THE BOOK OF JAMES
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The Book of James contains several practical admonitions. I gain the impression from reading it that there were believers who were being influenced by Gnosticism. They had interpreted the Apostle Paul to mean that how we behave is not an integral aspect of redemption, the only important issue being that we “believe in Jesus Christ.” Since the error of “faith alone” is prevalent in our day, we need to hear what Pastor James, the brother of Jesus Christ, has to say.
Table of Contents
THE BOOK OF JAMES
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26)
Since what James has written about faith and works is so opposed to current teaching, I think our first action, as we enter this book, is to decide whether or not the Book of James is the inerrant Word of God. Make no mistake: if the Book of James has been inspired by the Holy Spirit, our preaching today in many instances is in error.
It is not true that we are saved by an abstract faith, or abstract belief, in Christ apart from a corresponding transformation of our personality. This pernicious concept has leavened today’s teaching and preaching until numerous believers remain spiritual babies all their life. It is only as we begin to recognize the deeds of our sinful nature and gain the victory over them that we grow in Christ. No such recognition and no such victory can occur while we are under the impression that we are “saved anyway” even though we do not undergo moral transformation.
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. (James 1:1)
It is my understanding that James was the brother of the Lord Jesus, Mary and Joseph being his mother and father. Also, it appears James was the pastor of the large church in Jerusalem, comprising Jewish believers who were keeping the Law of Moses as well as receiving Jesus as Christ.
Even though James is writing to his fellow Jews, it is my opinion his words apply with equal force to Gentile believers, for there is only the one Olive Tree.
It may be difficult for some to accept the fact that the original Christian church consisted of Jews. We have come to regard Christianity as a Gentile religion. It assuredly is not. True salvation has to do with our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, the one Seed of Abraham. While there is neither Jew nor Greek in the Kingdom of God, the natural setting remains in a Jewish context.
God’s intervention began with the Jews and shall end with the Jews. We Gentiles have been grafted on the one true Vine, which is the whole house of Israel.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2,3)
It is certain that we Christians face trials of many kinds. It is not as certain that we consider these trials to be pure joy. But, as James said, the testing of our faith develops perseverance in our character; and perseverance is an important aspect of the Kingdom of God that is being formed in us.
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:4)
“Perseverance must finish its work.” This is an unusual expression, isn’t it? The ability to keep on forging ahead in the face of pressure and adversity results in our growing to spiritual maturity. God has placed us in the present world in order to develop godly character, and our trials are sent by Him for this very purpose.
This is why we must never blame people for our problems, for when we do we lose the benefit that should have been ours. The purpose of the trials is to drive us into Christ, and so we do not look at the tool God uses but to the Lord so we may profit from the instruction.
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)
I don’t know about you but I have developed the habit of asking God about everything, from the smallest detail to the greatest crisis. We make a number of decisions each day, most of them minor, like what we should eat for breakfast (that is, if we have food in the house). Sometimes a major decision is at hand, such as where we should look for a job, if we are unemployed.
We can approach such decisions in one of two ways. We can rely on our experience, knowledge, and abilities, or we can look to the Lord for wisdom. It takes only a brief moment to hold up that question to the Lord. To those who ask for wisdom He gives wisdom—he gives it liberally and does not scold us for asking.
Some believers feel they are bothering God if they ask about the ordinary issues of life. In this case, God may send trouble on them so they will be forced to look to Him. God is never bothered by our asking for wisdom, it is we who do not want to stop and look to the Lord. We are so driven by our desires that we do not have the time or inclination to ask the Lord about everything. We suffer much pain because we do not bring everything to God in prayer.
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:6-8)
God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of power, love, sound judgment, and self-discipline. We must not permit ourselves to drift into passivity and indecisiveness. If we are not hearing clearly from the Lord, then we should pray, take a small step in the direction we feel is the best way to go, and then look to see what fruit is being borne. If the results appear to be positive, and we are not forcing the circumstances, then we are to take another small step in that same direction, again looking to see what fruit is being borne.
It is impossible to steer a ship until it is in motion. We just have to sail forth and pray for direction. If we are going east and God wants us to go west, He will show us and help us turn around. But He may not tell us in advance no matter how long we fast and pray.
We are to keep our will sharp, being able to make decisions and stick with them. But we always keep open to the Lord, committing our way to Him. Then He directs our path.
To hover in indecision, starting in one direction, and then another, and then another, is destructive. As James says, that individual is blown and tossed by the wind. He is unstable. God will not help him until he makes up his mind, sets a straight course, and then stays with it. Then God will guide him if he keeps open to the Lord.
In order to find God’s will and do it we do not depend on signs, fleeces, or personal prophecies. We present our body a living sacrifice, being transformed by the renewing of our mind in the Lord.
The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. (James 1:9-11)
James is pointing out that God loves the poor and the humble. God is with them, and so they have a high position.
The rich individual is not as blessed. He will have a difficult time entering the Kingdom of God because his riches are a snare. He and his money will soon pass away like a fading flower.
The current teaching that Christians should be rich is not of God. Paul and James both speak against worldly wealth. Of all the gods of the Greeks and Romans, the only god Jesus spoke against was the god of money, saying we have to decide whether we are going to serve God or money.
The Antichrist world system is built on money. The Western nations tend to worship money instead of God. This is why we notice that in our day the outstanding miracles performed in the name of Christ are occurring in the poorer countries and villages.
God’s heart is with the poor and the Kingdom is theirs. A rich man can save himself by being generous with his wealth. If he hoards it, ignoring those he could have helped, he will end up in Hell with the rich man of whom Jesus spoke.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
Peter says we should add perseverance to our faith. John, in the Book of Revelation, speaks of the “suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus.” The true Christian discipleship consists of one test after another. If we stand in Christ, praying, reading our Bible, and obeying God, we will receive the crown of life. The crown of life is the authority and power to govern by the power of incorruptible resurrection life. We prove to God that we love Him when we stand steadfast during difficult periods of pressure and tribulation.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; (James 1:13)
It is true that the Potter has fashioned one vessel to honor and another to dishonor. This is what Paul taught us. Nevertheless, each individual makes up his own mind when it comes to yielding to temptation. When we are tempted we can say “the devil is tempting me,” or “that person is tempting me,” or “God is tempting me.” The truth is God cannot be tempted by evil. Neither can anyone whose heart is pure.
