by, Aug 23rd 2011 at 02:30 PM (537 Views)
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, ...Eph. 2
16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope... 2 Thess. 2
10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4
It is the prayers of the congregation that have failed, from James point of view, but there is one thing that will not fail; the love of God is there as the hope to find the strength to empower their prayers. However, they have one thing to change. James, in verse four, charges them with 'Adultery', spiritual unfaithfulness in this case. They have allowed their hate, envy, greed and every evil passion to run through their lives, out their tongues, befouling all their relationships with God's people, and finally cutting them off from God Himself. Just go back and read chapter three, and then the first verses of chapter four, they are reaping the benefits of a 'dead' faith that he has described in chapter two.
Their life was like a blemished, spoiled sacrifice that could never be brought before God as any kind of offering. Their prayers, then, could never reach that throne; a dead faith could not turn to God with the love that He wants in return. John puts it bluntly in his first letter, '8 Whoever does not love does not know God...'. James, from chapter two on, echoes John's point in chapter four of his first letter. Ironic that both 'chapter fours' should contain 'love' as an important theme. But, James readers had a deep problem, the did not love God or each other!
So, James calls them 'Adulterers' in verse four. Actually, the word is in the feminine form and is better rendered 'Adulteresses'!. Their passionate love was for the 'kosmos' and all that it had to offer. John, again, echoes, '15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (2:15)'. They embraced the world, and left God. James, in chapter one, underscores the 'perseverance of faith'; from chapter two to the present, he now adds the perseverance of love.
James does this by asking the question, '5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?' The question is simple, but it moves the mind to the main point, God loves us with a passionate, deep love that can get jealous it we neglect Him and shower out affections on another. God told the Israelites:
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God... Ex. 20
Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Ex. 34
(Whose name is Jealousy?...now that is not a name that is studied much in connection with God...)
But, this is not a human jealousy that consumes all it ravenously lusts after. James makes the point that God gives a greater grace to those who humble themselves before God. James pulls out 'grace' in the face of our humilty before God. He uses the term 'greater grace', a grace that lifts us up as God supplies us with all that we truly need. The point is that God responds generously and lovingly to our humility. Our 'submission' to God is what opens the floodgates of grace and mercy to meet our needs. It is this 'greater grace' or 'more grace' that characterizes all that God does for those who love and follow Him
In writing to the Ephesians, Paul describes it all this way. He first outlines what led God to open the doors of salvation for us, '4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy...'. Even though we were mired in sin, it was God's incredible love for us that was what motivated Him, it is He who has that deep, rich well of mercy to shower on us. Paul then talks of our life with God thusly, '...7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus...'. Our lives are examples of His grace, because they become the occasion for God to shower us with His grace.
Finally, Paul describes the love and grace of God in this manner, 'And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ' (Eph. 3:17-19). This love, this sea of grace, is measured by boundaries that bulge to overflowing with the depths of the love of God. Paul prays for 'power' to understand this, for the means to grasp this and hole it to our hearts and minds. The 'greater grace' that God gives to those who humble themselves is a sea of life that feeds the hungry soul with it's bounty.
Now, there is a practical point that James talks about in his letter, 'What of faith?'. Paul answers that as follows. Paul told the Ephesians 'For, by grace you are saved through faith...' (2:8). 'Faith in Christ' and 'Living in Christ' are Paul's two main themes in his teaching. But, James would question, what of faith maturing in perseverance? Paul told the Philippians, '12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. ' (chapter 2) The word 'therefore' hooks it in to the previous discussion about humility as seen in what Jesus Christ gave up to bring us salvation.
It now, Paul argues, up to us to obey God and put this salvation, in all humility, to work in our own lives. The 'fear and trembling' expresses the humility that must exist in the lives of Christians, James is talking about his in chapter four, as we have seen. Paul put this another way when he wrote to the Galatians, ' (2:6). Our faith is powered by love and humility, for humility is the face love shows as it ineteracts with those who lives it touches. For Paul, the master definition of Love is in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. Paul and John both agree that we love because God loved us while we were still sinners, read Romans 5 and 1 John 4.