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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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dead faith

Faith In Action-What is Dead Faith?

faith in action

James 2:26

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Read all of James Chapter 2 here

We have just completed our study of James Chapter 2. I hope it has been as useful in the reading as it has been in the writing. Several of the commentators I have read have pointed out the James 2:14-26 is  one of the harder passages in Scripture to interpret properly. I would have to agree with that assessment.

But there are some things we can easily take away from the study of James Chapter 2 that certainly do not take a degree in theology to learn.

Salvation is by grace, through faith. James never contradicts this clear teaching of other scripture.

On the other hand, genuine faith produces some sort of product. James does teach that faith without some product might not be genuine faith.

But, beyond that, we are left somewhat in the dark about where certain lines might need to be drawn. We need to always remember that God is the judge of man..not man. We do not know the state of any other persons heart. We may be able to state as fact the evidence, or fruit of a person’s spiritual life, but we can never state as fact the actual existence or non existence of their salvation.

So, what does this mean to us practically? Well, we should always share the Gospel and the path to salvation; we should talk about it and of it even among Christian company. If we are all believers, it will be edifying to the Body of Christ; if one among us is not truly a believer, they will hear truth. We should teach and disciple people. Even though salvation is likely to produce works, there may be those with no clue whatsoever how they should live. The truth is, the knowledge of God’s Word and law it takes to come to salvation is not extensive. The knowledge it takes to live a successful and fruitful Christian life is extensive. We need to teach, train and develop our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Next: James Chapter 3. We will begin with taming that old nemesis, the tongue!

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Faith In Action-True Faith Serves

faith in action

James 2:17-19

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

Read James Chapter 2 here

Well, here James goes again. Because he is belaboring this point, we are as well. As well we should, because it is a very important point. The issue of dead, intellectual faith versus real, saving, active faith simply cannot be overstated.

Let’s review again; our works do not save us, period. Since we have spent so much time on works and will continue to, we will likely hit that point over and over again. Again, let’s look at the supposed difference of opinion between James and Paul. No one would disagree that Paul taught salvation by grace alone; he clearly taught our works do not save us.

Of course, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write the most notable teaching on faith versus works in Ephesians 2:8,9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Most of us could quote that verse by memory. Sometimes, however, we overlook the continuing thought of that teaching, where we see that Paul certainly was inspired to tell us that works are important. Not only are they important, but they are the natural outflow, and purpose of our salvation. Ephesians 2:10, ” For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Paul also addresses the place of works in other places as well.  Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, and John 15:5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit…..” both show us Paul’s thoughts on works clearly.

Finally, James closes with a statement that might sound shocking; if all we have is an intellectual, verbal faith then we actually have the same kind of understanding and belief in God that is possessed even by Satan and his fallen angels! Wow. Demons believe in God; they even believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God; they even possess good knowledge of doctrine. They do not, however, have a saving faith.

What is our belief in Jesus Christ really like? Do we understand Him in our head? Do we understand the doctrine of salvation intellectually? Those are great, but we all need to answer the question that counts: Have we actually submitted to God and trusted Him for our Salvation? If not our faith is dead, being alone; if we have, then our faith is a living, saving faith.

 

Faith In Action-What is Dead Faith?

faith in action

James 2:26

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.


Read all of James Chapter 2 here

We have just completed our study of James Chapter 2. I hope it has been as useful in the reading as it has been in the writing. Several of the commentators I have read have pointed out the James 2:14-26 is  one of the harder passages in Scripture to interpret properly. I would have to agree with that assessment.

But there are some things we can easily take away from the study of James Chapter 2 that certainly do not take a degree in theology to learn.

Salvation is by grace, through faith. James never contradicts this clear teaching of other scripture.

On the other hand, genuine faith produces some sort of product. James does teach that faith without some product might not be genuine faith.

But, beyond that, we are left somewhat in the dark about where certain lines might need to be drawn. We need to always remember that God is the judge of man..not man. We do not know the state of any other persons heart. We may be able to state as fact the evidence, or fruit of a person’s spiritual life, but we can never state as fact the actual existence or non existence of their salvation.

So, what does this mean to us practically? Well, we should always share the Gospel and the path to salvation; we should talk about it and of it even among Christian company. If we are all believers, it will be edifying to the Body of Christ; if one among us is not truly a believer, they will hear truth. We should teach and disciple people. Even though salvation is likely to produce works, there may be those with no clue whatsoever how they should live. The truth is, the knowledge of God’s Word and law it takes to come to salvation is not extensive. The knowledge it takes to live a successful and fruitful Christian life is extensive. We need to teach, train and develop our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Next: James Chapter 3. We will begin with taming that old nemesis, the tongue!

Faith In Action-True Faith Serves

faith in action

James 2:17-19

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.


Read James Chapter 2 here

Well, here James goes again. Because he is belaboring this point, we are as well. As well we should, because it is a very important point. The issue of dead, intellectual faith versus real, saving, active faith simply cannot be overstated.

Let’s review again; our works do not save us, period. Since we have spent so much time on works and will continue to, we will likely hit that point over and over again. Again, let’s look at the supposed difference of opinion between James and Paul. No one would disagree that Paul taught salvation by grace alone; he clearly taught our works do not save us.

Of course, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write the most notable teaching on faith versus works in Ephesians 2:8,9For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Most of us could quote that verse by memory. Sometimes, however, we overlook the continuing thought of that teaching, where we see that Paul certainly was inspired to tell us that works are important. Not only are they important, but they are the natural outflow, and purpose of our salvation. Ephesians 2:10, ” For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Paul also addresses the place of works in other places as well.  Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, and John 15:5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit…..” both show us Paul’s thoughts on works clearly.

Finally, James closes with a statement that might sound shocking; if all we have is an intellectual, verbal faith then we actually have the same kind of understanding and belief in God that is possessed even by Satan and his fallen angels! Wow. Demons believe in God; they even believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God; they even possess good knowledge of doctrine. They do not, however, have a saving faith.

What is our belief in Jesus Christ really like? Do we understand Him in our head? Do we understand the doctrine of salvation intellectually? Those are great, but we all need to answer the question that counts: Have we actually submitted to God and trusted Him for our Salvation? If not our faith is dead, being alone; if we have, then our faith is a living, saving faith.

 

Faith That Works-James Chapter 5

Today, we are closing our series of recaps on the Book of James. It’s the last really, really long one for a while, I promise! Maybe


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

James 5:1-3

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.


The Howling Rich

This would be a good place for a WOW. James takes quite a turn here, seemingly taking his writing in a whole new direction. This is one of the harshest, most accusatory passages in The Bible. Here, James pulls no punches in his harsh tone towards those he is addressing in this section.

So, who is James addressing here? Well, on the surface it seems he is lashing out against the wealthy; there is, however,  more to the story than meets the eye. Is James talking to saved church members or ungodly people outside the church here? I don’t know, and it may or may not matter. Apparently some feel that James’ harsh tone shows he is suddenly writing to unsaved rich people outside the church. Others say the tense of the verbs he uses indicate he is continuing to write to saved believers within the churches he is addressing in this Epistle. Get a good Greek dictionary and some commentaries and read them; because no matter who James is talking to, the lessons are the same.

Before we really dissect this passage in some detail, we will just quickly cover what is NOT going on in the passage.

James is not condemning wealth, per se. Money in and of itself is neutral, being neither good or bad. The Bible is full of those whom God has blessed with great wealth: Job, Abraham and Solomon all come to mind almost instantly. Many of the blessings promised to Old Testament believers were financial in nature. So, wealth in and of itself is not being condemned.

James is not a communist. He is not teaching these rich men that they should immediately redistribute their wealth so that all would be equally provided for. This passage, among others, has occasionally been used to promote this particular economic system.

So, what is the problem? Well, there is a Scripture which is often misquoted. People say often: Money is the root of all evil. Well, that is not actually what was said. What was said was the the LOVE of money is the root of all evil.

What we have here is a problem of the heart and a problem of motivation. The issue is with what is driving these rich men, and the actions which result from the outflow of their hearts. Selfish desire once again rears its ugly head and produces corrupt behavior.

Doesn’t that seem to keep coming up over and over, and yet over again? Could it be that selfish desire and self interest might the driving force behind the entire sinful condition of mankind?

Who Do You Love?

I have read several commentators who have made the valid point that, in many ways, the manner in which a person considers money in their lives is one of the most accurate reflections of what is in their heart. How we view money and material possessions is truly a barometer of the heart.

We will get more specific on thoughts about particular verses in this passage over the next few days, but today will be one more general overview of the general situation here.

We already discussed that devotion to self and selfish needs was the basic issue these men were facing. In a more specific sense, the very way they were putting their selfishness into action was in the ways they obtained and used their financial resources.

These men loved their money more than anything else. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment was to love God with one’s all, followed by loving one’s neighbor as oneself. The Bible has many things to say about what our relationship with money versus our relationship with God should be.

Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Matthew 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Clearly, we can not be loyal to both our earthly treasure and to God. If we put our money first, then the first and greatest commandment has already been cleanly disposed of.

As we move on through the first part of Chapter 5, we will also see that the overflow of the hearts of these men was causing them to treat believers in the churches, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable ones, in very bad ways. Now, the second greatest commandment has been cleanly disposed of as well.

The Old Testament Prophets had much to say about the rich abusing the poor. Let’s take a look at what Isaiah had to say as an example.

Isaiah 10:1-4 Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless! And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory? Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Amos also had the following to say.

Amos 4:1-3 Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink. The Lord GOD hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks. And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the LORD.

So, to recap here, we have two issues. Issue one is we are to not love our wealth more than we love God. Issue two is we are to not love our wealth more than we love our fellow humans.

Who, or what, do you love?

The Judgment of the Sinful Rich

Let’s just get right to the point here. God does not like those who have stuff to mistreat those who do not have stuff. The truth of the matter is that even among Christians, there is sometimes a tendency to consider those with less than we have as somehow being less than we are.

We talked at length way back in James Chapter 2 concerning the way the poor were being treated by the more well to do in the church. We learned early on that God is not a respecter of persons in regard to material wealth.  Here, we have more than just casual mistreatment of the less fortunate. Here, James is describing the exploitation and abuse of the less fortunate in order to gain more.

Before launching in to some descriptions of what the wealthy were doing, James gets right to the point. He describes clearly and graphically the punishment that is going to come upon these people for their maltreatment of the poor.

He starts out with a real attention getter, “Now go to.” Really this could be rendered something like, “Hey listen close, this is very important!” In other words, the words following are going to be worth listening to.

Weep and howl.” Weep in this instance is a word that is used often to describe the weeping or crying that accompanies the shame we might feel regarding our sinful behavior. But to reinforce the idea that in this case, there was no weeping of repentance, as these people were not actually remorseful over their actions. James adds an additional word, “howl” here, and this is the only place we see it in the New Testament. It simply means literally screaming or shrieking. Put the two words together, and we get a picture of what is about to happen. This really paints a picture of almost overwhelming grief and despair. Why?

For the miseries that shall come upon you.” That’s why. James is pointing out to the wealthy people that some day they will be held to account and judged for the way they have treated those less fortunate than them. As usual, Jesus had something to say about this topic:

Luke 6:24,25 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.

Interested in further reading? Go to Luke Chapter 16 and read the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man.

Yes, God will judge us for the ways in which we deal with those less fortunate than us. He will hold us to account for how we looked at our wealth, what we did with it, and how we acquired it.

The Useless Hoarding of Wealth

Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. That statement, found at the very end of the passage we are looking at today, describes clearly what the problem is here that James  is addressing. The main point is the hoarding of wealth. Once again, the issue is NOT the fact that wealth exists, but the useless and selfish hoarding of it.  “Wait,” readers may say; “are you trying to tell me that saving money is wrong?”

No, not at all. If fact, God’s Word is clear that the setting aside money for a rainy day and the future is a good thing to do. Never is making provision for ourselves, our families, and our future condemned in God’s Word. Let’s look at that.

Proverbs 21:20 There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.

Proverbs 13:11  Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.

Luke 14:28  For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it]

1 Timothy 5:8  But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

Clearly, saving for the future is not a bad thing. What then is the problem?

In the days and times this was written in, wealth was measured on some key ways. Apparel was one of them. Simply put, the wealthy could afford nicer clothing than the poor. Wealth was often measured by the quality and richness of the clothing a person wore. Additionally, money at the time was gold and silver, metals that were tender able in and of themselves.They were not paper representations of precious metals like we use today for money.

But what was happening to these representations of wealth? Well their garments were “motheaten,” and their gold and silver were “cankered,” or rusted. First the term cankered in relation to gold and silver seems odd, since pure gold and silver neither rust or canker. When might clothes become moth eaten or gold and silver become rusted? The answer is, when they are stored, amassed, and uselessly hoarded.

If saving money is clearly ok, yet the useless hoarding of it is not, then where are we going here? What are we to be doing with our wealth once we have sufficient for ourselves? Our passage states one thing clearly when it establishes the thought that hoarding is wrong. The motheaten clothes and cankered metals will be “a witness against you.