But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14,15)
When we are tempted it is because there are evil desires in us. If we yield to our evil desires, we sin. When we continue in that sin, we die spiritually whether or not we belong to a Christian church.
We need to grow up and quit blaming people for our problems. We can choose to do what is right. If we do so, God will help us with our problems. Or we can choose to blame other people, or the devil, or our circumstances. If we do this, God will not help us with our problems and we will not grow in Christ. There is no place in the Kingdom of God for blaming others. We stand or fall on our own choices.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:16,17)
The evil that comes into our life does so because there are doors in our personality through which Satan can enter. When we notice that we are disquieted, not abiding peacefully in God’s will, it is because there is a door that needs to be closed. As we go to Christ in prayer He will show us that door. If we are willing to renounce it as evil, God will forgive us and close the door.
That which comes to us from God is not evil. It is good and perfect, coming to us from God who does not change. That which comes from God brings peace, strength, joy, understanding. When we are not experiencing love, joy, and peace, then we need to go to the Lord and find why we are troubled.
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:18)
The Word of God is more than the printed expression of language. Actually, the Bible is the record of the Word of God, not the Word itself. The Word of God is the Person, Christ Jesus.
The Word of Truth is a Seed. When it is placed in a nourishing environment it will germinate and grow. Its growth does not reflect the environment. The Seed came from God and contains the characteristics of God.
The New Testament is clear that God has chosen specific people to come to Christ and receive the living Word into themselves. Those so chosen have a choice. They can ignore what they have received, deciding to occupy themselves with the things of the world. Or they can devote themselves to the growth of the Divine Seed, seeking the mind of the Spirit of God each day as to how they should live.
Those who remain in the program become the brothers of Christ, being changed into His image. These then are the firstfruits of God’s creation.
The concept of the firstfruits is that of the best of the crop, and that which is offered to God for His special enjoyment and use. Jesus Christ is the First of the firstfruits. Then comes the Body of Christ—those in whom He has been formed, who have been changed into His image and likeness. Now we have the eternal House of God composed of Christ, the chief Cornerstone and the Capstone, and then the other living stones who compose the House.
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)
The term “firstfruits” implies that there is a remainder of the crop, the greater part of the crop that is yet to be harvested. So it is that when the Body of Christ has been formed, Christ will return with His Body and install the Kingdom of God on the earth. Then the creation, which today groans in spiritual bondage, will be set free and enter the Kingdom of God. All shall be brought into subjection to Christ, and then Christ will turn over the Kingdom to God until God is All and in all.
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19,20)
“Quick to listen. Slow to speak. Slow to become angry.” Here is where self-control is needed. The spiritually mature person listen carefully, and then speaks prayerfully. He may not say much but what he does say is worth hearing. The baby Christian babbles every thought that comes into his head without considering his words. Excessive speaking is a spiritual bondage.
“Slow to become angry.” The believer who becomes angry quickly is bound spiritually. He needs to confess his sin to the Lord and ask forgiveness. If he is sincere, God will forgive this sin and cleanse him from all unrighteousness.
There may be many reasons why we become angry with people in the church. We need to understand that no matter how justified we feel, our anger will not accomplish God’s will. Our personal anger is destructive. It removes us from God’s will. It is damaging to us and those around us. We need to be delivered from this satanic bondage.
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. (James 1:21)
Every once in a while we run across a verse that is central to the new covenant. The above verse is one of these.
Get rid of all moral filth.
Get rid of the evil that is so prevalent.
Humbly accept the Word planted in you.
The Word which can save you.
Get rid of all moral filth. How do we do this? By confessing our sin to the Lord when it is pointed out to us by the Holy Spirit, and then renouncing and denouncing it diligently. Christ will help us do this if we ask Him. All moral filth! None is accepted. The Christian is to be absolutely morally pure.
Get rid of the evil that is so prevalent. We must recognize that our American culture includes much that is evil. We cannot be a part of the world and expect to grow in Christ and have Christ bless us. This means we and our children cannot partake of every worldly form of entertainment. We are in the world but we are not to be of the world. Our standards are different from that of the world.
It may be difficult for Christian parents to find the middle ground, where their children can be normal and enjoy the customary social activities, and yet not be involved in the moral pollution that is common among the American families. It may not be easy for Christian parents to explain to their children why they cannot be like everyone else. The only solution for the parent is prayer, prayer, and more prayer—especially as the young person enters adolescence.
Young people are increasingly involved in the Internet. There is a tremendous potential for evil in the Internet, including pornography and the presence of child molesters. The Christian family that is not utterly devoted to Christ will probably lose their children to Satan over the next few years because of the ready access to the worst Satan has to offer.
The Word planted in us can save. us. This expression is foreign to today’s preaching. We view salvation as a legal status we gain when we make the right profession of belief in Christ. Actually, salvation is a program, a process of redemption. The Word that has been planted in us is able to save us, not because we have acknowledged the orthodox theological beliefs but because the implanted Word is of the Divine Nature and possesses Virtue that can assist us in getting rid of evil.
It is the getting rid of evil that is salvation, and the Word of God planted in us is potentially able to deliver and cleanse us. But such salvation will occur only as we give ourselves night and day to the inner work of redemption that the Spirit of God is performing in us.
We simply cannot go about our “business as usual” life in the world and expect to be prepared for the return of Jesus Christ. When our faith does not produce a moral transformation of our personality, it is not faith at all but theological belief.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)
The current Christian teaching, according to my understanding, is that the commandments issued by Jesus Christ and His Apostles were not written to us so we would obey them, but so we would understand it is impossible to obey them and thus realize our need to be saved by grace.
I hope I am incorrect in this conclusion, but I have heard it enough times to believe that it, or something close to it, is prevalent in the Christian churches.
Suppose our earthly father commanded us to do something, and then said to us, “I don’t really expect you to obey me, I just ordered you to do that so you would find it difficult and then come to me for mercy.” If he said that to us, we would never pay attention to anything else he commanded. Just such a ridiculous, impotent gospel is being taught today.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
What is true when we read the Words of Christ and His Apostles and then do not do that has been commanded? In this case we have been deceived. So it is true that most of the Christian Church, as far as I can tell, is living and working in a delusion. We are in sore need of a reformation of Christian thinking.
We are to do what we have been commanded. It is not impossible. Is it impossible to count it pure joy when we face trials? The adamic nature is not pleased with this admonition, but if we go to God in prayer He enables us to do this. With Christ it is possible to count it pure joy when we face trials. And so with all the commandments found in the New Testament.
