Life-Study of Jamesby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
After studying Paul’s writings and all the Life-study Messages on these writings, we shall no doubt be influenced to receive the light concerning God’s economy and to be strongly for it. But there is the possibility that we may be careless in our behavior or that we may neglect the matter of practical Christian perfection. Therefore, we need the balance provided by the book of James.
Luther said that the Epistle of James was an epistle of straw. In saying this, Luther was both unfair and wrong. We need to realize that after the revelation in Paul’s writings concerning God’s economy, God put in the book of James, one of the seven books of the New Testament that was not fully recognized until the council of Carthage in A.D. 397. Prior to that time, there was uncertainty whether this Epistle should be considered part of the holy Word. Eventually, the book of James was recognized as part of the Scriptures.
A striking characteristic of the Epistle of James is that it indicates that we may be very strong in God’s economy, yet may not be complete and entire in our Christian behavior in our personal daily life. Many of us can testify that we have seen the vision concerning God’s economy and that we are absolutely for this vision. However, we still need to pay attention to our behavior in our daily life. A brother may easily become angry with his wife, or a sister may not have the proper attitude toward her husband. In such a case, both the brother and the sister are neither complete nor entire. This is an illustration of the fact that we need the balancing word found in the book of James.
In addition to providing balance, the Epistle of James also serves as a strong warning that it is possible to be very godly and yet not be clear concerning the vision of God’s New Testament economy. According to church history, James was noted for living a godly life. One account says that James spent so much time kneeling in prayer that his knees became calloused. James certainly was a godly man, a man of prayer, and prayer is emphasized in his Epistle. Nevertheless, James may not have had a clear view concerning the distinction between grace and law; that is, he may not have had a clear view regarding God’s economy. In his writings there are hints that this was the situation. However, his Epistle is notable and remarkable concerning Christian conduct and emphasizes practical Christian perfection. For this reason, in 1:4 James indicates that the believers should be “complete and entire, lacking in nothing.”
It is only fair to point out that in the book of James we have both a balance and a warning. We need this book. Otherwise, there would be a gap, a lack, in the holy Word.
It is important that we do not have an unbalanced view of the Epistle of James. On the one hand, we need to see that this Epistle indicates that James may have lacked a clear view of God’s economy. On the other hand, this book points out the need for practical Christian perfection. Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, fourteen were written by Paul. The Epistles of Paul are concerned with God’s economy, God’s dispensation. This economy is vital and crucial. But in order to carry out God’s economy, we need practical Christian perfection. This means that we should not be careless in our daily living. We may use a soldier in the army as an illustration. The main responsibility of a soldier is to fight for his country. But in order to be a good fighter, a soldier needs to be proper in his personal daily life. Likewise, although we may be soldiers, fighters, for God’s economy, we still need to be complete and entire in our daily Christian life.
The place of the book of James is indicated by its position in the arrangement of the books of the New Testament: it comes immediately after the fourteen Epistles of Paul. The Epistles of Paul from Romans to Hebrews all cover the major subject of God’s economy. We may liken these Epistles to the main entrance to a building. We then may liken the Epistle of James to a little door near this entrance. Although the “entrance” of Paul’s Epistles is crucial, we still need the “door” of the Epistle of James.
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