the Spirit Watch
The "Do Scriptures" Twisted By Gwen Shamblin : An 8 Part Bible Study
James 2:24 Rightly Divided #1
By Rev. Rafael D Martinez, Spiritwatch Ministries
Father in heaven, we come boldly to you in the name of your Son. We don't put our trust in men, but in you. We believe you're more than able to bring to our hearts and minds the understanding You want us to have from Your Word. You sent your Spirit to be our teacher, to impart that into us individually and personally in the ways we each individually learn, so we ask now that You open our eyes, hearts and minds in only the way that You can do so. Your Word is truth, and you said that you are the Spirit of Truth. In that we rest today, and trust you will lead us to discern between truth and error and thank you for what You will show each of us, that we might follow and worship you in joy and integrity .. and that we might put aside from us that which distorts your Word and silence the voices of those who say they speak in Your name and instead follow their own fables. This we ask in the Name of your Son, thanking and praising you, amen!
The Scripture we will be addressing is one that Gwen Shamblin uses to reinforce her belief that faith alone in Christ does not save, but that true believers must "do the will of God" to receive salvation itself. This will be James 2:24. Here's what she teaches on this Scripture, off the RF website and from other WDW/RF sources which I will document...
WHAT GWEN TEACHES ABOUT JAMES 2:24
You see that a person is justified by what he DOES and not by faith alone." (James 2:24) Why is this language not familiar to you? Why do you not just accept the words from the Bible - that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone? Faith is displayed through your actions. What you do shows you who you bow down to, whether it is SELF or God and Jesus Christ His Son. The church has been deceived into believing that they do not have to DO the will of God to be saved. The false teachers of the last century say you do not have to put off the old and put on the new actions, they say you do not have to be a new creation. It is a subtle deceit - that all you have to do is claim that He is Lord with your mouth. (website)
We cannot merely listen to the words of God, we have to put them into action. .. This is so clear and so right. If God is Lord, why do we try to come up with a religion that says that God sent His Son because God knows that we cannot bow down to Him? Satan is so clever. (WDA Guide, Week 2, p. 29)
The sin of the so-called "counterfeit church" according to Gwen is that what she calls "living faith" has been changed into "faith alone (mental acknowledgement)" James 2:17-24) (website)
At first glance, what Gwen Shamblin is expounding upon concerning James 2:24 appears to a be a simple, yet profoundly sharpened insight on the relationship between faith and works in the Christian life. Works are the most central focus of Christian faith. Faith will not save alone. This is what she feels that the Christian Church has lost sight of so badly that the very Scripture itself is a language unfamiliar to those who read it in her writings!
She would have us believe that we are justified by God and made acceptable in His sight by what we do and practice and that our own faith itself, while undeniably a part of our approach to Him, is only a starting point, the first recognition of our need for God. It cannot stop there for works are the signs of a "living faith" that is supposed to prove to God on a daily basis that we are serious about "crowning God King of All and showing God and the world by your actions who is the deserving Creator" (WDA Guide, Week 2, p. 2) .
According to Shamblin, false teachers in the past 100 years are responsible for leading the Church into defining faith as nothing more than an intellectual affirmation where no need for change of character or transformation of behavior on the part of the one making the "mental acknowledgment" is necessary. The Church now teaches, she steadfastly claims, that Christians don't have to lay aside or repent of sins and carnal works of the flesh, and that contemporary Christianity has become a permissive religion that winks at human weakness that denies any need to demonstrate that one is a "new creation."
Several other Scriptures supposedly affirming this necessity of "doing" the will of God are linked to this one, but this is perhaps the most concise one of them that most clearly appears to define Shamblin’s claim.
JAMES 2:24 RIGHTLY DIVIDED
My personal choice of translation has always been the King James Version of the Bible not because I believe it’s the “only” version around but it’s just what I’ve always studied from. But since Gwen has chosen to use the New International Version, so will I. It’s a good Bible translation and we will draw from it.
Now FIRST OF ALL, in any Bible study, the clear CONTEXT of the verse in question has to be firmly established before you can begin to interpret it correctly. A Bible verse’s context comes squarely from the verses written before and after them that deal with the subject discussed in the verse itself. That is how we determine what the verse is speaking of. For more information on how to study the Bible for all its worth in true context for yourself, go our studies on this by clicking here.