Are we to say it is impossible to count it pure joy when we face trials and so we must be saved by grace? What would Pastor James say to this response? What a satanic concept this is! According to this line of reasoning, there is no salvation. We remain unchanged. There is no Kingdom of God, no doing of God’s will in the earth.
Let us say we remain unchanged, depending on “grace” to save us. Then we return with Christ to set up the Kingdom of God on the earth. This will involve attacking the hosts of evil arrayed against us—Antichrist and his armies. Don’t we realize evil cannot be conquered by evil? The battle is not one of power against power. God has all power. The battle is righteousness against unrighteousness.
Let us bring this issue down to today. Suppose someone comes to church who is bound with a spirit of lying, and asks for deliverance. What are we to do? Tell him he can continue to lie because he is saved by grace? Or do we pray for God to deliver him from lying?
But what if we ourselves are liars, trusting we are “saved by grace”? Will Christ hear us when we pray for the person who has come for deliverance? Can Satan cast out Satan?
This would be the issue if Christ were to come followed by an army of believers who had never been morally transformed but were righteous only by imputation. Do you think they would be able to destroy Antichrist and his armies? We ought to know better than this!
Today we speak of “standing in grace.” This means our behavior is immaterial, all that matters is our belief system. We can be filled with every form of immorality, murder, and deceit. Yet we are “standing in grace” so it does not matter.
How can any Christian accept such apparent foolishness? No intelligent person of the world would consider this anything more than religious nonsense—the nonsense typical of all religions.
How long will it be before God is willing to lift this delusion from our thinking? Perhaps if we pray God will give us a clear mind.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror And, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. (James 1:23,24)
The Bible is a mirror. The Spirit of God uses this mirror to show us where we are dirty and where we are clean.
Now, suppose we are reading the New Testament and we notice we actually are yielding to our sinful nature. We are committing adultery or fornication. We are filled with anger and unforgiveness. We cause division in our local assembly. We gossip and slander our fellow believers.
We see our behavior reflected in the Word. Are we then to say, “It is true that I am doing these things but I am saved by grace.” Are we not deceived? Do the writings of the Apostles agree with this? Does Pastor James agree with this? Yet this is what is taught in our day.
But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:25)
Remember, the church in Jerusalem that James pastored had a strong tradition of the Law of Moses.
The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. (Acts 21:18-20)
Evidently James knew of the teaching of the Apostle Paul. Paul taught a law called “the law of the Spirit of life.” This law operates as we follow the Holy Spirit and cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. Those who obey the law of the Spirit of life are without condemnation even though they do not keep the statutes of the Law of Moses. The righteousness of Him who kept the Law of Moses perfectly is ascribed to them.
I think this is what James means by “the perfect law that gives freedom.” The law of the Spirit of life sets us free from the Law of Moses. But it does not set us free in the sense that we are under no law, as is taught today. Rather the Holy Spirit guides and enables us to obey the commandments given by Christ and His Apostles until such time that Christ, the Morning Star, comes to maturity in us.
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
Many believers talk altogether too much. They do not pray before they speak. They chatter endlessly, being filled with the appetites of the flesh.
The true Christian life is one of stern discipline. As we grow in Christ we learn to keep a tight rein on our tongue, and on all our other activities as well.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)
Acts of charity are always in order in the Christian churches.
Notice that we are to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. Sometimes we hear it preached that “we are accepted in the beloved” so we are to do nothing but believe. Christ will do all the work of cleansing us.
This is not the case. We have to keep ourselves from the moral uncleannesses so prevalent in the Antichrist world spirit. We keep ourselves pure by praying continually, meditating day and night in the Scriptures, and having fellowship with fervent believers.
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4)
We have to be careful of this. Many young people today dress in outlandish ways. We may be tempted to gather together in our middle-class smugness and keep aloof from them. Whether someone is in rags, dressed in finery, has a nose ring, or is tattooed from head to foot, we are not to show favoritism. The Lord sees the heart.
Pentecostal churches used to be filled with poor people. The charismatic churches tend to have people with a higher education and more money. We had better be careful lest we miss the Lord Jesus in this. He always favors the poor.
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5)
Jesus Christ, Paul, and James spoke of the danger associated with material wealth. Yet we have preachers today telling their listeners that God wants them to be rich; that money is the sign of God’s blessing. These are false prophets leading their hearers to destruction.
You can go anywhere in the world and you will find that it is the poorer people who fear God. The rich, the highly educated, the noble, love their place in society. But they usually do not love God with the same fervor.
God has promised to provide our material needs if we put seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness at the head of our priorities. But I do not know anywhere in the New Testament where the Lord promised that if we did His will we would become wealthy in material riches. Wealthy in spiritual riches, yes; but not in material riches.
But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? (James 2:6,7)
Do we insult poor people by our attitude? Do we favor the rich? The rich are quick to sue us because they can afford lawyers. They are comfortable in court while the poor are fearful because they have no money.
Wealthy people often do not fear God or Christ because their money has given them a false sense of security. One does not find too many rich people who are cross-carrying disciples of the Lord Jesus.
America by and large is a wealthy country. It is true there are some people in our nation who are desperately poor, but our standard of living is higher than that of many other countries. This is why our churches are not as spiritually insightful or as fervent as some of the Christian churches in India or Africa, for example. We Americans think we are wise and intelligent, but I have found that people in the poorer countries have a clearer understanding of the Scriptures.
Riches are a snare and they blind our eyes. They easily become a god we trust for our survival and pleasure.
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. (James 2:8)
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18)
As I said, the church in Jerusalem may have been making the transition from Moses to Christ, due to the preaching of Paul. James, the pastor, is pointing to the heart of the Law of Moses. The royal law prevents their showing favoritism to rich people. Since James stresses this point, it must have been a problem among the Jewish believers. It certainly was a problem with the Pharisees, as the Lord mentioned.
They love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; (Matthew 23:6)
But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (James 2:9)
We sin by showing favoritism because we are not loving our neighbor as ourselves. The Jewish believers James was writing to knew the Law and honored the Law. Therefore James is telling them that when they show favoritism, as the Pharisees evidently did, they were breaking the Law—even though they may have been careful to observe the Sabbath, for example.
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. (James 2:10,11)
The idea here is, if you favor the rich and insult the poor you are guilty of adultery, murder, and all the other prohibitions of the Law of Moses.
