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James to the Twelve Tribes

Many in the past have wrestled with the supposed conflict between James and Paul over the issue of law and faith. Both agree that faith needs "fruit" to be considered genuine. Spiral bound book.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 3

Israel’s Conduct in Captivity

I have shown how Peter gave comfort to the believers of the Israelite dispersion, telling them that, in essence, their captivity had ended. They were to conduct themselves as free men, rather than as bondslaves. 1 Peter 2:16 says,

16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

The apostles all considered themselves to be bondslaves of God, or (as Paul put it in Rom. 1:1), “a bondservant of Christ Jesus.” This follows the basic law of redemption found in Lev. 25:53, where we are told that a redeemed bondservant must work for his redeemer until the debt has been paid in full—or until the year of Jubilee sets him free.

Yet this newly-found freedom in Christ did not mean that they were now allowed to use this freedom as an excuse to violate the law (i.e., to sin). Furthermore, Peter instructed them in verses 13-15,

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

Personal freedom in Christ does not mean freedom from government—even bad government. We must recognize that God has often subjected men to the authority of evil men, that we might learn how NOT to rule when our time comes.

Peter recognized also that these imperfect governments of men would often persecute the believers, so he points to the example of Jesus Himself.

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.

In other words, Peter understood fully the principle of Jeremiah 24. When God judges a nation, even the righteous among them are called to submit to the divine judgment. The people's reaction to God's judgment is, in fact, what determines the difference between a “good fig” and an “evil fig,” as Jeremiah explains.

Rome was the Iron Kingdom that had succeeded Babylon, Persia, and Greece under the divine mandate to bring judgment upon both Israel and Judah. While most of the Judean nation chafed under Roman rule and searched for excuses to rebel against those whom God had placed over them, Jesus' disciples were the “good figs” of their day. Even Simon Zelotes (“the Zealot”) had been tamed by the Spirit of God.

So Peter was careful to teach these dispersed Israelite believers the principles of Jeremiah, using Jesus as the prime Example of how to live under the rule of the divinely appointed “beast” kingdoms.

James did the same in his letter to the twelve tribes. In fact, he started with this very point immediately after his greeting.

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The judgments of God are designed to produce fruit in our lives. They are corrective in nature. In this case, God had placed Rome in a position of power, succeeding the Grecian Empire. There were, of course, dispersed Israelites in Parthia, across the Euphrates River in the territory surrounding the Caspian Sea. The principle applied equally to them as well, for Parthia had also risen as one of the kingdoms of men after the fall of Assyria, Babylon, and the Seleucids.

Collectively, the Israelites were expected to learn submission to those who oppressed them, so that they would know also how to submit to God whom they had thought to be oppressive while living in Israel.

James told them, however, that being ruled by oppressive governments of men was designed to test their faith. Faith is not really faith until it has undergone a stress test. When conditions are rosy, anyone can claim to have faith. It is only when put under stress that the hearts of men are truly manifested, and all may then see if men's faith is genuine or superficial.

Tested faith results in endurance, James says (NASB). The KJV translates it “patience.” It is the same word used by Paul in Romans 5:3, where the apostle says, “tribulation worketh patience.” It is the ability to endure patiently without falling apart or reacting in an ungodly way.

Jesus is our prime Example, because He was as meek as a lamb when falsely accused of blasphemy and sentenced to the cross. The apostles, too, endured many things, including execution and beatings on account of their faith. Yet we often cannot endure a simple affront but are insulted and often seek revenge for the slightest things.

This is why God calls many into intercession. Intercession is where a person must endure a time of oppression to walk out that which others are experiencing. It is the principle of identification, something which Jesus Himself did as the Great Intercessor. He identified with humanity and endured their hardships in order to intercede for them. See my book, Principles of Intercession.

If we treat all of life's circumstances as tests of faith, designed to produce endurance and patience, and if we view them as part of the life experience of intercession as the body of Christ, our lives will be transformed. This does not mean, of course, that we should be fatalistic about everything. We must keep in mind, as Jesus did, that when confronted with problems, He was being called to overcome the problems.

When blind men confronted Him with their problem of blindness, He healed them. He did not merely tell them to “get used to it.” Jesus' calling—and ours—is found in Luke 4:18 and 19,

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, 19 to proclaim the favorable Year of the Lord.

We must find that balance between submitting to the divine plan and aggressively setting men free. How do we know the difference? It is always by faith, because faith comes by HEARING (Rom. 10:17). In every situation, hear the voice of God and be obedient to what you hear. If you hear, “allow it to stand,” then do nothing. If you hear “change the situation,” then decree the change by the authority invested in you.

Anything else is either fatalistic or rebellious.

Know the times and seasons as well, for this will be of great help in discerning how to conduct yourself in the world. Know that in the days of Jeremiah, the people of Judah were to submit to Babylon, while in the days of Daniel, they were to leave Babylon. Each prophet knew the times and seasons and acted accordingly.

We ourselves are living in the days of Daniel. God is now setting the earth free. Daniel knew it was time to pray for deliverance (Dan. 9:2, 3). He fasted, prayed, and even conducted spiritual warfare to overthrow nations (Dan. 10). We too have followed Daniel's example, knowing that the mandate of the beast kingdoms have run their course. Our mandate has been “to proclaim release to the captives,” and to open the eyes of the blind.