The Waiting Church and Its Duty: James 5:13–18 -- By: Mark A. Seifrid
SBJT 4:3 (Fall 2000) p. 32
The Waiting Church and Its Duty:
Mark A. Seifrid is an associate professor of New Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he has taught since 1992. Dr. Seifrid received the Ph.D. in New Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary. His dissertation on justification was published by Brill and he has a forthcoming work on justification titled Christ, Our Righteousness: The Justification of the Ungodly as the Theology of Paul (Eerdmans).
The great task of the Church, according to James, is to live in the hope of the coming of the Lord that has now drawn near (James 5:7–9). Even though the parousia is imminent, it is not subject to calculation. James regards the present hour as eschatological by virtue of the Gospel itself. Through this word, God has created believers as the “first fruits” of the final harvest (James 1:18). They represent the entrance of the end-time into the present time. Believers, therefore, must wait in an alien and hostile world for God’s righteousness to be established (James 5:9; 1:20). Their faith must undergo testing in order to come to perfection. The imminence of the Lord’s coming is not contradicted by delay, but accompanied by it. The early rains must be followed by the latter rains before the final harvest comes (James 5:7). Like a farmer waiting for “the precious produce of the field,” believers are to wait with patience. The prophets “who spoke in the name of the Lord” provide the pattern “of suffering and of perseverance” that we are to imitate. Those who persevere prove the goodness of God, that he is full of compassion and merciful (James 5:10–11).
Waiting for the endtime brings responsibilities toward one another in the meantime. One of the chief concerns of the letter is the conduct of believers in Christian community. James frames his admonitions mainly in negative terms, as warnings against the tendency to live by human wisdom. Faith in Jesus Christ is incompatible with favoring the wealthy in the congregation. We must rather love our neighbor as ourselves, especially the neighbor in need (James 2:1–13). Not many are to become teachers within the congregation. Those who do so are to display their wisdom in kind and gentle behavior (James 3:1–2, 13–18). Conflicts within the congregation arise from...
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