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, (James 2:12)
As I mentioned previously, I believe James was beginning to teach his Jewish audience about the transition from Moses to Christ, that the Apostle Paul had received from the Lord. No human being is ever without law in the sight of God. Either he is governed by the Law of Moses, or he has come under the law of the Spirit of life.
Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-4)
When James says “freedom” he means freedom from the requirements of the Law of Moses. We are free from the Law and without condemnation. We will not be judged by the Law of Moses. But we shall be judged by the law of the Spirit of life as to whether or not we cooperated with the Holy Spirit.
The law of the Spirit of Life gives freedom from the Law of Moses, but not freedom to sin.
Because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! (James 2:13)
I think James is still referring to the believers being unkind to the poor. Those who adhered strictly to the Law of Moses tended to be harsh and judgmental, as we note in the behavior of the Pharisees.
Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” (John 9:28,29)
The following words of James either are the Word of God or else they aren’t. We still have teachers today claiming that we are saved by “faith alone.” Their salvation depends on their holding firmly in mind certain theological facts. Their belief is that their agreement with these facts will bring them to Heaven when they die.
“I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
“I believe that He died to make an atonement for my sins.”
“I believe He rose from the dead in His body.”
“I believe God has given Him all authority in Heaven and upon the earth.”
“I believe the Bible is the Word of God, written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit.”
“These are eternal facts. They cannot be disputed.”
Believing these facts is like believing that the colonies rebelled against the rule of England and set up their own government. They are undeniable.
The question James raises is, is it sufficient, in order to please God, to accept these facts as truth, or is it necessary also to behave righteously? Can we enter the Kingdom of God on the basis of our belief system alone, or is a change of behavior required?
On what basis would we maintain it is necessary only to believe these theological facts, and a change of our behavior, while desirable, is not essential as far as being saved from wrath is concerned?
We can prove this position from certain passages, such as, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom God has sent.” And then the writings of Paul that insist we are saved by grace and not by works.
In other words, we prove our position from statements made by Christ and by Paul. Is this correct? (How else would we attempt to support our position?)
However, Christ declared that we cannot be His disciples unless we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Are we saying that being saved is one matter and being a disciple is another? Can we be saved without being a disciple?
The Apostle Paul (addressing Christian people) stated that if we yield to the sinful nature we cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Is it possible to be saved and not inherit the Kingdom of God?
The New Testament reminds us that the Lord, after having saved the people out of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not continue to believe.
The Lord Jesus informed us that those who do not bear the fruit of His image in their lives shall be cut from the Vine. All the writers of the Epistles warned us clearly that if we as a Christian continue to sin we will be destroyed.
We understand, then, that those who maintain we are “saved by faith alone” apart from a change in our behavior are theoreticians who have drawn certain verses from the New Testament while ignoring the bulk of the text.
The words of James alone (if we consider his writing to be inspired text) are sufficient to reveal that those who insist on “faith alone” are deluded. Not only are they deluded, they are contributing to the moral decline of the Christian churches. For it is certain that in a demon-oppressed culture, such as that of the United States, England, Germany, and other Western nations, teaching that maintains righteous, holy behavior is desirable but not essential to our salvation will leave the believers vulnerable to the fiery passions of their demon-provoked sinful nature.
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 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? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:15-17)
The above passage is a clear indication that Paul’s emphasis on salvation by faith was being circulated and misunderstood. James was a practical man. He could understand readily that a statement of faith apart from relevant behavior is dead. This means that action is the life of faith, and so it is. Faith apart from relevant behavior is not Bible faith. It is a mental assent to theological facts. Bible faith is obedience to what God has revealed to be His will.
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the “faith chapter,” is a record of obedience to the revealed will of God. This chapter uses people of pre-Christian times to illustrate the saying of Habakkuk, “The righteous will live by his faith.” The fact that members of the pre-Christian elect are employed to show that the righteous live by faith proves that pleasing God by faith is not a unique feature of the new covenant, and has more to do with obedience to God than it does with mental assent to theological facts.
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. (James 2:18)
“I will show you my faith by what I do.” How true this is! If we believe Jesus is the Son of God we are going to take up our cross and follow Him each day, for this is what He commanded. How can we say we believe Jesus is the Son of God and then not do what He has commanded? This does not make sense!
How can we say we believe the Book of Romans is the inspired Word of God if we do not do what is commanded therein? Romans tells us to present our body a sacrifice to God. If we claim that Romans is the inspired Word of God, and then do not do what has been commanded, we are guilty of disobedience are we not?
So how can faith in Christ or faith in the Bible save us if we do not do what has been commanded therein? If we do not obey what has been commanded, we are guilty of disobedience. We will be punished severely for our disobedience, not saved, if we truly believe in Christ and the Bible and then not do what has been commanded!
The concept of salvation by “faith alone” is a monstrous, destructive error.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:19)
I think James has a strong, defensible point here. The demons believe there is one God. “Hear, O Israel: the Lord your God, the Lord, is One.” The demons believe this. But their belief does not save them. The demons know Jesus is the Christ, the holy one of God. But that does not save them. The fortune-telling spirit in the girl who followed Paul knew that Paul was a servant of God and was preaching the way of salvation. But this knowledge did not save the spirit or the girl.
The philosophy of Gnosticism teaches that a certain kind of knowledge saves us. The Christian redemption does not teach that a certain kind of knowledge saves us.
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 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. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. ((James 2:20-24)
The concern of James over this issue tells us that Paul’s teaching had been misapplied. “You foolish man,” James responds. What was the foolish man saying? He was saying that a person is declared righteous (justified) on the basis of faith alone apart from any works of righteousness.
At one point Abraham was declared righteous because he believed God. But that was all God was requiring at the time.
At another point the Seed of Abraham was promised a great inheritance, not because Abraham believed what God had said but because he obeyed what God had said.
If Abraham had disobeyed God in the matter of Isaac he would have been treated as a disobedient servant, even though initially he had been declared righteous. Paul’s point in stressing that Abraham was declared righteous by his faith in the promise was to prove that it is possible to be righteous apart from the Law, not to prove it is possible to be righteous without obeying God!
When we first come to Christ He requires only that we believe he is the Son of God and that we accept by faith the blood atonement. He does not want us to add some sort of good works so we can show we deserve to be saved.
After that He commands us to be baptized in water. Now he is not asking merely for belief but for action. If we believe He is the Son of God, and accept by faith the blood atonement, and then refuse to be baptized in order to prove that we are justified “by faith alone,” then we are treated as a disobedient servant.
