Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 2 * BOOK 54
James Prepares His Flock – Part 2
James 3:7 – 5:20
Okay, let’s go back where we left off in the last lesson in James chapter 4. And, remember, James is written to the Twelve tribes scattered. (Acts 8:1) So it is primarily Jewish. Andthere’s no Church language in here. James doesn’t make one single reference to the blood of Christ, how that it was shed for the sins of mankind – or to Christ’s glorious resurrection, all of which we must believe for our salvation here in the Church Age. (I Corinthians 15:1-4)
Again, James is probably the earliest New Testament book written. Maybe Matthew preceded it but all of these little Jewish books, I think, were written early on before they had an understanding of the doctrines revealed later to Paul. So, we’re going to be comparing, as we finish the little book of James and go on into I Peter, how it is so completely different (not contradictory) from what Paul writes to us as Gentiles; compared to what James and Peter and John wrote to those Jewish believers coming out of Christ’s earthly ministry. So always keep that in mind. All right, so James chapter 4, remembering now that he’s writing to Jewish believers probably scattered in the area of what we call Turkey. And he says in verse 4:
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses,.…” My, does that sound familiar? You know I said, when we began the study of James and Peter and John, that you’re going to find a lot of likenesses with the Four Gospels and Jesus addressing the Jews in His earthly ministry. Well, here’s one of them. Isn’t this exactly what Jesus referred to with the Jews in their wickedness.
“…know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is (what?) the enemy of God.”
Now let’s see how, again, Paul puts it. We’re going to be comparing back and forth because I think that’s the best way to see the vast differences in what we call the doctrines of Paul for us as Gentiles believers – as over against what the writers in the little Jewish epistles are saying. Come back with me to Romans chapter 8 and we might as well start at verse 5.
“For they that are after the flesh (the Old Adam) do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit (in other words, they’ve become a believer and the Holy Spirit has now indwelt them, they mind) the things of the Spirit. (now here it comes) 6. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” The carnally or fleshly minded, just like James says, is enmity against God. The two will not coexist. You cannot have the enemy’s attitude of the world as part and parcel of God. He’ll have nothing of it. You know I think way back when I taught the Book of Romans, probably in chapter 8, I gave a little illustration. If you’re living in a neighborhood of middle class people who have a half-way decent income and your neighbors are all in the same income level as you are and one of your neighbor’s kids comes and he approaches you and says, “Hey, I’d like to have a new bike. Would you buy one for me?” Well, what are you going to say? “Well, you’re not my kid! I don’t have to buy you a bicycle. Go ask your parents. You’re their responsibility, not mine.” Would that be out of the way? Of course not.
Well, you see, it’s the same way with God. The unbelieving world thinks that they can come and treat God like some Santa Claus and beg for whatever they need and expect Him to answer. But no He won’t! In fact, I think I’m on safe ground that God doesn’t hear the requesting prayers of the unbeliever. His ears are totally deaf to that. Now, for salvation, of course, He’s ready and willing to save to the uttermost.
But see, the unbelieving world has got the idea that they can just sort of tweak God’s nose like a Santa Claus and He’ll jump to their rescue. No He won’t. And never forget that. It isn’t until we become a child of God that God beseeches us to come into the throne room with our needs as well as our praise. All right, so reading on now in Romans, chapter 8:
“So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” If they’ve never experienced God’s saving Grace and the indwelling Holy Spirit, they can’t please God. It’s impossible. They might as well quit trying. Of course, the world would get worse than it is, wouldn’t it? And it’s bad enough as it is. But, the unsaved world cannot please God. Now in verse 9, Paul is writing to the believers, and so there he says:
“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (if not then he is God’s enemy). You’re not under the control of the Old Adam, but rather you’re in the Spirit, and of course here’s the delineating mark – does the Spirit of God dwell in you? Well, I think that makes it plain enough and, to a degree, James and Paul would agree in that area – that the unbelieving heart, following the desires of the flesh are nothing but enemies of God. Now back to James chapter 4 verse 5.
“Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” Now he’s not talking about the Holy Spirit – this is a small ‘s’ – and the human makeup is referred to as the human spirit. And so that’s what James is talking about – that the spirit that dwelleth in us, the human nature that we’re born with, “the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy.”
Well, of course it does. Now let’s go back again to Romans chapter 7. I didn’t intend to do all this and I guess that’s why I trust the Lord to just give me the verses as we go along because I can work, and work, and work at home and it doesn’t fall together. But when I get up here, here it comes, and we see it all dovetail together.
