James 1: 22 – 25
We continue in our study of the Book of James and are reminded of the audience as being predominantly Jews – who were going through trials and temptation as a result of their stand in believing the message of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. These were Jews scattered all over the world (then), and in today’s parlance, they were in diaspora. There was no mention of the Gentile in this Book; it was one of the first books of the New Testament even before the great Apostle Paul wrote his doctrinal books on how and what it means to be a Christian. Majority of James’ quotation came from the words of Jesus and the dictum of the Old Testament – Judaism and the Law of Moses. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many of the things said in this Book locked into the do’s and don’ts or what we call the gospel of Works – some have described it as Legalism.
Moses received and read the commandment to the children of Israel and their reply was “all that the Lord has said, we would do”. It was all about what the Law says, we would do, this brought in a lot of fear to the people particularly when they break any part of the Law. The idea was that for any evil thing that happened to any of them, they were quick to see the evil thing as a consequence for breaking some part of the Law. We can look at Job and what the summation of his three friends were. They kept speculating about something he (Job) had done wrong just as some of us in the Church still think like, and live our lives as if the many challenges we have or have had were consequences of one or two things we have done wrong. We don’t see the other part of our challenges as God allowing them to happen, not because we have done something wrong but to help us grow in our trust in Him.
Many even see their challenges as coming from the Devil and for this reason, we have many praying against the challenges and battling against the Devil thereby missing out on the strength, faith and trust that the challenges bring to us.
When we start to live like the Old Testament Jews, our worship of God will not be something that springs out of our heart but would be seen as a chore and the more God blesses us, the more we think He is blessing us because of the good work we have done (keeping and observing the requirements of the Law). James made it clear to his audience not to think that their tribulations and trials had come from God, but that they had become the architect of their own troubles, they were quick to speak, quick to anger and slow to hear.
The gospel of works and legalism described above was not able and enough to save anyone, in fact Apostle Paul described the gospel of works (The Old Testament) as weak and that all that it does was to make us see the wrong we have done and ultimately condemning us. He said, “This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin” – Romans 3:19 – 20
Through the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we are able to come in to alliance and union with God, not through the good or the bad that we do but by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. We can then become His children, walking with Him and learning His ways. The Law of Moses does not and cannot change anyone, it only points out where we have missed it (assuming we lived in the time of Moses). So the ultimate and the highest point of the Law was that many became condemned as SINNERS because no one can keep the totality of the commandments.
In today’s language the reason we have laws is to regulate the society; to protect people; to enforce rights and to solve conflicts. Laws prevent or deter people from behaving in a manner that negatively affects the quality of life of other people; therefore the consequences of breaking the law often fits the crime. The same with the Laws of Moses, it was given to Israel to help them to understand and make amends when they break any part of it.
The High Priest was also appointed so that the people could take their sacrifices to him when they break the Law. Apostle Paul concluded that ALL (Jews and Gentiles inclusive) have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God and therefore the need to pay for their sins. The ultimate sacrifice was death and this is the reason why Jesus came to die to free us from Judaism and the Laws of Moses. I like the way he (Paul) described it in the Epistle to the Church at Rome, “God went for the jugular when He sent His own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In His Son, Jesus, He personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that. The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us”.
There is a lot to glean from this Book especially when looked at and read from the purview of the New Testament like we did from our last publication. We learnt that we ought to be slow to speak, slow to anger and very quick to listen.
We know we are not under the Law of Moses or Judaism as you may want or like to call it. We don’t live with fear of breaking one part of the Law or the other; we are saved by the blood of Jesus and have become His children. What we should do now is to learn the doctrines taught in the many Epistles of Paul then the requisite change can come.
In his words he said, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” – Apostle Paul of Tarsus.
Keep it right here and be refreshed!