Who Our Wealth Belongs To

Today will be the last day we linger on money and wealth, at least for now. It only seems fair, since God puts some emphasis on the subject, that we do as well. What have we covered so far?

God does not oppose wealth; in fact, He often blesses individuals with it.

God does not oppose planning wisely for the future.

God does not expect us to socialistically  redistribute our wealth to the segments of society who don’t have as much as we do.

God does oppose the useless and selfish hoarding our wealth.

It might seem confusing, then, what God expects us to do with our wealth and riches. The answer is actually quite simple, and it has two parts.

Part one. It’s actually NOT ours; it is His. If we have it, it is only because He gave it to us and allowed us to have it.

Part two. Like our lives in general, God want us to do one  simple thing with any wealth we might have: His wishes and for His honor and glory.

God’s plan for our money is the same as His plan for our lives in general. There is no one answer, as His plan for each life is different. They key is that we simply remember that it is His, and His will concerning it is what counts.

1 Chronicles 29:3 Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have of mine own proper good, of gold and silver, which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house,

Mark 12:42-44 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Galatians 2:10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

2 Corinthians 9:4-14 Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

Let’s recap. It’s God’s money, not ours; we are only His stewards for it. Even though He may bless us with it for our enjoyment, it is primarily for His use: Furthering His work, winning the lost, caring for those who need caring for, and supporting the ministry of Our Lord. In short, whatever God calls you to do with it.

James 5:4-6

Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.


Ill Gotten Gain

We have been discussing what God wants from us in regard to the wealth He may have blessed us with. Our theme previously was the idea that God does not simply want us to to hoard and amass wealth for it’s own sake. God blesses us with riches for specific uses. If God has blessed us this way, it is because He has something He wants us to be doing with that money.

Not only does God care what we do with our money, God cares how we GET our money. Specifically here James is speaking to those who are amassing riches by exploiting and taking advantage of those less fortunate than them. Even more specifically, he is talking about building wealth by not paying people who had done and honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.

Day labor was a very common thing during the days when James was writing this Epistle. During the busy days of farming, such as the sowing or harvesting season, it was very common for land owners to hire laborers to do the work they could not do themselves. It was also, unfortunately, common for these laborers to be cheated out of their fair wages. Here we see the reference is to the reaping, or harvesting season. The point there is that this was not an issue of a landowner merely not having the cash flow to pay his workers. The funds to pay were available, as the income producing product was right there being harvested. This was not a delay in payment, or a lack of cash flow. This was a deliberate, intentional default on payment. As the text says, this payment was “kept back by fraud.”

Furthermore, God was, and is not, pleased by this type of economic gain. God has heard the cry of those who have been cheated, and judgment is coming. Their cries have been heard by “The Lord of sabaoth.” This would  be the Lord of hosts, or the Lord of the armies of Heaven. In our terms, these cries would have been heard by the Supreme Commander, or Commander in Chief. In other words, they have been heard by He who has the power to do something about it. This description of supreme power is given to reinforce the thought that judgment for this activity is forthcoming, perhaps even imminent.

The lesson here could be directed towards the exploitation of the poor. This is not all God has revealed to us on this topic.

Leviticus 19:13 Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.

Deuteronomy 24:14,15 Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates: At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee.

Jeremiah 22:13 Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work;

This lesson could be on God’s general displeasure with ill gotten gain.

Proverbs 1:19 So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.

Proverbs 10:2 Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.

There is vast relevance of this lesson to today. How often to we actually consider whether or not the ways we earn our money are ways which would be pleasing to God?

Race to Judgment

Here James continues his condemnation of how the rich have amassed their riches and how they have also mistreated their fellow man in the process. His language here takes a real leap in terms of its descriptiveness of what is happening.

This description of living in wanton pleasure is more than simply men enjoying a lavish, pleasurable lifestyle. What we see here is a description of men diving head first into a driven pursuit of pleasure. Not only does this describe a wanton pursuit of pleasure, but it describes the wanton pursuit of pleasure derived at the expense of others. This is serious business.

Ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Anyone who has any experience or knowledge of animal husbandry should easily see the connection which is being made here. What is done with animals destined to be slaughtered? They are always fed well and fattened up prior to that slaughter. Only in this case, the ones headed to slaughter are fattening themselves for their own slaughter!

Again, this speaks of the impending judgment coming to those to misuse their wealth. This seems to make the seriousness of this clear, as this is not a divine slap on the wrist which is coming; it is a slaughter in fact.  God’s Word compares the slaughter of animals with the judgment of man on other places in His Word.

Isaiah 34:5-8 For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea. And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness. For it is the day of the LORD’S vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion.

Jeremiah 50:26,27 Come against her from the utmost border, open her storehouses: cast her up as heaps, and destroy her utterly: let nothing of her be left. Slay all her bullocks; let them go down to the slaughter: woe unto them! for their day is come, the time of their visitation.

Ezekiel 39:17-19 And, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD; Speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come; gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh, and drink blood. Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan. And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of my sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you.

As in past lessons. we could be looking at two different scenarios here. There is substantial discussion as to who exactly the wicked rich are James is addressing. Are they Godless non believers or are they believers seriously in rebellion against their God? It seems that the above language might strongly indicate these are non believers doing these things. They have been warned, admonished, and warned  yet more again. Despite these warning, they continue their lifestyle choices and judgment is imminent and will be harsh.

What about us? If we are believers, do we listen to God’s Word? Do we listen to the chastisement He may deliver for our transgressions? Are we listening to God’s fair and repeated warnings to turn from these things and return to Him?

If non believers the same question applies. Are we heeding God’s repeated and earnest warnings to us concerning our lives? Are we answering God’s call to repent and believe, or face the judgement?

Killing the Poor?

We won’t tarry long with today’s devotional, as we seem to be wrapping up James’ description of the wicked rich he has been addressing.

It does seem, somewhat, to be a final nail in the coffin of the description of the downward spiral of these men James is speaking to.

Were these folks literally killing the righteous poor? It doesn’t seem to be necessarily a literal description of murder being committed here. But in light of what we have studied so far it seems to indicate a heart condition for sure. Let us recap some. These folks have been hoarding their money uselessly: they have exploited believers for their own gain; now we see a sense that, if necessary, they would even kill to maintain what they have.

Finally in this verse, we see a closing note that, despite all of this, the believers in question seem to not be resisting or striking back against their oppressors. In light of the direction James takes next, this seems important.

Let’s end with this thought. Of course, God knows all things; this is purely a hypothetical question. If Jesus walked in our home or office and asked to see our financial books, what would we feel? Would we just open them up for view or would we feel a need to hide them?


Waiting for the Lord

James seems to be getting back on track here after what some consider to be a temporary diversion from counseling believers on Christian behavior. Clearly, now, he is back to talking to believers in the churches he wrote this letter to.

It is possible that his guidance over the next few verses was written in response to the things which had apparently happened to these believers in the previous ones. Guidance to those facing trials and hardships, and the ways we deal with them, is a recurring theme in the writing of James. We first saw James addressing patience in the face of adversity way back in James 1:4.

The way writers like James put things into language which his readers would instantly understand is very fascinating. In this case, James uses another agricultural reference to teach just how patient his readers should be. He also teaches in this description about the importance of both patience and proper timing. Of course, God’s timing is the actual reference, but proper timing is key.

In the agricultural season in the land at that time, two periods of rain were essential to a successful growing season. The early rains came in October or November around the beginning of the Fall planting season to help ensure the ground was ready for planting. The late rains would come in the March and April time frame, to provide a last dose of moisture prior to the harvesting season.

Just like the farmer knows that if he is patient, his crops will come, James is encouraging these believers to stand firm in the promises of God to come one day. Paul wrote similar encouraging words to the believers in the church at Galatia.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

What else can we learn from this passage? We can learn that not everything happens on our timing. In this case we can learn that, as the crops come according to biological timing, God’s plans come according to God’s timing.

Another thing we can learn here is that we are not in control of everything. The farmer certainly cannot make his crops do anything. They will do what they do, as long as the Farmer has done his part. That is very much the same as God, who will do His part as long as we do our part.

Establish Your Hearts

James here continues his teaching to the scattered believers to be patient in the face of trials and adversity, and to be patient and understanding that God has things under control.

He instructs them to stablish their hearts. Some translations use the word strengthen here. This word translated means to “make fast,””to establish,”or “to confirm.” What is it they are to establish their hearts in? They are to establish them in the hope and promise of The Lord’s return. The same word was used in Luke 9:51 as Jesus set his face steadfastly to return to Jerusalem, the entire time knowing that his death would result.

The believers James was writing to were facing intense persecution, trials, and troubles. We have seen quite a bit of discussion of that in the previous chapters. James is simply attempting to teach them to remember the basic fact that God has these trials, and all other things, firmly under his control. He wants them to understand that what they face in this life pales in comparison with the glory they will experience in God’s Kingdom in the future.

The gist of this lesson seems obvious, as James uses terms such as patience, endurance, and perseverance over and over in this section of his writing.

James 5:7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

James 5:8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

James 5:10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.

James 5:11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

Imagine, if you can, the patience and suffering Job endured as he watched his life shatter before his very eyes, yet he never lost his faith or love for God. Imagine, if you can, the patience of the Old Testament prophets as they preached to deaf ears and endured hate and persecution, yet they never lost their faith or love for God.

This lesson certainly applies to us. Perhaps it is more applicable to us, in the sense that compared to the believers of James’ time, Job, or the Old Testament prophets we really endure so little? How do we endure so little, yet as a church seem to have so little faith and love for God?

Don’t Hold a Grudge

It may seem that, as we head towards the finishing section of The Epistle of James, that James is bouncing around some from subject to subject. He introduces a new topic or two, but also seems to be recapping some of the territory he covered in the first four chapters.

In this verse, James seems to be reviewing some of the thoughts he had and points he made earlier in his writing, as again he is teaching about the ways in which we treat one another. He also seems to be tying in this thought with some of the thoughts earlier on impending judgment. It almost seems James is saying, “Ok, now remember just a minute ago I was telling you that you will be judged for how you treat your money? Well do you remember how we talked about being mean and holding grudges? Well, guess what? We will be judged for that too!”

The word here, grudge, is used in an interesting way. Apparently, in other places in The New Testament, it is translated to sigh and groan, and really just means the outward expression of a person who is troubled. When we see it combined in reference to how we engage with another person, it translates somewhat in the sense of murmuring and grumbling. Here, I will repeat something I have said before. I am NOT a Greek linguist; however, sometimes just digging a little in the original language pays really big dividends.

Conflict is inevitable. In any situation where more than one person is gathered, there will be differences. God made us different. People disagree and James is not teaching that to disagree is inherently bad. What, then, is he teaching?

It’ simple really. We are not to murmur, gripe and hold grudges against our brothers and sisters in Christ over our disagreements. Is this a serious matter? Well, The Holy Spirit inspired James to write clearly about the judgment in this matter. The judge is standing at the door, and condemnation for our attitude is looming.

This seems a good place to insert a comment made on another post by my Brother, ColorStorm

“Kinda hard to ‘draw nigh’ if I’m carrying a backpack of slander eh?”

Be Patient Again

James is speaking here again of patience. Remember earlier, way back in Chapter 1, James began the text of his letter by talking about patience and how it matures us in our walk with The Lord. James may have begun touching on this revisit to patience in verse 7 while he was discussing not holding grudges. Some of his teaching there may have been to show that we should not allow the trials we face to cause us to act out towards our brethren, but to be patient in The Lord. As, we continue, he is obviously talking to us about being patient.

Once again, let’s take a quick look at a linguistic issue. The word translated patience commonly in the New Testament, and here as well has meaning other than what we might think. It combines a couple of words, long and temper to convey the one thought of patience. We are to be long-tempered; we are to be long suffering. The emphasis is on the idea of patience evidenced by an attitude of non retaliation. This means that, when faced with difficulties we are not to strike back in the direction we think they may be coming from. If we think other people are causing them, we should not strike back at them; if we think God is allowing or causing them, we should not strike back at Him. We should be long tempered, long suffering, and patient.

But that’s very difficult! Yes, indeed it is. It is also how God reacts to us. The following is from Vine’s Expository Dictionary regarding this word patient.

MAKROTHUMIA ( makros= long, thumos = temper) is usually rendered “long-suffering.” Long-suffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God. Exodus 34:6(Sept.); Romans 2:4; 1 Peter 3:20

Let’s think about this topic of long suffering and patience for a few moments. We are told to constantly look to the example of our Savior to guide our behavior. We are also to be long suffering and patient both in the face of difficulties and never use them as an excuse to strike out against others. Sometimes we think it is no big deal when we fail in this area.

But what if God was not long suffering and patient with us over history even in the face of our repeated rebellions against HIm and rejection of Him? What if Jesus had not been patient and long suffering in the face of the trials and suffering He endured on the Cross as He died to pay our penalty? Where would we all be now?

The Prophets Were Patient

Previously we discussed the idea of enduring trials and even persecutions at the hands of others patiently as a way to follow the example of our God regarding how He has treated us. James has kindly provided us more examples of men who endured suffering yet endured it patiently.