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? (or sinful? Of course not.) God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: (the Mosaic Law) for I had not known lust, (he didn’t really understand that Old Adamic nature’s desire for lustful things. I had not known lust or that it was sinful) except the law (the Mosaic Law, one of the Ten Commandments) had said, (what?) Thou shalt not covet.’”
You cannot break one of the Ten Commandments with out coveting first. That’s always the triggering mechanism for breaking the Commandments is an attitude of coveting. And that’s why it is so preeminent in the life of the unbeliever as you’re seeing in these verses. What causes envying? Coveting. What causes adultery? Coveting. What causes stealing? Coveting. What causes gossip, false witness? Coveting. See, you can just go right down the line. All right, back to James chapter 4. Verse 5 again.
“Do ye think the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us (in other words, the Old Adam) lusteth to envy? 6. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” Well that’s all well and good, but that’s still not what Paul teaches for us. Now verse 7.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Well, that’s appropriate up to a point. But you can’t do it in the flesh. The only way we can resist Satan is through the power of the Spirit that dwells within us. Do you see that? And James doesn’t mention that. See, this is all in the energy of the flesh. Now verse 8:
“Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you….” Let’s stop there a minute. How many of you know John’s Gospel chapter 3? What did Jesus say about the unbelieving individual? He never seeks God. But, let’s look at what Malachi says in the Old Testament. Go back to Malachi chapter 3 verse 7, and you’ll see this fits perfectly with what James is saying.
“Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them….” See, the Jews have always had these kinds of problems, as well as the rest of mankind. We’re not putting the finger on the Jews alone as being guilty but, as God’s covenant people, you would expect more from them. But they were just as guilty as the rest of the world.
“…Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts….” Well, you see the unto me was left on the backs of the Jewish people, that they were to make the first move and return to God. And if they would make a move to return to God, He, in turn, would (I guess you would say), meet them halfway. But now stop at John’s gospel a moment, chapter 3 starting at verse 19. Now here, I think, the Lord Himself, in His earthly ministry, is telling it like it really is.
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world,.…” And of course, He was speaking of Himself. He was that light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world as we see in John 1:9. Now continuing the verse here.
“…and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
So the point I want to make is that the unsaved person will never seek God. It’s just beyond him. God has to draw a person to Him, but James doesn’t express that. He tells them, “You put forth the effort, you draw nigh to God.”
“Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
Okay, come back to Romans chapter 3 and again look at the vast difference in Paul’s language compared to what we have seen in James. Again, this not contradictory but rather a whole different scenario. Paul is speaking to the Body of Christ, and James is speaking to the believing element of the Nation of Israel. And the Nation of Israel and the Body of Christ are completely different – that’s the way God has separated them. For example, the believing element of the Nation of Israel had believed for their salvation that Jesus was the Son of God, (their Messiah); they had repented of their sins and had been baptized in water. (Matthew 16:16 and Acts 2:38) Whereas, Paul’s Gospel tells the Body of Christ that, for salvation, we must believe in our heart that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose from the dead. (I Corinthians 15:1-4 and Romans 10:9-10)
Romans chapter 3 verse 23, which I always call the first step on the road to salvation. We have to realize, first and foremost, that we’re sinners, and that we are undone, and that we have no reason for God to let us into His Heaven. None.
“For all have sinned, (every one of us. None of us have escaped the fall precipitated by Adam.) and come short of the glory of God; (now here it starts) Being justified freely (without any effort on our part) by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” See, you aren’t seeing James say anything like this.
“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith (and faith is not works. Faith is simply trusting what God has said) in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” Now verse 26. My, the more I think about this verse, the more I love it.
“To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: (not mine, not yours, but rather His righteousness, and what does His righteousness bring about?) that he (God) might be (what?)just,…” What does that mean? Fair. Not cutting any corners. Not asking for bribes; only what is strictly fair and just.
“…and the justifier of him which believeth.…” And in that justness he can justify the person that “tries to do better?” as James says? No. What person? The one who believes!!!
I was just sharing an analogy this morning with our guests from Colorado. Imagine you’re getting on a huge airliner (and Iris and I have been there). You finally find your seat and you sit down and buckle your seat belt. After about two minutes you unbuckle that seat belt, and you barrel all the way up front, find the pilot, and say, “Is this the plane that’s going to such and such a place?”
The pilot says, “Yes, you’re on the right plane, just go sit down and relax.” So you go back to your seat and buckle your seat belt and within five or ten minutes all of a sudden the sweat starts and you go back up to the front and ask again, “Are you sure I’m on the right plane? Is this really going where I want to go?” And again the pilot says, “Yes, just go and sit down and relax.”
