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Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Maturity of the Christian. James says it all.

Koinonia Ladies Bible Study
James chapter 5

Caree Connolly

We will be ending this book of James here inn chapter 5. This is not a very long letter, but James has so much to teach us in our goal to do God's will, have faith and gain Christ like maturity.

Rich Oppressors Will Be Judged

James 5:1-6
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.

These first few verses are speaking of the wealthy unbelievers. These were the rich citizens that lived in the community, not within the church. They were persecuting and oppressing the poorer Christians. James is writing to them in this chapter as a warning. That they are heading for a downfall. 
(Luke 6:24) “But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation.

Although the Christians were undergoing oppression and trials, we are reminded from James 1:12 that living in anticipated joy, and rejoice despite the trials, in the hope reward at it's end.
James, through the Holy Spirit, saw the wealth of these people, from a future perspective. [vs.2]
Matthew 6:19-21 also gives us a look at the consequences of worldly wealth.

We continue in this chapter, to read that these riches are corroded. I was curious to see how the 'Message' portrayed this verse. It says; “Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you piled up is judgment”. 

Cancer is something that we all know; it eats away at our insides. One of the definitions of cancer is described as  “A spreading evil”That's what James was alluding to. 

The wealthy were taking as much as they could. And without thought on what damage they were doing. They were storing up their treasure, giving now thought to their last days and any judgment. 

There is that old saying; “saving up for a rainy day”. People are still doing that today. We need to be storing up our treasure in heaven, not here on earth.

In verse 4, the rich employers are spoken about. They were not giving their workers wages that were earned. The word 'Fraud', used here in this verse means; 'A deliberate deception perpetrated for unlawful or unfair gain'. Workers and laborers during this time were hired and paid without a paper contract. Employers were still bound by the law of Moses though. {Leviticus 19:13, Deuteronomy 24:14-15}

And To those employers who didn't exactly follow the law, Jeremiah 22:13 gives a warning.
“Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor”.

Verse 4 uses the term 'kept-back', which in the original Greek indicated that workers were not being paid. They were not able to appeal to a human judge like we can today. They did cry out to the Lord though. And He heard them.

James tells us, that although workers could not bring employers before the courts, the employers could take the labors before the court system. Verse 5 says; “You have condemned , you have murdered the just. James 2:6 says; But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?

God established the court system back in the beginning. {Deuteronomy 17:8-13} but the Bible gives instruction to the judges
  • Not to be greedy (Exodus 18:21)
  • Not to be partial ( Leviticus 19:15)
  • Do Not tolerate perjury (Deuteronomy 19:16-21)
  • And to take No Brides (Isaiah 33:15, Micah 3:11; 7:3)

I have to wonder how often in today’s court rooms, a judge comes up against these same things ...and how often they fail.

As for the word murder; the court system still played a part in this. Back then, courts were controlled easily if you had the wealth. I think that's somewhat still true today. How many times do you hear about an actor, athlete, or musician, go before a judge and only have to pay a fine instead of paying the consequences for their actions.

The poor Christians could not afford to win in a lawsuit against the rich, and were beaten down. The word murder sometime came as a end result, when the poor were taken of all they had and left to [in some cases] starve. We may not let the people starve today, but is our system any better than it was than?

Well, that portion of verses was pretty cheerless. Lets give our hearts and ears a hopeful boost.

Be Patient and Persevering

James 5:7-12
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment.

We previously read how Christians were being oppressed by the rich. How would we respond to something like that? Verse 7 tells us to be patient, until the coming of the Lord. Now being patient is definitely not an easy thing. I think we've all prayed for patience at some points in time. Especially to get through difficult situations.
James tells us to wait for Christ's return. The Christians of then anticipated Christ's return as happening during their lifetime. We are awaiting Him today. We know that He's coming soon. And we have other scripture which also refer to the Lord's return as near: 

Romans 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
And I Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.

We know He's coming but we don't know when. So........”Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” Matthew 25:13

In verse 9, we return again to a warning of the tongue. “Do not grumble against one another.
I Peter 4:9 says “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” and we also have James 4:11 “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

We just need to remember that God is our judge. With prayer, we can bridle our tongue against grumbling.
Verse 10 takes us into the old testament by the mentioning of prophets. I myself am not much of a historian, so I don't know all the prophets and whether they followed God's Word or not. The some of the one's I'm most familiar with are Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, to name a few. These prophets of God endured much suffering and had to practice patience.

