The Message of the Epistle of James -- By: Morris Humphrey Roach

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 094:376 (Oct 1937)
Article: The Message of the Epistle of James
Author: Morris Humphrey Roach

The Message of the Epistle of James

Morris Humphrey Roach

In a day when men are searching for reality, it is appropriate to set forth afresh the message of James’ Epistle. Though it was probably the first epistle to Christians its theme on the reality of Christian faith is a present need in the church. In accordance with the exigency of the first Christians the purpose of the letter was to stimulate the reality of their faith in Christ. The nature of faith was taught in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Prior to this letter to the Hebrews James wrote this apologetic to “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” to show that the inner working of God’s grace was real.

The Jews were zealous for their religion, but the gospel brought in the new proposition of justification by faith alone. In the old dispensation Moses said regarding the law, “That the man which doeth those things shall live by them,” but in the new Paul asserts that we are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Since the legalistic influence was very strong in the early Christian Jews, it is not surprising that the custom was to observe Judaism outwardly while claiming to be recipients of the new faith inwardly. James charged these Christians who tried to carry water on both shoulders as “double minded.” There was a divided loyalty between Moses and Christ. The faith of such was intellectual, and its reality was sought in the outward observance of the law. As Dr. Purves so aptly put it, “the progress of Judaic Christianity was rather external than internal.” There was a substantial reality to be found in obedience to ordinances. The law was a standard by which a man was enabled to

measure his righteousness, but faith being less tangible was minimized. It was, therefore, particularly hard for those who conformed outwardly to the law to find reality in faith alone. It lacked dimension for their minds to grasp. This was especially true of those to whom the epistle was written.

Zeal for the law violated the nature of Christian faith. The law and faith were incompatible and reality could not be found in both. For the Old Covenant reality was found in observing the law. For the New Covenant reality was to be found by a living faith in a Person. The Epistle of James not only clarifies the fundamental issue, but also points out some errors into which the Jews had fallen because of the failure to distinguish between the law and the faith. Many were double-minded (1:6–8). Such instability was ineffective in prayer, made them impatient in face of tr...

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