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Codes of Conduct

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Codes of Conduct (Jam. 1:19-20)

Wade Webster

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). The first two words - “so then” link these verses to the thoughts preceding them. Since God willed us to be a kind of first fruits among his creatures (Jam. 1:18), we should be careful how we conduct ourselves. As we look at these verses, we see three things - the spirit of the commands, the scope of the commands, and the specifics of the commands.

First, we see the spirit of the commands. James addressed his readers with the words “my beloved brethren” (Jam. 1:19). Fifteen times he uses the term “brethren” (1:2, 16, 19; 2:1, 5, 14; 3:1, 10, 12; 4:11; 5:7, 9, 10, 12, 19). Eleven times he uses the term “my” with it (1:2, 16, 19; 2:1, 5, 14; 3:1, 10, 12:; 5:10, 12). Three times he uses the term “beloved” with it (1:16, 19; 2:5). “Brother” is used four times (1:9; 2:15; 4:11) and “sister” is used once (2:15). James counted his readers as his brothers and sisters. He loved them dearly. The commands that he was about to give them were given out of love. The language becomes stronger later in the book when he deals with specific sins (Jam. 4:4). However, even then, he tempered his words with grace (Jam. 4:6).

Second, we see the scope of the commands. The commands were given to “every man” (1:19). No one was excluded. Every man must be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. Likely, we all struggle to some degree in these areas. In writing to the Christians at Colosse, Paul used the expression “every man” three times in one verse. He wrote, “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:28). Every man must be warned and taught because every man will one day appear before Jesus in judgment.

Third, we see the specifics of the commands. Three specific commands were given - be swift to hear, be slow to speak, and be slow to wrath (Jam. 1:19). Let’s examine each of these more closely. First, we are to be swift to hear. Sadly, most of us are slow to hear. We are poor listeners. We are listening for a pause in the conversation so that we can talk again. Even while the other person is talking, we are not really listening. We are thinking of what we are going to say next. Listening is hard work. It takes a concentrated effort. However, I think that James has more in mind than being a better listener in human conversations. He has in mind being quick to hear God. The Pentacostians and the Bereans are good examples of being swift hearers (Acts 2:41; 17:11). Sadly, some are quick to hear gossip, but slow to hear gospel. The Pentacostians and the Bereans were not like that. Second, we are to be slow to speak. The wise man Solomon declared, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:19; cf. 17:27; 21:23). There is a clear connection between being swift to hear and being slow to speak. Solomon wrote, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him” (Prov. 18:13). Being slow to speak is especially needed when we are talking to God. Solomon declared, “Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few” (Eccl. 5:2). Given the context of trial and temptation (Jam. 1:2, 13), it would have been easy for James’ brethren to have murmured against God. Third, we are to be slow to wrath. This time, James gives the reason - the wrath of man doesn’t produce the righteousness of God (1:20). In Proverbs, Solomon declared, “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, And a man of wicked intentions is hated” (Prov. 14:17; cf. 14:29; 19:19). In Ecclesiastes, he added, “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, For anger rests in the bosom of fools” (Eccl. 7:9). There is a clear connection between being slow to speak and being slow to wrath. Jesus declared, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire” (Mat. 5:22). Naaman is a good example of one lacking in this area (2 Kings 5:9-12).

With love for their souls, James commanded every one of his readers to be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. These codes of conduct would allow them to fulfill God’s will for them to be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.

A Synopsis of God

Sunday, April 04, 2021

A Synopsis of God (Jam. 1:17-18)

Wade Webster

A synopsis is a brief summary of something. In the first chapter of the epistle that bears his name, James gives us a synopsis of God. He declared, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (Jam. 1:17-18). In these verses, we see the provision, the perfection, and the purpose of God.

First, James spoke of the Provision of God. We read, “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (Jam. 1:17). James uses the word gift. The Greek word translated as gift means “bounty.” It speaks of the abundance of things that God gives. God gives liberally (Jam.1:5). He gives richly (1 Tim. 6:17). He gives more than can be numbered. The psalmist declared, “Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works Which You have done; And Your thoughts toward us Cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, They are more than can be numbered” (Psa. 40:5). Now that we have considered the number of God’s gifts, we should consider the nature of God’s gifts. They are described as good and perfect. Good refers to that which is useful, pleasant, excellent, upright, and honorable. Perfect refers to that which wants or lacks nothing. In the immediate context, James spoke of two good and perfect gifts that God has given - wisdom (Jam. 2:2-5; 3:17) and the word (Jam. 1:18; cf. 2 Pet. 1:3).

Second, James spoke of the Perfection of God. We read, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (Jam.1:17). It should come as no surprise that good and perfect gifts come from a good and perfect God. They come from the Father of lights. They come from the One who gave the lights - the sun, the moon, and the stars to bless our lives. As good as these lights are, God is better. The sun, moon, and stars vary and change. God does not (Heb. 13:8). He isn’t fickle like man (Num. 23:19; 2 Pet. 3:9). He is perfect in all His ways (2 Sam. 22:31; Mt. 5:48). Moses declared, “For I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He” (Deut. 32:3-4).