Christ has commanded us through His Apostles to lead a righteous, holy life. If we believe He is the Son of God (the demons know this is a fact), and accept the blood atonement for the forgiveness of our sins, and then refuse to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, as we have been commanded, we will be treated as a disobedient servant.
The key is obedience, not belief. When God commands us to believe, then we are to believe, not adding our own works so as to attempt to earn righteousness. Then when God commands us to obey the Holy Spirit, we are to obey the Holy Spirit, not refusing to do so on the basis that we have been declared righteous “by faith alone.”
“To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
“Abraham’s faith was made complete by what he did,” James declares. If Abraham did not obey God, his faith would have been incomplete and useless.
James states: “a person is justified (declared to be righteous) by what he does and not by faith alone.”
So Christian preachers and teachers who declare we are justified by faith alone are also declaring that the Book of James is not part of the inspired Word of God. We ourselves cannot adopt this position, because we believe the Bible as it stands, in its many translations, is the inerrant Word of God.
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? (James 2:25)
Rahab is mentioned in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews as one of the heroes of faith. Also, she is in the ancestral line of Christ. But neither would have been true of her if she believed the spies represented the true God but then did nothing to help them.
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26)
When the spirit leaves the human body, the body is dead. When deeds leave faith, then faith is dead. This is what the Spirit of God is saying through Pastor James.
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1)
There are many in America who teach the Christian salvation. Some are teaching we are justified “by faith alone.” They are incorrect. Some are teaching we are about to be “raptured” into Heaven. They are incorrect. Some are teaching it is impossible to keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles; for the commandments were given only for the purpose of showing us we need to be saved by grace. They are incorrect. Some are teaching that Christians are supposed to be wealthy in material riches. They are incorrect. Some are teaching that no one who makes a profession of belief in Jesus Christ will hear anything negative at the Judgment Seat of Christ. They are incorrect.
I suppose there are many additional errors in today’s gospel, but the above came to mind immediately. James says teachers will be judged more strictly. What will such teachers experience when they stand before Jesus Christ with their deceived listeners, who never have grown in Christ because of incorrect teaching?
We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. (James 3:2)
We have to be a long way toward maturity in Christ before we never are at fault in what we say. Isn’t that the truth?
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:3-6)
This is quite an exhortation, isn’t it? I don’t know as I have ever heard a sermon on how dangerous the tongue is.
I know that gossip and slander can contaminate the listeners and cause division in a local assembly. When immature believers become bitter over some real or imagined slight they wash their friends with their poison.
Every useless word a person speaks will be raised for examination in the Day of Judgment. With our words we are justified and with our words we are condemned.
It is a mature Christian who holds up his or her words before the Lord before speaking. When we realize that what we are going to say will succeed in doing nothing but anger the other person, we need to pray carefully before proceeding. It is the peacemakers who are referred to as sons of God.
If we cannot control our tongue, then we need to ask God to pour out His fire of judgment on us until we regain our self-control. Better a little fire now than to make our home in the fire when we die.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:7,8)
These are harsh words indeed! They show us how much we need God’s help in this matter. We cannot tame our tongue, but God can. This is why, if we are unable to control our tongue but find ourselves repeatedly saying things that are not helpful, we should ask God to do whatever is necessary to prevent this from happening.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:9-12)
I think James is saying that if we continually are speaking evil of people, then our heart, from which our mouth is speaking, is evil. It is an evil well and it is bringing up evil water. Therefore when we praise God our worship is not acceptable because it is coming from an evil heart.
If it comes to our attention that we are prone to be critical of people, to gossip about and slander our fellow believers, to make spiteful comments, then we need to recognize there is little or no eternal life in us. Our very salvation is in doubt.
Any person in whom eternal life is dwelling is not going to be gossiping and making destructive comments about other people. Such words are coming from Satan, not from the Spirit of God. He is not a true Christian but has been deceived. He needs to go to his fellow believers, ask for forgiveness, and beseech them to pray that he may be delivered from the control of Satan.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13)
“Show it by his good life, by humility.” The sign that we are filled with the Spirit is not that we can talk in tongues, as important as that is. The only dependable sign of the Spirit’s Presence is a good life, a humble personality. It is necessary to make a profession of belief in Jesus Christ. But if this profession is not proceeding from a good life, it is vain. The evidence of true salvation, of the presence of eternal life, is Christ-like behavior.
But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3:14-16)
“Bitter envy.” “Selfish ambition.” Do not boast about such motives. They come from Satan. Selfish ambition, self-seeking, striving for preeminence, result in disorder and destruction. Selfish ambition crucified the Lord and is the reason for the present chaotic state of the nations of the earth. The true Christian always is seeking the mind and will of the Lord, not his or her own preeminence.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)
Many times during our Christian discipleship we need to know what the Lord’s will is. It is not always easy to find. Even though we are praying and reading our Bible we still can be deceived.
When we feel we have the mind of the Lord we need to ask ourselves:
- Is the wisdom I am receiving pure, or is it mixed with questionable factors?
- Is the wisdom I am receiving peace-loving or is it accompanied by haste and the need to force people and circumstances?
- Is the wisdom I am receiving considerate, or does it cause me to go my way without regard for the welfare of other people?
- Is the wisdom I am receiving submissive, or am I arrogant and presumptuous, not heeding the counsel of other Christians?
- Is the wisdom I am receiving merciful, or is it unforgiving and harsh toward people?
- Is the wisdom I am receiving impartial, of I am passionately grasping some relationship, thing, or circumstance?
- Is the wisdom I am receiving sincere, or does it require that I conceal my goals and pursue my objectives in the darkness of my own heart?
We need to ask ourselves these questions whenever we think we have the mind of the Lord. God’s wisdom always is peaceable. When we find ourselves angry, or attempting to force people or circumstances, or in a hurry, we can be pretty sure we are not hearing from the Lord Jesus.
So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed [be in a hurry].” (Isaiah 28:16)
Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:18)
What we sow we are going to reap. If we sow impurity, fighting, selfishness, arrogance, unforgiveness, passionate desire, and insincerity, we are going to reap corruption and destruction. If we sow peace, unselfishness, purity, humility, mercy, an impartial attitude, we shall reap a harvest of righteousness.
