The Jesus Element
Through the years I have appreciated Martin Luther. I especially am humbled by his stance for faith alone as the criteria for salvation. However, he didn’t like the book of James. He said, “We should throw the epistle of James out of this school [i.e. Wittenburg], for it doesn’t amount to much. It contains not a syllable about Christ. Not once does it mention Christ, except at the beginning. I maintain that some Jew wrote it who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any. Since he heard that Christians place great weight on faith in Christ, he thought, ‘Wait a moment! I’ll oppose them and urge works alone.’ This he did.” I totally disagree with his statement, but it should make us want to read the book of James even more.
I do like the approach of looking at each book of the Bible to find its “Jesus element.” Every book of the Bible fits into the larger story of redemption. Does James reference Jesus?
Right from the start James refers to Jesus, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). He doesn’t just say Jesus, but adds some very rich titles in Lord and Christ.
Second, Abraham’s “works” are evident, but Scripture is clear that Abraham was saved by faith: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” This phrase is used in Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; and James 2:23. James is just clarifying that faith becomes evident in actions. Simply stated: If I believe it is going to rain, I carry an umbrella.
Third, not only does James point us back to Christ’s first coming through our needed faith, but he also refer to Jesus’ second coming: “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7-8). James refers to the coming of the Lord twice. He pointed us back to the cross and needed faith, but also points us to the future – to be patient. Trials would have pressured his original readers to give up. So, James encourages them to be patient until his Big Brother comes back.
Finally, it should be noted that over 30 verses in the book of James correlate back to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Not only does James refer to Jesus, but he regularly echoed Him.
Chuck Swindoll challenges us, “More than any other book in the New Testament, James places the spotlight on the necessity for believers to act in accordance with our faith. How well do your actions mirror the faith that you proclaim? This is a question that we all struggle to answer well. We would like to point to all the ways our faith and works overlap but too often see only gaps and crevices.”
Our life should be a no hypocrisy zone.
Randy “Doc” Johnson