I was reading in Ecclesiastes 3 this morning and was reminded that there is a season for everything . . . “an appropriate occasion for every human event or activity” (ESV Study Bible). That there is a time to be born, and a time to die . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh . . . a time to mourn, and a time to dance . . . a time to keep, and a time to cast away . . . a time to love, and a time to hate . . . and the list goes on (Eccl. 3:1-8). That while it would perhaps be easier and simpler to live in an “either / or” world, most often we live in a “this AND that” world.
There seems to be at least some carry over of this principle to the things of the gospel. While Paul says there’s a time to believe . . . James says there’s also a time to behave.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
(James 2:21-24 ESV)
Justified by works. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to “gospel-centered” people. But that’s what James writes . . . that’s what God breaths out through His Spirit. Abraham was justified by works. Moreover, any person is justified by works and not faith alone. And the visceral reaction of “by grace alone through faith alone” people can be, What?!? . . . No way! But says James, “Way!”
Because there’s a time to believe and a time to behave.
Both Paul and James quote the fulfillment of the Scripture that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” But each identifies its fulfillment from different times and events in Abraham’s life. Paul, in Romans 4, talks about Abraham’s response to the promise of God . . . he believes it and righteousness was imputed. James though refers to Abraham’s response to the command of God . . . he obeys it, offering his son on the altar, and righteousness is evident.
There is a time to believe and a time to behave. Because we believe and the righteousness of Christ is credited to our account, there should be times when we are compelled to behave, the righteousness of Christ following freely from the storehouse of God’s love within us.
If, because of faith, we have been justified, then through our works we will show how justified people function. God bought, God sought, and God wrought relationship will result in God defined, God commanded, and God enabled religion.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
(James 1:27 ESV)
Not “either / or” . . . but “this and that.” Faith and works . . . one the basis for righteousness, the other the fruit of righteousness.
There’s a time to believe . . . and a time to behave. Because of grace alone . . . by grace alone.
No merit of ourselves. No boasting in what we do. All for God’s glory.