Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 54
James Prepares His Flock
James 3:7 – 5:20
Let’s get right back into the Book of James, chapter, 3 and we ended with verse 6 the last time we were together, so let’s just go back and take a run at verse 7 by starting with verse 6.
“And the tongue (the physical 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; it is set on fire of hell.” The tongue is pretty much the beginning of a lot of wickedness, and James is emphasizing that. All right, in the next verse he speaks of everything in nature.
“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:” Now you know what that tells you? I was just thinking about that on the way up here to our taping. I suppose Iris wonders why I’m so quiet, but I’m thinking, thinking, thinking. You know, I just thought of a little cliché in light of this very verse and I think it may come out of the evolutionists – that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” And isn’t that true?
Here we think, that in our modern era, this is the first time that people have been able to tame the wild animals and do all the various things. No. They’ve done it from time immemorial. And so, even James could write that, even at that time already, men were training all of these wild animals for their various circus acts or whatever you want to call it. See, men have always needed to be entertained. That’s what the Coliseums were for, to keep people entertained. So everything is tamed. Now verse 8:
“But the tongue can no man tame; (no one can tame the tongue) it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” Now again, I’d better stop right here and remind all of us that James is writing first and foremost, not exclusively, but first and foremost, to Jewish believers, who I feel had been scattered out of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem congregation, by virtue of Saul of Tarsus’ persecution, as we see in Acts chapter 1. I don’t think these are part and parcel of Paul’s congregations whatsoever. I think these are strictly Jews. In fact, remember the last program? It wasn’t the church where these Jewish believers were meeting, it was a Synagogue. And so there’s no Church language in the letters of James and Peter and John – not a word. I went through it all again last night to make sure I was on solid ground when I say this. You cannot find one word of Church or what we call Church – the Age of Grace – language. In other words, there’s no reference to the Body of Christ. There’s no reference to the working and the controlling of the Holy Spirit – as over against the keeping of the Law – and it’s ‘legal.’ It’s like we’re seeing here. It’s not that the Spirit is going to control us, but that they have to go by what James is telling them. So, as you read these little Jewish epistles, remember there is no Grace-Age language in here. You also won’t find the plan of salvation in these Jewish epistles.
Now, just like I said about Hebrews – you can’t go through the Book of Hebrews and find the plan of salvation like you do in Romans or I Corinthians, because it’s just not in there. Because, evidently, these little epistles were written before Paul’s revelations had even become known, and I think that’s the reason for it. But, don’t forget, it’s still Spirit inspired. Of course it is! It’s the Word of God. It’s Scripture. And we can take profit from it, but you don’t come back to these little epistles to find doctrine for us today. It’s merely, like I said the last taping, a lot like Proverbs. See, Proverbs just gives us a lot of tidbits of good things, well that’s exactly what James is doing.
So, he says, “The tongue is on fire from hell.” It’s something that mankind cannot contain. Now, then, we move on into verse 9:
“Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men,….” Now that doesn’t sound like Christian living to me. But here we have in one verse the tongue that is capable of blessing God; but on the other hand, cursing men. Now Paul would never teach something like that. That’s anathema to us as believers, but here was a problem that evidently was common amongst these Jewish congregations.
Remember, for their salvation, they had to believe that Jesus was the Christ, and they’re still under the Law of Moses. They know nothing of Paul’s Gospel of Grace, or of faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord for salvation. And so, consequently, there are some things in here that almost seem contradictory, but they’re not. They’re not contradictory if you realize the circumstances in which James is dealing or writing. So, he says this to these Jewish people, I think, primarily, in the area of what’s today Turkey – Asia Minor – rather small Jewish congregations, no doubt, and this is one of their problems. They weren’t controlling the tongue. On the one hand, they could bless God, but on the other hand, they could curse fellow men. He said, these men that you’re cursing are just as much created after the likeness of God as anybody else.
Well, what’s he referring to? Genesis 1:26 where God said, “Let us make man in our image.” And that’s what James is alluding to – that even these people that they were bad-mouthing – they’re God’s creatures just as well as you are. And I think this is what we have to realize in light of our global situation today; regardless of who these people are, regardless of the religion they may be practicing, they’re still God’s created beings. And you see, that’s where we, in the Christian community, have a higher regard for life because we realize that mankind is the crowning act of creation. And that’s why mankind is in a special role in God’s eyes. Whether they’re lost or saved, in that regard, makes no difference, they’re still created beings from the Creator Himself. And so this is what James is alluding to.
“…which are made after the similitude of God.” Whether you curse men, remember, they are still made after the similitude of God. Now verse 10.
“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” These people who were blessing God, but on the same hand, could proceed blessing and cursing, these things ought not to be. Granted – any of us know that much, that something’s wrong if you can curse and bless out of the same mouth. All right, read on in verse 11. Here he’s using a comparison from the physical world.
“Doth a fountain (a water fountain) send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? (out of the same fountain? Impossible.) 12. Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” It’s impossible. So now the analogy he’s drawing is this – it’s just as ridiculous to try to bless God out of one side of your mouth and curse fellow man on the other.
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his (what?) works with meekness of wisdom.” Now you see, James is a legalist. And he’s going to come back to this idea of good works over and over and over. And it’s almost like a man’s attempt to please God – whereas Paul will just simply say that it’s not of works.
We’d better keep comparing. All right, let’s go back to Ephesians because that’s when you can see it most graphically. Ephesians chapter 2 and drop down to verses 8 through 10 – these are all verses I imagine most of you know from memory. And I just want you to see the comparison. Now it’s not a contradiction. It isn’t like people say, “Well the Bible is just a whole set of contradictions.” No. It’s two sets of circumstances. James is writing from a totally different perspective than Paul is. James knows nothing of the Grace Age, and so it’s not contradictory. You just have to separate it. Look what Paul says here in Ephesians.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” Salvation is not something you earn, it’s something you take as a free gift. Now verse 9:
“Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10. For we (now as believers) are his (God’s) workmanship,.…” God works a work in us that literally makes us, now, what we are to be as believers – whereas James almost leaves it in the ability of the individual. So verse 10 again:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works. That ‘created’ did not happen until we were saved and enjoyed salvation – then God works a work in us that brings us, as a result of our salvation experience, to practice the good works, “…which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” And over and over throughout Paul’s writings you have that connotation – that works are a result of our salvation and not a part of it. Okay, back to James once again. Verse 13:
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation (or manner of living, a lifestyle) his works with meekness of wisdom.” Now maybe I’m getting overly picky, but I don’t think so. Do you see any reference here to the work of the Holy Spirit? He doesn’t say “Let the Holy Spirit accomplish this in you.” See, now Paul would say that.
Let me show you what I mean by comparison. Turn to Galatians chapter 5 verses 16 through 18, and we’ll probably use it again before we get out of James because this is just a whole different perspective than what James was talking about. Now remember what James just said. “Let him show out of a good manner of life, his works, with meekness of wisdom.” Not a word about the Spirit. Now look what Paul says here in Galatians.
“This I say then, walk in the Spirit, (Holy Spirit. It’s capital ‘S’) and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17. For the flesh (that old sin nature) lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” Now, James doesn’t use language like that. See the difference? But now Paul says, “If you’re led of the Spirit, you’re not under the Law, because the work of the Spirit has taken the place of the Law.” And then he shows the vast differences between the life of the flesh and the life of the Spirit in these verses. Well, we’ll probably be coming back to it yet a little later today, so we’ll come back to James. But I just like to show these comparisons. What a vast difference in the language in James, the legalist writing to legalistic Jewish congregations, compared to Paul, writing to us in this Age of Grace!
“But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.” I think the truth he’s really referring to here is how to live a godly life under the Law. The Law gave them all the instructions they needed to avoid these pitfalls.
“This wisdom (that is of bitter envying and strife) descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” See? This wisdom is fleshly, it’s sensual – it feeds on the natural part of man and it’s devilish.
“For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” Isn’t it amazing how sin breeds sin. Families in the world, with all of their alcoholism and their immorality – well, what is the next generation? At least that much or more. And that’s the process – sin breeds more sin. And that’s what the Scripture is saying. Envying and strife will bring confusion and every evil work. Now verse 17, and we see the flipside.
“But the wisdom that is from above.…” Now James doesn’t say, “The wisdom that comes from the leading of the Spirit” – he merely is showing that God is still in His place of power and influence. But, it’s in a whole different set of circumstances than what Paul gives us in this Age of Grace and the working of the Holy Spirit.
“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.” Well, that’s the two opposites. Either envying, strife, hatred and sensuality; or it can be peace, gentleness, mercy and good works.
“And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
You want to remember – back when we were earlier in the book of James, I think it was, that he spoke of “religion.” And of course, that’s what his adherents were steeped in. They were steeped in the religion of Judaism and all these things, and he hasn’t departed from that. And, therefore, you see none of the language of this Age of Grace. All right, let’s just move on into chapter 4. The language doesn’t change much.
