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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Yes, It's All About Faith

It's All About Faith 
James 2
Caree Connolly 

In Chapter 1 we learn that James went from unbelief of the Lord Jesus Christ to the full immersion into the Word of God, willingly becoming a bond servant for Jesus.  We begin to understand the necessary tools God gave us to grow and mature in faith.

In the first chapter James dealt with believers struggling with many different issues. One of the issues was materialism. This is something still going today. I mentioned the shows that portray the wealthy, but we can also see evidence in magazines, and even emails which send out letters or pictures to entice the eye. 

We saw in verses 2-4 that God wants us to find Joy and have patience in our trials. And to ask Him for the wisdom needed, which He will give abundantly. (Ephesians 3: 20  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us 

In  verses 6-8, James spoke of how doubt is like a wave, tossed by the wind. But to keep our eyes on Jesus. 

From the verses 13-18, we were shown that trials are a test of endurance and patience, and temptations can draw you into disobedience.

The final verses in the first chapter (19-27) We saw that being swift to hear, {being hearers and doers of the Word}, Slow to Speak; {being mindful of what we say, and guarding our tongues} is crucial for a Christian. 
(Ephesians 4:29 tells us:  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but such as is good for building up as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.) And Slow to Wrath; {wrath does not produce the righteous of God) 

James is giving us the tools to help us learn. And as we look into the second chapter, we will read much about faith and our actions, but we will also find that discrimination in the church was a problem that needed dealing with.

Faith removes Favoritism

Chapter 2:1  My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.
King James versions sometimes use the term 'Respect' in place of 'partiality'. Those with NIV its 'favoritism'. For all these different words, they all have a basic and similar meaning: a preference to something or someone over another. But the Jewish people of  that day coveted honor, recognition and vied for praise.

Jesus gave a parable in Luke 14:7-14 about an ambitious guest attending a wedding. He also characterizes and condemns the pharisees for their practices in Matthew 23. Partiality or favoritism is still with us today. It is seen in politics, industry, society, and even in many churches. A few churches have their cliques, and new Christians find it hard to be welcomed.

I remember in school all the cliques that we had. The jocks, cheerleaders, brains, the goth, etc. I may have known practically everyone in school, but if your not part of a group, you were excluded many times.

Verses 2-4 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You should stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

I was too young than, but my parents remember seeing the hippie’s from the 70's become new Christians, wanting a church to attend. But because of their long hair, funny clothes, and lack of shoes, lots of churches rejected them. A church called Calvary Chapel was one of the few who welcomed them in at first.  

Jesus doesn’t look at the outward appearance, but He does look at your heart. In Matthew 22:16 his enemies told him; You aren't swayed by man because you pay no attention to who they are.  So far, in this town, I haven't seen someone who looked grungy and dirty turned away from church, but wonder how many big churches in big cities still look on the outward person. They are coming because they heard God knocking and are trying to answer. Matthew 7:7 says Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 

Verses 5-7 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?

The key word I saw in vs. 5 was 'chosen'. Chosen, not by merit, but by grace. God saved us completely on the basis of the work on the cross and from Nothing  that we are or have.  He chose the poor that have a lack of worldly goods, but are rich in faith. God measures riches on a far different standard than the does. 
For example: the United States used to use Gold as their monetary standard. No more though. Now it uses paper money. Quite a bit change.

I Corinthians 1:26-27 “For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”

Wealth and power will not save you or me. It has much to do with what we do with Christ and the material wealth he gave us. God promises the kingdom to “those that love him” (James 2:5) not those  that love this world and its riches more.

Jesus himself was poor, and was a sufferer of injustice by the church leaders. In my Sunday school class, we learned about how the church leaders took advantage of the people and used their own currency (the temple shekel) to get richer, and Jesus came in and overturned their money tables and called them a den of thieves. Perhaps being rebuked in public in front of the people they thought they had spiritual authority over, was the turning point for them into getting rid of this Jesus. 

The blessing for us is that He's not gone at all. He's still here with us! 

Verses 8-11 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourselves,” you do well: But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble at one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become transgressors of the law.

James begins by melding the new testament with the old testament.

Some Christians feel that the old testament is no longer useful, but as we see here in James, both are necessary for our maturity and growth. Verse 8 is speaking of the law. 

Warren Weirsbe in his commentary, Be Mature, brings up: why is “Love thy neighbor” called the royal law? It was given by the king. God the Father gave it in the law. God the Son referred it to his disciples (John 13:34  A new  commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” 

God the Spirit fills our hearts with God's love He expects us to share it with others.

The law, “Love thy neighbor, “ comes to us from the old testament, Leviticus 19:18  “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) tells us that our neighbor is anyone in need, not just the people who live next door.

Another reason I found of the royal law: It heads all other laws. Romans 13:10 bears this out by saying: “Love is the fulfilling of the law.”