Well, you see, that’s what people are constantly doing in the spiritual realm. They’re just trying to establish, am I on the right track? Am I really going to get into God’s Heaven? But you see, Paul makes it so concrete in I Corinthians 15:1-4, that when we trust what is called his Gospel, the Gospel that was given to him for us by the risen Lord, we can sit down and relax! And we don’t have to fret and fume.
Now that doesn’t mean we sit down and not work. Now don’t misunderstand me. We’re not saved to just sit and do nothing, but I’m talking about the assurance of salvation. Once we have trusted that finished work of the Cross, hey – that’s it! There’s nothing more you can do except believe it in your heart! Now that’s simple! But most of Christendom has taken the simple things and complicated it. Unfortunate, but true. You don’t try to do this, and try to do that. You rest in it. And then the Spirit as we saw in the first half-hour, will create in us that nature to do good works.
Back to James again – so the implication here in verse 8 to “Draw nigh to God” is just like He told Israel back in the Old Testament – “draw nigh to Me and then I’ll draw nigh to you.” But under Grace that’s not the situation. God has already extended salvation freely and all we have to do is believe it.
“…Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; (it’s something that they had to do) and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” Now we’re purified by faith in this age of Grace!
“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”
Don’t lose sight of the fact that these men – James, Pete, and John – are writing to Jewish believers who had not believed for salvation Paul’s Gospel of Grace. Remember all these believers had only believed that Jesus was the Christ – their Messiah they had been waiting for. Now you go way back to Peter’s confession in Matthew 16. You remember what it was, when Peter declared, “I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.” Period. You remember at the death of Lazarus, in John chapter 11, Jesus asked Martha, “Martha do you believe this?” And He had just made reference, of course, to His resurrection. And Martha’s answer was identical to Peter’s. And what’d she say? “Yes, Lord, I believe thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Period. Not a word about death, burial and resurrection. Not a word about the shed blood. They just simply believed that He was the Christ!
Well, take the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter 8 – the same identical words. He says, “Yes, I believe that Jesus was the Christ.” And even old Saul of Tarsus said that right up front, before he had even heard the Gospel of Grace (because it hadn’t been yet been revealed even to him). After he comes out of that Damascus road experience there in Acts chapter 9, he’s got his sight back, he’s been fed, he’s been baptized, all according to the Jewish program. And now he goes to the Synagogue of the Jew and what does he proclaim? “That Jesus was the Christ!” That’s all. But you see, then, God moved him out of Damascus to the backside of the desert and revealed these doctrines of Grace that you and I enjoy today.
But, James is still on that same premise. They are still under the Law, they’re all Jews congregating and, as I pointed out in our introductory programs, they were looking for the Tribulation horrors to be coming in short order. Everything was in view, and we’ll come to that probably sometime yet before the afternoon is over in chapter 5. They were all looking for the Second Coming, but they knew that, before Christ returned, they’d have to go through the seven years of Tribulation. So all of these epistles, James and Peter and John and Jude and Revelation, really, are all preparing these Jewish believers for the pressures and the sorrows and the Tribulation that was just coming in front of them.
Then, you remember, I said that was all interrupted and I’ll show how when we get over there – that was all interrupted and now we’ve come full circle, 2,000 years later – and everything, even though it changes, is still the same. We now have the same scenario. We’re going to have Jewish believers going into and through the horrors of the Tribulation and these little epistles will be their road map. This is what’s going to give them comfort. And we’ll see especially when we get into Peter’s epistles, it’s that constant reminder to them -“you’re going to suffer – you’re going to go through pressure – but don’t despair, God is with you.”
As you read these little Jewish epistles, remember that, at that time (here in the 50’s and 60’s AD, before the Temple is destroyed in 70 AD), they thought the Tribulation was right out in front of them and then would come the 1,000-year Kingdom that is prophesied. But God intervened (interrupted), opened up the timeline for 2,000 years for us in this Age of Grace; but now here we are almost in the same place. Israel is back in the land. The Roman Empire is reappearing there in Western Europe and when my next newsletter comes out, read it, because that’s going to be my main article – how that Western Europe is so rapidly becoming the power that will usurp the world as we go into the Tribulation period of time. But, remember, the Age of Grace, the Body of Christ, will not have to go through this terrible time!
“Speak not evil one of another, (he’s talking to congregations of Jewish believers who had professed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ) brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the (what?) law, and judgeth the law:…” What’s he talking about? Well, the Mosaic Law and Judaism as they were practicing it. And so they were not to speak evil of the law and judgeth the Law.
“…but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.” Which, of course, they were to be – doers of the Law. But, if instead of that, they’re going to be judges of the law, then they’re on what? Thin ice! Even for those Jewish believers at that time. They were still under the control of the Mosaic System.