Friday, June 13, 2014

Posted by Niki |
James, like Jesus, was a Jew. James became a great leader in the church of Jerusalem at a hard time. His time was hard because the Gentiles, Jews, and born again Jews were trying to worship in the same place, but in different ways. In the Old Testament the Jews were given laws on how to live, but for the born again Jews and Gentiles, they were having to develop a set of guidelines to live by.

What’s the difference in a Jew, a Gentile and a born-again Jew? ANSWER: A Gentile was anyone who wasn’t a Jew. A Jew was a person who lived by a set of laws set up early during the time of Moses. This included laws on life, food, and every other aspect of living. A born-again Jew was a person of Jewish faith who saw and realized Christ to be the savior. They were now Jewish Christians.

Throughout the book of Acts we are given some insight to James’ work in the church. Don’t get our James confused with James the brother of John in Acts 12. James was a very common name during this time. James was involved in the Jerusalem Counsel – an organization created to set up laws for Gentiles and Jews about 20 years after Christ’s resurrection. This included subjects such as circumcision of Gentiles, as well as food restrictions for the Gentiles. James worked hard to persuade the Jews to accept the Gentiles as brothers and sisters in Christ without having them convert to Judaism before they could become a Christian. He advised the Gentiles to abstain from idols, immoral conduct, and foods that were offensive to the Jews. Instead of dividing the people from each other, James united them so they could worship together.

Now, if we go to Galatians 2, we find out more about James. Who wrote the book of Galatians? ANSWER: Paul.

Paul commends James as being a mediator during this time of transition in the church in Galatians 2:9 “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” This meant that the church would deal with the Jews and Paul and Barnabas had their “blessing” to go out and witness to the Gentiles. The right hands of fellowship is a handshake. This signified that it was possible to serve the Lord in two completely different ways as long as they had the same end goal. Compare this to a contemporary church and a traditional church. What is a pillar? ANSWER: A source of support.

James supported Paul several different times. In Acts 21 James give Paul some advice because James knew that the Jews were after Paul. They did not like his radical way of thinking and they were confused by him. James advised Paul to pay for four men who were ending their Nazarene vow.

What was a Nazarene? ANSWER: (Numbers 6:2-8) "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: 3 He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. 4 All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. 5 All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. 6 All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body. 7 He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head. 8 All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD.”

Who were some Nazarene’s in the Bible? ANSWER: John, Jesus, James, Samson, Samuel. [NEW KNOWLEDGE: A Nazarene vow could be taken and ended similar to how people make vows for Lent. If they wanted to end their vow, they had to go through a series of rituals and sacrifices. These can be found in Numbers 6:13] James wanted there to be as little tension and drama as possible. He knew this would be a visual representation of Paul’s support for the Jewish people. Paul after all, was a Jew. For Paul to refer to these three men (James – note his name is mentioned first, Cephas (Peter) and John) as “pillars” of the church, they had to have an extreme amount of responsibility and sensibility. Their level-headedness was needed to make these transitions between Jew and Gentile as smooth as possible during the setting up of the early church.  Paul had an utmost respect for these men and makes this known several times.

These men worked together to establish the early church and to get the gospel of Christ out to others. Peter states their goals perfectly in Acts 15:7-11: “And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” Later in the verses 14-16, James quotes the Old Testament prophet Amos by saying: Simeon (Peter in Hebrew form) hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:” This is a direct quote from Amos 9:11-12.

In conclusion, had it not been for James’ level-headedness during the Jerusalem Council, us as Gentiles might be living an entirely different life. Imagine if things had been left solely in the hands of Peter and Paul? They’re wonderful men of God but they’re radicals with a zeal and no boundaries. Peter was wishy-washy and changed his story at the drop of a hat and Paul refused to back down no matter what. Look at their prison records – They were in there quite a bit. Knowing all of this, we should truly appreciate the writings of James. They are coming from someone without bias, and from a point of compassion and levelheadedness that we should all strive for. He is truly an amazing man of God.


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