Here we see the thought of enduring suffering, or evil, with great patience and long suffering. This is the same word for patience we have seen over and over, so specifically it refers to patience with and toward people. So, even more specifically we see a reference here to the Old Testament Prophets in the face of discouragement and even persecution.

Here it might be a good idea to look at just what the prophets were really doing. Sometimes we think they just sat around foretelling the future. While that was a part of the ministries of some of them, it was not the primary thing any of them did. I have heard the ministry of a prophet being sometimes two fold; foretelling and forth telling. Fore telling, or course, would be the revelations of future events. Forth telling would be simply the preaching and proclamation of God’s Word. That was, in fact, the primary mission of all of the Old Testament Prophets, much more so then telling of future events.

Take a few months and read through the Major and Minor Prophets.  It is easy to discern a pattern of response to their preaching. The pattern was, that in most cases there was no response. Imagine, if one can, preaching for years and years to multitudes with no one listening. That is just what most of the Old Testament Prophets faced.

The other pattern we see is that they never gave up, they never stopped, and notably they never stopped loving the people they preached to. How were they able to do this? James has told us, and the answer is patience. They were patient in The Lord. They knew who they were working for and who’s message they were spreading. They understood the rewards to come were far greater than the trials here.

So, what is our problem? Time after time we see men enduring great hardship and carrying on. Most were universally ignored, mocked and even threatened with death. None ever accumulated great wealth or riches. Yet they carried on. They were patient in The Lord. So, the question is: What’s our problem?

The Patience of Job

During the last few days we have covered a lot territory concerning patience and endurance. We have seen James provide us with many good reasons why we should live a lifestyle of patience and endurance. We do it because God is patient with us; we do it because it is the example Jesus Christ set for us; we do it because we can see the example set by believers throughout history.

Now, we see yet another reason and motivation to exercise patience in our lives, even in the face of trials and adversity. God blesses those who endure these things patiently. We have seen the end of the Lord; in other words, God has a good outcome planned for those who endure patiently.

There is probably no greater story in all of Scripture about patient endurance than the story of Job in the Old Testament.

Read Job here.

Job was tested more than any man we see in The Bible. Reading the history, we can see some of the reasons why God tested Job, and they line up quite well with some of the things James is teaching us in his Epistle.

To test Job’s faith and prove the reality of it.

To divert Satan’s evil plans.

To make Job’s faith stronger.

To bless Job.

We can see this now, but poor Job had no idea of God’s plan.He just simply endured. Job lost his family, his possessions, and his health. Job lost everything. Job may have questioned God and asked why, but he never lost his faith or love for God. What happened in the end?

Job 42:10-17 And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold. So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters. And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch. And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren. After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations. So Job died, being old and full of days.

Paul also recognized that those who endure patiently are the recipients of God’s favor, Anyone recall the thorn in Paul’s side? God did not remove that thorn; Paul merely endured it, using strength provided by God to do so.

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

In our above examples, we see a couple of different outcomes coming as a result of patience. Job, as we see, was physically and materially blessed for demonstrating patience in The Lord. It’s very important to note, however, that there is no promise of material blessings as a result of patience. God is not a cosmic candy machine who will give us stuff if we jut put in the coin marked patience.

Note that Paul didn’t get anything material as a result of his patience and waiting for God. Paul got grace; Paul simply received the strength through the Holy Spirit to endure and live with his particular affliction.

The point is, God’s promises are good and they are guaranteed. If we do His work, in His way, in His time, we will be blessed. It may be now, it may be later; but He guarantees it. Are we resting in that guarantee?

James 5:13

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.


Ups and Downs

During most of James Chapter 5 we have been dealing with some issues involving how we deal with and react in particular situations. We have discussed how we react to being rich and how we react to being poor. We have discussed reaction in terms of patience when confronted with the various trials and tribulations we may face to include interpersonal conflicts.

Even though there is some discussion about illness, faith, anointing and prayer in the section that follows I have, after substantial study and reflection, come to the opinion that this section is probably not about healing per se, but guidance on practical ways to deal with the issues of life. I am not saying healing does not occur, just that I don’t think that is what is being covered here as the main point. Overall, I think this fits with the practical nature of James’ Epistle.

Actually, the word affliction as used here has nothing to do with physical sickness at all, but more along the lines of. “suffering in difficult circumstances, ” or “in trouble.”  This ties our verse in quite nicely with the passages before and in my thoughts, ties it in with the ones to follow as well.

This seems to be a clear lesson. God wants to communicate with us; specifically,  He wants us to communicate with Him! Life will have its ups and downs; sometimes things will go our way, and sometimes we will be troubled, or afflicted. When we are in trouble God wants us to turn to Him in prayer. When life is great, God wants us to thank Him for it.

Do we do that? Is God our first resort when things head in a direction we don’t like or is He our last resort after we have exhausted all or our human resources? When life is great, who gets the credit? Do we pat ourselves in the back for a job well done or do we thank the true source of our many blessings?

David Jeremiah captures the essence of this well by saying, “We have a God for all seasons “(from What To Do When You Don’t Know What to Do) He then goes on to quote the following from his own readings (from Alec Motyer, The Message of James.)

“Both in periods of suffering and trouble, and in times of joy, prayer and praise alike acknowledge that He is sufficient. To pray to Him is to acknowledge His sovereign power in appointing our circumstances. Whether as the source of supply in need, or the source of gladness or our joy, God is our sufficiency.”

And finally, the chorus from a favorite song of mine really captures the essence very well. From the song, God On the Mountain.

For the God on the mountain, is the God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He’ll make them right.
And the God of the good times
is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day is still God in the night.

Happy? Then Sing Praises!

This is pretty simple. If we are afflicted, under fire, and set upon, we should pray. If we are not suffering any of these things, we should rejoice! We can’t really minimize the importance of these two directives standing side by side. The fact that they are side by side tells us one thing; to sing praises when things are good is just as important as prayer when things are bad.

There are several ideas we could toss around here regarding to these thought being place together. No matter now we might see these statements, the lesson remains the same. Prayer matters and praise matters. Prayer and joyful praise are both vital and important parts of the life of a believer, and the life of the church.

James may be using this as an example to us that our lives will be a mixture of ups and downs, and valleys and mountaintops. Even as likely is the idea, based on the earlier discourse on patience during trials, that there is a completely different idea being taught here. Perhaps James is not illustrating the idea that these are two separate events, the affliction and the merriness. Wait, is it possible the two can coexist together?

Perhaps what is being taught here is that, even through the affliction we may be under, that we are to maintain our joy, even in the face of it. What could we possibly find to praise God for during the tough times?

How about we praise Him for the grace to make it through the trial? How about we praise Him for the comfort He will provide through the trial? How about we praise Him for the fact that He will resolve the issue, in the way that most honors Him and is ultimately best for us?

Don’t Swear, Pray

It seems like there is a pretty clear linkage here between this verse and the section before. James had been talking about patience through trials; then he covered how not to react to these trials. His injunction to us was to not react to our trials and adversities by saying things we do not really mean. As God has a tendency to do, he immediately offers a solution to the problem. Cool huh? What we have here amounts to this basically: “When life gets tough, don’t say things you don’t mean and can’t back up, pray instead!”

It’s time for another language lesson very quickly, especially in light of the fact that shortly we will be talking about physical illnesses. This is important because, in the verse we are talking about, the word afflicted is not a reference to sick; it is not related to the sickness we see described later on in this passage. This is simply another reference to being afflicted with trials, mistreatment, and persecutions. This is the main reason this verse seems so connected to the discussion before. When we face trial, we should pray; when we face persecution, we should pray.

We pray for a solution; we pray for God’s will; sometimes we simply pray for comfort during these times. The answer to what we face is there, we just have to reach for it, and we reach for it by prayer. One writer used this Hymn to illustrate what we give away when we fail to pray, and instead act inappropriately.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Ev’rything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden?

Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

James 5:14-20

 Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.


Prayers for the Sick

Wow. Here we have what might be considered a pretty complicated passage of scripture and also one that is considered controversial by some. My hope and my desire is to nail down some clear lessons, while not getting bogged down in the controversy. Just some quick thoughts and questions to start with. Comments and thoughts are welcome, fighting and arguing is not!

Is God still God and can He, at any time, do anything He wants to do? Yes

Can God, through His sovereign power do anything he desires, even alter the “natural” course of events. Yes

Does God answer prayer the way we want? Yes

Does God sometimes not answer prayer in the way we want? Yes

Does God promise special healing based on the amount of faith we have or the special relationship the person praying might have with Him? Probably not.

Can sin make us sick? Does our sin sometimes result in real physical maladies? Without a doubt.

Is illness always caused by sin in our lives or lack of faith? Absolutely not.

So, you see there are many questions raised by this particular passage, and I hope all will take the time to study for themselves and reach their own conclusions. Do that, and let’s talk again in a few decades when we all have it figured out. In the meantime, some things do seem fairly clear as we read through this passage in God’s Word.

One thing that is somewhat unclear and debated is whether this particular passage actually refers to physical illness in the first place. Some writers would say it does, while others would say it does not. Some think it means one thing in on usage and another thing in yet another usage. I’ll leave the linguistic debates for the experts.

What we can see clearly in this passage is one thing. God expects us to pray. And that, no matter who one interprets the particulars of this passage, is a clear lesson we see here.

Think on all of those things, and over the course of the next few days we will explore around some of the things we see here.

Sick? Call for Help

Have you ever noticed that your pastor is a very busy man? Most are. Have you ever seen or heard a situation where a person got their feelings hurt because they felt ignored when a need presented itself?

We don’t necessarily see just why the person in this passage is sick. As with most of this passage, there is more than substantial discussion about it. He may be simply sick. It may be that the trials and persecutions discussed previously have worn the person down to the point that they have become sick. They may even be sick as a result of sin.

They whys of the sickness don’t really matter as much as the reaction. Note here one very important thought, and the answer to this question: Who called for the elders? Correct, the person suffering the illness called. Why does that matter?

It matters because our Pastors, Elders/Deacons, cannot be all places at all times, nor are they all knowing. We certainly bear some responsibility to communicate our needs to our brothers and sisters in Christ. What a shame to be suffering from some great need and it not be met simply because nobody knew

Additionally, look at the reaction once a summons is made. The elders come; they respond to this expressed need. People gather to meet the need once it has been expressed.

This may not be the primary point of this passage, but it is certainly one we can make. We are to be there for each other. We should communicate our needs to those who can help us. If we are not the suffering ones, we should pray for, assist, and uplift those among us who are in need, whether physical or emotional.

Righteous Prayers

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Here things seemingly get complicated. What does sin, faith, and Elijah all have to do with any of this? Well, here go my thoughts for what they are worth.

Why are they praying about this man’s sin? Maybe he is sick because he sinned. I don’t know. Even if this man’s sin had not made him sick, we all know one important thing: sin is an impediment to our prayers to God. Even if our malady is not caused by sin, it is simply a good practice to seek forgiveness for our sins before talking to God. Even though we may be forgiven the penalty for our sin, the presence of unresolved sins in our lives still hinders our fellowship with God.

It is important that we pray with the full faith that God will, in fact, answer our prayer. If we pray without granting God ultimate power to accomplish anything He wants to, we should not expect answers.

We have to pray in God’ will. This may be an illustration again of the presence of the Elders in the life of this ailing person. How do we learn God’s will? A knowledge of God’s will is a learned thing. We come to understand it through prayer, study, and meditation. Certainly a case could be made that the prayers of the Elders, while not necessarily more effective than the prayers of other believers, might be grounded in a better understanding of what God’s will might be in a situation.

If there was ever a many tuned into the will of God, Elijah would have been one. I can only imagine this great man of God, praying for the rain with great faith and great understanding of what God was trying to accomplish. Elijah prayed that a drought be ended and the rains given, and it happened! Clearly, Elijah was both fervent and effectual in his prayer, and his prayer was answered.


Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Finally, James closes his Epistle in a way we would certainly expect. The entire theme of James’ writing has been about the demonstration of true, saving faith. James has attempted to teach us that while what we do never saves us, what we do certainly provides the evidence and reality of our salvation. Who is the warning in the last few verses intended for? Given the overall tone of James’ writing, I think this is a warning to those who may be backsliding into a life of sin. He has spent an entire book warning what true faith looks like, so this seems to fit.

We certainly have a responsibility to an erring brother or sister, and it may be as important as our responsibility to win the lost.

Blessings and hope that you have enjoyed our trip through the Book of James.

Faith That Works-James Chapter 3

Another Saturday edition our our recap of the daily studies on James. Now we are in James Chapter 3. Again, allow me to issue a long post alert. Don’t read unless you really want to….read!


Read all of James Chapter 3 here

James 3:1-4

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.


Taming the The Tongue

James apparently had strong feelings about the role of the tongue, or the words we speak, in the life of the believer.  He actually mentions it in every single chapter of his book, in fact. He mentions it in the following passages: 1:19,26; 2:12; 3:5,6,8; 4:11; and 5:12.

Reading what James has to say about our speech and we can see the idea of the tongue not only being the reflection of what is in our hearts, but also representative of the depravity of our nature.

