Christian Churches of God
Epistle of James
(Edition 1.0 20060501-20060501)
Most problems in the Churches of God can be distilled down to the principles enunciated in this Epistle of James to the Churches scattered abroad.
Epistle of James
This epistle was written to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, those of the Diaspora, which is Greek for the dispersion (cf. also Jn. 7:35). The number of tribes is complete, with no suggestion of a divided Judah and Israel let alone a divided Judea and Galilee, as it was even then. It looks to the reunification of the nation under Jesus Christ.
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. 2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
All the trials (rendered temptations) that are before us are there to perfect us. We learn from every mistake we make and every temptation or trial that we undergo. This is the process of testing (dokimion). In that process we learn the patience of the saints.
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. 9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
God provides the stability of the faith through wisdom to all who ask. It is given liberally. The faith in the Church is established, both for those who are of low estate and those who are rich. God is not a respecter of persons. The purpose of the wisdom of the faith is to have us all thinking clearly. Holding two thoughts in our mind is cognitive dissonance and induces an unhealthy thought process. That is the sense of being a double-minded person and hence unstable. We are called to dedication, to wisdom, to forbearance and to stability.
11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
Earthly wealth is a transient thing that is not to be cherished or sought after in the faith. The comments in the Gospels are clear that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to inherit the kingdom of God. The trappings are such that they inhibit the faith and corrupt those exposed to it.
Trials come from the lusts of the flesh and the weaknesses and temptations of the world around us. Our task is to endure temptation in order that we may receive the crown of life. Temptation does not come from God, but the capacity to endure does come through the Holy Spirit.
12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
God gives us the things that are necessary for our welfare and our salvation. Do not look to men for succour but to God. It was through the will of God that we were created, so that we could be the first-fruits of the entire Human race unto God. See the paper Predestination (No. 296).
18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
Each of us should be swift to hear a matter and slow to speak. We should be easily entreated and wait on the Church in respect of our elders in the faith. Mark those who cause division and wrath in the faith for that is not of the righteousness of God.
20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
The stewards of the Mysteries of God are given wisdom so that they might better prepare and instruct us in the faith. Does God prepare the faith and leave it with guardians of the faith bereft of wisdom? No, He does not, and in our life in the Church we should show patience, respect and love so that we are not made use of by the adversary. Do not just talk of the faith and the word of God. Do it!
22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
Our conduct should be according to the perfect Law of Liberty. Miriam was presumptuous and she suffered for it. She was made leprous and placed outside of the Camp for seven days, according to the Law of God, which is the perfect Law of Liberty. Do not go beyond the responsibilities and authorities that are entrusted to us. Bridle our tongue for what comes out of us is that which defiles us.
25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
If we cannot bridle our tongue then our religion is in vain. Satan is the accuser of our brethren. It is a function of the fallen host to accuse us. Our job is to support and love each other. James tells us what our job is in that aspect.
27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
In chapter 2 James then established the concept of faith and works.
My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
Respect of persons makes the sequence in chapter 2 of significance because respect of persons is sin. We are all in breach of the law with this sin. A church can be corrupted and ruined by respect of persons in money.
2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
God has chosen us who are the weak and the base, to confound the mighty. We are to be rich in faith as heirs of the kingdom and show respect one to another regardless of the person. We are not to be ensnared by the trappings of wealth.
5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
We are not to oppress one another in judgment. In dealing with each other we should judge in righteousness and not oppress one another nor make false accusations. A false witness will not go unpunished.
8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
Respect of persons is sin. Offence of the law in one part is transgression of the law entire.
10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
We are to speak and do as the law dictates for we shall be judged by the Law of God.
12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
In all judgment we are to exercise mercy and we are to uplift the brethren in correction and in all manner of teaching.
13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
In all our doings we are to show our faith by our works. Those works include the care of the brethren in all matters.
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
These “things” mentioned here are not just physical things; they are also spiritual things. People need sustenance, physically and spiritually and it is the responsibility of the Church to provide encouragement rather than discouragement or unnecessary criticism.
