Module 35: Christian Experience Part 3
Module Guide: James - Christ and His Ethic; and Philemon - Christ and Social Relationships; and Jude - Christ the Perfect and Perfecting Lord
This pre-read guide is taken from the public domain source "The Analysed Bible in 3 Volumes" by G. Campbell Morgan.
This epistle is pre-eminently practical. The ethics of Christianity are perhaps more forcefully taught here than in any of the apostolic writings. The letter has often, therefore, been spoken of as being devoted to the subject of works; and Luther, imagining that it contradicted the doctrine of justification by faith as set forth by Paul, decided against its inspiration, denying its right to a place in the canon. It is easy to understand Luther's position when his times are remembered, and the necessity there was for insistence upon faith as the root principle of Christian relationship. As a matter of fact, however; there is no epistle which reveals more clearly the necessity for faith than that of James. While Romans deals with faith as the principle from which works issue, James insists upon works as necessary for the demonstration of faith. It is around the thought of faith that the epistle may best be analyzed. Introduction (1:1); Faith as a Principle of Victory in Temptation (1:2-1:27); Faith as a Principle of Action toward Man (2); Faith as a Principle of Wisdom in Speech (3); Faith as a Principle of Purity in Character (4); Conclusion (5).
James introduced himself briefly and comprehensively as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. His letter was written to the "twelve tribes which are of the dispersion" - that is, to Christian Israelites not resident in Jerusalem.
Faith as a Principle of Victory in Temptation
The condition of these Christians was that of persons in the midst of temptation and trial; and in this first division James recognized the place of temptation, then dealt with faith as a principle of victory; finally drawing a sharp contrast between false and true religion.
First dealing with temptation as adversity of circumstances he declared that its issue is that they might be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing. He then cited three illustrations of this kind of temptation - lack of wisdom, lack of position, and lack of need, closing with a beatitude on such as endure. He then passed to speak of temptation as allurement to sin, declaring that God is never the Author of such, and showing that it consists in an appeal made to a proper desire to meet its demand in an improper way or time.
He next proceeded to show that the Word of God is the stronghold for faith as it meets temptation. Recognizing the fact that every good gift and perfect boon is from God, and therefore not evil in itself, James insisted that such as were born again must set forth the Divine intention in human life. The first responsibility in order to obedience is that the implanted Word should be received with meekness. The second responsibility is that of actual and active obedience to the Word thus received. In order to this the attitude must be that of looking into, and so continuing; that is, of determined attention to the Word, and abandonment to its claim.
This division closes with a remarkable contrast between false and true religion, between the man who thinks himself to be religious, and pure religion. Faith therefore fastening upon the Word is the principle of victory in temptation.
Faith as a Principle of Action toward Men
In dealing with faith as a principle of action toward men, James first described the failure of conduct which he condemned; and then gave the teaching which corrects such wrong conduct; finally crystallizing the argument in a brief statement of principle.
The failure he condemned was that of respect of persons which expresses itself in the worship of wealth. Those who are guilty of this conduct do not hold the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. They despise the poor, whereas, according to the teaching of their Master, the poor are heirs of the Kingdom. While it is a good thing to fulfil the royal law of love to neighbours, it is an evil thing to have respect of persons.
To correct the failure James charged them first of all to speak and act as men to be judged by the law of liberty; and then, in one of the strongest passages in the whole letter, showed the profitlessness of faith which does not express itself in works, illustrating by reference to Abraham, the father of the faithful, and to Rahab, a woman outside the covenant. In each case faith was the vital principle, but it was demonstrated by works.
The closing declaration summarizes the division, and is indeed the central truth of the whole epistle. A faith which does not express itself in conduct is as dead as a body from which the spirit has departed.
Faith as a Principle of Wisdom in Speech
After uttering a warning as to public teaching, James described the peril of the tongue, and finally showed the effect of faith upon its use.
When referring to false religion, the one illustration he gave was that of an unbridled tongue. He then showed the disastrous effects which may be produced thereby. Perhaps more burning and scorching words are hardly to be found in the whole of the New Testament. There would seem to be a contrast suggested between the tongue set on fire by hell, and the tongue of fire. Speech always waits for inspiration, and such inspiration comes out of the awful depths of evil, or from the Spirit of the living God.
He then declared that true wisdom and understanding will manifest itself in life; that is to say, he practically affirmed that the silence which is the outcome of faith is the most eloquent testimony to consistent life. In immediate contrast to the effects of unbridled speech, he described the true wisdom as to character and result; and the contrast is extremely vivid. In the description of the former there is the thought of tempest and conflict, strife and malice; in that of the latter there is the manifestation of calm and serenity, of quietness and love. Thus the effect of faith upon that natural character from which speech springs is shown; and thus the effect of faith upon speech itself.
