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Grace and Law:
Legalism and Liberalism Part IX

By G. C. Brewer

religion, articles, christianity

(This is the last in a series of articles that appeared in the Gospel Advocate in 1955. Brother Brewer, in previous articles, revisited the writing of - Roy Key, a preacher who then lived in Chicago. This is the last in the series.)

Solomon declared that the legs of the lame are not equal or, as it is translated in the Revised Version, "The legs of the lame hang loose." The thought is that the legs of a lame person are of no use to him; they are useless. If brother Key has any logical legs, they must be "hanging loose." His contradictory statements and illogical conclusions are lamentable in the extreme. He says that baptism is a condition of salvation, that it is for the remission of sins, that it is in order to receive the Holy Spirit, that it is the scriptural method of committing one's soul to the Lord, or of avowing one's faith in the Lord, and yet he teaches that there are other ways that one may express one's faith. Following the sentence just quoted above, he says,

The comparison of two men whose hearts are equally committed to Christ, having no difference, except one has been baptized, and the other has not, and ascribing salvation to one and condemnation to the other is a speculative interest only to the legalistic minds.

Now having affirmed that baptism is the way one commits one's self to the Lord, he now supposes a case where someone is equally committed to Christ without baptism! How does he know that the one is equally committed to Christ? Is it not a matter of pure speculation and even something worse for any of us to try to judge between o individuals? If one has been baptized, it is impossible for us to know whether or not that one is thoroughly committed to Christ, even if we administered the baptism ourselves. I have been convinced by the behavior of some whom I baptized that in that act they did not commit themselves to Christ.

On the other hand, if this is the method by which people avow their faith, or the act in which the soul is committed to Christ, we might ask how many other acts may be used for this same purpose. What are some of the other acts? By which one of these many others is a man able to say that an individual is equally committed to Christ with a man who has accepted the Lord's own conditions and obeyed his Word without doubt or question? Perhaps if the brother would present the teaching of the New Testament concerning baptism to the man he supposes is "equally committed to Christ," he might find that this man would reject the reaching of the Lord outright. Would he still be equally committed to Christ with the man who humbly submitted to the will of the Lord? By whose standard are, we going to judge our fellow men on the assumption that we are allowed to do such judging?

The Gospel preachers, some of whom brother Key now condemns as legalists, have never felt able to judge men at all, but they have preached exactly what the Lord says about salvation and about the connection, which even brother Key says, that baptism sustains with salvation. If brother Key would preach the Gospel and try to get people to believe and obey exactly that which the Lord commanded, instead of trying illogically and even presumptuously to find some argument that will justify a man who rejects the Word of the Lord, rebels against the Word of the Lord, and trusts the word of some creed or some man and perhaps even the word of Roy Key, he would then at least have the promise of God's Word.

His present effort, however, cannot fail to fall under the severest condemnation that God's prophets have always uttered toward those who pervert the right way of the Lord. King Saul confidently asserted that he had done all that the Lord had commanded him to do! He hid come far nearer to doing it than some of the men who are, by Roy Key, pronounced equally committed to Christ. He, however, had sinned against God to the extent that it was not even forgiven, and the kingdom was taken from him.

Shouting "Amen" but Perverting the Truth.

Those of us who have had experience in dealing with religious debaters well know that a loud "amen" is sometimes a cover-up for a definite rejection of the thing over which they are shouting "amen." The word amen is a wonderful word and when it is used sincerely and in a scriptural way, it is approved by the Lord himself. But some of us have heard amens that were hypocritically shouted so loudly that when we hear one in an audience, we are inclined to feel intuitively that there is a fanatic present.