My point is that the context AROUND a verse has to be firmly in mind before trying to draw truth from IN the verse itself. Other Scriptural passages taken in THEIR proper context also provide further context as well. This is a pattern completely perverted by false teachers, but one we will be using as we study Scripture in these studies. So, let’s take a look at James 2:24 in what would be its clearest context found in the chapter from verses 14-26. We'll examine these passages and see what they are teaching that will ultimately help us see what James’ statement in 2:24 means.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
In James 2, this verse appears to be the clearest place where the context related to verse 24 would first be noted. A vital distinction lost on Gwen is made here by the apostle. James is speaking to Christians (“my brothers”) about some one who is professing to be a believer (“a man”) but who doesn't exhibit any of the fruit (“no deeds”) of a truly practical spirituality. He raises a very important issue here about the so-called “Christian” whose lifestyle choices and actions show no connection to a godly nature at all. Keep this in mind as James goes on to establish some examples in illuminating his point:
15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.
16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-- and shudder.
James boldly confronts the church with a compelling example concerning their ministry to the poor and destitute believers among them. This was an issue the church had to deal with across the known world then, according to the New Testament (Acts 6:1, Romans 15:26-27, Philippians 4:15-1 and was a subject that couldn't have been more convicting.
The apostle is direct and to the point: the professing believer who fails to meet the physical needs of a brother or sister in poverty and invokes a pious, yet evasive blessing upon them shows evidence of someone who does not know Christ or at best holds to a faith that is completely misguided. James is adamant on this: “faith by itself” if not accompanied by action is a lifeless, powerless state of death. That which was alive and is now dead will begin to corrupt and decay. Certainly a pungent way to make a point, but an excellent one that drive home James’ point: your profession of faith means nothing if you aren’t fleshing it out with action that proves you believe what you say you do.
This is a daring rebuke that James, moved upon by the Spirit of God, had to provide to an unknown congregation of people who apparently had fallen into this very trap. There are few bolder confrontations in the New Testament between an apostle with Christians who were apparently out of order than we see here in James’ admonition.
Apparently there were those who were claiming to be disciples of Jesus that claimed to be doing works that proved their faith, but which seemed to utterly fail to convince James that they had true faith. He challenged them to behold his lifestyle choices and actions to prove his own faith in God and then contrast it with their deedless faith. Confession had to be backed up by conduct, a clear truth that couldn’t be harder hitting and corrective an admonition when framed with a challenge to openly behold the godly ministry and life of James and compare it to their own dead, fruitless religion.
In fact, James’ rebuke becomes almost ironic, even sarcastic, when grappling with the confession of these professors of believe in one true God. “So you believe in one God?” he asks. “That’s good, but so what? Demons believe that there’s one true God and they shake in their boots knowing that.” His use of this chiding language further emphasizes the futility of faith professed and not practiced in good works.
20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend.
The apostle brings out yet another example, that of the faith of the godly patriarch Abraham. His supreme example of faith in the promises of God became manifest in his willingness to travel to the mountains of Moriah to offer his only son up at Yahweh’s command as a burnt offering (Genesis 22:1-18 - read what Abraham said to his servants and how he answered his son’s questions during the journey). This was not an undertaking made by someone with a passive, casual, noncommittal religiosity. It was made by a man whose faith was manifest in an obedience to God’s command that took him to the very limit of a divinely ordained test that an angel had to literally stop with an audible voice.
In remembering this sacred history, James observes again that the faith of Abraham in the command and promises of God led him to commit to an obedience that was a radical, yet rooted reality lived out by active works. In so doing, James points out, Abraham’s example was a powerful demonstration of how his faith drove his actions and that the faith he professed was made “complete.” The Greek verb for this word is teleioo an action that means “to make perfect, to accomplish, to finish.” Abraham’s faith in God was then fully realized when he acted upon what he believed, and in this sense, James teaches, his works brought a balanced completion to his bold belief in the promises of God.
As a result of Abraham’s active faith, he adds in verse 23, the Scripture was fulfilled that said of Abraham’s faith that “it was credited to him as righteousness.” This is the crux of the matter, and this is where our establishing of the context for the passage of James 2:24 becomes most critical. If Abraham’s faith was to “believe God” as the verse indicates, what would it mean for such faith to “credit to him righteousness”? Does it mean that his work made him holy? Does it mean that what he did made him righteous?
Let’s look again into the original Greek of the Scripture, along with what we’ve already learned, for the truth.
In verse 23, the phrase “it was credited” is drawn from another Greek verb, elogisthe. This verse was originally a commerce-driven term in classical Greek used to describe the act of charging something to the account of another, literally, to credit to them. In New Testament Greek, the verb took on a far more inclusive sense of “reckoning” and “considering” something to the credit of another. This was an act of giving to someone a gift of something they didn’t have and could never have possibly earned.
What is singularly fascinating is that James’ expression is almost a mirror image (certainly a Spirit inspired one) of Paul’s thought in Romans 4:3-5, 9, 22 which also speaks of Abraham’s saving faith: I’ll quote just one of these references in Romans 4:3-5
3 What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
Look carefully at what Paul is saying: it is faith in God’s divine act of justification - the declaring that one is innocent and holy - that saves, not their own work! IT IS TRUST IN GOD’s divine promise that credits to us His righteousness, and NOT our own.
