THE EPISTLE OF JAMES: Chapter 5 Warning to the Rich

REASONABLE FAITH Why Me_ THE BOOK OF JAMES

Misuse of Riches

James 5:1-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

  1Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.[1] You have lived on the earth in luxury and in sensual indulgence. You have fattened[2] your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, and you have murdered[3] the righteous one; he does not resist you.

Come now, you rich, weep and howl (5:1a)

James is calling for the rich to take heed of what follows.  In the above passage, James singles out the rich saying you rich weep and howl, in their need for urgency to take heed to his words. This is not because the rich are more sinful than others are. However, the rich have the greater temptation to let their earthly riches surpass their need for the incredible riches in Christ. The rich have more of a tendency to perceive that they have no need for God but can depend on the security of their wealth. James is warning them that they need to not be overly concerned about their riches in light of what is about to happen to them.

James has already talked about the emotions of weeping and mourning in connection with repentance in chapter four. Now again, James uses these terms for the rich man as a means to say that they too need to repent due to what is about to happen to their riches that cannot save them. James tells them to take heed of the fact that they are to weep and to howl. The word here that James uses for weep means to wail and lament and is not just the shedding of tears but an outward expression of grief as if wailing over someone who has died. James also says the word howl means to shriek. The word also means to cry aloud as if one would cry aloud to a god. James adds that the reasoning for the weeping and howling is for the miseries that are about to come upon them.

for your miseries which are coming upon you. (5:1b)

James here now gives the reason as to why he writes to these rich that they were to weep and mourn for their miseries that were going to come upon them. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, James gives a great warning for these rich to repent because of the soon coming devastation upon their city. The rich with all their wealth and luxuries were thinking that they were secure with no fears. They felt that they could hide behind their wealth, and since they lived in the Great City of God in Jerusalem, nothing would ever happen to them. They feared little because their riches appeared to protect them from the difficulties of daily life.

However, they would find that the words of James would come true when the Roman army under the leadership of General Titus came into the city of Jerusalem and destroyed it. James wrote his book most likely about 62 C.E.

James wrote the letter to “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.”[4]  (1:1) James is addressing the letter to his spiritual brothers, who should have been ‘holding their faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.’ (2:1; 5:7) In other words, he was writing to Christian congregations that were outside of Palestine. Much of the counsel offered throughout the letter comes from the Hebrew Scriptures, which does not necessarily mean the letter was meant for Jewish Christians alone. He made a reference to Abraham as being “our father,” similar to Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28-29, where Paul makes it clear that the true seed of Abraham is not determined by whether one is a Jew or a Greek. Therefore, James is addressing the “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:15-16), i.e., spiritual Israel, not some natural Israel.

Two years after James wrote his letter, the Christians living in Rome would receive the blame by Roman Emperor Nero for burning down much of Rome in 64 C.E., and a great persecution of Christians throughout the empire would be underway. Just six years later, in 70 C.E., the Roman General Titus would destroy the city of Jerusalem and devastate the land of Judah. Over 1,100,00 Jews would be slaughtered, with an additional 97,000 being taken captive, many going into slavery in Egypt and others to Rome to be killed by beasts in the theaters. Therefore, obeying the counsel in the whole of James’ letter was paramount, but especially those who felt their wealth would protect them from the coming persecution. For example, the Roman General Cestius Gallus had come to Jerusalem in 66 C.E. to quash an uprising. He surrounded the city with Roman troops and was on the verge of taking it when he pulled away for some unknown reason. This left an open window for the Christians to recall Jesus’ words and act. (Matt 24:1-2; Lu 21:20-22) If the rich hesitated over their wealth, they would be there when Titus came back in 70 C.E. Yes, they need to flee the city, if lives were to be saved, even if it meant leaving possessions behind.

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Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. (5:2-3)

Items that could make one wealthy or appear wealthy in James’ day were food (Luke 12:18; Joel 2:19), expensive clothing, and precious metals (Acts 20:33). The point that James is making here is not that riches are perishable, which would be true had that been his point. Rather, his point is that in the end, they are worthless when set beside what God has offered his servants. Is there any amount of money that can buy perfection or eternal life? – Proverbs 11:28.

Expensive clothing was evidence of one’s riches, or like today was a means of trying to appear wealthy. In James’ day, the wealthy could have hundreds or even thousands of expensive garments, many of which had already suffered an attack by moths. Such high numbers were not for personal use alone but were for banquets. Other wealthy and powerful guests would be offered these expensive garments during certain gatherings. – Matthew 22:11; see Matthew 6:19.

Actually, gold and silver cannot rust, so James is figuratively saying that gold and silver are as worthless as something that has rusted. What do we do with something that is completely rusted through? We throw it in the garbage. These ones had placed all of their hopes in wealth as opposed to placing their hopes in God up unto the last days. Now, these ones wealth were witnesses against them before God, condemning them.

