Summary: For James the main concern is simple...to say yes and mean it, or to say no and mean it, is a matter of integrity and character. We shouldn't be double minded. What will it be when you stand before Him?
FRIEND OR FOE?
JAMES 5:7 12
James began his letter with a call to persevere...to stand strong under trial...and we saw that holding up through afflictions and difficulties is actually the pathway to maturity. His conclusion opens with the same theme, set in the same context. He encourages us to stand strong by holding before us the prospects of the last days. Read v. 7 9
In verses 7 8 we expect a coming Lord...in verse 9, there is a judge already at the door... I want us to examine ourselves this morning and determine just what it is that will be awaiting us when these last day events take place in all their fullness.
Taking these verses as a whole, we see that the Lord comes bringing divine compassion and mercy...the judge comes bringing judgment. What will you be facing on that great day...will it be a friend or a foe?
The coming of the Lord is an expected event...and our main source of information regarding this is Jesus Himself. We have a sure foundation for our expectant faith because Jesus clearly taught that He would come again.
It would happen on a day which cannot be known in advance, and it will bring about a separation or taking away of the people of God. Those who are in Christ will be gathered forever to be with Him and would be made fully alive in Christ.
Now, to unbelievers, the expectation of the Lord's return is a matter for cynical doubt and dismissal...but to believers, this hope of His coming gives us a strong call to endure, to hang in there...and to prepare for His coming by living a life of holiness. At least it should!
It's interesting that all James needs to say to his readers is that the Lord is coming. He doesn't enter into any long explanations and descriptions...he just assumes that they know all about it because it was a familiar truth to the New Testament church.
There's about 300 references in the N.T. about the coming of the Lord...one for every 13 verses from Matthew to Revelation. Those early believers were certain of His soon coming, and their heart's desire was not to be ashamed when it did take place. This was their number one concern in life...to be ready when He came for them...and it should be in our thoughts too.
It's also important to note that James intended the expectation of the coming of the Lord to bring comfort and even a great sense of joy to those believers. They were going through a lot of stresses and strains, and they needed the reminder that His coming would put an end to all of Satan's opposition and make suffering a thing of the past.
But there is another side to this expected coming...because the judge is standing at the door. Now, James is speaking to Christians. And he's stating a truth that we find easy, even convenient to forget...but one that is central to the N.T. revelation of the returning Lord. And once again, James doesn't have to prove or elaborate his point.
The teaching of the Lord Jesus is again our starting point. Similar parables are found in Matthew 25:14 30 and Luke 19:11 27. Each concerns itself with servants entrusted with their master's goods during his absence...and each includes the master's return with questions about the way the servants carried out their obligations.
And in each parable the one who claimed to be a servant but wasn't, is exposed! This matches the teaching about the return of Christ which says that there will be a separation one will be taken the other left. (Matt 24:40 41).
But in each parable the real focus of attention is on the servants who really were servants...and what they had to show to the master...they had to present the fruits of their service to him at the judgment seat.
So, when Jesus comes again, every Christian will stand before Him to give an account. And what's in question is not our salvation but our rewards. (Great White Throne Judgment...)
In the parables, Jesus speaks of servants who each receive the same amount of money to trade with in Luke 19:13 it was 10 minas. At the end they are invited to bring the fruits of their work for the Lord's inspection.
This speaks to us of those things each Christian possesses...salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, the gospel message, etc. What have we done with these since we've received them? What gains have we made? Have we grown in holiness and maturity? Do we know the Scriptures in an ever increasing way? How many others have we told about Christ?
But in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, the thought is different. Individual Christians have different abilities...or as we say, talents. These are God given. And the thrust of the Lord's teaching here touches on our consecration...have we devoted every individual talent we've been given to Him and His service?