October 14, 2012

Scripture and Commentary, Monday - Wednesday, Week of Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

Monday after the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity


Morning - Ps.89:1-19, I Kings21:11-22, James 4:13-5:11
 Evening - Ps 92, Job 28:12, Mt. 16:13

Commentary, James 4:13-5:11

Continuing in the subject of the difference between "doers of the word" and "hearers only," James 4:13-17 shows that hearers only are primarily concerned about money and the comforts and pleasures it can buy.  They are worldly rather than Godly.  James is not talking here about the openly profane, or about those who use questionable tactics in business.  He is talking about people who profess Christ, but whose faith does not move them toward God and Godliness.  These people claim to be Christians, but go through life with little care or thought for God.  Though such people may be very moral, James says their actions are evil (4:16).  In this uncertain world, goods, and even their lives can be taken away from them at any moment (4:14), therefore they should be more concerned about knowing God and seeking Him in all of life, including their business ventures (4:15).  They know this, yet do not practice it, thus, they sin (4:17).

In 5:1-6, James turns to the perils of wealth and the evil into which it has led many people. The point of verses 1-3 is that wealth is easily lost.  Verses 4-6 show what evil men do to obtain and keep wealth. 7-11 call Christians, and those who have been "hearers only" to turn their attention to the Lord, waiting for the promises of God as the farmer waits for the rains and the harvest (5:7-8).  He gives the Old Testament prophets as examples of patient faith, who endured rejection and persecution from their own people, just as Jewish Christians were experiencing in James' time (5:10).  He calls Job to their minds as an example of one who, though suffering grief and poverty, remained faithful to God, thus, possessing the greater wealth of God's love and mercy (5:11).  The point, of course, is that the Jews who were suffering persecution and loss for the sake of Christ also possess wealth that cannot perish, and even death can't steal, through the tender mercy of the Lord.

Tuesday after the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity


Morning - Ps. 90, 1 Kings 22:1-12, James 5:12-20
Evening - Ps. 104, Job 38:1-18, Mt. 17:1-13

Commentary, James 5:12-20

James ends his epistle with several important exhortations.  Swearing, in verse 12 does not refer to "cussing," though cussing is an obviously evil thing.  It refers to attempting to make an oath more valid by swearing in the name of God, Heaven, angels, or holy things which we have no power to bind by our promises. Such "vain and rash swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord Jesus Christ, and James his Apostle" (Articles of Religion XXXIX).  Accordingly we Anglicans ask people in baptism and confirmation to promise, rather than swear, and, rather than asking them to attempt to obligate God or anyone else, we simply ask them to respond with "I will, by God's help."  This answer is yea or nay.  "By God's help" is not an oath in the name of God, but a prayerful confession that the help of God is necessary to enable us to keep our obligation.

Verse 13, though short, gives important directions for much of what happens to us in life.  We are often afflicted.  At such times let us seek God in prayer.  When we are merry, let us sing Psalms to God in our joy.  Thus, in joy or sorrow, we come to God.  Often, even Christians, facing sorrow seek relief in things other than God.  Rather than prayer, and seeking to know the Biblical way to deal with our troubles, we think a vacation or a new toy will cheer us up.  But perhaps the Biblical answer may be to persevere and honour God even in our sorrows.  Likewise, in joy, people often forget about God instead of remembering and thanking Him.

Verses14-16 do not guarantee physical healing every time we get sick.  They do remind us that the prayers of our friends, and, especially, our ministers, are as important in the treatment of illness as the medications and advice of physicians.  We are to call for the minister of the church with as much urgency as we call for the physician.  His prayers, which avail much (5:16), are an important part of the means of our cure.  Our own prayers are also important, and chief among them is the prayer of confession.  This means we are not simply praying that God will heal us so we can go back to business as usual.  We are asking that life in the future will be more Godly.  We are asking not only to be delivered from suffering, but also, even, especially, that we may serve God more fully in the future.

Verses 17 and 18 continue to urge the sick, and all of us, to pray by reminding us that God answers prayer.  If God answered Elijah's prayer to withhold the rain for three years, we may believe He will answer the prayers of those who call upon Him today.

Verses 19 and 20 show that our responsibility for Christian compassion and love requires us to learn and grow from one another.  This includes the sermons, liturgies, and Bible studies of the Church, and also our daily discourse with one another.  Our conversation should be edifying to our hearers, building them up in the faith.  We should also be open to the wisdom of others, who may be able to see things we have overlooked.  This does not mean we are to become busy bodies, looking for faults in others and imposing our advice on them.  Remember James' earlier warning to be swift to hear and slow to speak.  It means that our actions and conversation should be helpful to others by pointing them toward Christ, His Word, and His Church.  If God in His grace uses you to help turn someone from error or sin, rejoice, for God has saved a soul from death and forgiven a multitude of sins.

Wednesday after the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity


Morning - Ps. 94, 1 Kings 22:13-28, 1Timothy 1:1-11
Evening - Ps. 113, 114, Job 38:19-30, Mt. 17:14

Commentary, 1Timothy 1:1-11

This morning's reading begins the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy.  As Paul wrote this letter he was in Macedonia, having been released from house arrest in Rome.  Timothy was in Ephesus overseeing the Church in that city and the surrounding area, especially the ministers, some of whom had begun to teach things contrary to the Gospel (1:3-4, 7).  Their attempts to teach the law, whether by intention or merely ignorance, had led some of the ministers into error.  So Timothy's task is to charge them to teach no other doctrine but the Gospel (1:3 & 4).  The "commandment" of verse 5 is not the Old Testament law.  It is the charge Timothy is to give to the ministers.  The end (goal) of this charge is love from a pure heart and good conscience.  This means it is real Christian charity, not phony or of mixed motives. A good conscience means to be able to say or do something without their consciences convicting them. The Christian minister should be able to say, without his conscience convicting him otherwise, that he loves God and His Church. Not just "The Church" but his own congregation and every member of it.  The same is true of every member of the congregation.  All should be able to say they love each other. A minister who loves his church will preach the truth to them.  He will lead them into the means of grace and the life of Godliness. A congregation that loves its minister will gladly receive his ministry to them and will ensure that they are present for his sermons and other ministries (1 Thess. 5:12 & 13). If someone is unable to say he is doing this, without his conscience convicting him otherwise, it is his duty to change his own attitude and heart. 
The Ephesian ministers attempting to teach the Old Testament law do not understand what they are saying.  Their teaching does not lead people to Christ; it binds them with burdens.  So Paul gives some instruction about the law.  Obviously Timothy already knew this, and Paul probably put it in the letter so the ministers could see it and know that the things Timothy was saying were from Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment (authority and decree) of God (1:1).  The point of these verses is that the law of God was not given for theologians to debate and discuss how far a person can walk on the Sabbath.  It was given to direct people into the way of God and to show us the things we ought to be doing.  In this sense, it is for the disobedient and ungodly (1:9 & 10).  It is for those who are doing anything that is contrary to sound doctrine in accordance with the Gospel, which was committed to Paul by God (1:11).   To such people the law is a warning that they are not living according to the will of God.  Thus the law gives sinners (all have sinned, Rom. 3:23) an opportunity to repent and seek God's forgiveness in Christ.  The point of the law is to lead us to Christ.

1 comment:

  1. It is often said that Christianity is a relationship with Jesus. What is not often said is that this relationship is accomplished primarily through the everyday life of quiet holiness. We relate to Christ through the ordinary means of Bible reading, public and private worship, and a conscious application of our energies to Godliness of life. - Well said and Thank you Bishop Dennis.