Jesus came to offer all repentant ones an opportunity to act on the good news of the kingdom, by evidencing trust in his ransom sacrifice. (Matt. 20:28; John 3:16) Speaking to the philosophers at Athens, Paul said, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30) Just two years after James’ letter, Christians suffered under the persecution of the Roman Emperor Nero in 64 C.E. while the Roman General Titus in 70 C.E. decimated Jerusalem and Judea. When we have no idea of the day and the hour of Jesus’ return, which should not be our motivating factor anyway, we should not have wealth as the primary factor in our life. We should not store up and rely on our riches to save the day, as they will only serve as a witness against us, bringing the fire of God’s anger.  (Isaiah 30:27) It should be noted that wealth is not the enemy, but rather it is the love of wealth, the pursuit of wealth, the reliance upon wealth, over our trust in God.

Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, (5:4a)

Here is the real crime, as it is not as if the wealthy had earned their riches through wise business practices, but rather had done so by fraudulently withholding to from their workers. Think of those earning minimum wages today, because they are living from one paycheck to the next, and to have just one withheld could cause their entire world to crumble. In ancient times, the laborer was paid at the end of each day, and the wages were barely enough for food and housing to get through the next day. Therefore, to withhold his pay was one of the greatest crimes that one could commit, literally life and death. (Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:14–15; Jer. 22:13) Both Jesus and Paul made it very clear that “the laborer deserves his wages.” (Lu 10:7; Rom. 4:4; 1 Tim. 5:18) This stolen money of the wealthy is worthless in the end, as it will only serve as a witness to their crimes before God. – See Malachi 3:5.

and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of the Sabaoth. (5:4b)

These workers, whether servants of God or not, are crying out over their miscarriage of just. Jesus heard the cries of the harvesters and came to the aid of the oppressed, as it is he does not forget, and when he returns all will be held accountable. The Mosaic Law stated, “You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the Lord, and you be guilty of sin.” (Deut. 24:14-15) The Almighty will not let the injustices of the wicked go unanswered forever. The day is coming, when the lovers of money will be held accountable for their wrongs. (See Genesis 18:20) Into what great danger the ones who have deprived the day workers of their money by dishonest means find themselves!

You have lived on the earth in luxury and in sensual indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. (5:5)

These wealthy ones have failed to treat their workers justly, let alone helping the downtrodden; rather they have lived on the earth in luxury and in sensual indulgence.  These ones were living sensual and indulgent lives, who have unnecessary excesses that evidenced no regard for those they had to take from to live such a life. The mindset of these ones was enveloped in the fleshly living as opposed to a spiritual life. The apostle Paul also showed where such a lifestyle would lead when talking of widows, “she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.” A person with this mindset and who seeks his own self-gratification over and other will eventually lead to immorality as well. This is not just sexual but includes many things that are contrary to accepted moral principles (See 2 Timothy 3:2-6) For example, one who is focused only on his sensual indulgences could commit acts of cruelty, persecution, and brutality to gain and retain riches to continue one’s luxurious lifestyle.

You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter, describes taking in enormous amounts of something with no regard, not even considering there will be a day of slaughter that awaits them. In ancient times, fatness was actually considered a positive quality because it was a sign of wealth, as it meant that the person had enough money to eat enough to be fat. When fattening a pig, we know that it will eat both meat and vegetables. It will consume anything, including bones, fish heads, and table scraps.[5] Think of the parallel, the pig gorges himself not knowing that there is a day of slaughter at the end of all of his self-indulgence. One would think that the wealthy would have used the intelligence that made them rich to see that things were not going to end well, but they acted like senseless, oblivious animals. While they lived out this luxurious lifestyle, the day of slaughter (divine judgment) was watching, waiting and would soon condemn them for their evil ways.

You have condemned, and you have murdered the righteous one; he does not resist you. (5:6)

     The rich have condemned and have murdered the righteous one. The word that James uses here for condemn is a legal term, which means to bring an accusation against another. The righteous man that the rich were putting to death was the Christians; they were refusing to pay though he does not resist you. They were killing innocent Christians in the fact that they were causing great devastation in the lives of the believers by not giving them their pay. James had already mentioned earlier in his letter that the rich were dragging them into the courts. The rich would have had the ability with their finances to be able to try to condemn these Christians. The rich were coming against Christians that were not even resisting them in the first place and had no ground for their behavior against them. The fact that these poor Christians did not retaliate against these landowners could be due to the application of the Lords commands in Matthew 5:38-39.

At times, the life of the righteous one’s may have appeared to be in vain because they walked a life of one difficulty after another, while the rich were just getting richer. (Psalm 73) However, this just was not the case, nor is it today. Yes, for a time, the rich who attained their wealth through dishonest gain seem to have it all. In addition, until the poor Christian can come to appreciate that drawing near to God was in his best interests, the potential of envy setting in is possible. It can get to the point where the worshiper begins to doubt the value of worshiping God. However, if he would just ponder for a moment, he would realize that devotion to God is the only way to eternal happiness, as opposed to immediate gratification. He will come to realize that God hates the evil far more than he ever could, and in due time, the wicked will be punished. In fact, it is the life of suffering that this righteous one had to go through that will serve as a witness against the evil one.

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Persecution of Disciples Predicted

Mark 13:9-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings [and the wealthy] for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.