Third, James spoke of the Purpose of God. We read, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (Jam.1:18). James spoke of the will of God. The Greek word translated as will means purpose. God purposed that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. The firstfruits in the Old Testaments were given to God to honor Him (Exod. 23:19; Prov. 3:9). In like manner, it is God’s will that we present ourselves to Him (Rom. 12:1-2).

In two verses James gives a three-fold synopsis of God. May we thank God for His provision, praise Him for His perfection, and fulfill His purpose by giving ourselves to Him.

The Worship of the Twenty-Four Elders

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Worship of the Twenty-Four Elders

Wade Webster

“The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev. 4:10-11). As we look closely at this passage, we see that they fell down, bowed down, and cast down their crowns.

First, they fell down. We see this action repeatedly by the twenty-four elders in the book (Rev. 5:8-9, 14; 19:4). They are on their knees more than they are on their feet. We could certainly learn from them in this area. I heard a story once about a man climbing a mountain with a guide. As they neared the summit, the guide switched places with the man so that he could have the first view from the summit. As the man reached the summit, he stood up to get a better look. The guide immediately shouted, “On your knees! On your knees! You are only safe here on your knees.” The guide went on to explain to the man that there are strong gusts of wind that blow across the summit. The only safe position is on one’s knees. I think that this is a good reminder for us as we draw near to God in worship(Jam. 4:8, 10).

Second, they bowed down. In addition to falling down, the twenty-four elders worshipped (4:10). As you know, worship is kissing the hand toward God. It is bowing down before a superior. If you are following the progression of the text, then you see that they fell down and then they bowed down or worshipped. They prostrated themselves before God. Again, we would do well to imitate them. In the long ago, the psalmist declared, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Psa. 95:6).

Third, they cast their crowns down. The casting down of the crowns is especially beautiful (4:10). The twenty-four elders were declaring by this action the Lamb’s worthiness to receive glory, honor, and power (4:11; 5:8-9). They cast their crowns of glory down to give glory to Him. Of all of their actions, this may be the hardest for us to follow. It is hard to surrender all. It is hard to cast down our crowns (education, wealth, talents, etc.). Yet, the Lamb is deserving of nothing less than this. We must be willing to give everything that we have to honor Him (Phil. 3:7-11; Mk. 12:41-44).

As we get ready to worship this week, let’s follow the example of the twenty-four elders. Let’s fall down, bow down, and cast down our crowns to honor the Lamb.

The Introduction of Wisdom (Proverbs 1)

Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Introduction Of Wisdom (Proverbs 1)

Wade Webster

When a person thinks of wisdom, they naturally think of Solomon.  Solomon, the wisest man of the Old Testament period, was endowed with wisdom by the all-wise God that he served (I Kings 4:29).  Much of the wisdom that he was given is recorded in the inspired book of Proverbs.  It is in this book, and in the first chapter particularly, that Solomon introduces us to wisdom. 

First, we are introduced to the IMPORTANCE of wisdom (vs. 1-6).  The importance of wisdom is seen in several ways in these opening verses.  (1)  Solomon states that the proverbs were written that man might know wisdom (1:1-2).  Certainly, wisdom must be extremely important for a book to be written to encourage men to know it.  (2)  The importance of wisdom is seen in the words that Solomon uses in connection with it.  He uses such words as "instruction," "understanding," "justice," "judgment," "knowledge," and "discretion," in connection with wisdom.  In the book, Solomon stresses the importance of each of these words.  Of the word "instruction" which is used twice in stressing the importance of wisdom, Solomon said, "Take fast hold of instruction; let [her] not go: keep her; for she [is] thy life" (Prov. 4:13; cf. 10:17; 23:23).  The word "understanding" is also used in connection with wisdom.  In stressing its' importance, Solomon said, "...with all thy getting get understanding" (Prov. 4:7; cf. 16:16, 22; 19:8; 23:23).  Of the words "justice" and "judgment" he said, "To do justice and judgment [is] more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice" (Prov. 21:3).  Likewise, he uses the word "knowledge" to stress the importance of wisdom.  Of knowledge, Solomon said, "Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold" (Prov. 8:10; cf. 24:4, 14).  Of the word "discretion" Solomon said, "Discretion shall preserve thee..." (Prov. 2:11).  Since the importance of each of these words is stressed by Solomon, the importance of wisdom is multiplied because it is used in connection with each of them.  (3)  The importance of wisdom is also seen in the fact that the words "wisdom" and "wise" occur five times in the first six verses.  From the outset of the book, Solomon wants to impress us with the importance of wisdom.   