Some might ask a fair question: are Paul and James contradicting one another here?
Not at all! Both are emphasizing the same truth, but Paul’s objective is to expound Biblical truth in a teaching format, while James comes across as a pastor disciplining his unruly flock. Both approach it at different levels. And the SAME Greek verb James uses in 2:23 is used in slightly different form in each of the verses Paul uses in Romans 4:3-5. This is significant because the definition of the term “credited” is then the same. And this brings greater light upon where James is going in verse 23: Abraham’s faith was therefore not focused on anything he did, but in the fact that he simply believed God’s promises and than acted upon them. His justification, bestowed upon him by his faith in God, did not depend upon his acts whatsoever, although they certainly needed to be executed to demonstrate his trust and faith. And there was no work that Abraham could lean upon to sanctify himself for the Law of Moses wouldn’t be given for centuries, and the sacrifices Abraham did in Genesis were not sacrifices for sin, but to confirm the covenants Yahweh made with him.
The principle God was setting forth was the doctrine we now call “justification by faith” that affirms that truth, in which faith in God’s saving grace bestowed on us by His Son and applied to us by the Spirit makes us holy in His sight. James’ emphasis on works is understandable because of his need to emphasize to professing believers of their dire need to walk out a Christian lifestyle, but NOT to make them do so as a hunt for God’s grace.
24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
With all of what we’ve read in mind, we can now tackle the plain sense of this verse which Gwen Shamblin tears completely out of the context we’ve established to create her own false doctrine of “doing the will of God.” The Greek word for “justified” is dikaioutai and is yet another verb, an action that refers to the act of being declared righteous, of being pronounced innocent. We’ve already seen in James 2:23 that the crediting of righteousness is a divine act of God’s grace granted to Abraham who “believed” and who then acted upon it in his faithful response to God’s command concerning sacrificing Isaac. Paul repeats the same thought in Romans 4.
So in verse 24 here, James is emphasizing how works manifest the genuine nature of faith before men; remember what we learned about verse 22 how faith FOLLOWED by works is this proof. How could any sacrifice or religious work improve upon the Cross of Jesus where the means to make men holy was accomplished once and for all? The good works of the believer are the crowning spire of the steeple of the soul that faith has built within us. You cannot complete one without the other, and that is what James in verse 22 was making clear and alluded to in verse 24.
Verse 24 is just a restating of this in a direct manner that at face value sounds as if James is establishing a “works righteousness” position that plays into Shamblin’s Scripture twisting, but this is, I feel, far from the case. Gwen’s selective picking and choosing of the English translation here is cunning and crafty, but thwarted when the full light of the verse’s context is examined.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?
26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
This is again yet another example James points out concerning how faith and works must go hand in hand, works being the natural outworking of unfeigned and sincere faith. The imputation of God’s righteousness to Rahab for her courageous faith she set in action when Joshua and Caleb were spying out Jericho was such an act. She knew and feared the God of Israel, having heard of his triumph over Egypt 40 years before the spies turned up at her home. In faith, she protected them, knowing that God would give to Israel the doomed city. She even became one of the ancestors of Jesus Himself, as seen in his genealogy of Matthew 1.
But James concludes once again that even the strongest faith is a thing that can only make any kind of difference by being acted upon with decisive and consistent action. That is the glaring error of so many believers which Gwen Shamblin has exploited all too well. But it is far from the norm among the Body of Christ that is far from having bent its knees to the “idols” she insists it has.
Gwen is RIGHT when she points out the hypocritical and gross sloth in the lives of Christians who don’t practice what they preach.
Gwen is WRONG, however, to assume that when Christians act in a certain way consistent with her directives that it makes them holy.
Gwen is RIGHT when she demands that we should live as “new creations” with a passion for living a consecrated life.
Gwen is WRONG, though, to assert that the churches are in flagrant apostasy and that they have abandoned themselves to a license for easy living unconcerned with practical holiness.
And Gwen is RIGHT when she points out that there are churches and believers that have made faith into nothing more than an intellectual hobby utterly disconnected from their lifestyle.
But Gwen is WRONG when she would have us believe that to live out a code of conduct she creates and upholds as the acid test for Christian fellowship and salvation is “The Message” God would have us preach for today.
With this study on the most fundamental “Do scripture” of Gwen’s twisted theology in mind, we will now examine a few others of them to get to their root. Next week, we’ll tackle Matthew 7:21 ..
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but ONLY HE WHO DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER who is in heaven."
Go to Matthew 7:21 Rightly Divided #2 Back To The Spiritwatch Home Page