Faith as a Principle of Purity in Character
Here again the writer described failure, corrected it, and finally declared the true principle of victory.
The failure is that of wars and fightings arising from lust, issuing in envy, and daring even to lay tribute on prayer. He asked, "Doth the Spirit which He made to dwell in you, long unto envying?" evidently intending to indicate that the only answer to such a question must be a negative one. The Spirit which God makes to dwell in us does not create desire which issues in envy. The character which is self-seeking and unclean, results from lack of faith in God, manifested in failure to submit to the indwelling Spirit.
The Divine corrective to these terrible conditions is then dealt with, first as to the allinclusive gift of God, and secondly as to human responsibility. The government is that of grace. The responsibility is marked in a series of injunctions.
Finally he revealed the true principle of purity. Faith in God will produce love, rather than censoriousness toward men. Secondly, faith in God means dependence upon Him which is actual and active.
In conclusion the writer addressed himself first in solemn indictment and terrible warning to the rich. The cry of the oppressed comes into the ears of God as a plea which is never heard in vain. In the balances and proportion of the Divine government, nemesis inevitably follows upon any gain which is the result of injury done to others.
Turning to those who suffer, he addressed to them words as full of tender comfort as those directed to the oppressors were full of fiery indignation. He called them to patience in the midst of testing, first with God in the understanding of the meaning of His perfect waiting for their perfecting, and then with each other. To patience and simplicity of speech he urged them by two examples - that of the prophets, and that of Job.
The last paragraph of the letter contains advice and instructions for differing experiences and things. "Is any ... suffering?" "Is any cheerful?" "Is any ... sick?" Those who suffer should pray. Those who are cheerful should praise. As to the sick, the whole paragraph, from verse fourteen to the end, must be read for correct understanding of any portion thereof. The raising of the sick is united with the forgiveness of sin, and immediately upon this statement there follows the injunction to confess sins. The particular cases of sickness in mind were those resulting from wrong-doing. The calling in of the elders of the Church indicated the relation between the sickness and matters of spiritual import. The use of oil was in itself an indication of the necessity for the employment of means. The instruction to pray shows that the Christian man will never depend upon natural means alone. The most important teaching of this final paragraph is that where sickness is related to wrong-doing, by confession and by recognition of church responsibility sin may be removed, and the sickness consequent upon it healed. The value of this exercise of confession and forgiveness is emphasized by the words with which the letter closes.
INTRODUCTION - James 1:1
1. No Details of human Relationship, only that to Christ and God
2. Letter addressed to Jewish Christians scattered abroad
Part A: FAITH AS A PRINCIPLE OF VICTORY IN TEMPTATION - James 1:2-1:27
A.1. Temptation - Jam. 1:2-1:15
- As Adversity of Circumstances - 1:2-1:12
- As Allurement to Sin - 1:13-1:15
A.2. The Principle of Victory. Faith's hold on the Word - Jam. 1:16-1:25
- The Admission. Every good gift and perfect boon from God - 1:16-1:17
- The Test. Those born of the Word must realize the ideal - 1:18
- The Responsibilites - 1:19-1:25
- The Word received - 1:19-1:21
- The Word obeyed - 1:22-1:25
A.3. The Contrast - Jam. 1:26-1:27
- "Seemeth to be Religious"
- "Pure Religion"
Part B: FAITH AS A PRINCIPLE OF ACTION TOWARD MEN - James 2:1-2:26
B.1. The Failure - Jam. 2:1-2:11
- Judge not - 2:1-2:4
- "Ye Despise the Poor. Theirs is the Kingdom" - 2:5-2:7
- The Positive Statement "If ye fulfill" - 2:8-2:11
B.2. The Correction - Jam. 2:12-2:25
- Injunction to act as those to be judged by the Law of Liberty - 2:12-2:13
- The Profitlessness of Creed without Conduct - 2:14-2:20
- Two Illustrations - 2:21-2:25
B.3. The Principle. The Central vein of the Epistle - Jam. 2:26
Part C: FAITH AS A PRINCIPLE OF WISDOM IN SPEECH - James 3:1-3:18
C.1. A Warning to Public Teachers - Jam. 3:1
C.2. The Tongue - Jam. 3:2-3:12
- Its Power for Evil - 3:2-3:6
- Its Untameable Nature - 3:7-3:8
- Its Inconsistency - 3:9-3:12
C.3. The Effect of Faith - Jam. 3:13-3:18
- The Power of Silence - 3:13-3:16
- Wisdom from above the true Source of Speech - 3:17-3:18
Part D: FAITH AS A PRINCIPLE OF PURITY IN CHARACTER - James 4:1-4:17
D.1. The Failure - Jam. 4:1-4:5
- Wars and Fightings
- Arising from Lust
- Issuing in Envy
- Daring to lay Tribute on Prayer
D.2. The Correction - Jam. 4:6-4:10
- The Gift - 4:6
- The Responsibility - 4:7-4:10
D3. The Principle - Jam. 4:11-4:17
- Toward Man - 4:11-4:12
- Toward God - 4:13-4:16
- Summary - 4:17
CONCLUSION - James 5:1-5:20
1. Address to the Oppressors - Jam. 5:1-5:6
2. Address to the Oppressed - Jam. 5:7-5:12
3. Final Words - Jam. 5:13-5:20
This letter is of a purely personal nature. Its right to a place in the canon was called in question in the fourth century on the ground that its manner and content were beneath the dignity of the apostle. This opinion was surely the result of superficial examination, as, while it is perfectly true that the matter dealt with is of a personal and private nature, yet the whole method of dealing with it is a radiant revelation of the application of Christian principle to matters of individual life and social relationship.
