Sunday, June 30, 2024

969. "Draw Near to God! Cleanse Your Hands! Purify Your Hearts!"

We're wrapping up our recent series about some things found in the letter from James to believers in Jesus from the twelve tribes of Israel ... and the contrasts found with Paul's writings. One example we'll look at is in James 4, where an old covenant mindset is communicated about telling believers to draw near to God which will result in Him drawing near to them. He said they should work at cleansing their hands and purifying their hearts. How? By avoiding becoming a judge of the law but rather a doer of it. It was a follow-through to what was stated earlier in the letter.

Our identity is not meant to be found in what we do and see, but as believers who trust in the sufficiency of Christ and what He did. There is a theme within the letter that focuses much on works of the law and externals—compared to Paul who exhorted people to look at the things which are not seen—who are already declared as clean, justified and sanctified apart from their actions.

The summary here is that most believing Jews at this time thought the law was still in place for them and was to be mixed with faith in Jesus as a way to attain righteousness and justification. There was a greater grace—but the law was still part of their landscape. Paul came along with what was considered controversial teaching by many for which he was harshly persecuted because of his message that the Jews had been redeemed from the law and that they and Gentiles could be saved and inherit righteousness apart from such a law of works.

Does this mean the letter from James should not be in the Bible? We believe having it included actually validates the other things we find in the New Testament. There is an overall divine inspiration being provided ... but that doesn't necessarily mean that every "verse" is coming as a quote directly from the mouth of God. That is not an accurately pure interpretation of how the word "inspired" should be defined as a verse-by-verse assumption. Zoom out from the verses (which were never included in the original scripts) and we'll find the writings as a whole provide an inspiration of a much bigger picture regarding our need for God and how He met that need with the promise of His Son. Perfect grace. Perfect love. No quid pro quo. No strings attached.

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