There’s a world of difference between since and so that. Explore that world with me in these sentences:
We stayed in a hostel so that money was tight.
We cancelled the picnic so that it might rain.
We painted the baby’s room blue so that we had a boy.
These ideas make no sense, because they obviously get cause and effect back to front. Having a baby boy is the cause for painting the room blue. You don’t paint the room blue in order to get a boy-child. Anyone listening to me using sentences like this would think I learned my English from the wrong book. But in listening to the Bible and what it says, don’t we sometimes make similar mistakes? Getting mixed up between cause and effect leads to some real confusion about how God works in our lives. Take a look with me now at these statements from the Book of Romans:
…since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:28)
… since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
Do you notice the cause and effect going on in these two different situations? In both cases the cause has to do with faith. In the first case faith is lacking – they don’t care to acknowledge God – and the effects are bad. In the second case faith is working – it’s the cause – and peace with God is the effect, which can only be a good thing. So the presence or absence of faith in God is the beginning, not the end. “Do right by me…and then I’ll believe” is putting the cart before the horse.
Now let’s look at a couple of so that ideas – effects as opposed to causes. These are also from Romans:
…you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4)
But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:6)
In these two related verses, we see clearly that service and the bearing of spiritual fruit are the effects of a certain kind of death. We die to the old way and good works are the result. Good works don’t cause you to reject sin, they flow out of rejecting sin.
Now before we start to lose sight of the woods because of all the trees, let me set out a simple, logical sequence of events as described by Paul in his letter to the Romans. It all starts with faith. When we have faith in God, the result is that we have peace with God through Christ (Romans 5:1). And then, when we are at peace with God, the result is that we serve Him (Romans 7:6). In other words, works of service are not something we do so that God declares peace with us. Works of service are what we do since God has declared peace with us. That peace is established on the foundation of faith, and then it results in good works.
That’s why James can call into question the faith of a man whose life shows no signs of good works. If you don’t see any service in a person’s life, it’s quite possible that such a man has not found peace with God. And if he isn’t at peace with God, then perhaps he has no faith, since peace with God is the result of faith in Christ.
I remember telling my church congregation that trying to make peace with God by working for it is like trying to clean the local dump with a feather duster. Trust Christ in faith to make peace for you, and let God’s Spirit do the cleaning. When you do, all sorts of service will come naturally to you; just as naturally as painting the room blue since you have a baby boy.
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