Right off the bat, let me wish everyone living in the United States a Happy Thanksgiving Day. Of course, given today is a national holiday to give thanks, you might expect a message about that.
Well, it ain’t gonna happen because everyone is already giving thanks, and I would be preaching to the choir, so we are going to have a really interesting discussion, instead.
If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.
You might be wondering what the heck the title of today’s message is all about? Let’s do a quick review: Acts 15:20-28 is the recommendation that James gives to the Council of Elders in Jerusalem that the Gentile Believers be required, at that time, to only follow four commands. Those requirements are: (1) not to eat anything sacrificed to idols, (2) not to eat things strangled; (3) not to eat the blood; and (4) to abstain from fornication.
James follows this up by stating that the laws of Moses (meaning the Torah commandments from God) would be heard by these neophyte Believers every Shabbat, implying that they would learn to obey the other Torah commandments as they matured in their knowledge and their spirit.
Later, James wrote his letter to the Believing Jews in the Diaspora.
If you are thinking, “No, it was to the Christian churches” you are wrong-
there were no Christian churches then, just Gentiles and Jews who accepted
Yeshua as the Messiah. If anything, these congregations would have
identified themselves not as a church, but as Kehillot (communities).
In that letter, written much later than the letter in Acts, James explains that when people say they have faith they must demonstrate it through their actions. James 2:17 plainly states that faith, without works, is dead.
Now, if you are wondering why am I thinking that the letter to these Believing Jews and Gentiles is damage control for what James suggested in Acts, I will explain.
The letter in Acts, which was written to new Gentile Believers, has traditionally been used to justify ignoring the Torah and that Christians need only follow JUST THOSE 4 REQUIREMENTS in order to be saved. This is absolutely NOT what the letter was meant to do: that letter was intended to help the formerly pagan people adjust slowly to this new religion.
In the book of Galatians, we learned that many Jewish Believers were forcing the Gentiles accepting Yeshua to convert to Judaism overnight. This was a paradigm shift in lifestyle, going from a hedonistic, sexually perverse polytheistic religion and way of life to one of righteousness, purity, and self-control.
Not to mention the requirement to be circumcised. Ouch!
I mean, really? Going from perversion to purity “cold turkey” (no, that is not a Thanksgiving Day reference) is just too much for most people, and if this was required of all newly Believing Gentiles, the Elders realized that they would lose too many, too quickly.
Remember the parable Yeshua told of the seed thrown on the ground, and how the weeds (worldly desires) choked much of the new growth?
So, to prevent too many Gentiles who were, for the most part, converting to a Jewish lifestyle and form of worship, the Elders said, “Take it one step at a time.”
But that letter, which was to become a stepping stone to righteousness, became a stumbling block, instead, when it was used to justify ignoring God’s commandments.
I believe (and you can agree or not- it is simply my belief) that many years after that letter, when James saw what was happening to the movement, he decided to get these people back on track by writing his letter to remind them that they must still obey the entire Torah. He decided to show them that they were being taught incorrectly when they were told that faith is all you need, and performance (ie., doing good works) is not necessary.
Faith demands good works, and when we say we have faith we need to show it by how we act. If we are faithful, truly faithful, then we will want to do as God said to do and not listen to men telling us we don’t need to.
Men do not have more authority than God, and God never said to stop obeying him. James knew this, and (again, it is my opinion) realized that what he wrote then to help people was now hurting people.
It was the right idea at that time, but it had been perverted from a slow learning process of how to obey God into a justification for totally rejecting God’s instructions.
So, that’s my thought. Do you think that James realized what he did had been turned against him? Or are you of the school that Christians do not have to do anything in the Torah, which are the direct commands from God, but instead can do what men who have run the “church” say you should do?
James suggested the letter in Acts 15, and many believe it was the same James who wrote that letter to the Believers in the Diaspora, so if it was (and even if it wasn’t), I really believe that James 2:17 was written as “damage control” to get those people back on track who had been misled by the Gentile church leaders who perverted the Acts 15 letter.
What do you think?
That’s it for now, so please share these messages with everyone you know, subscribe to my website, YouTube channel, Facebook group (Just God’s Word), and check out my books. If you like what you get here, you will also like my books.
Enjoy your turkey and do give thanks, every day.