We already talked about the first two chapters. This segment we will cover Chapters 3 through 5.
Okay, we left off last time addressing the topic of faith – being without works – is dead. There is absolutely no conflict with what Paul has taught about faith and what James has taught about works. In fact, they complement each other beautifully. The works that James has been talking about is the work of love – loving and treating others the way you would want to be loved and treated. We have learned so far from reading the epistles of the New Testament that the law and ordinances of the Old Covenant were fulfilled by Christ. Paul taught in Colossians 2:14 “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances (and laws) that was against us (against us because we always failed in keeping them), which was contrary to us (because we are weak humans), and (Christ) took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” We are no longer expected to the live by the ordinances and laws written in stone – including the big 10. Instead, we are expected to live by the law written upon our fleshly hearts – which is the “Royal Law” of Love – as defined by James. Paul taught that fulfilling the 10 commandments was a moral law we would WANT to keep voluntarily because of the new heart God has given us. Romans 13:8-9 “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this (because of this), Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Now in James Chapter 3, he launches into a whole discussion on what we say or speak – by the mouth, by words, and with the tongue – basically our verbal communication. Verse 2 “For in many things we offend all (we all offend others at one time or another). If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect (spiritually mature) man, and able also to bridle the whole body (is able to use self-control over the whole self).” In other words, show me a man or woman who never speaks an unkind word about another, never condemns, never uses vulgarity, never tells an off-color joke or uses innuendo, never gossips, never shouts or screams, never criticizes or demeans – show me such a person, James says, and I will show you a perfect man. While all of that is true, such a person has ever existed accept Jesus. However, what the mouth says, what the tongue communicates does reflect the Christian heart of the speaker, right? When a man or woman has control over their communications – such a person is in control of his or her body. James is echoing what he has heard Jesus teach in Matthew 12:35-37 “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”
James then provides several analogies that show how the tongue — even though a small member of the body – has the power to control and govern one’s whole person – and influence everything in his or her life, as well as others. He uses the example of the man who has control over a horse by the bit in the horse’s mouth – and the example of a captain at the helm of a ship who has control over the vessel when he has control of the rudder. The tongue has the ability, with just a flame, to ignite an enormous fire – with the capacity to destroy. Just think of the conversations that contain lies, false witnesses, slanderings, gossiping, obscenities, cursing, arguing, belittling, manipulation, etc. No wonder James says in Verse 6 “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.” Verse 8 “full of deadly poison.” He adds, Verse 10 “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessings and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” In other words, don’t be hypocrites. Verses 11-12 “Doth a fountain (spring of water) send forth at the same place (or source) sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs (a grape vine produce figs)? So can no fountain (spring of water) both yield salt water and fresh (at the same time).” Think about it – we have pipes in our homes that bear clean water and we have pipes that bear dirty water. We don’t mix them.
The reality is that we can improve our communications – but nobody is perfect with the tongue – only Jesus was. We will end this chapter with Verse 13 “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew (demonstrate) out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom (self-control produced out of wisdom).” Paul describes how beautiful it is when gracious people hold their tongue privately and publically in their assessment of others. Colossians 3:12-15 “Put on therefore; as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”
Chapter 4, James now explains the root causes of contention and wickedness. James is appealing to the early saints to learn to live in peace, to hold their tongues, to be kind, and not quick to wrath or judgment or to being offended easily. Then, Verse 7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Verse 8 “Draw nigh (near) to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands (repent and put away sins), ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded (you who cannot decide whether to serve God or the devil).” The parable of the Prodigal Son is a tremendous illustration of this. Making the decision to draw back to his father, we see the father running to receive him. Verse 10 “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” Beautiful!
We have to realize the end for any of us can come at any time – so we need to live our lives as if every second counts. Verse 14 “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life (how long do you think your mortal life will last)? It is even a vapor (like a mist), that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away (like dissipated vapor).” James is appealing to priorities and to make the most of our lives. Verse 15 “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will (if it’s the Lord’s will), we shall live, and do this, or that.” The true Christian submits his or her plans to God. God can and will alter all of our best laid plans – but by including Him and His will in making life plans will only serve to enhance them. Verse 17 “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” This could be called the sin of omission. I think it means that when the Holy Spirit calls us to fruits of love and we refuse or fail to respond – it is sin. Simple as that. Religion cannot orchestrate love – it tries. But love must come from the heart.
Finally, we look at one verse in Chapter 5 of James, where he gives instructions regarding administering to the sick. Verse 14 “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil (olive oil) in the name of the Lord.” The word “elders” means “older” or simply “senior person of the community.” The word “elders” is not upper case. It is not an office – it is a state of being. It simply means – those who are more mature in the faith. So, the sick or their family of the sick, were to call for the elders and “let them pray over him.” Olive oil, according to scripture was used for many purposes including: anointing the body or hair, in some of their offerings, for burning lamps, for medicinal purposes, and for anointing the dead. Additionally, it’s use was a sign of gladness. Therefore, when someone was ill or sick the application of oil seems to have been symbolic of the restoration to joy and health. The oil itself does not have any power. Of course, oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit – so there is symbolism in that as well. James says that in addition to applying oil while praying – do it “in the name of the Lord.” – or by His direction. Notice there is no mention of a “Melchizedek priesthood” necessary for the elders to perform this anointing. That’s because no one – including the 12 Apostles of the Lord – ever held a priesthood. Only Jesus was after the order of Melchizedek as we studied back in Hebrews. Healings and other such miracles were performed through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
And this concludes our study of the General Epistle of James. Don’t forget we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast, and check out our website at Talking to Mormons. com.
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So, until next time, God Bless!