Also, since James’ primary objective with his Epistle seems to be to teach believers how to behave, it follows in line that one of his lessons here is that the ability to control one’s tongue is a mark of a mature believer.

Let’s just take a look at some of the thoughts God shared with us regarding the tongue in His Word for today’s devotional.

When Paul was illustrating to us all our fallen condition, in Romans 3:13-15, he listed 5 organs of the body which are common vehicles for sin: throat, tongue, lips, mouth and feet. It seems very significant that four of the five have to do with our speech!

Some of the most Godly men in the Bible had issues holding their tongues, as well; Moses (Psalms 106:32-33), Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5,7), and Job (Job 40:4) all had tongue issues at some point.

The tongue is described using many words in Scripture: wicked, deceitful, perverse, filthy, corrupt, flattering, slanderous, gossiping, blasphemous, foolish, boasting, and many others.

Jesus even had thoughts about our tongues

Matthew 12:36,37 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 justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Our words are similar to a sound wave broadcast into the air. Eventually, that sound wave will reach the far parts of  space in a never ending journey; not only that, but the trip cannot be cancelled. Once that sound wave or our words start their journey, they cannot be brought back to the source and packed away.

What do our words say about our walk with Christ? If our words are a reflection of our heart, then what do we reveal about our heart when we speak?

The Tongues of Teachers

 Why does James lead off a passage detailing the misuse of the tongue, and our speech, with an opening sentence about masters, or teachers? That is a good question, so let’s explore it briefly. There are several possible applications of this teaching.

Teachers shall receive the greater condemnation. Teachers should be persons of great Christian maturity, and the ability to speak proper things in a proper way is a sign of that maturity. Anyone who places themselves in that position will be held to a high standard of judgment for the things they say while in that position. Here is  a good illustration of this principle.

Luke 12:48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

Why then, this initial mention of the responsibilities of those who teach to bridle the tongue? It seems pretty straightforward. If the tongue in and of itself has great power when used just by one person to another, how much more powerful is a misused tongue in the mouth of a person influencing many?

Does this teaching apply to all of us? Primarily, this is directed to those holding positions of responsibility, such as pastors, evangelists, preachers and teachers. But, on the other hand, don’t we all teach somebody? Parents teach their children. Believers teach non believers. Mature believers teach newer believers. Every single one of us has a circle of influence, whether large or small. We need to insure that we mature in Christian behavior in such a way that our use of our tongue causes no harm, but only good.

The Power Of the Tongue

What I am about to say is simply the thoughts and opinions of one man, but this is simply one of the most vivid and descriptive passages in all of God’s Word. As we have covered, James is teaching the point that one of the ways we illustrate Christian maturity is by learning to control our tongue. He has also made the point earlier that by controlling our tongue, we can control the entirety of our bodies.

This seems rather like the two greatest commandments, the ones given by Jesus to the questioning Scribe in Matthew Chapter 22. When the scribe was attempting to trip Jesus up by pinning Him down to stating one commandment as more weighty than another, Jesus neatly rolled them all up in two simple directives: Love God above all else, and love one’s neighbor as oneself. The reason He did this was to show that by doing these two things, all other requirements would naturally follow as an outflow.

The tongue is like that. We can see in Verse 2 of our passage James stating that if a man can learn to control his tongue, he can control his entire body. James doesn’t seem to mean this in a literal sense, but in a metaphorical sense regarding the whole of our behavior. In other words, if what issues from our mouth tends to be God honoring and God exalting, then likely the rest of our behavior will be as well. Then he moves on to show two very clear examples of the smallest of things exercising the greatest of control.

The first example is that of a horse. It’s quite amazing, really that an animal weighing in at over a half a ton can be easily controlled by a 100 pound rider simply through a tiny metal bit in their mouth. Likewise the direction and course of a large ship can be controlled by no more than a small rudder which is only a fraction of the size of the ship.

Our tongues, and our speech are like the bit or the rudder. They are only a small part of us physically, but they can and do turn us in whatever direction they point. If our speech is Christlike, then we will be likewise Christlike. If our speech is the opposite, then our behavior will be as well.

A Controlled Tongue Shows Maturity

As I was preparing this Devotional, I received in my Blog feed a wonderful poem written by blogger Gloryteller. Rather than write anything on this issue today, I am including his poem as a powerful illustration of words, the tongue, and their proper role in the lives of mature Christian believers.

A Farmer of Words

I want to be a farmer of words
I want to nurture words
I want to plant them in good soil
Cultivate them
Grow them until mature
Make them fruitful
Pick them and harvest them
Squeeze out their nutritious juices
Prepare them deliciously
Give them to those in need of
A good word

I want to begin a culture of
Word husbandry.

James 3:5-12

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.


The Destructive Power of the Tongue

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

It may be, that a more untrue statement was never written, or said actually, since I can remember it vividly from my school days. Think back, when did we normally invoke that phrase way back then? Usually when the exact opposite was true was when we would recite that phrase. In other words, we usually made a point to say that to somebody who had just hurt us with their words.!

Here, James uses a great comparison to discuss the destructive power of our tongues, or our speech. Earlier he compared the small tongue’s ability to control our conduct to a bit in a horses mouth, or the small rudder piloting a giant ship. Here, he compares the destructive power of the small tongue with a tiny spark which ignites a huge fire.

One of the most notable examples of this, of course, is the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Although started by something so small as a lantern in a barn, this great fire eventually burned almost half of the city of Chicago to the ground.

Two of the greatest men in the Old Testament, recognized the power of the tongue and issued guidance about controlling it. David and his son Solomon both wrote about the destructive power of speech. As David was somewhat hot tempered, we should strongly consider his words in this matter.

Psalm 39:1-3 I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue,

Solomon had the following to say:

Proverbs 17:27 He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.

Proverbs 14:29 He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.

The tongue and fire have other similarities as well. Few would dispute that a fire under control can have many benefits, and can be used for much good. On the other hand, few would dispute that a fire, like a mouth, out or control can cause massive devastation.

What do we do with our tongues? Do we use them for good, for edifying believers or telling the Gospel to unbelievers? Or do we use them for evil  by teaching untruths, gossiping or pushing the non believing away from Jesus Christ?

The Tongue is the Fire of Hell

This is quite likely the strongest statement in the entire Bible concerning the misuse of the tongue in our lives. I this simple sentence, James quite completely and unequivocally lays the dangers of the misuse of it right out.

 “The tongue is a world of iniquity.” One Bible translation words this, “the tongue is the very world of iniquity.” One writer describes this as referring to a system, scheme or arrangement. It is a system of iniquity that represents every other sin of mankind.

The tongue defiles our entire body. We already discussed the comparison of the tongue to a bit in a horses mouth or the rudder of a ship. How those two things direct something much larger than themselves, so does our tongue. In this case, the sins of the tongue defile the whole person.  It’s similar to the fire and the smoke damage it causes. The fire itself may not destroy everything, but the smoke permeates and ultimately ruins even what the fire doesn’t touch.

The tongue is “set on fire of hell.” This particular description was simply fascinating. The word for Hell here is from the term gehenna. This was the Valley of Hinnom to the south of Jerusalem. This is the place where the Caananites and idolatrous Israelites had gone for their child sacrifices. Because all that activity had rendered that place unclean, it was finally used as simply a garbage dump. So, this was simply a big, rotting garbage dump, constantly burning and maggot filled. Jesus used the same term to represent Hell, the place which God had prepared for Satan and his demons. This comparison of the tongue with Hell strongly implies that the tongue can be Satan’s tool to pollute and corrupt.

We Can’t Tame Our Tongue

Man, in the Garden of Eden, was clearly given dominion over all of the animals of the world. Genesis 1:26.Even today, after the fall, we know that human kind is generally able to control the beasts of the world.

We need to look no further than the nearest circus to see that man is able to bring the largest, and most terrifying of animals under his control. Lion, tigers and the largest of land animals, the elephant can be controlled by one tiny human being.

However, our tongue is an “unruly evil.” In its natural state, our tongue is similar, if not worse, than any wild animal. It is wild, untamed and without discipline. Rather than tromping us or eating us, however, our tongues destroy by lies, gossip, slander and filthy language.

James tells us that no man can tame the tongue. In and of ourselves, we cannot even to the same to our mouths as we can do with a huge elephants; we cannot tame it our bring it under control.

Since James’ Epistle is about Christian living, the solution to our problem seems readily evident. Like any sin, sins of the tongue can be managed by the saved person through the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit. We certainly do not have the power to do it, but God does!

David, back in the Old Testament, had something to say about how we actually take advantage of the strength of the Holy Spirit to control our tongues in Psalm 141:3:

Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

Gossip Is Poisonous

Gossip: the favorite indoor sport of many Christians. In an earlier Devotion, we talked about that old school yard saying on how sticks and stones hurt, but words do not. We all know that is patently untrue, because words do hurt; gossip and lies about other believers is one of the primary ways we use our words to wound other believers.

I have heard a particular story several times over the years, and I would like to relate it here as an illustration of how the power of gossip spreads. In a particular church, there was a woman who had, over time, spread some completely untrue things about another woman in the congregation. Ultimately, these lies had just ruined the reputation of the victim. One day, the woman who had spread the slander came to realize that everything she had said was untrue and unfounded. To her credit, she was seized by remorse and wanted to make things right. She went to her pastor, seeking guidance on how to accomplish a repair of what she had done. He pastor told her to take a down pillow, filled with fine feathers, and scatter them in the streets of town; he then told her to come back and see him the next day. Upon her return, the pastor instructed her to walk the city streets and gather the feathers and put them back in the pillow. Instantly she responded, “Well, of course I can’t ever gather those feathers back!” His response to her: “Correct, and unfortunately you can never gather back the words you said either.”

The Bible has much to say about the subject of gossip. In Romans Chapter 1, as Paul is laying out the list of the sins of man which have separated us from God, gossipers were right there in the middle of the list. In verses 29 and 30 he referred to them as “whisperers,” and “backbiters.”

Solomon had much to say about the subject as he wrote Proverbs as well.

Proverbs 11:12,13 He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace. A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.

Proverbs 18:7,8 A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

Proverbs 21:23 Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.

Visualize the following if you will. If a man stands up during church prayer time and offers the following prayer: “Lord, please deliver my friend Joe from his alcohol and drug addiction, his womanizing and his little gambling problem. Thank you, Father, and Amen!” Is that a prayer request? Not really. That would be gossip shrouded in the guise of a prayer request.

What then, do we do about his issue? How do we fix ourselves? A wise older gentleman I know, who has never been known to say a bad word about anyone, offered the following advice to us all one day:

Is it true? If it’s not, stop right there.

Is it necessary? Just because it’s true does not mean it has to be said.

Is it kind? Neither truth or need matter if the words are unkind.

I don’t think any words are necessary to add to that!

The Danger of Flattery

One writer I read commenting on the Book of James said the following: “If gossip is saying behind someone’s back what you would never say to their face, then flattery is saying to someone’s face what you would never say behind their back.”

What is flattery? Well flattery and compliments are not the same; that is why the saying above rings so very true. A compliment is good for the person being complimented, whereas flattery is primarily for the benefit of the person giving the praise. And that, in a nutshell, is why God has a problem with flattery.

Like almost anything having to do with our tongue, we can find much guidance on the subject of flattery in the Book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 6:24; 7:5; and 7:21 all teach us that a flattering woman can lead us into trouble.

Flattery is put in the same league as lying and deception in Psalm 5:9 and Romans 16:18.

As we have been discussing, James is trying to teach us how to live the Christian life; he is attempting to teach us how our salvation will always result in some fruit, or action as a result. What’s that got to do with what James is teaching? Well everything, really. Because just as hard as James is trying to teach us how to do right, there are a host of people trying to teach us wrong. These would be false teachers, and flattery is one of their primary weapons in their arsenal.

Paul warns clearly of this danger in Romans 16:18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Peter likewise warns of this in 2 Peter 2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

Here’s a question just for bloggers. Ever like, comment or follow just in the hopes of getting one yourself? A little encouragement in there just to make it look good? Of course we have to engage others to build a network of readers, but where is the line? I would really like people’s thoughts on that one.

Talking From Both Sides Of Your Mouth

Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary series, used the following illustration:

A man at work one day, a professing Christian, got angry and turned loose with a series of oaths and profanities. Embarrassed, he turned to his coworker and said, “I don’t know why I said that. It really isn’t in me.” His partner wisely replied, “It had to be in you, or it wouldn’t have come out of you.”

In real life, I had a friend who faced a similar situation. He, in his younger days(while a believer), had been noted for letting loose with an oath or two when angry or upset. One day, he decided he should clean up his act and quit all of that. His solution was to pick some simple nonsensical word to use in situations where before he would have cursed. I don’t recall what he said the word was, but I do recall that he said he would use that word in place of a curse word. Let’s say the word was “bullfrog.” Every time he would get angry, instead of cursing, he would say, “bullfrog.” That went along fine until one day a coworker, who happened to be a non believer, said the following: “You realize, of course, that using that stupid word doesn’t really change what you mean, right?” Ouch.

