Christianity 201

November 17, 2013

Jesus According to James

The Voice BibleDavid Capes is a leading writing and scholar for The Voice Bible project. He wrote this article at HearTheVoice.com, the official blog for The Voice, where it appeared under the title, Who Does James Say Jesus Is?

I have the privilege of teaching with Dr. Peter Davids at HBU.  Peter is a world class scholar who has devoted much of his writing and research to the Catholic or General Letters.  Peter assisted with us in the theological review of many NT books for The Voice project.  I asked him recently about the portrait of Jesus in the letter of James.

According to James, Jesus is the exalted and glorious Lord who now reigns and will come again to judge the living and the dead.  James is not a Gospel, so there is no narrative of Jesus’ life and death.  Yet James draws heavily on the example and teaching of Jesus.

While modern Christians may be focused on the afterlife, James is fixed on this life and what faith in Jesus means now.  His readers claim to be following Jesus; well, are they really?  James is a teaching letter and his ethics appear close to what we find in Matthew, particularly the Sermon on the Mount.

There are no direct quotations of Jesus’ teaching in James, the closest we come to that is James 5:12 (similar to Matthew 5:35-37):

12 It is even more important, my brothers and sisters, that you remember not to make a vow by the heavens or the earth or by anything. When you say “yes,” it should always mean “yes,” and “no” should always mean “no.” If you can keep your word, you will avoid judgment.

John Kloppenberg has made the case that James makes use of aemulatio, a rhetorical form where James takes a teaching of Jesus and conforms it to his setting. In other words, James reworks Jesus’ teaching to fit the current situation of the diaspora churches he is addressing.

So James is not all that different than what we find in the rest of the NT.  Jesus is coming again as judge.  Are you obeying him now?  James’ emphasis on Jesus’ future coming implies that their present sufferings are not without meaning; so, be patient and don’t take matters into your own hands.  Trust the judge to settle all scores.

But if James were the only account we had of Jesus’ life, we wouldn’t know much about his past.  The Church would celebrate his coming and his ascension to the right hand of the Father.  With no account of his birth, however, we would probably not celebrate Christmas.  There would be more emphasis on calling people to obedience to Jesus now.  The Church’s mission could be summed up this way: calling people to Jesus as Lord and living in the hope of his coming.

With James as our guide, the church probably would not have developed the kind of hierarchy we see in some churches.  Yet James does speak as a patriarch of sorts, a central authority writing from the mother church in Jerusalem and instructing scattered Christian communities in the tense times they found themselves in.

According to tradition, James was a member of Jesus’ family, but the letter never makes the explicit claim.  Still it must have meant something in the early Jewish-Christian communities to have been part of the family of Jesus. Later generations may de-emphasize that fact and privilege Paul and Peter over members of Jesus family.   Still it must have been “a big deal” to have had been related to Jesus.

Dr. Davids said that Paul is often misread over against James.  But if pressed, James would have agreed with Romans 10:9-10:

So if you believe deep in your heart that God raised Jesus from the pit of death and if you voice your allegiance by confessing the truth that “Jesus is Lord,” then you will be saved! 10 Belief begins in the heart and leads to a life that’s right with God; confession departs from our lips and brings eternal salvation.

For James, however, saving faith is faith that goes to work for the poor, faith that obeys the risen Lord, and faith that seeks wisdom from above.  So for James—as a follower of Jesus—salvation results not only a secure future with God but ethical behavior before God.

May 21, 2012

William Booth Quotations

This seemed to be a good fit with today’s post at Thinking Out Loud on the Missional mandate of The Salvation Army, of which William Booth is the founder.


“We are a salvation people – this is our speciality – getting saved and keeping saved, and then getting somebody else saved, and then getting saved ourselves more and more until full salvation on earth makes the heaven within, which is finally perfected by the full salvation without, on the other side of the river.”


“While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight, I’ll fight to the very end!”


“Look! Don’t be deceived by appearances — men and things are not what they seem. All who are not on the rock are in the sea!”


“But what is the use of preaching the Gospel to men whose whole attention is concentrated upon a mad, desperate struggle to keep themselves alive?”


‘Not called!’ did you say? ‘Not heard the call,’ I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters, and servants and masters not to come there. And then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish his mercy to the world.”


“I must assert in the most unqualified way that it is primarily and mainly for the sake of saving the soul that I seek the salvation of the body.”


“A man’s labor is not only his capital but his life. When it passes it returns never more. To utilize it, to prevent its wasteful squandering, to enable the poor man to bank it up for use hereafter, this surely is one of the most urgent tasks before civilization.”


“Secular music, do you say, belongs to the devil? Does it? Well, if it did I would plunder him for it, for he has no right to a single note of the whole seven. Every note, and every strain, and every harmony is divine, and belongs to us.”


“In answer to your inquiry, I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”


“We are not sent to minister to a congregation and be content if we keep things going. We are sent to make war…and to stop short of nothing but the subjugation of the world to the sway of the Lord Jesus.”


“I want to see a new translation of the Bible into the hearts and conduct of living men and women.”


“No sort of defense is needed for preaching outdoors, but it would take a very strong argument to prove that a man who has never preached beyond the walls of his meetinghouse has done his duty. A defense is required for services within buildings rather than for worship outside of them.”


“Faith and works should travel side-by-side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again — until they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other.”


“You must pray with all your might. That does not mean saying your prayers, or sitting gazing about in church or chapel with eyes wide open while someone else says them for you. It means fervent, effectual, untiring wrestling with God…This kind of prayer be sure the devil and the world and your own indolent, unbelieving nature will oppose. They will pour water on this flame.”


General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, once told his students, “If I had my choice, I wouldn’t send you to school, I’d send you to Hell for five minutes, and you’d come back real soul winners.”


Sources: SA UK SiteThink Exist, Christian Quotes, Great Quotes, Quoteland, Our Church, Sermon Central


O Boundless Salvation!

O boundless salvation! deep ocean of love,
O fulness of mercy, Christ brought from above.
The whole world redeeming, so rich and so free,
Now flowing for all men, come, roll over me!

My sins they are many, their stains are so deep.
And bitter the tears of remorse that I weep;
But useless is weeping; thou great crimson sea,
Thy waters can cleanse me, come, roll over me!

My tempers are fitful, my passions are strong,
They bind my poor soul and they force me to wrong;
Beneath thy blest billows deliverance I see,
O come, mighty ocean, and roll over me!

Now tossed with temptation, then haunted with fears,
My life has been joyless and useless for years;
I feel something better most surely would be
If once thy pure waters would roll over me.

O ocean of mercy, oft longing I’ve stood
On the brink of thy wonderful, life-giving flood!
Once more I have reached this soul-cleansing sea,
I will not go back till it rolls over me.

The tide is now flowing, I’m touching the wave,
I hear the loud call of the mighty to save;
My faith’s growing bolder, delivered I’ll be;
I plunge ‘neath the waters, they roll over me.

And now, hallelujah! the rest of my days
Shall gladly be spent in promoting his praise
Who opened his bosom to pour out this sea
Of boundless salvation for you and for me.
    
William Booth (1829-1912)