Our world is full of false teaching. Whether it’s acceptance of things clearly condemned by God, or the belief that everyone goes to heaven as long as they are “good”. However, Paul clearly rejects all of these and goes as far as condemning them eternally. In this first chapter of Galatians, Paul says this twice, the second being in Galatians 1:9, As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! We know the truth. Let us not be persuaded or seduced into thinking the world has a better grasp of reality than our Father and Creator.
After being relieved all the prisoners did not escape, the jailer asked Paul and Silas how he could be saved. In Acts 16: 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” Salvation is simple. There is nothing complicated about believing in Jesus and accepting His grace. We do not need to make things any harder than they need to be.
Christ died to fulfill the law, not abolish it. But in the same vein, He freed us from the burden of salvation through the law. If we were still required to maintain the law as part of salvation, we would fail. When the religious leaders of that time tried to require believers to follow the law in order to attain salvation, Paul replied to them in Acts 15:10-11, 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are. We are free from sin and from working for our salvation. That doesn’t mean we are free to sin, but we are free from the consequences of our sin nature.
I love what James say about Elijah in James 5:17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. While Elijah was one of the greatest prophets in the Bible, he was still just a man. The difference between Elijah and us was his tremendous faith and trust in God. There is nothing standing in our way of having the same trust and faith except us.
God does not want us to choose anything other than him. James 4:4 says, You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. We cannot be a friend to God and this word. Choose Him!
James takes time today to talk about how powerful the tongue can be. He uses the rudder on a boat to illustrate the tongue’s potential affect. Though both the tongue and rudder are significantly small parts of a greater body, both can have a tremendous effect on where and how they leads. In Jame 3:5 it says, Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The illustration of what a small spark can do to an entire forest is powerful when you consider the potential behind seemingly insignificant words. Words can be used to build confidence and esteem, and words can be used to crush and cause pain. The tongue is the most powerful part of our bodies and we must treat it as such when it comes to impacting others.
We do not need to do anything to receive salvation. Christ did it all through His crucifixion on the cross. So what is James trying to say in James 2:26? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. He is not talking about salvation. He is talking about a changed and obedient life. Christ saves us from our imperfect lives and gives us the freedom to not be enslaved by our sin nature. If we do not take advantage of that freedom to act for the benefit of others, then what was the point of salvation? Freedom gives us the ability to choose a life fulfilled and happy through Christ. If we don’t take advantage of it, we are wasting the gift of salvation.
No one likes to suffer under any circumstances, but in today’s reading James talks about considering it “pure joy” when we face trouble. James 1:2-3 says, 2 Consider it pure joy, my brother, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Notice how James does not say “if“, but “whenever” you face trials. We will all face trials of many kinds throughout our lives, but “joy” implies having a positive outlook because of the potential learning these trials can have in our lives. Ultimately, if we allow it, trials can lead us to develop perseverance (also called patience and steadfastness) in our lives.
In today’s reading we find Barnabas and Peter perform a miraculous healing in Lystra. This caused the people to think they were Greek gods. But Paul and Barnabas corrected the men in Acts 14:15, “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. It is easy to take the credit for being awesome when we act with God’s help, but we must always remember it is God who gets all the glory in all circumstances. That doesn’t mean we can’t feel good about our accomplishments, we just need to remember the purpose of all we do in the end is to impact eternity.