates that we are trying to drink from the wrong well.

John 4 is so rich in symbolism and meaning, it’s easy to get lost in it, and it would take a whole series of posts to begin to cover it, but one point is key to the question posed (Why do we thirst?). And that point is this, we need to drink of the water that is freely given, not that we have to go and draw for ourselves.

This story of one Samaritan woman’s encounter with the Jewish Messiah is a beautiful portrait of law and grace. Here we have Jesus telling a Samaritan woman that she will never be completely satisfied by drinking from Jacob’s well, but only by drinking from the water that He will freely give.

How often do we retreat to drinking from Jacob’s well? Probably more often we would like, and certainly more often than is necessary. It is almost incomprehensible, especially to those of us who grew up in America, that we can never satisfy our thirst by our own efforts. We instill in children from a very early age to work hard, make good grades, and do the best that they possibly can, and I will do the same with my children. But, the lesson in our constant return to Jacob’s well is that we can never attain through our own efforts what we can attain through God’s gift of grace.

This truth is not limited to our efforts to achieve righteousness through obedience to the law, we simply cannot. It is through the gift of grace that we are made righteous and enabled to live righteously. This principle is applicable to every aspect of our lives.

It is no different for the study of God’s word. You can spend hours, days, or even years reading the Bible, commentaries, and researching and never comprehend a simple passage better than you will with a tiny drop of God’s grace in revelation. I often find myself praying about scripture after several days of struggling with something, only to find that a simple prayer for God’s help was all that was required. I wonder how much better my study would be if I intentionally begin by doing what I will most likely end up doing anyway.

If we all apply this principle of receiving freely before we begin doing, the doing part might get a whole lot easier and the receiving a whole lot better.

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