Thoughts about James/Hebrews

We’ve been going through James’ letter at our local assembly. I’m sorry to say that I have not been taking careful notes of what has been said during the meetings, so will not attempt to relay the teacher’s words. Still, I figured I’d share my personal observations regarding some interesting similarities between the two books.

~ The two letters are conveniently arranged with one immediately following the other in the NT

~ Both James (see opening words @ 1:1) and the author of Hebrews are addressing the same group of people Not necessarily the exact same personalities, but those of primarily a Jewish/Israelite heritage. I believe these would be the “natural branches” which Paul spoke of in Romans 11. If I’m correct, these were not scripturally ignorant Gentiles, but were individuals who were religiously, culturally and historically exposed to the sacred writings known as “The Law and Prophets”, which Jesus said He had come to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).

~ Both writings are evangelistic in focus Hebrews makes an extensive case for Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment and reality of OT “shadow” references. James makes reference to the law, yet pleads with his audience to “receive with meekness the implanted word” which is what actually has the power to save us (James 1:21)

~ Both books deliver very stern reprimands James outlines a long list of persistent issues regarding arrogance, partiality, lack of devotion to God, empty religion and goes so far as to call out his readers as an “adulterous people” (4:4) and demand that they humble themselves and submit to God, resist the devil, cleanse their hands (of evil works, I presume) and purify their hearts as they mourned over the seriousness of their sin (4:4-10).
The author of Hebrews warned readers to not “harden their hearts” against the truth (3:15) and admonished them to accept God’s loving chastisement and teaching (12:5-8).

~ Regarding teaching : This is one of the most fascinating comparisons, IMO, because James said that “not many of you should become teachers” because teachers incur stricter judgment (James 3:1). That was one of the points addressed last Sunday.
The writer of Hebrews, however, spoke corporately when (s)he said: “by this time, you ought to be teachers” (as though this is a desirable…even expected… thing,) and then backed away from that by emphasizing their spiritual immaturity (Heb. 5:12). If I am correct about general audience and overall themes of the two letters, this actually makes a lot of sense.

If both groups SHOULD have had many mature individuals who understood that the main purpose and point of the Law is to lead us to Christ, and they had obediently submitted their hearts to the direction of God’s Spirit, they would have been able to help others to understand, as well. But instead, they all needed to be re-introduced to the basics and recognize for themselves that the true foundation of God-pleasing faith is humble acceptance of the Person of Christ Jesus as rightful Savior and Lord.

In other words, the majority of them likely did not know what they were talking about and would have caused a lot of long-term damage within the greater body of Christ (ie, the Church universal).

My thoughts. You will need to test for validity on your own.

Let’s Be Friends?

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…Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
~James 4:4 (ESV)

 

This is one of those verses that I wonder whether Christians often misunderstand, and thus, misapply.

If I was to simply strip this verse from all biblical context, I could easily conclude that James intends for Christians to make great efforts to visibly separate ourselves from any and all worldly people and their influences….and, many of us actually do make specific rules with regard to the things we will wear, watch, eat, listen to etc.

Such boundaries can make us feel safer (especially if we have a particular weakness) but it also tends to isolate us from the exact types of people Jesus has called us to interact with and love on His behalf.  For instance, what about the Apostle Paul’s 1 Corinthians 9:21-23) declaration about being “all things to all people so that perhaps some might be won to Christ”?

So, here we have a dilemma.  How can we, as believers, properly represent Christ by being friendly toward the world….without actually becoming contaminated by it?

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not of the opinion that “anything goes, so long as I claim to love Jesus”. That is not a perspective that I  promote.  And please note that if you believe you must maintain a form of physical separation from worldliness, then I am not trying to say that you are wrong to follow your conscience.

Of course, we should be concerned with remaining “unspotted from the world”, as James also wrote (See 1:27), but in the overall context of this letter (and Jesus’ and Paul’s words, elsewhere) he appears to be pointing to outward behaviors as a manifestation of inward attitudes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the significance of James’ target audience, and it appears to me that James was actually bucking pretty hard against the idea of attaching  to a religiously founded, externally enforced form of morality that has not actually originated from a humbled and converted heart.  If that is the case, I believe we must recognize that strong fences are indeed required to try to contain the pride, greed, selfishness, covetousness, adulterous thoughts etc that tends to boil up out of our own sinful selves.

Such aggressive measures are necessary to prevent evil from adversely affecting those around us.  However, this requirement is not an automatic indicator of having had a life-giving encounter with the living Word of God.


Personally, I believe that the warning against “friendship with the world” is mainly referring to the alliances we make within our own hearts.

It’s a worthwhile study, I think.

 

You can look up the cited verses and related passages at Biblegateway.com