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
Works demonstrate faith. We are required to physically and spiritually fulfil the law and sustain each other in the faith.
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
It is not enough to simply believe in the One True God. The demons acknowledge that fact and tremble.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
The crux of the matter is here where James says that faith without works is dead.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
The Faith Chapter of Hebrews 11 is placed in perspective here where the faith of Abraham was displayed by works, as was the faith of everyone that was held to have lived by faith.
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
So the body without the Holy Spirit is dead. So also faith without works is dead. If we grieve the Spirit and quench it we are dead.
In chapter 3, James develops the concept of the tongue. The tongue is the most vicious and vile instrument of Satan at work in the Church. We have seen rebellion in the Church instituted by gossip and the tongue in false witness. Many people have been destroyed by vile vicious gossip. There has been spite instituted and inflicted on Feast after Feast by the same vile vicious gossip. Such cannot endure and must come to a head. When God decides to deal with it, people are removed from the Church, sometimes in fair numbers of those affected by it.
We have seen gossip induced in the Church that sees no limits and no restraint. False witness has proceeded from accusing leaders of mental instability on down to respect of persons, accusations of improper judgment of the councils of the Church and misappropriation of funds among people who work for nothing in service of their fellow brethren.
False witness can go from vicious vile gossip behind the scenes trying to establish any case of railing accusation to the end result of rebellion. It is only successful when it is allowed to be successful through the spiritual weakness of the body of the Church. It is not good enough that the Church is destroyed by the tongue. God acts to cleanse the Church by using the effects of its sin in the spiritually weak to remove them. Sometimes those new to the faith are deceived as well.
James tells us to be loyal to our leaders as disloyalty is a problem in the Church fomented by gossip. In verse 1 he tells us not to have many masters for that carries the greater condemnation.
James then shows just what effect the tongue has on the order and direction of the Church of God.
My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6 And the 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; and it is set on fire of hell. 7 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: 8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
Knowledge in the Church is shown by what a person says in meekness of wisdom
13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
Envy and strife is a field in which Satan ploughs using ambition and envy. The Church has seen the fruit of ambitious men and deceitful women work together to destroy it. Many people have been destroyed by it. It seems that, in pursuit of these goals, no railing accusation is too great. We have also seen respect of persons in failure to deal with matters. We are all guilty of these sins. We have seen churches bought with money and prepared to destroy anybody and anything, and break any law.
17 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. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace for they are gentle and easily entreated. Ambition and desire is the thing that brings war and strife and envy. Jealousy merely desires what another has, whereas envy seeks to destroy both the object and the person possessing it.
God will give us what we ask if it is done in accordance with the plan and asked in righteousness. All too often we ask incorrectly for things we do not need.
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
All of us have problems in sins. All of us are prone to the desires and lusts of the flesh.
4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
This is probably the greatest challenge we all have. Submit to God and resist the adversary.
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 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. 11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh 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.
The Church deals with the concept of judgement and law. The Church establishes in its body the process of judgment. Let us look at Matthew 18.
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
One of the problems we face is that of the spirit which works envy and accusation amongst the brethren. False doctrine comes into the Church by people with ambition. They cause people to fall away. For instance, when God divided Israel and Judah, and that division was of God, He took the northern tribes away from Judah and the kingship under Jeroboam. Jeroboam set up at Shechem but within weeks they had established the golden calves at Bethel and at Dan. So a false religion was established in a short period of time. In order to prevent the reunification of the Church, Jeroboam set a calendar in motion that relied on the New Moon after the equinox, which was set subsequently at 25th March. That calendar came down to us as the Samaritan Calendar.
There are people in the Church of God that seek to introduce the Samaritan calendar and seek to draw away people with that false doctrine. In the same way, people who seek to introduce the crescent moon would seek to divide the Church.
They observe that sometimes in Australia, when the full moon is on the 15th day it is not yet quite the full moon. That fact does not mean that that day is not the full moon. When the full moon is at the later stage of development it does not reach its absolute maximum until it is in the rotation on the other side of the globe.
