A diamond mine of practical Christian teaching

Apr 28, 2024 by

by Julian Mann, TCW:

THE New Testament letter of James, far from being ‘an epistle of straw’ with ‘nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it’ as Martin Luther dismissed it in 1522, is actually full of Christian grace and truth. The Book of Common Prayer epistle reading for today, the Fourth Sunday after Easter, is taken from James:

‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls’ (James 1v17-21 – King James Version).

The author of this epistle gives no details about himself other than stating at the start that he is ‘James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’. But a strong candidate for author is James, the half-brother of Jesus, who by around AD 49 had become leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem. The book of Acts records his statesmanlike intervention when hardline members of the Jerusalem church wanted to impose strict adherence to the Law of Moses on Gentile Christians:

‘Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood’ (Acts 15v19-20).

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