It is just about impossible to hear what God is saying when there is something we desire passionately. I tell people in our church not to prophesy or try to give words of wisdom or knowledge when there is something they desire passionately, or they are angry, or disquieted for some other reason. Invariably error will creep out in their utterance.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1)
We may give several reasons why we fight and quarrel. Usually we assign blame to someone else. But none of our arguments are valid. We are fighting and quarreling because of our desires, because of our clutching our idols.
God permits people to oppose us. Then we have a choice. We can go to God and ask Him to solve the problem. Or, if we still are not resting in God’s will, we can become angry and seek to force our way. When we blame others for our discomfiture instead of going to God for wisdom, we lose the benefit that God wanted to give us through this test.
You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. (James 4:2)
We always are to go to God in order to obtain what we want. We never are to quarrel and fight with other people. You would never see the Lord Jesus quarreling and fighting with other people to get what He desires, and He is our example in all things. When believers quarrel and fight it is because they are living in their sinful nature. They are not at rest in God’s will. They are immature—spiritual babies.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3)
Over the last few years we went through a period when the preachers were telling the believers they are to be rich. They are to use their “faith” to get all the money and things they want.
You wouldn’t believe that Christian people could be deceived so easily; but they were, and perhaps some still are.
Satan told the Lord to turn the stones into bread. This is the same thing as attempting to use faith to gain material wealth. Jesus responded by saying that man is not to live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God’s mouth.
The reason Christian people seek material wealth is that they are not living by the Word of God, by the Life and wisdom that always are coming from God. They are living in their fleshly appetites, and so it appears reasonable to them that they should try to use God in order to become wealthy.
We are not to be seeking pleasure. We are to be seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. It always is correct to ask God for what it is we desire, giving thanks for the blessings we do enjoy. But we do not pray that God will help us to have fun at a party, or to get enough money that we can spend our time lying on the beach. Rather we pray that God will help us through the day that we may do His will in peace and joy.
The primary purpose of prayer is to bring us into God’s perfect will.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
Part of our problem as Americans is there is not enough separation between the national culture and the Kingdom of God. Because of the manner in which America originated, there is a kind of general idea that ours is a Christian nation. Perhaps it was at one time, but it certainly is not now.
And so we have a culture clash. There is a lingering morality that protests against profanity in the media, abortion, and homosexual behavior. But there is a growing sentiment that all such restraints should be discarded because of the doctrine of the freedom of the individual.
Satan is busily at work attempting to move our moral limits further and further toward Hell. What is acceptable today in the media would have been a basis for national outrage a hundred years ago.
Moving pictures such as “The Titanic,” and the Harry Potter literature series, are examples of the moral limits being pushed toward Hell. There are scenes in The Titanic that the Lord Jesus would not approve of. The Harry Potter books are about witchcraft.
So the Christian parents are faced with a problem. Generally speaking, our society would view The Titanic as perfectly acceptable, and the Harry Potter books as harmless—in fact beneficial, because they stimulate reading on the part of the children in school. Also there is an increase in profanity in the media, but not to the point that society as a whole would object too strenuously.
We still view raw pornography as being against community standards. But even this viewpoint is in danger of being overwhelmed.
Christian parents have not faced this problem previously—at least not to this extent. When I taught in the public elementary school many years ago there still was a good moral climate. When I attended elementary school, in West Haven, Connecticut, seventy odd years ago, the teacher read a passage from the Bible every morning.
If we would go even earlier than that we would notice a strong sentiment in our country in favor of Bible standards. The same was true in the British Isles. Of course, there always have been wicked people in every country.
So parents have a problem today. We want our children to have every advantage the America culture offers. But eventually we are going to have to draw the line. We do not attend moving pictures where there are sexual innuendoes of any kind. We do not read books glorifying witchcraft. We do not listen to profanity. This means that we are forced to withdraw somewhat from society.
I notice the tendency of athletic events to hold their program on Sunday. Also, children’s soccer games are on Sunday. This seems innocent, doesn’t it? It is far from innocent. It is Satan pushing, pushing, pushing the limits.
I grew up in West Haven, Connecticut. There were no stores open on Sunday. That was the day everyone either stayed home or went to church. You did not go shopping. I wonder if this is true in West Haven today? All these little changes seem innocent. They are not.
“Friendship with the world is hatred toward God,” James says. Is this still true—even in the United States of America? Is it still true that if we choose to be a friend of the world we make ourselves the enemy of God? It most certainly is true! If something does not happen in America and England to turn us back from our rush toward Hell, we can be sure that Divine judgment will intervene.
Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? (James 4:5)
There seems to be some difficulty translating this verse from the Greek. Brother Walter Harris, now deceased, used to translate this: “The Spirit He caused to live in us yearns over us with a godly jealously.” This translation seems reasonable to me for two reasons. First, it is in contrast to the idea of being the friend of the world. Second, it is speaking of the “spirit he caused to live in us.” I assume this means the Holy Spirit whom God caused to live in us. It seems right to me that the Holy Spirit in us, who is seeking to present us a chaste virgin to Christ, would become jealous if He saw us flirting with the world.
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
If we humble ourselves under the hand of God, refusing to be drawn into the adulterous wickedness of the world system, we may experience a certain amount of social misunderstanding and ostracism. But God will give us more grace so we can be joyful in Him.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
The world is proud and resists God. We, however, are to submit ourselves to God. We are to resist the devil. Altogether too much rebuking of the devil goes on in our day. We are not called to rebuke the devil but to resist the devil. It is easy to yell rebukes at the devil. He enjoys this and interprets our rebukes as worship. Anything to get our attention.
Resisting the devil means we are being tempted to yield to our sinful nature. Instead we turn to God and gain strength from Him. When Satan sees that we have chosen righteousness he flees from us. This is how we resist the devil.
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)
James was quite a pastor, wasn’t he? He did not emphasize that once we have accepted Christ we are eternally saved no matter how we behave. James was a preacher of righteousness. We need more ministers today who will command us to wash the moral filth from our hands and hearts and to become single-minded toward Jesus Christ.
Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. (James 4:9)
Ever since I received Christ, at the age of nineteen, I have been serious about the Lord. In those days I sometimes was reprimanded for not smiling all the time. I was a young people’s leader and was reproved for being so serious.
I know there are times when we need to cheer people up because they are worrying too much about the affairs of life. But there is nothing wrong with looking serious. We are in a serious business, and the eternal destiny of people is at stake.
Actually I do not trust people who are always smiling. I believe they do not understand we are in a warfare.
Why does Pastor James command us to grieve, to mourn, to wail, to change our laughter to mourning and our joy to gloom? Is this actually part of the inspired Word of God?
There is something unreal about American Christianity. It doesn’t seem to match what is taking place in the rest of the world. So many people are suffering. So many people are without the Gospel. Some Christians do not even have a Bible. I do not say we should go around mourning all day. But we ought to demonstrate some evidence that life is a serious business and there is a lot of Gospel work still to be done.
Jesus said we are blessed when we mourn, for we shall be comforted.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10)
We Americans, by and large, are a proud people. We think we are the smartest people in the world and favored of God. There is coming a day when we will be put down, I believe, for we are becoming immoral. If we are willing to humble ourselves, then God will lift us up. We can learn from other nations.
Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. (James 4:11)
Some commentators feel that James was referring to disputes about the Law of Moses—that some believers were accusing others of not keeping the Law correctly, of misinterpreting it. In this sense they were judging the Law rather than obeying it.
Or, it could be ventured that if a believer was observing the Law of Moses, and someone was criticizing his behavior, then in this sense he was criticizing the Law.
Another possible, though less likely, interpretation is that James was referring to the law of the Spirit of life. In this case he was saying that when we slander another Christian we are judging that the law of the Spirit of life was not working properly in him. If the Christian is doing wrong, it is the fault of the law of the Spirit of life.
A fourth possible solution is that James was using colloquial Greek that is ambiguous, although I think this is unlikely in that no translation I have read suggests ambiguity. I present the fourth option because the following verse (James 4:12) clearly speaks of judging one’s neighbor, not judging the Law itself.
One of these four interpretations is probably the true understanding; but it is a difficult verse to comprehend.
The following translation of James 4:11 is taken from “Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible.
Speak not one against another, brethren; he who is speaking against a brother, and is judging his brother, doth speak against law, and doth judge law, and if law thou dost judge, thou are not a doer of law but a judge;
By stretching a point, we conceivably could interpret James to be saying “he who is speaking against a brother, and is judging his brother, is referencing law, and is applying law, and if law you are applying, you are not a doer of law but a judge.”
The reader will have to think this through for himself or herself.
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:12)
I suppose gossip, slander, criticizing, judging one’s neighbor, have been prevalent in the Christian churches since they began.
For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. (II Corinthians 12:20)
We have no business judging a fellow believer. We who are pastors must continually remind the people that gossip and slander are condemned in the New Testament. Speaking evil of others simply is not acceptable in the Kingdom of God.
The reason there is so much gossip and slander is that Satan is the accuser of the brothers. Any time we let down our guard and begin to criticize a brother or sister, there is Satan to encourage us. We can gain total victory over this tendency, but we must be totally sincere if we are to obtain deliverance.
We need to see the strengths and the weaknesses in each other. Then we are to encourage the strengths and work with them, and be patient with the weaknesses and pray that God will bring healing. It requires considerable maturity to take this approach to our fellow believers, but God will help us; for this is the way in which He works with us.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:13,14)
People strut about on the earth, deciding what they are going to do, where they are going to go. It is not fashionable to walk humbly with God.
But this is not intelligent. Given that God has all knowledge, all wisdom, all power, and is endeavoring to bring us to righteousness, peace, and joy, it does not make sense for us to make decisions without committing our way to the Lord.
We know nothing at all. As James says, we are nothing but a mist that appears and then vanishes. We do not know how to arrive at love, joy, and peace, which are the greatest treasures of all. But God knows and is more than willing to help us obtain these blessings.
So the fool determines his way apart from the Lord. The wise individual looks to God for every detail of life, great and small. He walks humbly with God.
Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15)
Our highest goal is to reveal God’s will in our personality. We attain to this goal by holding all of our thoughts, words, and actions before the Lord until we are at rest in God’s Person and will. This is where the Lord Jesus always is, and He has come in the Spirit to receive us to Himself that we also may dwell in the will of God.
As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:16)
Those who are living in their fleshly nature are prone to boast about what they have done or are able to do. People boast about their strength or their money. But if we are wise we will glory only in the Lord. The Apostle Paul was determined that Christ would be exalted in his body, whether by his life or his death.
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. (James 4:17)
This sums it up, doesn’t it? We would say today that we are saved by grace, and although we ought to do good, if we do not we are saved anyway because God overlooks our sins. James doesn’t seem to agree with our current gospel, does he?
When we read in the Bible about something we should do, or are informed from some other source, we are to go to prayer to find out what Christ is saying to us. Sometimes the Lord lets us know that we are not having this particular problem at this time. On other occasions the Lord will enable us to change our behavior so we are in harmony with God’s will and ways.
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. (James 5:1-3)
Pastor James certainly could not be counted among those who advocate that all Christians should be rich. Evidently there were rich people in his congregation and he was warning them about the consequences of the way wealthy people often behave.
One example in our own country has to do with absentee landlords. There are wealthy people who own apartments in slum areas. They themselves live in fine houses in gated communities. Their tenants pay rent to live in squalor, without enough heat in winter; without hot water; in rooms that need painting, roofs that leak when it rains. It is hard to believe that rich people would treat poor people in this manner, but they do.
The rich man was thrown into Hell for no reason other than not sharing his wealth with Lazarus.
As far as I know, gold and silver do not become corroded. When James says their corrosion will burn away the flesh of the rich, he must be speaking spiritually. He must be saying that in the Day of Resurrection, fire will come forth from the money that was hoarded and burn the resurrected flesh of the wealthy. I believe there may be many such specific consequences in the Day of Resurrection.
Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. (James 5:4-6)
This kind of preaching reminds us of John the Baptist.
God always has been concerned about poor people. The Law of Moses included directives to the wealthy to share their riches with the poor people.
There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. (Deuteronomy 15:11)
I have noticed that when people have more money than the average person it affects their personality. It may be that they believe they are specially favored. Or they may feel more secure than most of us because they can rely on their money to save them.
Rich people tend to be stingy. You would think they would be more apt to be generous than is true of people of lesser means. The opposite is true. The person of lesser means tends to be more openhanded with money.
The rich live on the earth in luxury and self-indulgence, James says. He adds that they have murdered innocent men. It is certain that the Pharisees collaborated in the murder of Jesus Christ, whereas the common people received Him and listened to Him.
Labor unions were formed in the United States because of the willingness of the wealthy businessmen to force the workers to labor in harsh conditions at low wages.
