Fall 2009 - The Letter of James
Last Spring we spent the semester studying the letter of Paul to the church at Colossae. In our study, you may recall that Paul's main purpose in writing was to help the Colossians achieve Christian maturity. He desires that they would "reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
Paul's main thrust in Colossians, I think is to emphasize our justification...
The act of God's free grace by which he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, based only on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by us through faith alone.
Paul describes this as being "qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light..." because God "...has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
We must be reminded of this because this semester we are going to build on this foundation.
In Colossians, Paul taught us about Justification, but he was not ignorant of our Sanctification
The work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
Sanctification is our being made holy!
For Paul, the goal of the understanding our justification is that we would walk maturely in this life... "That we would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord."
This semester we are going to focus more intently on this process, and we are going to do it by looking at the book of James.
Some of you may be aware that throughout the history of the church, many have come to the conclusion that Paul and James were in contradiction (the great Reformer Martin Luther being prominent among them). I think that we may find this semester that this apparent incongruity is not all that well founded. In Colossians, Paul is focusing on our being "qualified" by God and "transferred" from one kingdom into another, and on our being given an inheritance.
The heart of James is what it looks like to live in that kingdom as a son and heir of the great King.
Paul speaks of putting on the clothing of the kingdom... and James tells us what to do in it.
They each have a particular emphasis, but they push toward the same end... that being justified by Christ, we would be sanctified by his Spirit.
That being transferred into the kingdom of God we would live in a manner worthy of our king.
But there is a major caution needed here:
As we look at James, we must never forget that James is calling us to live out a kingdom ethic in a realm we have already been placed within (James 1:17-18). He is not demanding we complete a particular set of tasks to gain entrance. If we keep this in mind, we will see that Paul and James are on the same page and there is a reason why they are both in the canon of Scripture. They would both agree that what we do in the kingdom is based on who Christ is as the King and what he has accomplished on our behalf.
Please plan on joining us this semester as we strive toward the goal of understanding and living in the light of the new kingdom established in Christ.