by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Study # 5 September 17, 1997 Harlingen, Texas
Thesis:How do we apply the teaching of James to ourselves?
Introduction:It has been said that the area of most wide-spread heresy is not in the areas of observation and interpretation, but in the area of application. In order for the Word of God to have its divinely intended impact upon us, we must understand the importance of all three elements of study: observation (the most fundamental and most easily abused requirement); interpretation (the result of observation and the application of the universal principles of understanding--developed within the discipline of hermeneutics and not to be confused with translation); and application (without which Truth is denied its intended result and is turned into an end when God intended it to be a means to an end, thus resulting in death instead of life), which is the outworking in life of confidence in the interpretation. Enormous problems have been developed by the multiple heresies of application. For example, a significant breach in the church has been introduced by the claim that the statement "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8) means in application that we can expect Him to act in the same ways all through the flow of human history. When we look at the reference in its context, it is not Jesus' actions that is the point, but our actions based upon His unchanging character. And besides, what about Annanias and Sapphira? Therefore, the question before us is: how do we apply James' message to ourselves?
I. First, by Understanding the Terms of Address He Used.
A. He called himself a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
B. He called his readers 'the twelve tribes who were scattered abroad'.
1. Obviously Jews; as obviously Christians.
2. Obviously Jews from the divine perspective as given by Paul in Romans 2:28-29 and by Jesus in Matthew 15:16-20.
II. Second, by Understanding the Principle of Identification.
A. With the author...
1. How are we to identify with the writer?
a. Either by identifying him with God as the Life-Truth Sovereign Authority and taking our place under his derived authority,
b. Or by identifying him with ourselves as an exemplary disciple whose example we are to emulate.
c. By taking our clues from his self-description.
2. In James' case we are to identify with him as an exemplary disciple...
a. Because he chose a universally applicable self-description without emulation of which no one can walk with God.
b. Because he chose to call his readers 'brethren', indicating their association with him in a common family.
B. With the author's readers...
1. How are we to identify with the readers?
a. Either by identifying with them as members of a common humanity,
b. Or by identifying with them as members of a common faith (same God),
c. Or by identifying with them as members of a common covenant (same God, same covenantal setting).
2. In James' case we have to use extreme caution because he was very apparently writing to Jews who had believed that Jesus is the Christ, but who had limited understanding of the covenantal shift that had taken place.
a. THAT a covenantal shift had taken place is apparent from several considerations...
1) Prophecy: Daniel 9:24-27.
2) Theological Reasoning: Hebrews 7-10. Particularly 7:12 & 18-22, 9:16-17, 10:20 the new way He inaugurated for us by entering within the veil
3) Jesus' statement: Luke 22:20 and I Corinthians 11:25
4) Paul's statement: 2 Corinthians 3:6.
b. THAT the readers were not clear on the shift means that James would assume no more than he was sure they would know.