Study of James: Wisdom and Practical Christian Living
The Book of James is probably the oldest book of the New Testament, written perhaps as early as A.D. 45, before the first council of Jerusalem in A.D. 50. James was martyred in approximately A.D. 62, according to the historian Josephus.
James is a great complement to Paul’s teaching on faith…
• By grace alone (solo grati)
• By Faith alone (solo fidei)
Although James does not teach us how to come nearer the lord through salvation, he does tell us how a just man orders his daily existence. James, throughout his life, was known as James the Just, because of the correctness of his actions, the uprightness of his demeanor and the strength of his character.
By following his words, we can live the same way.
MAJOR THEME: THE BALANCE BETWEEN FAITH AND WORKS
Some think that this epistle was written in response to an overzealous interpretation of Paul’s teaching regarding faith. This extreme view, called antinomianism, held that through faith in Christ one is completely free from all Old Testament law, all legalism, all secular law, and all the morality of a society. The Book of James is directed to Jewish Christians scattered among all the nations (James 1:1).
In the book of James we see the reality of the Christian walk and how to walk it…
• The adages…
o Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk
James 2: 14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 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.
Faith and action unite to make authentic Christianity.
The two are not separate but connected… action without faith becomes works to earn something. Faith without action becomes belief not values… they are coupled together…
So much of faith is perspective… how we choose to see things.
And far too often we see with temporal eyes… that’s how everyone see’s without God.
If we have God, we should see with eternal eyes… eternity in mind… for this life is but a shadow of what is to come… and the eons which will follow.
But too often we weigh and measure life, generosity, and choices based on what we see in our temporary eyes.
Faith and Action…faith to see what others can’t… courage to take action and do something about it.
God tells you to give… give.
God tells you to be generous with time… be generous.
Guidepost story – 1965
Faith embraces the need of man all around us… it does not shun it away.
Mother Teresea: “We have drugs for people with diseases like leprosy. But these drugs do not treat the main problem, the disease of being unwanted. That’s what my sisters hope to provide. The sick and poor suffer even more from rejection than material want. Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”
Faith – and Action – the life of a believer. James goes on to explain…
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.
Belief is not enough… and we live in a world that puts stock in beliefism…
We live in a world that loves to philosophize and believe… but do nothing with it.
Faith goes beyond belief… to trust no matter your circumstances…
You cannot have belief without obeying…
Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace. ~ Oswald Chambers in Run Today’s Race.
Holding on to God regardless of your circumstances… trusting God regardless… and learning how to not be crushed by life itself…
Faith and Action…
Former Senator Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa and visiting the so-called “House of Dying,” where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers face daily. “How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?” he asked. Mother Teresa replied, “My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful.” (Beals, Beyond Hunger.)
~ You are not called to achieve… but to have faith. Faith that leads to action… action backed up by Character…
Even Demons Believe… James torts… and then he gives examples…
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. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. 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.
A major theme for James…
24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
You cannot disconnect the two…
Abraham and Isaac…
Rahab and the spies… yes even the prostitute is seen by what she does for the Lord…
How Rahab demonstrated faith
It is interesting that Rahab is mentioned twice in the NT as a woman of faith. And it is also interesting to notice the contexts in which she is used to illustrate two different aspects of faith. Consider first the words of the Hebrew writer: By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace. (Hebrews 11:31)
She is one of the intriguing characters of the OT. She was a woman with “past”; but a woman who through faith secured for herself a much brighter future. We’ve read about her this week, a Canaanite woman named Rahab.
Rahab was a woman who never outlived her past. Three times in the OT narrative and twice in the NT she is designated “Rahab the harlot”. Some commentators have sought to clean up her reputation by suggesting that she was an “inn keeper” (including Josephus and some of the rabbis). However the NT word for Rahab is “porne”, the common NT word for a sexually immoral woman. Yet in spite of her sordid background, she serves as a great example of faith.
The Hebrew writer uses Rahab to illustrate a particular concept of faith he has been developing in the chapter.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Rahab had evidence to support her belief that God was a great and awesome God. She gives a profound expression of faith in Josh. 2:8-11: I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And when we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in
heaven above and on earth beneath. (Joshua 2:8-11)
But in this faith, Rahab demonstrated the aspect of faith the Hebrew writer is illustrating, that aspect that embraces what is “not seen” but is “hoped for”. What Rahab could not “see” and what she “hoped for” was her deliverance when the city of Jericho fell. And she received it because of
James was stressing a different aspect of faith from the Hebrew writer. He was stressing the importance of action as the manifestation of saving faith. For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:26)
Rahab “believed” that God was going to destroy Jericho (cf. Josh. 2:8); yet she did more than just “believe”. She let her faith “work”. Some people may question Rahab’s actions, but
no one can question her faith. She not only protected the spies from capture, she guided them so as to avoid capture, and finally in faith requested the lives of herself and her family. It is interesting of course that James out of all the OT characters available to him uses both Abraham and Rahab to illustrate this aspect of faith. Why did James choose these two characters?
One was a Hebrew; one was Gentile.
One was a man; one was a woman.
One was a man of lifelong faith; the other was a person of recent faith.
One might have been remembered as the epitome ofrighteous character in his age.
The other might have been remembered as anything but righteous.
Yet both received the blessing of God!
Both demonstrated the same kind of faith—the kind that “works”.
How Rahab was rewarded
Though not all of Rahab’s actions were honorable, the Lord honored her faith. She had laid it all on the line at a critical moment. She had risked her life to protect two of God’s people. God rewarded her faith: She saved the lives of the two spies. She saved the lives of her family. When the Israelites conquered Jericho, Rahab and her family were protected from the death and came upon every
other inhabitant of the city. She lived among the Israelite people (Josh. 6:25) She married an Israelite man named Salmon. She became an ancestor of Jesus Christ Himself! and to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab; and to Boaz was born Obed by Ruth; and to Obed, Jesse; (Matthew 1:5)
And it is reasonable to conclude on the basis of the NT statements that she by the grace of God will be in heaven.
You cannot get saved by believing and then live however you want. While it is grace… it is mercy… it is also character. Who we are… every day, every moment…
Faith + Action + Character = Godly combination that changes cities, nations, and the world for Jesus Christ!
James would challenge the church of today…
• to get on with the Father’s business…
• but I also think he would challenge the Christian of today…
o you can’t just skate through and let the church do it for you…
o Your faith should lead to your actions… and walk in the character to back up what you say you believe!
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. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. 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.
Believe, Have Faith, take Action, keep character… this is the Christian life that walks the walk and talks the talk.
The two are forever linked…