After the introduction (verses 1-3) the letter falls into three divisions; the Approach (verses 4-7); the Argument (verses 8-16); the Appeal (verses 17-21); with a Conclusion (verses 22-25).
While the letter is addressed to Philemon, the apostle includes the members of his house-hold, and the whole Church. The reason for this is, evidently, that upon the new social relationships existing among the members of the Christian Church, Paul is about to base his appeal on behalf of Onesimus.
After the usual salutation of grace and peace the apostle proceeded to declare his thankfulness for all he heard of the love and faith of Philemon. It is to be carefully noted that this love and faith was described as being "toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints." He prayed for him that the fellowship of his faith might be effectual, and declared how much joy and comfort he had in the knowledge of the fact that the saints had been refreshed by Philemon. All this constituted a method of approach to the argument upon which he based the specific appeal which was the principal purpose of the writing of the letter.
The first movement in the apostle's argument was that of the introduction of himself. He declared that although he had full authority to command Philemon as to what befitted his profession of Christianity, he did not choose to do so. He chose rather to appeal to him upon the basis of his love. Setting aside his oflficial authority, he set up the authority of their mutual love. Very tender, and full of the most sacred art, was his reference to himself as "the aged," and "a prisoner of Jesus Christ." It would have been very difficult for Philemon to have refused compliance with anything requested by one who was so highly esteemed and tenderly loved in the faith, especially in view of the fact that he was bowed beneath the weight of years, approaching the end of his life and ministry, and withal a prisoner bound in chains for the sake of the Gospel. Thus the apostle would capture him by this introduction of himself.
He then adopted a new method of argument by the way in which he referred to Onesimus. This man, a slave of Philemon, had run away from his master, and the most probable attitude of Philemon toward him would be that of a perfectly just anger. Of course, in reading this story the men must be measured by the standards of their own age. The more perfect light in which we are now living, and which makes the holding of slaves impossible, was then only beginning to break through the darkness, and its meaning was not perfectly apprehended. Therefore it was that Paul introduced the name of the runaway in the way in which he did, referring to him as "my child, whom I have begotten in my bonds." From these words it is evident that in some way Onesimus had come under the influence of Paul, and had been brought to Christ thereby. Reference to his relationship to Philemon immediately followed, but was introduced with a touch of playful humour ; for the word Onesimus means profitable, and when the apostle wrote, "who once was unprofitable to thee, but now is profitable to thee and me," he was indulging in a play upon words.
At last the apostle reached the appeal. He asked Philemon to receive Onesimus as though he were receiving Paul himself. Seeing that there might be some difficulty in the way, the apostle made himself responsible for any debt which Onesimus owed Philemon, gently reminding the latter that he owed himself to Paul. He finally declared his confidence that Philemon would do as he asked, and even beyond.
Finally, the apostle expressed his hope that he would be able to visit Philemon; requested that a lodging should be prepared for him; sent salutations; and pronounced the benediction.
