Last Sunday (September 2) we began a 5-week sermon series on the book of James. I mentioned that this short book of the Bible is surely among my favorites. However, the great reformer Martin Luther would surely disagree with me, for he said (quite famously), that “St. James’s epistle is really a right strawy epistle…for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it.”
While I do not wish to quibble with brother Martin, I’m not ready to toss out baby James with his bathwater.
As I understand Luther’s complaint, he thought James contradicted the Apostle Paul’s teaching that we are saved by faith and faith alone (not because of anything we do or don’t do). James is clear that without works of justice and charity, our faith is dead (James 2:26).
James reminds us that Jesus calls us to follow him—and that involves more than giving verbal ascent to his Lordship or reciting the proper prayer. No, for James, our faith becomes true when it is lived out—that is, when our faith and worship drive us to advocate for and serve the poor, the widows, the children, and the oppressed among us. James, it seems, is less concerned with the amount of faith we possess and more concerned with the fruit our faith produces.
River Roaders, I hope you’ll commit to taking this journey together. As we look ahead, we’ll approach our study of James according to the following schedule. I encourage you to read the text prior to worship.
- September 9—Rich and Poor / Showing Favoritism (James 2:1-10, 14-17)
- September 16—Taming the Tongue (James 3:1-12)
- September 23—Knowledge vs. Wisdom (James 3:13-4:3)
- September 30—Life and Love in Community (James 5:13-20)