Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

James 2:14ff : Who Was James Writing to? (Post 2)

In every epistle of the New Testament, there was an intended audience the writer was focusing on. My contention is that there is not a single letter in the New Testament that was not written specifically and only to be applied for those who through faith in Christ have been regenerated. When we view the writers' own descriptions of the intended audience of their epistles, we usually meet up with at least 2 categories distinguishing the addressees: location and positional sanctification.

For instance, the book of Romans was addressed to the saints in Rome (Romans 1:7). 1 Corinthians was written to the church in Corinth, and more specifically to "those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor 1:2). The examples could be multiplied.

But we are considering the book of James. Why is the knowledge of the intended audience in James important to our study? Lordship Salvation advocates insist that the purpose of James 2:14ff is to give test to the readers of his epistle to confirm or not if they are "truly" saved by considering their works, which they say must accompany faith for ultimate salvation. Was this the intention of James? If it can be shown that James was taking for granted that his intended audience was indeed born-again, would this not be a strike against the Lordship Salvation position? We will now consider the audience of James.

James 1:1 indicates that his audience was Jewish and scattered abroad:

James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.

While offering important information, this passage by itself does not answer the vital question of whether or not James is addressing born-again believers in Christ. To answer this question definitively the oft-repeated phrases "my beloved brethren" and "my brethren" in the epistle require contextual definition.

The phrase "my beloved brethren" appears three times: James 1:16, 1:19, and 2:5. The first two usages frame verse eighteen, which in turn serves to define "my beloved brethren".

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. . . . 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear. . .

James 1:18 speaks of regeneration, using a term commonly associated with procreation, "brought forth". The “you” implied in the use of the second person plural imperative in both 1:16 and 1:19 is a subset of us or we in verse 1:18. The vocative "my beloved brethren" specifically defines the implied uses of “you” in each verse. In these three verses, James’ use of pronouns, the imperative mood, and vocatives indicates that both we and us include “you”: In other words, we (“you and I”) are beloved brethren, because God, our Father brought us (“you and me”) forth by the word of truth. James does not call the readers beloved brethren because they are fellow Jews, but because they are regenerate brethren in the Lord.

The third usage of the phrase "my beloved brethren" occurs in the midst of an exhortation against partiality, James 2:1–13. James begins his exhortation:

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. (James 2:1)

The vocative "my brethren" occurs twelve times throughout the epistle. This usage in James 2:1 is followed in the same context with the vocative "my beloved brethren" in 2:5:

Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

Clearly, the phrase my brethren is an equivalent to my beloved brethren not only within this specific exhortation, but also within the Epistle of James as a whole.

Putting these evidences together reveals a complete picture: Those that James addresses in his epistle are born-again Jews scattered abroad, who like James share the same Father. The apostle James not only wrote to eternally secure believers, but his certainty that they possess the greatest of God’s good and perfect gifts (1:17), regeneration by God (1:18) underlies his exhortations to apply the doctrine that they, in fact, do believe.

In case anyone needs more proof, consider James 4:5:

Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain,"The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously? (James 4:5)

which contains a strong rebuke to believers who are not applying the word. It would seem that they have no works, but the Spirit indwells them.

The problems that James describes in his epistle are problems that apply to his "beloved brethren", people with the indwelling Spirit of God. Again, the various theological models of James need to come to grips with the text, rather than superimposing their theology onto the book.

Question : Who was the passage in James 2:14ff written for?

Answer: Born-again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This consideration will be important as we move on in the study of James 2:14ff.

[Much of this article was taken from John Niemela, Faith Without Works, a Definition: http://chafer.edu/journal/back_issues/v6n2_1.pdf]

7 Comments:

Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Some good arguments.

God Bless

November 21, 2005 12:37 AM  
Blogger Julianne said...

Thanks for posting on my blog.

Is eternal life really the most wonderful thing Jesus can give us?

November 21, 2005 7:05 AM  
Blogger H K Flynn said...

Very interesting discussion, Antonio. I'm looking forward to Post 3!

I notice James says 'You adulterous people! and then in the following verse... The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously? He seems to be saying even though you are betraying the Lord, with your attitude of partiality, I see you as belonging to my group, my family.

Your sister in the Lord--hk

November 21, 2005 7:17 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

dp,

thank you for your comments of encouragement.

Julianne, I realize my comments on your blog where a bit terse. But they did what I purposed them to do, get you to come over to my blog. I appreciate your visit, and I hope that you will check in periodically, as I will definitly be checking in on yours. BTW, nice smile!

Oh, to answer your question, my answer would be a qualified no. I believe that co-ruling and co-reigning with Christ in the kingdom of God (which is contingent on overcoming in the Christian life) is the most wonderful thing. It is the inheriting of the kingdom of God as opposed to its mere entrance. There is a difference. So many things I would like to write on. I will write on these things in the future.

Thanks again for coming!

hk,

Very pertinent observation you make. James' concern for his readership isn't that they get eternally saved, but to live in the light of the regeneration that has already occured in their lives.

Antonio

November 21, 2005 8:44 AM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

I don't see how anyone could argue with what you have said in this post and the way you have analyzed the intended audience of James.

November 21, 2005 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Antonio,

Just a question for clarification. It sounds like you are saying that there were no unbelievers in the churches to whom the various NT epistles were written. Am I reading you correctly?

Matt Waymeyer

November 21, 2005 9:48 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

What I am saying is the writing of the epistles presupposes the intended audience as regenerate. I have given a few examples and they could be multiplied. If you track through the epistles themselves, after noting that they are written to "saints" at the local "church", you find language throughout them designating the intended audience as regenerate.

Everywhere in each epistle, the written word has been constructed with a complete regenerate audience in mind.

Now I am not saying that there were not unregenerate people in any local congregation. Yet the instruction, admonishment, encouragement, and doctrine were specifically tailored to the regenerate audience.

If you have some examples where you think I am wrong, I would be more than willing to discuss them. Please by all means refer to a passage you believe is written with unbelievers in view. Keep in mind, the only real issue between God and the unregenerate is reconciliation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.

As pertaining to the book of James, is there any dispute that you have with my analysis of the intended audience? If so, please refer me to your problem.

Matt, thank you for visiting my blog. It means alot to me that you took the time to read my posts.

May God bless you richly during this Thanksgiving season, and fill your heart with the praise.

Antonio

November 22, 2005 1:38 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home