And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 22, Number
In this issue:
“My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, (the Lord) of glory, with respect of persons” (James 2:1).
Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun. The wisdom writer said, “That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). Certainly, we should understand the frustration that comes with thinking we are facing the same old problems over and over again, seemingly without solutions. Why don’t we learn, why don’t we change? Discrimination based on race, social, political, or economic issues is not new and is abundantly addressed in the Scriptures. In the culture of the first century there were those who were rich and poor (Jas. 2:1ff; cf. Mk. 12:41; Lk. 12:16; 1 Tim. 6:9ff, etc.). Some were slaves, some were masters (Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-4:1, etc.). Some were Jews, some were idolatrous Gentiles (Eph. 2:11-22; Acts 10, 15, etc.). Our culture today is no different!
The Context of James 2. James was written to “the twelve tribes which are of the Dispersion” (Jas. 1:1). These were Jews who had become Christians and were dispersed from their homeland; scattered among the Gentiles as their ancestors had been in the days of the Captivity.
•“My brethren” – The equality of all Christians as “brethren” forms the groundwork for the following admonition. We are “brethren” in Christ because we are children of the same Father (Gal. 3:26-29).
•“Hold not the faith”– “The faith” (“the gospel,” “the word,” “the doctrine of Christ,” Acts 13:4-12; Gal. 1:11, 23) transforms relationships with others. Our responses to others change. “… But let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:19-21). “The faith” demands action; that a man bridle his tongue and show compassion toward “the fatherless and widows” (Jas. 1:26-27).
•“Of our Lord Jesus Christ, (the Lord) of glory” – The glory of Christ resting on the poor believer should make him be regarded just as highly by “brethren” as his richer brother.
•“With respect of persons” – “The faith” demands that we treat others right! That is, do not think differently toward others, showing partiality on account of one’s rank, wealth, apparel, race, nationality, etc. “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty; but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor” (Lev. 19:15; cf. Prov. 24:23; 28:21; Deut. 1:17; 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7; Ps 40:4).
Warning. “For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing; and ye have regard to him that weareth the fine clothing, and say, Sit thou here in a good place; and ye say to the poor man, Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool” (Jas. 2:2-3). It is inconceivable that some would not even be offered a place to sit because of their social standing. This behavior is condemned! Someone coming into any place of worship, no matter what his rank, dress, or complexion, should be treated kindly with respect, and everything should be done that can be to win his heart to the service of God. However, “… if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).
Peter’s Inconsistency. Early Christians had a hard time with that. Peter quoted from Joel 2:32 and preached in Acts 2:21, “And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Isaiah had prophesied, “And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of Jehovah’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isa. 2:2). Peter had heard the commission of the Lord, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk. 24:47). After considerable vacillation he learned, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35). He had defended the conversion of the Gentiles in Acts 11:12, “And the Spirit bade me go with them, making no distinction” and in Acts 15:7-9, “Brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe … and he made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.” Yet, in Gal. 2:11-13 we read, “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy (NKJV). Peter acted hypocritically showing “respect of persons.”
God’s Consistency. God will “render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, (shall be) wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God” (Rom. 2:6-11). God would deal with all on the principles of righteous judgment (Rom. 2:5; 2 Tim. 4:8).
James’ examples of “respect of persons” among the saints. In our text, note the age-long rivalry between the rich and the poor (2:1-9). Laborers either did not get their wages, or they did not get their fair wages (5:1-6). Selfish ambition ruled their meetings. Some fought over positions in the church (1:19-20; 3:1, 13-18). Some were speaking evil of one another and unlawfully judging one another (4:11-12). Sound familiar?
No, there is nothing new under the sun. “Social injustice” has always been. That doesn’t mean we should despair, but what it does mean is that as long as man seeks solutions that are independent of God, there will be no lasting solutions. The solution is simple. Change the way you think, “… bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). We must, “be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; (doing) nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus … he humbled himself, becoming obedient (even) unto death, yea, the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:2-8). Even His enemies observed, “Teacher, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, and carest not for any one: for thou regardest not the person of men” (Mt. 22:16). Shouldn’t we learn to be like Him? Wouldn’t that solve a lot of ills?
Fifth Street East Church of Christ Bulletin (June 7, 2020)
17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17–18, NKJV)
Obedience to God springs from the heart. Otherwise, it is not obedience at all, only an empty shell of pretense, self-righteousness, and vain ritual (Matt. 6:1-18; Lk. 18:9-14; 6:46). Today’s passage explains we are set free from sin when we obey the gospel (“that form of doctrine”) from the heart. Unquestionably, obedience is essential for salvation from sin.
Now, back to the heart and our obedience. Scripture teaches the heart is the source of obedience to God. Belief is the result of the word of God acting upon the heart, and without faith, obedience does not occur (Rom. 10:10, 16-17). Love is an action of the heart (will) that Scripture shows to be obedience: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 Jno. 5:4). Love itself is obedience to God. Without the heart, obedient love is impossible. The fear of God resides in the heart that keeps God’s commandments (Eccl. 12:13). Faith, love, and the fear of God spring from the heart as necessary traits of obedience. Do not try to separate your heart from your obedience. Every attempt to do so results in faithless, loveless, irreverent, and futile attempts to please God.(Sword Tips #1983)
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Follow the Science
We have been told often during the Covid-19 pandemic to “follow the science.” I am not a scientist, and most who read this article are not, either. To “follow the science,” we must accept the competency of the scientist and his/her science, as well as those who tell us to follow the science.
We are thankful for science that has proved reliable and beneficial (developments in health sciences, energy, technology, etc.). We are also aware of the limits of science. Once people believed bleeding a sick person had healing qualities, that the sun revolves around the earth and that the earth is flat. Yes, things are proven to be falsely called knowledge in the realm of science (cf. 1 Tim. 6:20).
Science (from the Latin word for knowledge) is “a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe” (Wikipedia). One cannot claim science is absolute knowledge and the final truth on a matter. Science continually asks, “what is truth?” and searches for material, physical answers (Jno. 18:38).
Christians follow God’s word as truth (Jno. 17:17). It is absolute, not hypothetical (Jno. 16:13). It is harmonious, adequate, and powerful to save souls (Jno. 8:31-32; Rom. 1:16; 1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 1:22-25).
We do not oppose science, but we understand its limitations. Science is not absolute. While science continues to solve many problems, it does not answer the fundamental question of origins. Its explanations repeatedly change. Throwing time at “nothing comes from nothing” is no answer. The Bible answers this question with a Creator (Gen. 1). Scientists who leave God out of their explanations expose their foolishness (Rom. 1:20-22).
As we “follow the science,” we should remember its limitations. Those who say science is the final word of truth have willingly or unwittingly forgotten God and His truth. Elevating human science and knowledge to the apex of truth denies the evidence for God and His truth (Psalm 19).
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 06/25/2020
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA