Today's post is the first of many planned "Wednesday's With" posts in which we will explore a book of the Bible together verse by verse. We begin with the book we all love to hate and hate to love: James.
With whom or what do you have a love/hate relationship? I asked this of a class recently, and "laundry" was the first response. My list included National Public Radio and e-mail. I scream at both but can't seem to turn either off.
If there is a book of the Bible with which Christians have a love/hate relationship, I think it's the book of the James.
Few NT books have been as controversial as the Letter of James. Its history and content are riddled with trouble and controversy.
- Its place in the canon was contested by some early Christians. It would be nearly 400 AD before it was canonized.
- The reformer Martin Luther called it an “epistle of straw” and relegated it to a secondary status within the NT.
At the same time, we love it.
- Few books of the NT are better known or often quoted.
- It's enormously practical.
- It's direct and to the point.
- It's metaphors and illustrations are timeless.
But for all the unknowns (i.e., we can't prove James the brother of Jesus is the author, we don't know exactly to whom he was writing or when he wrote, etc.), the greatest controversy surrounds its doctrine, particularly that of 2:14-26. Verses 21-25 are particularly concerning (CSB).
Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works in offering Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works in receiving the messengers and sending them out by a different route?
One has to wonder, "Did James ever meet Paul?"
As we'll come to see in later posts, Paul and James are not doctrinal enemies but gospel friends. But there's nothing wrong with a little controversy to help us make sure we understand what we believe and why we believe it!
But for now, make it a goal to read James thru in one sitting sometime before next Wednesday when we'll take a look at James' rather peculiar greeting in v. 1. And while you're doing that, consider this question:
James has been called “the Proverbs of the New Testament” because of all the practical advice James provides. Think about your life as a Christian right now. Where in your walk with the Lord do you need some practical advice that would help you live more faithfully?