One of the most controversial sections of James is James 2:14-26, because some verses sounds very different from what we find in Paul’s teaching. However, it contains a very straightforward message. James simply insisted that the faith that saves us is a faith that produces good works. In contrast, a faith that does nothing, does nothing!
Western society has recently become sensitive to discrimination based on race, nationality, sex, age, appearance, etc. However, discrimination is not new. In fact, James 2:1-13 focuses on the contradiction between having faith in Jesus and treating other people with partiality based on their status. It turns out that the antidote for such partiality is God’s mercy.
If someone hears a message but does not act upon it, sometimes we say that “it went in one ear and out the other.” In James 1:19-27, God calls us not only to hear his word but to incorporate it into our lives. Only by doing the word can Christians demonstrate that we truly heard it and really believe it. (We thank Dr. Tim Sansbury of Knox Theological Seminary for this excellent sermon.)
In James 1:9-18, the author continues to urge us to have a biblical perspective on the difficult and the good things in life, including poverty and riches, trials and temptations, and perfect gifts from God. Although we may not be able to change our circumstances, we can develop a Christian approach to them.
After a very brief greeting, James launched into his letter of practical instruction in James 1:1-8 by urging believers in Jesus to consider trials an opportunity to experience pure joy. Because this instruction is so contrary to our natural reaction to trials, we need help! James provides just the help we need by giving us a proper perspective on what God is doing for us in our trials. It turns out that what God is doing is perfect for us!
In Acts 17:24-34 we get to hear a sermon that Paul preached to philosophers in Athens. He presented to them biblical truths about God, humans, Jesus, and our response. The game-changing declaration that got Paul laughed off stage was the resurrection of Jesus. The news about the resurrection left others curious enough to want to hear more, some of whom ended up believing the gospel message. That gospel is the same today, as relevant to us as it was to those philosophers, and life-changing good news to any who will believe it.
Before Jesus left this earth, he entrusted the gospel ministry to the apostles, but to whom did the apostles entrust it before they departed? The answer found in Acts 20:17-35 is that they entrusted ministry to the elders of the church. In fact, elders are not only God’s design for the church but also essential to its well-being.
The expression, “the body of Christ,” has become such a common name for the church that we may not reflect upon what it means for the life of the church. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, we have the most complete explanation of the similarity between the human body and the church. Both the human body and the church are unities made up of many diverse members. Therefore, the church needs all of its members, and the members need to function as a unity.
In some of his last words, in Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus gave a clear mission to his disciples: to make more disciples of all people groups until the end of the age. As it is easy for the church to get distracted from our mission by many other good activities, Jesus’ words refocus us and send us out. Today’s sermon reviews not only what our mission is but also ways we can accomplish it in our daily lives.