Friday, February 4, 2011

James justified

Greetings again dear brothers and sisters, my apologies for the extreme length of the last post but I feel as though the content was vital enough to warrant it; vital for everyone – including the vain.  As Lupercalia (more commonly known as Valentine’s Day) dawns upon us once more I am prompted to quickly comment on another trend I’ve personally witnessed a number of times, that of many but not all young women in Christianity or fresh out of it who will only go for pretty boys with a musical ability of some sort.  Are they so shallow that the size of a man’s guitar neck is more important than his heart?  Time to grow up ladies, shall we?  Ok, now on to what I really want to dig into.  Let me just say that I’m not one to sword fight, but recently a friend tried using James (Yakov) as “proof” of disobedience; which inspired me to re-examine/defend what I believe it says.            

I find it interesting that anyone would attempt using James of all the Renewed Testament books as evidence in an anti-law argument, seeing as it tells us in the very first chapter that we shouldn’t be deceived into only hearing the word but not doing it (1:22-25).  What word?  I submit to you that word here is referring to Torah, as is the case many other times in Scripture.  This theme carries on into the second chapter.  A potential problem with seeing this though comes from a common misunderstanding of verse 8: “And if you fulfill (do) the Torah of Elohim in this as it is written that you shall love your neighbor as yourself”.  Quoting the “Old Testament” book of Leviticus, how about that?  Our Messiah Yahushua also quotes this in the gospels and in fact He calls it the greatest command of the law/prophets.  What He is not saying is that the whole of the law has been suddenly whittled down to just love, yet this is a popular enough belief with many.  I’ve also heard it said that the law has been downsized to the Ten Commandments.  If this were true though we could do all sorts of other disgusting things that aren’t covered by the 10, such as commit incest; drink blood and torture others.  If this were so then we would have to conclude that everyone in Scripture after Yahushua who observed any aspect of Torah not covered by the 10 was a deceived fool, good grief.  Not at all, but at this point the anti-law defense usually moves over to the realm of dispensationalism.

This doctrine can easily be shot down by the fact that there is no longer “Jew” or “Gentile” in the Messiah, but for the sake of argument let’s use our imaginations and pretend otherwise.  “Now Matt, Shaul only did acts of Torah in front of the Jews a few times in order to appease them for the purpose of being all things to all men”.  While it is true that he took a Nazarite vow so that some Jewish brothers who thought he was against the law would see contrary, it’s also true that the primary audience of his ministry was in fact “Gentile” and there are instances that can’t be ignored where he either proclaims obedience to the law or actually observes it in front of them.  There is no problem however when we view the commandment to love as the root of the Ten which is in turn the root of the rest, a tree of teaching if you will.  Another common area of misunderstanding is 2:10: “For he who keeps the whole Torah and offends in one thing is found guilty of the whole Torah”.  So because we can’t keep all of the law should we then not even try to do what we can?  Or as Shaul put it, should we go on sinning so that grace may abound?  Certainly not!  Moving on to verses 14-26 we encounter those well known words in James that promote works.  What works?  Works of the law I’d say, founded out of love for Yahuah sending His only Son to save us by His atoning blood. 
In chapter 4:11-12 we are told not to speak against the Torah, that doing so it is as bad as wrongly judging our brother.  Often when we see loved ones struggling with a particular sin (violation of Yah’s law) and say something out of concern, we can be met with the response that we’re somehow judging.  Well, we’re supposed to.  I mean rightly judging, done out of love and not hypocrisy and/or condemnation.  Because if Scripture says there is a wrong form of judging, that implies there’s a right one.  And there is, Proverbs quoted in the very last line of James: “Let him know that he who turns back a sinner from the error of their ways will make alive his soul from death and will blot out a multitude of sins”.  In conclusion, I personally don’t come away from reading James with any desire to stop attempting to follow the Torah as my general pattern of living; I just don’t see it.                  

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