Life-Study of Jamesby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
We have pointed out that we need to have a balanced view of the Epistle of James. On the one hand, this Epistle is helpful in emphasizing practical Christian perfection. On the other hand, this Epistle serves as a warning that it is possible even for a very godly man not to be clear concerning God’s New Testament economy.
In 1:26 and 27 James says, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this one’s religion is vain. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” These verses, in which James speaks of religion, indicate that James’ writing concerning God’s New Testament economy is not as striking as that of Paul, Peter, or John. Paul focuses on Christ living and being formed in us (Gal. 2:20; 4:19) and Christ being magnified in us and lived out of us (Phil. 1:20-21), that we as the church, His Body, may become His fullness, His expression (Eph. 1:22-23). Peter stresses the fact that God has regenerated us through the resurrection of Christ (1 Pet. 1:3), making us partakers of His divine nature, so that we may live a life of godliness (2 Pet. 1:3-7) and be built up a spiritual house to express His virtues (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). John emphasizes the eternal life given to us for our fellowship with the Triune God (1 John 1:2-3), and the divine birth that brings into us the divine life as the divine seed for us to live a life like God (1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:17) and be the church, as a lampstand, bearing the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 1:9,11-12), which will consummate in the New Jerusalem to express God for eternity (Rev. 21:2-3, 10-11). I hope that all the saints, especially the young people, will study this summary of the writings of Paul, Peter, and John regarding God’s New Testament economy and thoroughly get into each point.
What does James say in his Epistle concerning God’s New Testament economy? James emphasizes, as New Testament characteristics, only God’s begetting of us (1:18), the perfect law of freedom (1:25), the indwelling Spirit (4:5), and a little regarding the church (5:14). However, he mentions these things without speaking of Christ as our life and the church as the expression of Christ, the two most outstanding and dispensational characteristics of the New Testament. To point out these matters concerning the Epistle of James is to have a fair and balanced view.
According to his Epistle, James must have been very religious. In 1:27 he uses the word “religion” in a positive sense when he speaks concerning “pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father.” James goes on to say that this pure religion is to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. To visit orphans and widows in their affliction is to act according to the loving heart of God, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world is to behave according to the holy nature of God. No doubt, this is a very good religion, even the best religion, a religion according to the heart and nature of God. Nevertheless, although James could write such a word about pure religion, he did not have a clear vision concerning God’s New Testament economy. This is a matter that needs to be emphasized again and again.
In our Christian life we need to have a balance between practical Christian perfection and God’s New Testament economy. The fact that the human body has two shoulders, two arms, two hands, two legs, and two feet indicates that there is balance in God’s creation. We should not be unbalanced Christians. We need to be balanced with God’s economy and our practical Christian perfection. In what I have written concerning the Epistle of James I have endeavored to be balanced, pointing out, on the positive side, that in the Epistle of James we have practical Christian perfection and, on the negative side, a warning that a godly person may not have a clear vision of God’s New Testament economy.
It may have been due to James’ religion and his practical Christian perfection that he was reputed along with Peter and John to be a pillar, even the first, in the church at Jerusalem (Gal. 2:9). However, he was not strong in the revelation of God’s New Testament economy in Christ. Rather, he was still under the influence of the background of the old Judaic religion—to worship God with ceremonies and live a life in the fear of God. This is proved by what he says in 2:2-11 and by his words in Acts 21:20-24.
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