Ephesians 4:3-6; One Faith – Clarifying James 2, part 8.
length: 83:37 - taught on Apr, 18 2021
Sunday April 18,2021
This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
These three admonitions are the theme of the epistle: 1) swift to hear, 2) slow to speak, and 3) slow to anger. This is how to behave in trials.
The body of the letter (1:21-5:6) deals with each one in turn.
You must be quick to hear and to do so, you must put aside all filthiness and the growth of evil and in humility receive the word implanted. By doing this we will “save our lives.”
However, this is not all. If we hear and don’t do, then we will not save our lives. If we hear and don’t do, then we will be like a man who looks in a mirror but forgets what he looks like when he walks away.
Looking into the mirror of the word of God we can discover ourselves, old and new, and we discover God and His purposes for His kingdom. We find a life and a way in that truth and we have the option of following it or not. James clearly tells us that we must not only be a hearer of the life. We must live it and feel ourselves satisfied and free.
Freedom is the opportunity and ability to live out God’s purpose.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
What enslaved the Galatian believers was their belief that the Christian life was lived through OT rituals. The believer is set free and can live God’s purpose to express life through faith and divine love (5:6). Rituals cannot do that.
Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. 7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.
When we look into the mirror of the word of God, we must not walk away from it without remembering who we are in Christ and what He has called us to be. We must realize that it is who we are now, perfect and holy and realize that we have no other options.
Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.
Law of liberty - reveals and guides the divine inner nature. It sets it free.
When we are doing that which the natural expression of our true nature, we are enjoying liberty.
Paul writes that we are not under law but under grace. James would not disagree, and again, a reading of the account of the Jerusalem council in Act 15 would confirm that. Peter said at that very council that the OT Law was a yoke that our fathers nor any other Jew was able to bear. Paul called the OT law the law of bondage, of death and sin. The OT law revealed the heart of man, but it could not change the heart of man. Yet, now the law of Messiah that we live under works from the inside out. It works with the Holy Spirit within and gives life. Our service to God is now carried on in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter (ROM 7:6). Our divine nature, born of God, has an affinity for the law of liberty. The law of God unto us is loved by the new nature and breathes life into the new nature, and so it sets us free, free to work and do the will of God, and so rightly is it called the law of liberty.
Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Such truly free obedience is the secret of “saving our lives” (vs. 21) and of enjoying every other benefit God chooses to bestow on our Christian experience.
Then follows what a doer of the word actually does: he controls his speech to wholesomeness (EPH 4:29), he gives to the poor, and he sanctifies himself from the world’s sins.
It is commonplace for people to reduce obedience to God to the performance of various religious routines. Attendance at church, prayers, giving, fasting, serving at the church, teaching Sunday school, etc. That was the trap that the Galatians had fallen into.
James will expand his instruction on being “slow to talk” (vs. 19) in chapter 3. Here he relates it to doing the word implanted. Bridling our tongues is a good work indeed.
If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. 27 This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
The word “religion” is used by Paul for worshipping angels in COL 2:18 and the religion of Israel when he was a Pharisee. It refers to worship, but in these cases more specifically to the externals of divine worship. So, one says he is religious, a worshipper of God and has the rituals and the church attendance to prove it, but he does not control his tongue, does not give to the poor, and does not keep himself away from the sins of the world, his religion is worthless.
The hearer of the word must put aside filthiness and the growth of evil and receive the word in humility. The hearer must also do what he hears and he will have a blessed life. This is all under “be quick to hear.” Next James points out trouble spots that are to be avoided, one is partiality.
The doer of the word also rejects favoritism (2:1-13), which is inconsistent with faith in Christ, for Christ didn’t play favorites.
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.
Deference to the rich and disdain for the poor have always been features of worldliness.
James does a masterful thing here with the use of the word “glorious.” Our Lord Jesus Christ is from or of the most glorious, in Person and origin.
The glorious God and His glorious abode of heaven makes all the wealth of the earth appear drab and worthless by comparison.
Faith in our glorious Lord and knowledge of Him makes all the fawning over riches and rich people in our world look shabby and cheap. But these believers, having become friends of the world, were doing just that. The rich were given the comfortable seats of honor and the poor were told to stand, or if they were to sit, to sit “under” the footstool.
For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
Imagine these assemblies sitting down to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and the rich are allowed to sit at the table while the poor have to stand by the wall or sit on the floor. Would that look like the Lord whom they were remembering and celebrating?
James writes that God has called the poor in this world to be rich in faith. He doesn’t mean to be saved, but having strong faith. The poor have opportunity to believe God for provisions and needs in a way the rich do not. That doesn’t mean that the rich cannot be rich in faith, but for them to be they would have to avoid conceit and be very gracious with their wealth.
The opportunity for the poor should have caused them to be honored if they were rich in faith. A happy, spiritually strong, and wise poor man was to be honored in the assembly, but they dishonored God’s honored. Their friendship with the world made them view the rich and riches as the world does, and to rely upon riches rather than the word of God, and to disdain the poor.