With the royal law, obeying it makes you as a king. Hatred can enslave you, but love frees us from selfishness. It enables us to obey the Word of God and treat others as God commands us to.

We obey His law, not with fear, but out of Love. 

Which brings us up to verse 9 in which showing partiality or respect is disobeying the law, and that is sin. Remember what it says in verse 10: For whoever shall keep the law, yet stumble at one point, he is guilty of all. 

Chuck Smith in his Blue Letter Commentary makes use some of the ten commandments: Thou shall not Kill, Thou shall not commit adultery, Thou shall not steal. 

Unfortunately for myself, I stole a candy bar, when I was 5 years old. I was caught by my older brother, and had to go confess to my mom, take back the candy to the store, which meant confessing to the store clerk. Then I had to go home and await discipline from my parents. Not only did I brake a commandment, I broke the state law.

But what if you have not broken ANY of the ten commandments?  Don't forget, Jesus gave gave us one more. “Love one another as I have loved you. Its pretty easy to love a sister or brother in Christ, but what about someone your not really fond of? If we can't, we're guilty of breaking the royal law. Our christian love means treating others the way God treats me. It's an act of will, not an emotion manufactured. It's to glorify God.

Verses 12 & 13  So speak and do so as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 

I looked online for the 'law of liberty' and found in a section where Bible questions are answered, and found this: {It's a perfect system which contains laws and commandments which are is not grievous, and yet it's a system of grace and liberty}(John 5:3, Galatians 5:1-13) We have liberty from sin when we obey. (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:1-12)

With this law, there is judgment, and all will be judged. II Corinthians 5:10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one my receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad. 
We'll be judged on our words. What we say and how we say it. 

He will judge our attitudes. James shows in verse 13 that there are two different attitudes here: showing mercy to others, and having no mercy. Matthew 5:7 Jesus said, Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. But Matthew 7:1,2 give a warning: Judge not, that you be not judged. For what judgment you judge, you will be judged: with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

Mercy and Judgment both come from God. Where he finds repentance and faith, he shows mercy. When he sees rebellion and unbelief, He must administer justice. The parable Jesus gave in Matthew 18:21-35 is a great example of mercy and justice.

Verse 14  What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

Can faith alone save someone? I think yes. My Grandpa was dying of cancer and in the hospital at the end. He accepted Jesus into his heart. He did not have works, but he did have faith to believe. Many have come to Christ in the last few days or hours of their life. 
But If someone says though that they have faith, but they don't show any works, we know that will not save them. It reminds us again of James 1:22 where he says,  Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Faith in Christ brings life, and where there is life, there must be growth. James warns us three times in this chapter that faith without works is dead. (verses 17, 20, & 26)

Verses  15-17  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warm and filed,” but do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Words might be encouraging in this case, but it won't help someone who obviously is in need. I know when myself or others were struggling to make ends meet, how the church stepped in to help. No  names where ever used. It was just provided. It was such a blessing to have such a wonderful church family. 

Verse 18 But  if someone will say, “you have faith. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

This is a declaration with something behind it. The proof is in the works we do. The works itself can't save us, but they can justify that we have a saving faith. If there are no works that correspond to what we are declaring, we do not have a saving faith. It becomes just a declaration. Only words.  

Verse 19  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even demons believe-and tremble!

Who hasn't ever heard someone say..I believe in God. Most people do, except the foolish. Psalm 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none that doeth good. 

And yes, the demons believed in Christ as well. They bore witness to his son-ship (Mark 3:11-12), a place of punishment (Luke 8:31), and saw Jesus as the true Judge (Matthew 5:1-13) They had to submit to the power of His Word. And still people deny the truth of Jesus.

Verses 20-22  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Issac his son on the alter? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by his works faith was made perfect?

We aren't saved by faith in faith; we were saved by faith in Christ as revealed in His Word. It involves the whole person. The men and women named in Hebrews 11 were people of action. God spoke to them and they obeyed. Abraham was a man of faith. Even to the point of offering up his only son Issac as a sacrifice, only believing that God would raise up a nation through his son Issac.

Verse 23 & 24 And the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Abraham could have argue with God since Issac was his only son, and this just isn't right. But He did exercise faith, knowing that somehow, God would provide a way through this. And God did provide a ram as sacrifice. You can read the whole story in Genesis chapter 22 

Verse 25 & 26  Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

James used Rahab also as a person of great faith. Joshua had sent spies into Jericho to get the lay of the land. Rahab hid the men from the guards and than sent them out a safer way, with a promise of the men that she and her family would be spared when the city was taken. The men did as they promised. Rahab knew her city was condemned. She had heard the truth about the living God, and believed. Her mind knew the truth, her heart was stirred, and her will acted on the truth. 

Closing: In this second chapter of James, once again, he emphasizes how important faith is. He reminds us That we must not be favor one person over another. Finally we are encouraged that faith without works is dead.

 Let us be alive in Christ and put action into our faith.

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