People use that fact to try and establish the Hillel calendar to seek to induce division or justification in the Church. All of these things are done to divide the Church and destroy it through false teaching and false doctrine and it has proven successful among the uneducated.
In verse 15, it goes on to say:
15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
That process has been implemented in the Church on a repeated basis and all too often rejected.
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
We have seen people accuse the councils of the Church of respect of persons, of withholding judgment, or wresting judgment in unrighteousness and of being ‘yes men’. These accusations have been made publicly and privately, and to the face of the Church in judgment itself. When the Church has rendered its judgment the disaffected seek to go to law, to arbitrate at law against the judgment of the Church when it suits them. They are to us as heathens and publicans.
18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
That is a promise of God, through Christ, to the Church and we are to judge angels. How much more should we judge the affairs of men in the Church.
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Forgiveness is a requirement on an ongoing basis, for all of us. However, there must be repentance. We forgive in our mind and we get on with the job we have at hand. As we forgive, God forgives us. But for the person to be extended trust there must be fruits of repentance. Forgiveness is required of us; repentance is required of the person who offends.
23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
We cannot forgive someone and hold a vicious attitude towards them, or grieve or hold spite in the things we do. Nor can we make railing accusations against the brethren. Nobody can withstand that in the Spirit. Nobody can live like that in the Church. It will eat at the Church like a cancer.
This concept of submitting ourselves to God is one of peace and humility to God’s will. We are to resist the devil and he will flee from us. We are to draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to us. Cleanse our hands, we miserable sinners; and purify our hearts, and do not be double minded. We are told to be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let our laughter be turned to mourning, and our joy to heaviness. Humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift us up. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judges the law: but if we judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
Nobody has appointed anyone as a judge except the court of the Church. That judgment is exercised in justice and righteousness by men of the spirit, converted in the faith and who have exercised the faith for many years. Do not seek to gossip or to gain gossip about one another or seek to pull down one another as has happened. Do not be a judge until appointed a judge in the Church.
Also do not seek to gain evidence against somebody where there is no charge. Nobody is appointed as a prosecutor except in the court of the Church.
James 4:12 goes on to say:
12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? 13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. 17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
In other words, if we know there are things we have to do and we don’t do them, it is a sin. We have done what the Lord wanted of us from the beginning. We know what the Lord wants of the Church over the next seven years. We will complete that task. God will support us, and it will not be frustrated.
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. 3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. 4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. 5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. 6 Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. 7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. 10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. 12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation. 13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
It is not the job of the gossips of the Church to determine sin amongst the Church and allocate responsibility. God forgives our sins on baptism and at Passover. The prayer of faith is what saves us and keeps us together and determines the Church. We are not plentiful on the planet. Each Feast, three times a year, is a pilgrimage where we have each other only until God chooses to add to this body. It is our job to cultivate this body, and if anyone is lost through offence it is our fault. We should not personalise the fact that people are removed from the faith. God adds to us and God takes away from us.
The danger is that we become blasé about God removing people from us. However, some people are removed in error. They are sucked in by those who seek to destroy us. We should not blame them. Rather blame the accusers of the brethren that attack us.
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Those of us who are unable to assist physically can pray and achieve much because prayer affects most if not all of our work.
17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. 19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; 20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
That does not mean that anyone is the appointed corrector of false ideas and behaviour of the brethren. All the things we do should be in love and kindness, not in accusation and not seeking to build up cases against our brothers.
It is unfortunate that James only wrote that one epistle because his knowledge was more profound than Paul’s. His capacity was great as head apostle and brother of Christ. In his concepts of the law and the perfect law of liberty he gives us guidance as to how we should perform and behave. We should take on board what James says because it was acting against the epistle of James that has seen the Church bring itself near to destruction.
Respect of persons is the thing that brings it to division. Respect of persons has been the biggest single sin in the Churches of God.