Brother Key declares that he is ready to say a loud "amen" to the teaching of the second chapter of James and the "amen" is heard far away. But he proceeds to nullify the teaching of James as completely as any contender against faith in God's Word ever did it. We here quote exactly what he says on this point:

Question: Can you deny that James still says a man is saved 'by works and not by faith only'?
Answer: I certainly have no intention of denying or even soft-pedaling that truth. If we really believed and acted on it, we'd find that it isn't such a delightful one to hurl around in argument. Orthodoxy versus obedience is the issue with James. He isn't saying, 'You have to feed the hungry and clothe the naked in order to become a Christian.' He is saying, 'While you refuse to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, your claim to Christian faith is a falsehood. That kind of faith is as dead as a corpse. It has never saved anybody, and it won't save you, either.' These 'works' enjoined by James are the 'fruit' of Christian faith. They evidence true faith, but they do not create it.

If these words mean anything, they mean that faith is in the heart before it is expressed in overt action; that faith is faith without any outward expression; that the works or deeds of which James speaks are the "fruit of Christian faith" which must mean that this is Christian service or something rendered by those who are already made Christians by faith. This is, therefore, the faith that those have who do not obey the Lord and who make optional his commandments.

James was not talking about "Christian faith"; he was specifically talking about Abraham's faith in verses 21-23. But what he says concerning faith applies to any faith in any age of the world. Faith is faith wherever it is found and without regard to the age of the world in which it is found.

Roy says that works do not "create" faith. This means, of course, that the faith existed before it worked. It was already created and being a created entity already existing, it acts, and these acts are the result of faith. If a man wanted to say something which would express an exact opposite idea to that which James expresses, he couldn't beat this. If anyone wanted to shout "amen" in order to utter a direct condemnation of James and pronounce what he says as false, he couldn't do it in any better way than it is done by brother Key.

James says that faith without works, or faith before it is expressed, manifested, and actualized by deeds is dead. Therefore, the deeds are necessary to faith, instead of coming as a result of something that was already completely created. James says that by deeds, faith is made perfect. Therefore, faith without deeds, is dead; until it is expressed in deeds, it is incomplete. Therefore, these deeds do indeed have a part in bringing to perfection, therefore, of creating the perfect faith. Let us read this passage:

But will you understand, you senseless fellow, that faith without deeds is dead? When our father, Abraham, offered his son Isaac on the altar, was he not justified by what he did'? In his case, you see, faith cooperated with deeds, faith was completed by deeds, and the Scripture was fulfilled: Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness - he was called God's friend.

Another rendering of this famous passage will show that all the translators agree on the thought presented. This is from Weymouth:

But idle boaster, are you willing to be taught how it is that faith apart from obedience is worthless? Take the case of Abraham, our forefather. Was it, or was it not, because of his actions that he was declared to be righteous as the result of his having offered up his son Isaac upon the altar? You notice that his faith was cooperating with his actions, and that by his actions his faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'And Abraham believed God, and his faith was placed to his credit as righteousness.

Now any man who thinks he can take James to escape the teaching of Paul is failing to use his mind. Paul teaches exactly what James teaches and both of them teach us what is quoted by both of them from Gen. 15:6, that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. Both James and Paul teach that Abraham was justified by faith; neither of them intends to imply that Abraham did something meritorious and was rewarded accordingly. Neither teaches that Abraham was righteous in his own right and, therefore, ready to pass the inspection of God and to be found righteous. He was lacking in righteousness, as all other men are, but his faith was counted to him for righteousness and, therefore, God reckoned him as righteous on account of his faith. This the Old Testament teaches; this Paul teaches repeatedly; and this James teaches emphatically.

The only thing James does is to define and illustrate faith. Paul does the same thing in the same way throughout the whole eleventh chapter of Hebrews. To contend that anyone has faith in Christ who will reject or neglect to do that which Christ commands is as foolish as it is dangerous.

Brother Key didn't need to go to college to learn this argument. As said in a former article, I heard men make this same argument in this same way in the cotton fields of Alabama 60 years ago. Brother Key and I came from the same section of the country, and although I was at least 40 years ahead of him, I happen to know that the same arguments were still being made in the same place after brother Key came on the scene.

G. C Brewer, deceased


Published May 1993