“From whence come wars and fighting among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2. Ye lust,.…” Doesn’t sound very nice, does it? That’s the life of the person still under the Law. He can’t have victory because he’s not controlled by the Holy Spirit. He’s still trying to do all these good things in the energy of the flesh. So it’s a warfare in the members.
Now let’s go back again to Paul’s letters – let’s go back to Romans chapter 7 and see how Paul treats this very set of circumstances. The same set of circumstances, only Paul’s going to deal with it in a totally different way. Remember, now, James says “that these things are coming from the desires of the old nature that are warring in your members,” – and then verse 2 in James he goes on to remind them that they “lust or they covet.” All right, now then, Romans chapter 7 verses 21 through 24. Paul is now writing to us Gentiles under this Age of Grace:
“I find then a law, (not the Ten, but a fact of life) that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:” In other words, he knew that the Mosaic Law was perfect. Now verse 23.
“But (here’s the verse I came here for) I see another law in my members, (and what’s the word?) warring.…” Just exactly what it means. Conflict. And where there’s conflict, there’s no peace. So here he is in conflict, the old nature trying to keep the Mosaic Law – but on the other hand, he had this law of the Spirit that is attempting to bring him into a life of peace.
“…against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24. O wretched man that I am!….” Oh, he said, “Wretched man that I am.”All right, now we’re going to go back to those verses we just saw in Galatians, and I told you I’d be back in a minute and here we are. Back to Galatians chapter 5, and now we’ve got the same picture. And here I guess is where I picked up the term ‘war’ here in this verse in Romans. For years and years I often wondered where I got it because the word in Galatians is lusteth. But I’ve always, for some reason or other, used the term ‘war,’ and I know it’s because it’s out of Romans 7.
“For the flesh (the Old Adam, the old sin nature) lusteth (warreth) against the Spirit, (the new nature under the control of the Spirit) and the Spirit (warreth) against the flesh: (the Old Adam.) and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” In other words, you can’t just drift. It’s warfare. And warfare takes an expending of energy. And so it’s a daily fight to maintain the directing power of the Holy Spirit as over against the Old Adam. And then again, let me read what we just read a few moments ago in verse 18.
“But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” The Law has been crucified. It’s dead. It is no longer a controlling fact in our lives. The Spirit takes over. And then he shows in these following verses all of the things that pertain to the lusts of the flesh. And if anybody ever asks you, “How am I to judge the lifestyle of people?” Line them up with the Scripture. In fact, we again just talked about that the other night in one of my classes. When you go down the fruit and vegetable aisle in your supermarket, do you just grab the first head of lettuce that comes and say, “Well, I can’t judge?” Of course not. You go through that bin and pick out the very best, and if there were some bad ones, you’d leave them. That’s not judging, that’s just being discerning.
Well, you do the same thing with ungodly people. If they’re out there living in immorality and if they’re living in drunkenness and if they’re living in lasciviousness and all the things that are mentioned here – then you have every right in the world to discern – they’re not living godly lives. They’re living the flesh. All right, now you’ve come all the way through that horrible list of activities that is part and parcel of the ungodly person. They can’t be a believer and live like this. And then you come down to verse 22 and you see the discerning of the believer.
Now when you see a person who can practice these things and you see the fruit of it, then you have every right in the world, just by simple discernment. Now I grant you, you can’t judge who’s saved and lost. That goes beyond the human element. But, when you see a person’s lifestyle, you can pretty much line him up with the Scripture and determine what kind of a person he is. Now verse 22 of Galatians 5. And here’s the flipside again.
“But the fruit of the Spirit (The result of the Holy Spirit coming into the life of a believer) is love, …” Look the opposite of love up in verse 21. “Envy.” Love and envy are as opposite as you can get.
“…joy, peace…” Well, there’s no peace in those actions in verses 19, 20 and 21. It’s anything but peace.
“…longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, (trusting God and His Word). 23. Meekness. temperance: against such there is no law.” You can’t find any of that in verses 18, 19 and 20. It’s just two totally difference lifestyles. And then people say that you can’t judge? Well you’d better, or you don’t know the Word of God. And it’s up to us as believers to, if someone is living in that wicked lifestyle, show them the Book! You don’t have to say it in your own language, just show them the Word. “Hey, this is what you’re doing and this is going to be your end.” What does the last part of verse 21 say?
“…they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
That’s what the Book says – not what Les Feldick says. So always be prepared to use the Scriptures. Let the Word of God speak for itself.