INTRODUCTION - Philemon 1:1-1:3
1. To Philemon
2. Also the Church
Part A: THE APPROACH - Philemon 1:4-1:7
A.1. Thanksgiving for Philemon's Love
A.2. Thanksgiving for Philemon's Faith
Part B: THE ARGUMENT - Philemon 1:8-1:16
B.1. Paul Introduces his Subject by Introducing Himself - Philem. 1:8-1:9
B.2. Paul strengthens his argument by References to Onesimus - Philem. 1:10-1:16
Part C: THE APPEAL - Philemon 1:17-1:21
C.1. Direct "Recieve him as myself"
C.2. I owe you
C.3. You owe me
CONCLUSION - Philemon 1:22-1:25
1. Prepare me a Lodging
The subject dealt with in this epistle is that of apostasy - its possibility, peril, and punishment. It solemnly reveals the relation existing between the will of man and the sovereignty of God. Apostasy is shown to be wilful return to ungodliness. Two classes are dealt with. Those who "kept not" and are therefore "kept." Those who "keep themselves" and are "kept from stumbling." While man is free to will, he is never freed from the restraining government of God. It is one of the most solemn and searching of the New Testament writings, and cannot be carefully studied without solemn searching of heart. The following analysis may be followed; Introduction (1-3); the Danger described (4-16); the Duty devolving (17-23) ; Conclusion (24, 25).
Judas introduced himself as brother of James, and servant of Jesus Christ; and his letter was addressed to those who were "called," "beloved," "kept." He wrote in order to urge upon such the necessity for contending earnestly for the faith, and what he meant must be interpreted by all that follows.
The peril threatening those to whom he wrote was created by ungodly men, who turning grace into an occasion of lasciviousness, denied all authority. The perils of such attitude were illustrated by reference to Israel, angels, and the cities of the plain; all of which were cast out from privilege on account of disobedience. The diversity of these illustrations emphasizes the underlying principle that continuity of privilege is dependent upon continuity of fidelity. The arrogance of the attitude of apostasy is described, and its doom is declared in the pronouncement of woe. Its meaning is revealed as being the way of Cain, which was that of hatred and murder; the error of Balaam, which was that of seduction and lying; and the gainsaying of Korah, which was that of envy and rebellion.
Apostasy is then denounced in a passage full of fiery force. Jude figuratively showed that it means failure to fulfil purpose, and then by quotation of the prophecy of Enoch declared that failure to fulfil purpose must issue in destruction.
The final description of these men reveals their inward fault and motive in two phrases - "walking after lusts," and "for the sake of advantage."
Turning to the subject of the true attitude of believers in the presence of apostasy, he indicated that there must be first a recognition of the danger. It had been foretold by the apostles, and may be known by two distinguishing marks. Men guilty of apostasy are to be known by their influence - "they make separations"; and by their temper - they are "sensual" rather than spiritual.
He then described the sphere and habit of safety, the central charge being, "keep yourselves in the love of God." This is to be done by building on faith, praying in the Spirit, and looking for mercy.
Beyond personal responsibility there is a relative duty. "On some have mercy" - that is, those in doubt; "some save" - that is, such as have been ensnared by the libertines; "on some have mercy with fear" - and here perhaps the reference is to the libertines themselves. This mercy is not to be the condoning of evil, or complicity therewith, but the patient hopefulness that seeks to win all.
The apostle closed with a glorious doxology which shows that the writer had no panic in his heart, even though he was profoundly conscious of the surrounding perils. He ascribed to God the Saviour all honour in the immeasurable ages, past and present, for that He is able to accomplish the salvation of His trusting ones in two ways which are all-inclusive; as to continuity, "able to guard you from stumbling"; and as to consummation, "to set you before the presence of His glory."
INTRODUCTION - Jude 1:1-1:3
1. The Writer and the Readers - Jude 1:1
2. Salutation - Jude 1:2
3. The Writing. Change of Purpose declared - Jude 1:3
Part A: THE DANGER - Jude 1:4-1:16
A.1. Described - Jude 1:4-1:11
- Its Nature - 1:4
- Its Peril - 1:5-1:7
- Its Arrogance - 1:8-1:10
- Its Doom - 1:11
A.2. Denounced - Jude 1:12-1:16
- Figurative Denunciation - 1:12-1:13
- Enoch's Prophecy applied to them - 1:14-1:15
- Final Description - 1:16
Part B: THE DUTY - Jude 1:17-1:23
B.1. Recognition of the Danger - Jude 1:17-1:19
- Declared by the Apostles - 1:17-1:18
- Distinguished by two things - 1:19
B.2. The Personal Duty - Jude 1:20-1:23
- Central Clause "Keep yourselves" - 1:21
- How this is to be done - 1:20-1:21
- Duty towards others - 1:22-1:23
CONCLUSION - Jude 1:24-1:25
1. "Him that is able to guard you from stumbling." Continuity
2. "To set you before the presence of His glory." Consumation
3. "To Him be glory"
Note: To the best of our knowledge we are of the understanding that the above material, being published in 1907 and freely available elsewhere on the internet in various formats, is in the public domain.