Discerning what James is teaching us here is not particularly difficult; in fact, it is very easy. We have already studied the tongue quite a bit, and this passage just continues this analysis.

Note some of his comparisons here: blessing and cursing, sweet and bitter, salt water and fresh. The common vein among these is simple; one of each pair is good and one is not good.

If we show through our words both good and bad consistently, which would see say is the real reflection of what is really inside?

 James 3:13-15

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.


What is Wisdom?

Wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing. Surely, we all know somebody who fits the bill of having lots of book knowledge but no common sense. In fact, I have been accused of that very thing myself! How many down South have heard the phrase, “That boy ain’t got no common sense!”?

Wisdom can be defined as, “the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.” This definition was put in the dictionary with life in mind, but certainly applies to our relationship with God’s Word as well. In fact, one might say it is the key to our relationship with God’s Word. Proverbs 4:7 sums up in one sentence the importance of wisdom in our spiritual lives:

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

We have discussed in some depth that an intellectual, or head knowledge, about God’s Word or about Jesus Christ does not necessarily translate into a saving faith. The same is true concerning our intellectual knowledge about The Bible. We can know the whole thing from front to back and still not possess wisdom concerning it.

Wisdom regarding God’s Word, then, might be defined as the ability to take a knowledge of the facts in The Bible and transfer that knowledge into practical applications in our lives. God did not inspired the writers of The Bible to write so that we would have facts; He intended us to take His Word and use it as our guide for faith and life.

We ought not to be surprised that James is addressing this subject; in fact, it would be rather surprising if he did not talk about it. After all, the entire Epistle is about the practical applications of the Christian life.

Also, it may be possible here that James is simply continuing his discourse on our tongues, and the things which come out of our mouths. A lack of wisdom causes things to come out of our mouths which destroy, and the presence of wisdom causes things to come from our mouths which edify and build up.

We are going to spend a bit of time on this particular passage, but here is just a question to ponder over in the meantime: Are we smart, or are we wise?

Wisdom for Teachers

One way this passage is considered by some is that it is a continuation of an exhortation to teachers. This exhortation would have begun back in in the Verse 1 of this chapter.

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

If this interpretation is correct, then James made it clear at the first of the added responsibilities teachers have for the ways in which they allow their tongues to behave. Greater responsibility brings greater loss of reward if the responsibility is fulfilled improperly.

Not everybody agrees with this particular interpretation, but feel James’s instruction was for all members of the audience he was writing too; either way seems perfectly okay, so we will just touch briefly on how this might apply specifically to teachers.

Simply put, teachers need more than just a lot of pretty words; they must have something to say. Teachers are not in place just to read scripture, or regurgitate some Sunday School lesson; teachers are there to impart wisdom.

I heard it said that knowledge enables us to take things apart but wisdom enables us to put things back together and relate God’s truth to everyday life.

If we are teachers, are we relying on just knowledge, or do we have wisdom to impart?

Where Does Wisdom Come From?

James teaches us that there are only two sources of wisdom. Wisdom can come from God, or man. Wisdom can come from above, or not. In other words, we can get our wisdom from God, or Satan. We could stop right there and the point would be made, but let’s continue and break it down some anyway.

James was not alone in his thoughts about the wisdom of man versus the wisdom of God. Paul had some to say about this in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. In fact, those chapters are good reading for anyone placing great stock in the wisdom of the world. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 1:20 that God considers the wisdom of the world to be foolish, and in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that man considers God’s wisdom to be foolish.

If we can take a quick side trip here, I have been amazed to see how the two writers in God’s Word sometimes said to conflict with one another(James and Paul), in actuality complement each other in astounding ways.

How do we get the wisdom of God? How do we get the wisdom of the world? Immersion is the answer. That word has been coming up a lot lately around every corner I turn, and it’s a good word. We get our wisdom from wherever we choose to immerse ourselves.

If we are immersed in television, movies, music and literature which is from the world, we will get our wisdom from the same place. If we are immersed in God’s Word, immersed in prayer, and immersed in fellowship with other believers, then that is also where our wisdom will come from.

Worldly Wisdom is………

The wisdom of the world is, “earthly, sensual, devilish.” Another Bible translation says the wisdom of the world is, “Earthly, natural, demonic.” Let’s expand on these three some in today’s devotional.

Anything other than God’s wisdom is earthly. That is, it is restricted to the limits of this world. It is limited in time, in the sense that earthly wisdom is restricted to the present world only and has no bearing on our eternal world. It is limited in that earthly wisdom is man’s wisdom. It is restricted to what we can do, learn and create under our own power and ability. There are some fruits, really negative fruits, of earthly wisdom we will talk about in another devotion.

Anything other than God’s wisdom is natural. That is, it is interested only in things of the flesh. If we look back, we can clearly see that it was natural wisdom which resulted in the Fall of Man in the first place. It was the seeking to know what God knew that lead Eve to take and eat the forbidden fruit. Instead of accepting the wisdom God had provided, Adam and Eve sought worldly wisdom. Remember what John said in 1 John 2:16?

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Finally, anything other than God’s wisdom is demonic. Now, that doesn’t mean if we study the Encyclopaedia we will become demon possessed. (For those readers who remember what those are!). That means the root of any wisdom other than God’s wisdom is Satan. Once again, a trip back to the Garden of Eden is in order. Adam and Eve had all the wisdom they needed. Adam, at least, had marching orders straight from the mouth of God.  One rule and one rule only. That was simple wisdom and Godly wisdom. Let’s see what happened in Genesis 3:5:

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Satan first introduced worldly wisdom to mankind, and he still does it today. Just like Adam and Eve, we have a choice what we listen to. Do we listen to the wisdom from above as provided in God’s Word, or do we listen to the wisdom of the world as provided by The Devil?

James 3:14-16

But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.


Worldly Wisdom Is Motivated by Jealousy

We, as humans, prefer the wisdom of the world over the wisdom given by God. We prefer it because, in our natural states, we have our own goals in mind instead of God’s goals. Once again, we only have to take a trip back to the Garden of Eden to see that we started this process very early in our human careers.

James tells us that there are two primary motivations for our preference of worldly wisdom over Godly wisdom: “bitter envying,” and “strife.” One translation words these as “bitter jealousy”, and “selfish ambition.”

Bitter envying and jealousy. “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” is a phrase we have all heard. We humans seem to have a tendency to want what we do not have; unfortunately that often means wanting what someone else has. We become envious and jealous of it. The wisdom of God tells us to be happy with what He has provided; the wisdom of the world tells us to covet what our neighbor has. “Keeping up with the Jones,” so to speak.

We can all succumb to the wisdom offered by the world and slip into jealousy and envy. Even those closest to Jesus were found guilty of that offense. In Luke 9:46 we can see how Jesus’ Disciples argued about who would be the greatest among them. In Matthew 20:21 we even see the mother of James and John asking for a special place for her sons in Heaven.

How about us? What are some times we allow the wisdom of the world to drive us to jealousies and envy? Are we worried about the message contained in a song sung at church, or are we worrying about who is singing it? Are we listening to the Sunday School lesson being taught or are we worried about why “that person” is teaching it and not us? What wisdom are we relying on, God’s or man’s?

Worldly Wisdom Is Motivated By Strife

We previously discussed what motivates us to choose worldly wisdom over the wisdom of God. Our previous devotional covered how we allow jealousy and envy to cause us to make this choice.

The KJV translation uses the word “strife” to discuss our next topic. Other translations use the words, “selfish ambition” to relay the thought. Not only are we jealous of what others have which we do not have, but we are strongly motivated by our own ambition to choose worldly wisdom.

We want what we want, we want it how we want it, and we want it now. That sums up our sinful natures and drives us to gain our wisdom from the wrong sources. The world tells us how to get what we want, God tells us how to get what He wants, which if we had any sense we would realize is, in fact, best for us.

Many writings on the word strife here give it the meaning of having a “party spirit.” This was often used to refer to a person who was beating the streets to gain a political job. That really sums up the image quite well of what James is saying. This would be us manipulating; this is us operating with a hidden agenda to accomplish our own goals; this is us either trying to manipulate people to obtain our own position or ingratiate ourselves with the person who does have a position.

Paul was inspired to write something on this topic as well(There Paul is again, with James.) :

Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

James is teaching us that our own agendas and needs are secondary. First and foremost, our goals should be God’s goals. Actually, reverse works better on that phrase; God’s goals should be our goals.

Worldly Wisdom Is Arrogant

he choosing of worldly wisdom over the wisdom of God is motivated by proud arrogance and boasting. James’ use of the words, “glory not” is no more than a warning to us to avoid proud arrogance and boasting.

Arrogance and boasting is clearly and simply the hallmark of a man who is concentrated on self rather than God. “Look what I did!” screams the boastful person, or the person operating under the wisdom offered by the world. “Look what God did!” screams the person operating under the wisdom offered by God. After all, none of what we accomplish is our own; James already told us that once back in Chapter 1 of his epistle.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Again, Paul reinforces what James is teaching us here.(I just love that!)

2 Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

To close, here is nice poem by a lady named Glenda Palmer, quoted by David Jeremiah in his book, What to do when you don’t know what to do. It’s pretty sarcastic, but makes the point well.

I thank you, Lord, for giving me

terrific looks, a brilliant mind

and  sparkling personality

that’s spiritually inclined.

I love my kinds and Christian mate,

our friendly church and Sunday School,

our ranch -style home with patio

and solar-heated swimming pool

I know my talents come from you;

I’m praised for my angelic voice

that sings and teaches weaker ones

the way to make a Godly choice.

And thanks for my prestigious job

and giving me an added gift-

that anything my pen jots down

becomes indeed, inspired script.

You ought to bless every Christian;

some lives seem ready to crumble,

but I am so proud that You blessed me-

I guess it’s just that I’m so humble.

Jealousy and Ambition Cause Confusion

Jealousy and strife may be what motivates us to rely on worldly wisdom, but these two have effects. They are not just things we feel; they cause things to happen.

One of the thing jealousy and selfish ambition cause is confusion. Here, confusion is not used in the sense of people not knowing what they are doing, but in the sense disorder or lack or harmony. It can be used to express the thought, “to disturb,” and is even used to describe a state of anarchy.

We see this same word used previously in James’ Epistle and it describes the same sort of situation there as well.

James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Here, unstable, is the same word as unstable used in our text today.

James 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Here, the word unruly is the same original word.

So, we can see here that our jealousy and ambition creates situations of confusion, instability, and unruliness in the body of believers. John McArthur in his commentary series gives a good list of many of the things caused by our jealousy and ambition: anger,;bitterness; resentment;  lawsuits, divorce; racial, ethnic and social disorders. He says they include the absence of some things as well: love, intimacy, trust, fellowship and harmony.

In case we are unclear on how God truly feels about this situation in His churches and among His people, let us look again at something The Apostle Paul said; this time Paul was writing to a very confused Church in the city of Corinth.

1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

God, and His wisdom, do not produce confusion and disorder. That is the product of or own man-made, worldly wisdom.

Jealousy and Envy Cause Every Bad Thing You Can Imagine

Today is the last day we will spend on James 3:16, as we have covered it fairly in depth. The category of “every evil thing” basically provides a catch all for anything not specifically mentioned as coming from a reliance on worldly wisdom.

In this usage, the word “evil”  doesn’t really refer to evil in the sense of the evil produced by sin. It actually refers to a possible range of things caused by worldly wisdom. The most common usage seems to be describing something that is worthless, or of no account or value. The word “thing” also carries a particular meaning; here it refers to work, deed, event or occurrence. We could paraphrase, then, by saying that every single worthless event, deed or work is caused by the reliance on the wisdom of the world rather than the wisdom from God.

Again, the Apostle Paul made some references to things that are the product of worldly wisdom:

1 Corinthians 3:12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

The foundation, of course, is Jesus Christ. But what we choose to build on that foundation is up to us. Worldly wisdom will produce wood, hay and stubble; wisdom from God will produce gold, silver and precious stones.

I hope and pray that each person reading this is laying your life’s works on the foundation of Jesus Christ. The question is: what are you laying ON the foundation and what is it based on?

 James 3:17,18

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.


Wisdom From Above

We have spent a substantial amount of time talking about the negative aspects and consequences of worldly wisdom, but all of the news is not bad! Now we will spend some time talking about the positive aspects and consequences of Godly wisdom.

The first thing James notes is the origin of Godly wisdom; it  comes from above. What does this mean exactly? It means quit a bit, actually. It has to do with the source of it, and it has to do with who can have it.

The source of heavenly wisdom, or course, is God Himself. James has covered that previously in his epistle, notably in James 1:17 when he tells us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

In James 1:5 we also learned that wisdom comes from God in response to our prayer.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

We get wisdom by praying; there are implications to that statement. Let’s get right to them. If a person is lost, what is the only prayer of his or hers that God can even hear? Of course, the answer to that question is: a prayer for forgiveness and salvation.

Implication: Wisdom from above is only available to those who belong to God as His children; wisdom from God comes from the filling with the Holy Spirit.