We saw how in Job, despite the trial, he endured, and persevered . I remember when I was in 6th grade, my classmates and I were awarded character trait certificates at the end of the school year. I was awarded 'Perseverance'. I was always determined to complete a task no matter how long or how hard it was. I think I'm still like that today.

And then in verse 12, oaths are spoken of. James uses the same context that Jesus used the book of Matthew chapter 5:33-37

The actual word 'Oath' means; a solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says

So many people use oaths in their everyday language. How many times have you ever heard someone say; “I swear to …...! Just another something that makes my ears cringe. If we know God can hear every word spoken, lets be very careful of the words we say. 
Meeting Specific Needs

James 5:13-18
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

In the Grace Point devotional commentary, it mentions how generally in a Greek letter written, the conclusion would wish the recipient good health. Don't we also do that a well? I've added the phrase; 'Hope your doing well.' in my notes.

James writes it much better. He reminds us here that God has provision for our health.
The word 'suffering' is about unpleasant experiences. The hardship of spreading the gospel or persecution. A part of trials and tests. Those who are suffering, are asked to pray for patience. To have endurance. And those who are 'cheerfully' going through trails and tests? They can sing 'Praises'. James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

Paul and Silas where able to sing praises while they were in prison.

Great things happen when we praise God through the tough times. When we get into praise, no matter the circumstances, God tears down the walls of the prison we have around us. He takes away the doubt and fear. God is so worthy of our praise. And He responds to the praises of His people. So awesome!
The ones who are sick, in verse 14, are prayed over by the elders of the church. I remember times in the past when my dad was a pastor, how often he would go with some elders of our church and pray for someone who was in the hospital. These prayers aren't just felt, but also the physical laying of hands. Prayers offered up in faith. Like in verse 15; And the prayers of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. ”

James is not alluding to a heal all formula. Nor is it a “I hope Lord, Please!, Maybe?. It's a confidence in God. He has healed many that are prayed for. Others He has also taken some home to be with Him.
But the sickness isn't always an illness. Some sickness is caused by sin. I Corinthians 11:30 says “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”

If sin is involved, it needs to be dealt with, before moving on to the sickness itself. The sin will be forgiven. I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” and Ephesians 1:7 “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;”

It's a blessing knowing that sin does not stay with us. Pray is such a powerful tool. And prayer doesn't have to be spoken just by pastors and elders. 

We ourselves are prayer warriors. We pray for each other daily. And our prayers are powerful and effective. “The effective, fervent prayers of a righteous man avails much.”

I once saw a christian sticker that read; '7 days without prayer, makes one weak'. In case you didn't catch that, the weak is spelled W. E. A. K. And this is so true.

James mentions Elijah. Although he was a prophet of God, he was still had a nature like ours. He prayed that for days that God would stop the rain. And He did. For 3 ½ years. When Elijah prayed again, it rained and produced fruit. His prayers were persistent. Ours should be as well.

Bring Back the Erring One

Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
These last 2 verse do not have the word prayer, but you can see that it is asking us to pray for the ones who have wandered away from the from the will of God. The old testament term is : 'backsliding', and that can be a dangerous path to take. 

I John 5:16 says “If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that.

Saving the lost is very important, but it's also important to win back the saved. They have wandered from the truth. “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Hebrews 2:1

Jesus uses different parables to teach us that the lost are important. The lost sheep, the lost coin, and my favorite, the lost son. These parables are all found in the book of Luke chapter 15.

We all have someone who have left the faith and wandered away. They are lost. They are important to God as well as to us. Matthew 18:11 ;” For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost”.

James, in verse 20, is showing the importance of saving that soul from death. How much they have erred. Our soul is the principal part of us. Saving is spoken of. The salvation of the whole man. The spirit saved from Hell, the body from the grave, and saved from eternal death. It's the heart and life. Ours sins are many, but Jesus has freed us. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

This Book of James was pretty awesome. There are so many tools that will give us the maturity in Christ needed. We know that from our learnings in chapter 1, joy can be found in our trials and tests. God instructed us to use certain qualities to endure those trials; slow to speak, swift to hear, slow to wrath. We were warned not to be partial in chapter 2 and that just being a doer is not enough. It also needs faith. Chapter 3 brought up wisdom. The worldly and the wisdom that comes from God. James also uses judgment in not just chapter 4, but also in 2, and 5. Finally, we had a common theme throughout the whole book of James. The tongue. We saw the damage it can do, what James likened it to, and we know that we have no humanly control over it.

This study, although there weren't that many chapters should leave an impact on our lives. I know I learned so much for this study. I hope you did as well.

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