The Apostle Paul said the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. One need only to read today’s newspaper to see how true this is.
Those who would be rich fall into a snare and pierce themselves through with many sorrows. It is better to be content with what we have, and to let the Lord know when we have needs.
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. (James 5:7)
The land of Israel receives an autumn, or planting, rain and a spring, or harvest, rain. There are sporadic winter rains between these two major rainfalls, but no rain in the summer.
These two rains portray the two major outpourings of the Spirit. The planting rain is described in the Book of Acts. The harvest outpouring of the Spirit will take place before the Lord’s return, and will bring God’s planting to maturity so it can be harvested. At that time the wicked will be removed from the righteous, and the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of God.
The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, And the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:38-43)
Good and evil shall both come to maturity at the end of the age. We now are entering this period. The Holy Spirit will demand and enable a higher level of righteous behavior than has been true previously. The wicked will reveal the nature of Satan in their personality and behavior. The way of the Lord shall be made straight.
The believer of today is wise if he presses into Christ with all His might. These are days of preparation. Soon the demonic pressures will be so great that Christians no longer will be able to resist temptation. Even now there are Christians who are addicted to pornography and cannot tear themselves away from it.
It is difficult to resist sin today. Tomorrow it will be impossible. This is why we absolutely must give ourselves wholly to the Lord now, obeying the Holy Spirit as He leads us in putting to death the deeds of our sinful nature.
“Ask rain from the Lord at the time of the spring rain”
You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. (James 5:8)
God is patient, waiting for the harvest season. We too are to be patient. Two thousand years ago, James said “the Lord’s coming is near.” We feel that His coming is near now. But this feeling is deceptive. The spirit world is not bound by time. Only a day or two has passed (in the spirit world) since James wrote these words.
My personal belief is that the Lord’s coming is still several years away. There is quite a bit of Bible prophecy yet to be fulfilled before His return. Also, the Christian people are not mature enough to work with Him in installing the Kingdom of God on the earth. A further work of redemption is needed, and I believe it has begun. The Christian churches must be delivered from the bondages of sin.
Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:9)
We shall be judged if we grumble against our fellow believers. This needs to be preached more than it is. We have had so much emphasis on grace that the believers are not aware God will judge them for their behavior.
“The Judge is standing at the door” refers more to proximity, I believe, than it does to calendar time. It seems to me that the Presence of Jesus Christ is nearer than it was, say fifty years ago. It is as though you can reach out and touch Him. Numerous believers are receiving words of knowledge and wisdom—prophetic words that provide insight into people and their difficulties. I don’t remember such words being so common in past time.
Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (James 5:10)
There do come crises in our Christian life. When the Lord perceives that we are strong enough and experienced enough He begins to deal with our worldliness, our bodily lusts and passions, and our self-will. This judgment on our personality is typified by the Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). I like to refer to this observance as the Day of Reconciliation, because during this season of redemption the Lord Jesus reconciles the various areas of our personality to the Father.
It may happen that we are a joyous, fruitful Christian. Then it seems as though the Presence of God withdraws from us and we go through a dry place. It is during this period, if we do not give up in despair, that we are drawn closer to God.
While we are walking in darkness the Book of Job and the Book of Lamentations are especially comforting. When we read of Jeremiah’s season of despair we realize that other saints of the Lord have experienced similar trials.
Every member of the elect must sooner or later experience this time of the Lord’s “anger.” But afterwards He comforts us greatly and we realize that the season of darkness, of seeming rejection, was necessary and has added greatly to our knowledge of God.
As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:11)
Job is an excellent example of the kind of testing that brings about increased fruitfulness. The Lord Jesus told us that if we bear fruit we shall be pruned.
Job entered his trial as a righteous man. He emerged as a man who knew the Lord. In addition, all that he had lost was restored to him. So it will be with us if we persevere throughout our time of testing, of reconciliation to God.
Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned. (James 5:12)
Again we see that condemnation comes upon those who sin. It is commonly preached that no condemnation can possibly come upon anyone who receives Christ as his or her Savior. This is not true. When a Christian continues in sin, not confessing and turning away from such behavior, he comes under condemnation whether or not he believes in Christ.
The immature believer may use expletives in his speech, sometimes outright profanity and the taking of the Lord’s name in vain. When a Christian says, “I am going to go there by God,” he may think his speech is acceptable. it is not. He ought to say, “If it pleases the Lord I will go there.” Or just, “I am going there.” The mature Christian does not use expletives to fill out his speech. He speaks simply and clearly, meaning what he says, always looking for ways to build up those around him. Chattering, speaking endlessly about nothing of importance, is of the soulish nature, and sometimes leads to sin.
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. (James 5:13)
This is a description of a mature saint. When he is in trouble he does not panic, complain, or blame other people, he prays until God solves the problem. When he is happy he does not indulge in foolishness, acting in an abandoned manner, he sings hymns to the Lord. To behave in this manner requires self-control, doesn’t it?
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14,15)
Sometimes people believe they have to have great faith to be healed. All the Lord asks is that they present themselves before the elders of the church. That is the faith they need to exercise, the faith to go up before the elders. It then is up to the elders to anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord and petition God to heal them. Numerous believers have been healed physically by doing what James has urged. Also, their sins will be forgiven at this time, just as the Lord forgave the sins of the man who was let down through the hole in the roof.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
There often (not always) is a relationship between sickness and sin. James advises us to confess our sins to each other and pray that we may be healed. The physical healing and the forgiveness of sins go together.
Be certain that when you confess your sins to another believer, he or she is not a weak Christian or a gossip. Also, confess your sins to someone of the same gender as yourself, unless it is your husband or wife. Crossing the gender lines when confessing sins can cause problems.
Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (James 5:17,18)
The idea is, if Elijah can do it, so can we. I believe this is true. What a wonderful encouragement for us!
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:19,20)
I think James means the multitude of sins committed by the sinner will be covered over. I wouldn’t doubt that the sins of the one who called the sinner back to the ways of righteousness also will be covered over.
We see, therefore, what practical advice Pastor James gives. We would do well today to take to heart his several exhortations to righteous behavior. Our day is one of deception, in that grace (defined only as unqualified forgiveness) is emphasized again and again out of all proportion to its place in the New Testament. Hopefully the next few years in America will see a restoration of the true, scriptural emphasis, which is the bringing forth of new creations who are increasing daily in the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(“The Book of James”, 3751-1)