Solomon was inspired to give us these thoughts on following God with Wisdom:

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Here we see Jesus Himself linking  a solid foundation(salvation) with wisdom.

Matthew 7:24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

Again, we see Paul chiming in on this issue as he talks to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

 So, then, Godly wisdom: where does it originate and who gets it? Well, it comes from God, and only those saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit get it.

Wisdom From Above Is Pure

God’s wisdom is pure. James is later going to cover this same thought in James 4:8 when he tells us to “purify your hearts,“. In a general sort of sense, the word used here describes being “chaste or free from defilement.”

The word can also be used to describe a state of being Holy. Or course God Himself is Holy and pure. Therefore His wisdom is Holy and Pure. Therefore the resulting wisdom in us will therefore….be Holy and pure!

God’s Word has much to say about this, and here are just a few.

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

1 Timothy 5:22 Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.

1 John 3:3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

We have discussed previously the two sources of wisdom: God, or the world. In light of James’ recurring theme of acting out our professed beliefs in the daily aspects of our lives, we can only really come to one conclusion.

If our source of wisdom is the world, then our lives will be impure and filled with sin; if our source of wisdom is from above, or from God, then our lives will be pure.

Wisdom From Above Is Peaceable

We don’t really need to belabor the point concerning the fruits of worldly wisdom; we have covered them quite thoroughly. Strife, jealousy, envy and discord are all fruits of the wisdom of the world. These are the things that destroy churches and destroy the work for The Kingdom New Testament churches are supposed to be doing.

Godly wisdom, on the other hand, builds peace; it builds edification; it builds unity. Godly wisdom results in New Testament churches moving forward in unity and truth to further the work of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If a church’s work is based on the teachings of the Bible and on God’s work, there will be peace.

Isaiah 32:17 And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.

Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Jesus, of course, had this to say in the Beatitudes:

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

And, as has become habitual, we will close our scripture with some things Paul was inspired to say.

Philippians 2:1-4 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Here is a question for readers. Does wisdom from God include peace at any cost? James has answered that question already for us. The wisdom of God is first, pure; then it is peaceable. It is truth as presented in God’ Word which unifies us. In fact, the peace of the church takes second place to the purity of the church; it does not seem to be accidental that James talked about purity first, then peace.

Wisdom From Above Is Gentle and Easygoing.

Wisdom from above will cause us to be gentle and easy to be intreated. We are going to consider these two together, because they seem to work hand in hand to a certain extent. One Bible translation refers to these as being gentle and reasonable, which seems like a good choice of words to use.

Gentle can be defined as, “equitable, fair, mild, gentle.” Easy to be intreated can be defined as, “Led easily obeying, compliant.”

James is speaking from a position of experience and authority as he writes his epistle. In all likelihood, this is the very James who back in Acts Chapter 15 averted the schism between Jewish and Gentile believers in the Church at Antioch. If readers remember, there was trouble brewing in that church as the issue concerning believers continuing to follow Mosaic Law or not festered and threatened to divide that church. In fact, it threatened to divide the entire early church into Jewish and Gentile encampments.

James was able to come up with a solution which more or less made everyone happy. Additionally, the willingness of the two sides to be gentle and reasonable concerning the other side  made the solution work. Read the story, it is a great one.

Most importantly, James showed the value of compromise without compromising Biblical truth. He never once backed down from the position of Salvation being of faith and not works. He never conceded that adherence to Mosaic Law AND faith was needed for salvation. He stood firm on that correct position. He simply asked that the Gentile believers agree to bend on a couple of secondary issues which were very offensive to the Jewish believers in the church.

Worldly wisdom seeks a fight; Godly wisdom seeks peace. Worldly wisdom is confrontational; Godly wisdom is peaceable. Worldly wisdom seeks it’s own way on all issues; Godly wisdom is willing to bend for peace on non essentials.

Wisdom From Above Shows Fruit.

Godly wisdom is “full of” mercy and good fruits. One writer described this as being “controlled by.”  A person who is full of mercy and good works, then, is controlled by them. In other words, these things are part of the new person who has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit after his or her salvation. Continuing with James’ overriding thought, we can see that mercy and good works will be the natural result of salvation. No mercy and good works, no salvation could be one way his words be taken.

Our mercy should be in accordance to God’s mercy. We should attempt to show the same mercy to others that God has shown to us. In other words, we show mercy to others not because they deserve it, but because we care. God does not give us what we deserve, therefore we should not give others what we think they might deserve. A wonderful example of this is the story of the Good Samaritan we see in Luke 10:25-37. What we see there is an act of mercy done just because it was merciful, rather like God’s act of mercy towards us in providing His Son as an atonement for our sin.

Every good work. This is a very broad statement and brings to mind the fruits of the Spirit Paul discusses in Galatians 2:22,23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Every good work is a very encompassing sort of guidance, and covers a lot of things that should be the natural outpouring of our salvation.

Are we full of the works of the flesh as outlined in the same Chapter of Galatians as above? Or are we full of the Fruits of The Spirit?

Faith That Works-James Chapter 2

This is the second of our Saturday series on the Book of James. This is all previously published material just combined here into one post. Consider this your official long post warning! Only read if you really, really want to dig into James!


Read all of James Chapter 2 here

James 2:1-7

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?


God Is Not Partial, Why Are We?

 In the eyes of God, what things do we all have in common? Two things are common to us all. First, God loves us all. Second, all are sinners.

What things divide us into categories in the eyes of God? Well, in the eyes of God, there are only two kinds of people: Those who are unforgiven sinners and those who are forgiven sinners.

How does God not divide us? Let’s look at some ways:

God does not divide us based on appearance.

God does not divide us based on ancestry.

God does not divide us based on age.

God does not divide us based on achievement.

God does not divide us based on affluence.

If God does not divide us by any of these things, then why do we divide ourselves based on any of them? What even gives us the right to establish divisions among people based on criteria the Creator of the Universe does not use Himself?

Eww..Look at THAT Guy

For the remainder of his epistle, James is going to deliver some good, hard doses of practical Christian living. In each case, James is going to use examples of real life situations in the lives of the believers he is writing to and offer them guidance.

We covered previously that God is not partial; He is no respecter of persons. Now James is going to move directly into a situation that was occurring somewhere; in fact, this very situation is probably occurring in some church almost as we speak.

Let’s take a look at this situation on more modern terms and see what might be going on; it may be shocking to us; we are going to take some liberties with the written words briefly.

If the local bank president walks in your church, followed by the rough guy down the road with the tattoos, how do you react? Does every one make sure to greet the bank president heartily(probably seeing dollar signs for the church offering), and not say a word to the tattooed guy? Do we escort the bank president to sit by us and say a little prayer that the tattooed fellow will stay in the back? If we do, then we are guilty of trying to take God’s place and be the judge of people.

We don’t know what God’s plans for any person are; God has one for all of us and He is not selecting people for his works based on the same criteria we would use. For all we know, his plan for the bank president might be to mow the church lawn, and for the guy with tattoos to be called to preach God’s Word.  We simply don’t know, and it not our place to try to decide.

One last question. What actually shows God’s power and glory more? Somebody who seems perfectly capable  doing great things because they are able,  or somebody we would never think was able doing great things because of the power of God in his or her life?

Jesus Was Not Partial; Neither Should We Be

We often throw the word, “Christlike,” around fairly casually. Well, here is an instance of a situation where we have an opportunity to behave exactly as our Lord did when he was here on this Earth.

It may be important to cover just a little background here before moving on. It was common to the Jewish culture of the day to covet the recognition of one’s peers, and to even vie and compete for it. It seems likely that James was addressing this concern and instructing the scattered believers he was writing to, to not become guilty of this offense.

So, the question arises; on what basis was James coming to the conclusion that partiality was wrong? Well, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Jame is simply teaching us to act like Christ!

Jesus certainly did not respect persons. A simple look at the disciples would reveal that to us. We have simple fishermen, men with no credentials whatsoever: Peter, John, James and Andrew. Of course we have the hot headed, impulsive Peter himself. We certainly cannot forget Matthew the tax collector. The other Simon, Simon the Zealot was possibly a revolutionary. Jesus certainly did not choose those who would take His church into the world based any criteria we would use.

Jesus Himself was despised and rejected. He had no home or place to lay his head. He grew up in the despised town of Nazareth, from which it was said nothing good could come. He ultimately died the death that only the worst of criminals died. His outward appearance and background caused Him to be rejected by the powers of His day, yet He was actually God in the flesh!

In addition to all of this, we know that Jesus was repeatedly rebuked for the kind of company He kept. The Pharisees despised Him for associating with publicans and sinners. He offered forgiveness to the woman caught in the act of adultery. He willingly talked with the woman at the well even though she was three times rejectable; she was a sinner, a woman and a samaritan!

Do we make any real claim on being Christlike? If we do, then we simply cannot show partiality to others based on any criteria of our own, but only that used by our Lord Jesus Christ. That criteria was that there WAS no criteria.

God Loves the Poor as Much as the Rich

James has a bit to say about rich people and poor people. As we pointed out earlier, the scattered believers James was writing to were most likely all suffering poverty. Many would have been poor to start with, and many more would have been made poor as a result of their conversion to Christianity. In many cases they would have been driven from jobs and homes, and then likely unable to find work in the places they finally settled.

First of all, let’s clear up any thoughts that James was condemning the simple fact of possessing wealth. James is not doing that, and neither was God. We need only to look at such examples as Job or Abraham to see that God often actually blesses His followers with great wealth.

Nor was James saying the poor people are automatically righteous and rich people automatically unrighteous. James was not saying the poor people have some special merit with God, or are loved more by Him than rich people.

On the other hand, The Father in heaven and Jesus Himself while here on this earth clearly have a special place in their hearts for the poor and the oppressed. And it certainly seems true that the poor and downtrodden have far greater willingness to give their lives to God than those who are wealthy and powerful.

Isn’t this really about attitude? James is not condemning the fact of wealth, but the attitude of wealth. Remember the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-27? It was not his riches which kept him from Jesus, but his attitude towards his money. Remember 1 Timothy 6:10? It is not money per se, but the love of it which causes evil.

Another issue is that those who have nothing but poverty in this life can more easily respond to the promise of riches in the life after, while those with great riches on earth may struggle to see that something could actually be better than what they have here.

Remember, we have choices. We can be poor in this life and rich in the next. We can be rich in this one and poor in the next. We can be both poor in this one and poor in the next. We might even be rich both now and in eternity. It’s all about choices, and it’s all about what choice we make about what we will do with Jesus Christ.

Did You See Who’s Treating You So Badly?

James gets into some serious irony in this section. Remember, he had just discussed the wrongness of their preferential treatment of rich men who would enter their assembly. Now he points out that not only is that treatment wrong, but it’s really quite absurd. If we can take some literary liberties with the passage, what James was really saying might go something like this: “Hey, the very people you are falling all over in church are the same people making your lives miserable outside in the real world..what gives?

There was nothing new in the mistreatment of poor Jews by rich Jews in Israel; it was common even back in the days of the Prophets. Good examples can be read in Micah 2:2 and Zechariah 7:10. Paul teaches us that this oppression of the poor by the rich continues right into the New Testament in Hebrews 10:32-34.

So, the scattered believers were still being oppressed by the wealthy, just as had been true for centuries already. Not only were they being oppressed, but the rich were taking advantage of the legal system to harass and oppress them further! These men were using legal means to steal even more or their resources.  Finally, these men were blaspeming the Holy name of Jesus Himself. They may have been literally committing blaspemy, or they may have been simply committing it by the things they were saying and doing against His followers; it’s the same thing after all, isn’t it?

Here is a parting thought for this section of this Chapter. There is the possibility that James in this particular passage may have been speaking to middle class type believers rather than the poor ones. Later in his epistle he gives some warnings to rich men themselves. He may have been speaking to people who not only had suffered oppression at the hands of those with more resources than them, but who also had sufficient resources to do the same to those below them in the stations of life. They may have been guilty of oppressing the poor while they were simultaneously being oppressed by the rich.

In our world today, most of us would fit this category. Few of us are rich, but few of us are also truly poverty stricken; most of us are in that middle area where some have more than us, and we have more than some. How do we act?

James 2:14-26

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.


Yes, Faith Saves Us

How many times do we see people walk an aisle during an invitation time at church, make a “profession of faith,” then are never or rarely seen or heard from again? How many people do we see do that and never follow The Lord in Baptism, or show any other outward results of their salvation? How many do we see do that, and we know that outside the church walls they are living like the devil? Well that is exactly what James is talking about here.

Though a man “say” he have faith. That really represents the person who merely makes a “profession of faith.” Then James asks the question, “Can faith save him?” Let’s clarify quickly, before anybody gets concerned. Of course, faith saves us; we are saved by Grace through faith, period. That verse in some translations can be misleading. What is really meant is something to the effect of, “Can that faith save him,” or “can such a faith as that save him.”

James is not, by any stretch of interpretation, teaching that works contribute in even the smallest way towards our salvation. So, then, what is James trying to teach us?