Second, we are introduced to the INCEPTION of wisdom (vs. 7-19).  Solomon wrote, "The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge: [but] fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Prov. 1:7; cf. 9:10; Psa. 111:10).  Solomon says that wisdom begins with the proper attitude toward God - reverence.  When a man has the proper reverence for God, he is then ready to receive the wisdom that God gives.  Solomon wrote, "The fear of the LORD [is] the instruction of wisdom; and before honour [is] humility" (Prov. 15:33; Job 28:28; Psa. 25:12; 112:1).  It is for this reason that Solomon would later say that the whole duty of man is summed up in fearing God and keeping His commandments (Eccl. 12:13).  In the context of Proverbs 1, Solomon is addressing a young man, possibly, his own son.  Three times he uses the expression, "my son" (1:8, 10, 15) to address the young man, who by reason of age, has not yet reached the level of wisdom that he needs.  No doubt, he is trying to emphasize the importance of fearing God at an early age so that this young man can attain the wisdom that he needs to face the problems of youth.  Often, young people are grown before they possess the wisdom that they needed years before (Eccl. 12:1).  By gaining this wisdom in their youth, they will learn the lessons that their parents are trying to teach them and avoid things that could ruin their lives (Prov. 1:8-19).

Third, we are introduced to the INVITATION of wisdom (vs. 20-33).  In the context, Solomon pictures wisdom as a lovely lady crying out to men (1:20).  Solomon says that she cries "without," "in the streets," "in the chief places of the concourse," "in the opening of the gates," and "in the city"(1:20-21).  These places represent all the areas of society.  The rich and the poor, the small and the great, the servant and the master are all called to seek wisdom.  No man is without a need for her.  She blesses the lives of all those who possess her and follow her.  It is also important to notice that wisdom cries for men to seek her (1:20, 24).  No one is forced to seek wisdom.  Man is left to make the choice.  Sadly, Solomon points out that many men will not seek wisdom although she is calling out to them (Prov. 1:22-25).  Those who reject wisdom have no one to blame but themselves when calamity comes (1:26-32).  However, those who accept wisdom will "dwell safely, and be quiet from fear of evil" (1:33).

In this chapter, we have seen the importance of wisdom, the inception of wisdom, and the invitation of wisdom.  With this understanding of wisdom, we need to ask the Lord for wisdom (Jam. 1:5).

God on His Throne

Saturday, March 13, 2021

God On His Throne

Wade Webster

In the fourth chapter of the book of Revelation, John sees an open door and is invited to come up. When he does as he is invited to do, he sees God on His throne. Five wonderful things stand out about God on His throne - His brightness, His faithfulness, His awesomeness, His holiness, and His worthiness.

First, John saw the brightness of God. We read, “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald” (Rev. 4:2-3). The jasper was a brilliant transparent stone (Rev. 21:1) and the sardius was a brilliant red stone. The two stones represent the transparent brightness of God. You may recall that John had gotten a glimpse of this transparent brightness of God on the Mount of Transfiguration. Matthew recorded, “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light (Mat. 17:1-2). Likely, this is what John had in mind in the opening verses of His first epistle. He wrote, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Did you catch that? In Him there is no darkness at all. In the words of James, there is “no variation or shadow of turning” (Ja m. 1:17). That is transparency. That is brightness. Later, in the book of Revelation John will declare that God is so bright that heaven has no night or need of any other light (Rev. 21:11, 23, 25).

Second, John saw the faithfulness of God. We read, “And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald” (Rev. 4:3). The presence of the rainbow was a reminder of God’s faithfulness. As you remember, God gave the rainbow as a reminder of His promise to never again destroy the world with water. God is faithful (1 Cor. 1:9; 10:13; 2 Cor. 1:18; Rev. 3:14; 22:6). If God says something, He will make it good (Num. 23:19). Not one word of His good promises will fail (1 Kings 8:56).

Third, John saw the awesomeness of God. We read, “And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” (Rev. 4:5). Both the sounds and the sights impressed John with the awesomeness of God. It reminds the Bible student of when God came down upon the mountain and met with Moses (Exod. 19:16). On another occasion, Moses declared, “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe” (Deut. 10:17; cf. Neh. 1:5; 9:32; Psa. 47:2; Psa. 111:9).

Fourth, John saw the holiness of God. We read, “The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever” (Rev. 4:8-9). Please note that the words “Holy, holy, holy” are uttered constantly in heaven. Yet, one might argue that even this is not enough. The triple utterance of holy may honor the three persons of the Godhead. It may also picture God’s perfect holiness. Three is sometimes used this way in Scripture. Repeatedly, the writers of the Bible speak of God’s holiness. For example, the Psalmist declared, “Exalt the LORD our God, And worship at His footstool—He is holy” (Psa. 99:5). In like manner, Peter wrote, “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

Fifth, John saw the worthiness of God. We read, “The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord,To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev. 4:10-11). God is worthy because of who He is. He is worthy because of what He has done (Rev. 5:8-14). In the Psalms, David declared, “I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies” (Psa. 18:3).

As we get ready to worship this week, let’s see what John saw. Let’s see the brightness, faithfulness, awesomeness, holiness, and worthiness of God.

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