It’s quite simple. A simply verbal “profession” of faith does not represent a genuine conversion. A mere intellectual assent to the facts of Jesus Christ does not represent a genuine conversion. James’ point during the entirety of his book is that true, saving faith will produce works, or fruit, in the life of a believer. James will repeat several times over the course of his letter that faith without works is dead.

Not only is there the chance that faith not accompanied by works is not true saving faith, but our works are the only way believers have to illustrate to a non believing world that our faith is a real faith. Here is a quote I found in The Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible that seems to express the thought perfectly.

The proof of the pudding is still in the tasting. The only test of a man’s salvation is through his works. A silent believer may be indeed considered a saint before God, but he remains a sinner before man until he walks the walk and talks the talk of Christian service

Dead Faith is Useless Faith

Faith without works is dead; it is alone. That is a strong statement, for sure. Previously we discussed the idea of a verbal only type of faith. This, again, would be a verbal and/or mental profession of faith. James continues on with his point that this faith likely is not a true saving faith. Only this time, James uses a very practical example to illustrate his point.

At some point in the next few devotionals we may take a look at some of the possible things James means in his references to dead faith, or faith being dead; for now however, we are just looking at this very specific scenario.

Suffice it to say that simple verbal faith can only not save; it cannot serve. But, let’s jump right into what has actually happened in our passage.

This one is easy. A needful brother has shown up at a believer’s doorstep, quite obviously in need; naked and destitute is needy for sure. But, rather than providing some actual assistance for the need, the believer has sent them away with good tidings and a promise of prayer.

As many would say in today’s vernacular…..really? Did we actually do any good whatsoever for that brother or sister in need? Well, of course not. When we sent them away promising prayer the question should be asked: What if they showed up at our doorstep as the answer to somebody’s prayer who could not help the needful brother or sister?

Why would such a thing happen? Why would anybody send a needy brother or sister away and not offer actual help, but simply empty words? Well, John the Apostle also had something to say about this in 1 John 3:17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

What did John just say, and what did James basically repeat? If we claim that God dwells in us(salvation), and we do not act accordingly(works) , then our claim that God dwells in us might be simply false.

True Faith Serves

Well, here James goes again. Because he is belaboring this point, we are as well. As well we should, because it is a very important point. The issue of dead, intellectual faith versus real, saving, active faith simply cannot be overstated.

Let’s review again; our works do not save us, period. Since we have spent so much time on works and will continue to, we will likely hit that point over and over again. Again, let’s look at the supposed difference of opinion between James and Paul. No one would disagree that Paul taught salvation by grace alone; he clearly taught our works do not save us.

Of course, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write the most notable teaching on faith versus works in Ephesians 2:8,9For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Most of us could quote that verse by memory. Sometimes, however, we overlook the continuing thought of that teaching, where we see that Paul certainly was inspired to tell us that works are important. Not only are they important, but they are the natural outflow, and purpose of our salvation. Ephesians 2:10, ” For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Paul also addresses the place of works in other places as well.  Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, and John 15:5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit…..” both show us Paul’s thoughts on works clearly.

Finally, James closes with a statement that might sound shocking; if all we have is an intellectual, verbal faith then we actually have the same kind of understanding and belief in God that is possessed even by Satan and his fallen angels! Wow. Demons believe in God; they even believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God; they even possess good knowledge of doctrine. They do not, however, have a saving faith.

What is our belief in Jesus Christ really like? Do we understand Him in our head? Do we understand the doctrine of salvation intellectually? Those are great, but we all need to answer the question that counts: Have we actually submitted to God and trusted Him for our Salvation? If not our faith is dead, being alone; if we have, then our faith is a living, saving faith.

 Even The Devil Believes in God

Earlier, we discussed the rather shocking statement that James made in this letter; that statement was that even devils believe, and tremble.  Now we are going to explore that some more to illustrate the fact that belief, even if based on truth, may not be saving belief.

Devils believe there is one true God; they even believe in the correct God. In Acts 16, beginning in verse 16, we can see the story of the demon possessed woman following Paul and his fellow evangelists, likely Silas, Timothy and Luke. What is key here is the fact that the demon recognized that the God in question was “the most high God.”

Demons even recognized the deity and sonship of Jesus Christ when they encountered him at different times. In the story of the Garasene demoniac in Mark 5:1-10 and Luke 8:26-33, we can clearly see that this demon understood that Jesus was the Son of God.

Not only do demons know God is God, and that Jesus was his son; they also have a clear understanding of Bible doctrines. They even know how scripture says the story will end for them. The demons Jesus cast into the herd of pigs in Matthew Chapter 8 asked Jesus if he had come to “torment us before the time.” They understood, obviously, the Biblical teaching concerning the eventual disposition of Satan and his demon angels.

We can see that devils believe in God, they understand who Jesus Christ is, and even understand Scripture as well as many Christians; we also know that Satan and his demons are certainly not saved(nor can they be, but that is another devotional all together.) What then, can we learn here?

This is merely a reinforcement of the same thing we have learned from James in the last several devotionals. An intellectual knowledge of who God is and even in the correct and only God is not enough. A mental assent to the reality and identity of Jesus Christ is not enough. Even a thorough and complete knowledge of the Word of God and Bible doctrine is not enough.

True faith, that being faith that saves, will always produce a change of heart and a change of character. There will be evidence on display of the transformation that has taken place within us if a transformation actually occurred.

Rahab Heard, and Believed

Consider this your official rabbit trail warning! We have, of course, been working our way through the Book of James. I hope it has been useful in some way to you all. We are still in James, but we are taking a small detour along the way here. There will be relevance to our actual topic, but along the way we are going to make a very wide turn. So, let the beatings begin I suppose!

Most of us are familiar with the story of Rahab the harlot. If readers want a refresher, read the story beginning Here. Jericho, where Rahab lived, was right in the path the Israelites were to take after crossing the Jordan River as they began their march into and conquest of the promised land. Joshua had sent two men into Jericho to spy and gather intelligence about the city prior to the arrival of the Israelite army. Rahab, a local prostitute, hid the spies from the authorities, protected them, and aided them in accomplishing their mission and escaping.

As we all know, Jericho was ultimately destroyed by the advancing Israelites, while Rahab and her family were spared. So, this is a good time to cover what, to some, is an offensive episode in the Bible. In fact, it is among the episodes described in Scripture often cited to justify non belief in God. After all, what kind of god could do such a thing? So, let’s take an honest look at what happened. In a nutshell, the city was completely destroyed by the Israelite armies, and every living person in it was killed.(With a few exceptions, as we will see.) This cannot really be sugarcoated, as those are the facts as presented in the Bible.

Was God just and fair? Of course He was, as God is always just and His ways are always fair. The truth is, Jericho was a hotbed of pagan idols worship, in particular the goddess Ashtaroth who was the moon Goddess. This was a pagan, evil city which had rejected God and was deserving of His judgment.

So, of course, the question arises: How is it fair to destroy all of those people who had never even had the chance to come to know God? After all, no missionary or preacher had ever come to them and told them, right? Let’s take a look at Rahab, then.

Rahab lived in the city also. Obviously the march of the Isralites was well known, as Rahab mentioned the citizens knowing of them since the crossing of the Red Sea 40 years previously. So, Rahab as well as everyone else knew all about them. Jericho was a thoroughly pagan city, coming to a different belief system than that was no doubt extremely difficult. Finally, Rahab had no first hand information from a believer concerning the One True God. Yet, she said the following to the spies in Joshua 2:11 “And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”

Notice something very important there; everyone was scared, but not all honestly sought and came to belief. Rahab didn’t know much, and she certainly had no proof. What she did have was a choice, and she made the choice to act by faith. Guess what? Her faith saved her, literally and spiritually.

Who all heard the news in that city? Everyone. Who chose to act in faith and believe? Rahab and her family. Here is another thought. God knew there was a woman and family in that town honestly seeking after Him. Remember how Jericho was destroyed? It just fell down. Those spies were not needed! Here is some food for thought: maybe those spies weren’t sent to spy, but to be witnesses to Rahab of the true God. She honestly sought Him, and He sent somebody to her.

God still does that today. I know of a missionary who answered a call from God to go to Mongolia and preach the gospel. Why Mongolia of all places? Maybe there was a Rahab there, maybe there was some single person who was honestly seeking the knowledge of God. Now guess what? There is a man there ready to tell that person all about Jesus.

Meanwhile, back to the Book of James. I terms of what we have learned so far during our study, what made Rahab notable; what made her worthy of mention here in James, as well as the “believers hall of fame” in the Book of Hebrews? It’s the same thing that separates the devils who believe and tremble from true believers. The people in the city of Jericho were much like those devils. They believed in what was about to happen to them; they may have even believed the God of Israel was real. Rahab, however, sprang into action. Rahab was not saved because she sprang into action. Rahab was able to spring into action because she had believed with a faith that was true.

Justified? By Works?

Well, here James gets right into something that might seem quite controversial. Is he really saying that we are justified by works? Well, yes and no. To really understand what is going on here, we just have to understand what the word translated justified means.

Translating one language into another is simply not an exact business sometimes. Often a word in one language doesn’t correlated precisely into an exact match in another. So, let’s just briefly look at what is going on here; understand also not that this is not intended to be a lesson in Greek grammar. I am not, and most of you are not, Greek scholars. Thus, we will keep this very simple.

Justified in the English can have two meanings. The first is the one most of us think about. In this meaning, justification is what happens to us at the moment our our salvation, by God’s grace through our faith. We are justified in the eyes of God by the payment Jesus made for our sins. We are declared to be righteous in God’s eyes. There is, however another use for word translated justified. That one translates “shown to be righteous.”

So, we are declared to be righteous, or justified in God’s eyes. Alternately, we are show to be righteous in whose eyes? Well, the eyes of others, of course. In fact, some translations translate it that way, saying Abraham and Rahab were considered to be righteous by their actions, and not just their faith.

Note above the order of events in the life of Abraham described by James. Verse 23 refers to Genesis 15:6, and clearly shows us that Abraham had faith and believed God, and at that point righteousness was imputed to him by God. It was by the offering of his son Isaac, much later than the first event, that was the illustration of Abraham’s faith to the world.

Rahab the harlot was likewise saved by her faith and belief and subsequently put her faith in to action as she saved the Israelite spies. Read her story here.

We can summarize the thought by saying their faith made them righteous before God, and their works made them righteous before men. A person may say that they have faith, but only if they can show that they have works can the rest of the world see that claim is valid. Faith without works is dead.

What is Dead Faith?

We have just completed our study of James Chapter 2. I hope it has been as useful in the reading as it has been in the writing. Several of the commentators I have read have pointed out the James 2:14-26 is  one of the harder passages in Scripture to interpret properly. I would have to agree with that assessment.

But there are some things we can easily take away from the study of James Chapter 2 that certainly do not take a degree in theology to learn.

Salvation is by grace, through faith. James never contradicts this clear teaching of other scripture.

On the other hand, genuine faith produces some sort of product. James does teach that faith without some product might not be genuine faith.

But, beyond that, we are left somewhat in the dark about where certain lines might need to be drawn. We need to always remember that God is the judge of man..not man. We do not know the state of any other persons heart. We may be able to state as fact the evidence, or fruit of a person’s spiritual life, but we can never state as fact the actual existence or non existence of their salvation.

So, what does this mean to us practically? Well, we should always share the Gospel and the path to salvation; we should talk about it and of it even among Christian company. If we are all believers, it will be edifying to the Body of Christ; if one among us is not truly a believer, they will hear truth. We should teach and disciple people. Even though salvation is likely to produce works, there may be those with no clue whatsoever how they should live. The truth is, the knowledge of God’s Word and law it takes to come to salvation is not extensive. The knowledge it takes to live a successful and fruitful Christian life is extensive. We need to teach, train and develop our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Faith That Works-Dead Faith, What Is It?-James 2:14-26

This weeks roll up of our daily devotions on the Book of James will cover James’ thoughts on the role of faith and works and their relationship


James 2:14-26

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.


Read all of James Chapter 2 here

Yes, Faith Saves Us

How many times do we see people walk an aisle during an invitation time at church, make a “profession of faith,” then are never or rarely seen or heard from again? How many people do we see do that and never follow The Lord in Baptism, or show any other outward results of their salvation? How many do we see do that, and we know that outside the church walls they are living like the devil? Well that is exactly what James is talking about here.

Though a man “say” he have faith. That really represents the person who merely makes a “profession of faith.” Then James asks the question, “Can faith save him?” Let’s clarify quickly, before anybody gets concerned. Of course, faith saves us; we are saved by Grace through faith, period. That verse in some translations can be misleading. What is really meant is something to the effect of, “Can that faith save him,” or “can such a faith as that save him.”

James is not, by any stretch of interpretation, teaching that works contribute in even the smallest way towards our salvation. So, then, what is James trying to teach us?

It’s quite simple. A simply verbal “profession” of faith does not represent a genuine conversion. A mere intellectual assent to the facts of Jesus Christ does not represent a genuine conversion. James’ point during the entirety of his book is that true, saving faith will produce works, or fruit, in the life of a believer. James will repeat several times over the course of his letter that faith without works is dead.

Not only is there the chance that faith not accompanied by works is not true saving faith, but our works are the only way believers have to illustrate to a non believing world that our faith is a real faith. Here is a quote I found in The Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible that seems to express the thought perfectly.

The proof of the pudding is still in the tasting. The only test of a man’s salvation is through his works. A silent believer may be indeed considered a saint before God, but he remains a sinner before man until he walks the walk and talks the talk of Christian service

Dead Faith is Useless Faith

Faith without works is dead; it is alone. That is a strong statement, for sure. Previously we discussed the idea of a verbal only type of faith. This, again, would be a verbal and/or mental profession of faith. James continues on with his point that this faith likely is not a true saving faith. Only this time, James uses a very practical example to illustrate his point.

At some point in the next few devotionals we may take a look at some of the possible things James means in his references to dead faith, or faith being dead; for now however, we are just looking at this very specific scenario.

Suffice it to say that simple verbal faith can only not save; it cannot serve. But, let’s jump right into what has actually happened in our passage.

This one is easy. A needful brother has shown up at a believer’s doorstep, quite obviously in need; naked and destitute is needy for sure. But, rather than providing some actual assistance for the need, the believer has sent them away with good tidings and a promise of prayer.

As many would say in today’s vernacular…..really? Did we actually do any good whatsoever for that brother or sister in need? Well, of course not. When we sent them away promising prayer the question should be asked: What if they showed up at our doorstep as the answer to somebody’s prayer who could not help the needful brother or sister?

Why would such a thing happen? Why would anybody send a needy brother or sister away and not offer actual help, but simply empty words? Well, John the Apostle also had something to say about this in 1 John 3:17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

What did John just say, and what did James basically repeat? If we claim that God dwells in us(salvation), and we do not act accordingly(works) , then our claim that God dwells in us might be simply false.

True Faith Serves

Well, here James goes again. Because he is belaboring this point, we are as well. As well we should, because it is a very important point. The issue of dead, intellectual faith versus real, saving, active faith simply cannot be overstated.

Let’s review again; our works do not save us, period. Since we have spent so much time on works and will continue to, we will likely hit that point over and over again. Again, let’s look at the supposed difference of opinion between James and Paul. No one would disagree that Paul taught salvation by grace alone; he clearly taught our works do not save us.

Of course, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write the most notable teaching on faith versus works in Ephesians 2:8,9For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Most of us could quote that verse by memory. Sometimes, however, we overlook the continuing thought of that teaching, where we see that Paul certainly was inspired to tell us that works are important. Not only are they important, but they are the natural outflow, and purpose of our salvation. Ephesians 2:10, ” For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Paul also addresses the place of works in other places as well.  Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, and John 15:5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit…..” both show us Paul’s thoughts on works clearly.

Finally, James closes with a statement that might sound shocking; if all we have is an intellectual, verbal faith then we actually have the same kind of understanding and belief in God that is possessed even by Satan and his fallen angels! Wow. Demons believe in God; they even believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God; they even possess good knowledge of doctrine. They do not, however, have a saving faith.

What is our belief in Jesus Christ really like? Do we understand Him in our head? Do we understand the doctrine of salvation intellectually? Those are great, but we all need to answer the question that counts: Have we actually submitted to God and trusted Him for our Salvation? If not our faith is dead, being alone; if we have, then our faith is a living, saving faith.

 Even The Devil Believes in God

Earlier, we discussed the rather shocking statement that James made in this letter; that statement was that even devils believe, and tremble.  Now we are going to explore that some more to illustrate the fact that belief, even if based on truth, may not be saving belief.

Devils believe there is one true God; they even believe in the correct God. In Acts 16, beginning in verse 16, we can see the story of the demon possessed woman following Paul and his fellow evangelists, likely Silas, Timothy and Luke. What is key here is the fact that the demon recognized that the God in question was “the most high God.”

Demons even recognized the deity and sonship of Jesus Christ when they encountered him at different times. In the story of the Garasene demoniac in Mark 5:1-10 and Luke 8:26-33, we can clearly see that this demon understood that Jesus was the Son of God.

Not only do demons know God is God, and that Jesus was his son; they also have a clear understanding of Bible doctrines. They even know how scripture says the story will end for them. The demons Jesus cast into the herd of pigs in Matthew Chapter 8 asked Jesus if he had come to “torment us before the time.” They understood, obviously, the Biblical teaching concerning the eventual disposition of Satan and his demon angels.

We can see that devils believe in God, they understand who Jesus Christ is, and even understand Scripture as well as many Christians; we also know that Satan and his demons are certainly not saved(nor can they be, but that is another devotional all together.) What then, can we learn here?

This is merely a reinforcement of the same thing we have learned from James in the last several devotionals. An intellectual knowledge of who God is and even in the correct and only God is not enough. A mental assent to the reality and identity of Jesus Christ is not enough. Even a thorough and complete knowledge of the Word of God and Bible doctrine is not enough.

True faith, that being faith that saves, will always produce a change of heart and a change of character. There will be evidence on display of the transformation that has taken place within us if a transformation actually occurred.

Rahab Heard, and Believed

Consider this your official rabbit trail warning! We have, of course, been working our way through the Book of James. I hope it has been useful in some way to you all. We are still in James, but we are taking a small detour along the way here. There will be relevance to our actual topic, but along the way we are going to make a very wide turn. So, let the beatings begin I suppose!

Most of us are familiar with the story of Rahab the harlot. If readers want a refresher, read the story beginning Here. Jericho, where Rahab lived, was right in the path the Israelites were to take after crossing the Jordan River as they began their march into and conquest of the promised land. Joshua had sent two men into Jericho to spy and gather intelligence about the city prior to the arrival of the Israelite army. Rahab, a local prostitute, hid the spies from the authorities, protected them, and aided them in accomplishing their mission and escaping.

As we all know, Jericho was ultimately destroyed by the advancing Israelites, while Rahab and her family were spared. So, this is a good time to cover what, to some, is an offensive episode in the Bible. In fact, it is among the episodes described in Scripture often cited to justify non belief in God. After all, what kind of god could do such a thing? So, let’s take an honest look at what happened. In a nutshell, the city was completely destroyed by the Israelite armies, and every living person in it was killed.(With a few exceptions, as we will see.) This cannot really be sugarcoated, as those are the facts as presented in the Bible.

Was God just and fair? Of course He was, as God is always just and His ways are always fair. The truth is, Jericho was a hotbed of pagan idols worship, in particular the goddess Ashtaroth who was the moon Goddess. This was a pagan, evil city which had rejected God and was deserving of His judgment.

So, of course, the question arises: How is it fair to destroy all of those people who had never even had the chance to come to know God? After all, no missionary or preacher had ever come to them and told them, right? Let’s take a look at Rahab, then.

Rahab lived in the city also. Obviously the march of the Isralites was well known, as Rahab mentioned the citizens knowing of them since the crossing of the Red Sea 40 years previously. So, Rahab as well as everyone else knew all about them. Jericho was a thoroughly pagan city, coming to a different belief system than that was no doubt extremely difficult. Finally, Rahab had no first hand information from a believer concerning the One True God. Yet, she said the following to the spies in Joshua 2:11 “And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”

Notice something very important there; everyone was scared, but not all honestly sought and came to belief. Rahab didn’t know much, and she certainly had no proof. What she did have was a choice, and she made the choice to act by faith. Guess what? Her faith saved her, literally and spiritually.

Who all heard the news in that city? Everyone. Who chose to act in faith and believe? Rahab and her family. Here is another thought. God knew there was a woman and family in that town honestly seeking after Him. Remember how Jericho was destroyed? It just fell down. Those spies were not needed! Here is some food for thought: maybe those spies weren’t sent to spy, but to be witnesses to Rahab of the true God. She honestly sought Him, and He sent somebody to her.

God still does that today. I know of a missionary who answered a call from God to go to Mongolia and preach the gospel. Why Mongolia of all places? Maybe there was a Rahab there, maybe there was some single person who was honestly seeking the knowledge of God. Now guess what? There is a man there ready to tell that person all about Jesus.

Meanwhile, back to the Book of James. I terms of what we have learned so far during our study, what made Rahab notable; what made her worthy of mention here in James, as well as the “believers hall of fame” in the Book of Hebrews? It’s the same thing that separates the devils who believe and tremble from true believers. The people in the city of Jericho were much like those devils. They believed in what was about to happen to them; they may have even believed the God of Israel was real. Rahab, however, sprang into action. Rahab was not saved because she sprang into action. Rahab was able to spring into action because she had believed with a faith that was true.

Justified? By Works?

Well, here James gets right into something that might seem quite controversial. Is he really saying that we are justified by works? Well, yes and no. To really understand what is going on here, we just have to understand what the word translated justified means.

Translating one language into another is simply not an exact business sometimes. Often a word in one language doesn’t correlated precisely into an exact match in another. So, let’s just briefly look at what is going on here; understand also not that this is not intended to be a lesson in Greek grammar. I am not, and most of you are not, Greek scholars. Thus, we will keep this very simple.

Justified in the English can have two meanings. The first is the one most of us think about. In this meaning, justification is what happens to us at the moment our our salvation, by God’s grace through our faith. We are justified in the eyes of God by the payment Jesus made for our sins. We are declared to be righteous in God’s eyes. There is, however another use for word translated justified. That one translates “shown to be righteous.”

So, we are declared to be righteous, or justified in God’s eyes. Alternately, we are show to be righteous in whose eyes? Well, the eyes of others, of course. In fact, some translations translate it that way, saying Abraham and Rahab were considered to be righteous by their actions, and not just their faith.

Note above the order of events in the life of Abraham described by James. Verse 23 refers to Genesis 15:6, and clearly shows us that Abraham had faith and believed God, and at that point righteousness was imputed to him by God. It was by the offering of his son Isaac, much later than the first event, that was the illustration of Abraham’s faith to the world.

Rahab the harlot was likewise saved by her faith and belief and subsequently put her faith in to action as she saved the Israelite spies. Read her story here.

We can summarize the thought by saying their faith made them righteous before God, and their works made them righteous before men. A person may say that they have faith, but only if they can show that they have works can the rest of the world see that claim is valid. Faith without works is dead.

What is Dead Faith?

We have just completed our study of James Chapter 2. I hope it has been as useful in the reading as it has been in the writing. Several of the commentators I have read have pointed out the James 2:14-26 is  one of the harder passages in Scripture to interpret properly. I would have to agree with that assessment.

But there are some things we can easily take away from the study of James Chapter 2 that certainly do not take a degree in theology to learn.

Salvation is by grace, through faith. James never contradicts this clear teaching of other scripture.

On the other hand, genuine faith produces some sort of product. James does teach that faith without some product might not be genuine faith.

But, beyond that, we are left somewhat in the dark about where certain lines might need to be drawn. We need to always remember that God is the judge of man..not man. We do not know the state of any other persons heart. We may be able to state as fact the evidence, or fruit of a person’s spiritual life, but we can never state as fact the actual existence or non existence of their salvation.

So, what does this mean to us practically? Well, we should always share the Gospel and the path to salvation; we should talk about it and of it even among Christian company. If we are all believers, it will be edifying to the Body of Christ; if one among us is not truly a believer, they will hear truth. We should teach and disciple people. Even though salvation is likely to produce works, there may be those with no clue whatsoever how they should live. The truth is, the knowledge of God’s Word and law it takes to come to salvation is not extensive. The knowledge it takes to live a successful and fruitful Christian life is extensive. We need to teach, train and develop our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Daily Devotion-December 31, 2014-True Faith Serves

James 2:17-19

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.


Read James Chapter 2 here

Well, here James goes again. Because he is belaboring this point, we are as well. As well we should, because it is a very important point. The issue of dead, intellectual faith versus real, saving, active faith simply cannot be overstated.

Let’s review again; our works do not save us, period. Since we have spent so much time on works and will continue to, we will likely hit that point over and over again. Again, let’s look at the supposed difference of opinion between James and Paul. No one would disagree that Paul taught salvation by grace alone; he clearly taught our works do not save us.

Of course, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write the most notable teaching on faith versus works in Ephesians 2:8,9For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Most of us could quote that verse by memory. Sometimes, however, we overlook the continuing thought of that teaching, where we see that Paul certainly was inspired to tell us that works are important. Not only are they important, but they are the natural outflow, and purpose of our salvation. Ephesians 2:10, ” For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Paul also addresses the place of works in other places as well.  Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, and John 15:5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit…..” both show us Paul’s thoughts on works clearly.

Finally, James closes with a statement that might sound shocking; if all we have is an intellectual, verbal faith then we actually have the same kind of understanding and belief in God that is possessed even by Satan and his fallen angels! Wow. Demons believe in God; they even believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God; they even possess good knowledge of doctrine. They do not, however, have a saving faith.

What is our belief in Jesus Christ really like? Do we understand Him in our head? Do we understand the doctrine of salvation intellectually? Those are great, but we all need to answer the question that counts: Have we actually submitted to God and trusted Him for our Salvation? If not our faith is dead, being alone; if we have, then our faith is a living, saving faith.

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