James 5:7-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

 7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts,[6] for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example, brothers, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance[7] of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. (5:7a)

   In review, James laid out a case against the evil rich over the righteous poor:

  • collecting and storing large amounts of food or money for their future use, which could have been used to help the poor,
  • withholding the wages of workers, which they needed to survive from day to day,
  • living in luxury and in sensual indulgence, while
  • condemning and murdering the righteous one.

Now James turns his attention to the burdened Christians, to reassure them that their long-suffering spirit will not be in vain. He encourages them not to become envious, irritated, resentful, or to tire out, but rather to be steadfast in their carrying out the will of God. James urges the brothers to be patient in the face of these adversities as well as whatever else this imperfect world has to offer, until the coming of the Lord. Of course, looking back, those first century Christians would die before the second coming of Christ. Nevertheless, a lifetime of patience and endurance in a righteous standing before God would get them written in the book of remembrance, i.e., the book of life. (Ex. 32:32; Mal. 3:16; Phil 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 20:15) In the end, they will receive “the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” – John 5:28-29.

See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. (5:7b)

Zondervan Bible Background writes, “In Palestine, the growth of crops was particularly dependent on the rain that came in late autumn and early spring. Note, for example, Deuteronomy 11:14, where God, in response to his people’s obedience, promises: ‘Then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine, and oil.’ Every passage in which the language of “early and late rains” appears in the Old Testament affirms God’s faithfulness to his people. James’s readers may well have detected an “echo” of this faithfulness theme in the illustration here.” (Arnold 2002, p. 116) The farmer cannot control the weather, or how his plants will turn out, but he is very familiar with the different seasons and how they progress. The farmer knows that it is God, who set in motion, the components of weather, seasons, seeds, soil and so on, and the day of harvest will come when it comes. Therefore, while he highly anticipates the harvest, which brings life-sustaining food for his family, he must patiently await the day.

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You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (5:8)

Regardless of what takes place in a world that is ruled by imperfect humans that are alienated from God and are under the control of Satan, Christians should never lose their trust in Christ. To the contrary, we need to ‘be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in us.’ (1 Pet. 3:15) Not only are we sure that relief from sin, suffering, old age and death will come, but that there will be an accounting for all. (Rom. 9:28; Matt. 16:27) Even if they have passed on to death, God will remember their lifetime of patient endurance. James was writing to some, who needed to get back on track spiritually, as they were not acting as ones who have implicit trust in Jesus Christ. For example, some had allowed bad desires to creep into their hearts. They needed to be patient and prayerful.

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. (5:9)

Zondervan Bible Background writes, “The word “grumble” translates a word (stenazō) that often connotes the frustration of God’s people at the oppression that they are suffering. Exodus 2:23 is a classic example: ‘During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.’ James, of course, here prohibits believers from grumbling against each other. But his use of this word may hint at the fact that their impatience with one another is the product of the persecution they are enduring.” (Arnold 2002, p. 117)

Christians are advised to not grumble against one another. The Greek word (stenazō) implies inner sighing or groaning, as opposed to openly complaining against another. Earlier in the letter, James dealt with brothers that were openly speaking against and judging others in the congregation. In this instance, he is getting at the feeling behind those outward complaining judgments, which can ruin relationships; even those not directly involved causing a rift within the congregation. Consider that the one grumbling internally has close friends and the one those grumbles are directed against has close friends as well. Thus, friends tend to side with friends.

Within the congregation, someone is bound to let us down, maybe even numerous times, which can move us toward sighing or groaning internally, as he or she failed to live up to our expectations. Thus, James is letting the brothers know that we live in imperfect flesh, within a fallen humanity, having Satan cater to our human weaknesses, all the while being mentally bent toward bad. In other words, Christians who are aware of these conditions need to make allowances for one another. (See Gal. 6:10) Instead of sighing or groaning over perceived slights against us, we get back to the need of being patient until the coming of the Lord. (5:7) In fact, if they carry on in sighing or groaning against their brother, it is they that will be guilty before the judgment seat of God, as he can read their heart, the seat of motivation. We should be cautious here because it is not sighing or groaning themselves that is being condemned because Jesus did so. (Mark 7:34) Rather, sighing or groaning that comes about from a wrong inner attitude toward one’s brother.

When James says, behold, the Judge is standing at the door, he is inferring that the second coming of Jesus is near. For example, Jesus said about the end of this wicked age, “so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” (Mark 13:29, NASB) Thus, if James were warning the first century Christians about the nearness of the second coming of Christ, should not the Christians of the 21st century be even more concerned. As Edward Andrews has written elsewhere, ‘we need to live as though Jesus is returning tomorrow, but plan as though it is fifty years from now.’ In other words, we maintain our righteous standing before God, because the second coming could come at any time, but we plan a long life of carrying out his will and purposes. However, let it be said that we do not maintain a righteous standing for fear of a return at any time, but because it is the right thing to do. We must certainly not let our desire for relief through Jesus’ return slowly give way to a lack of patience, resulting in feeling displeasure concerning our Christian brothers. Though we do not complain outwardly, the sighing and groaning of the inner person can condemn him.

As an example, brothers, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (5:10)

Being moved along by Holy Spirit, the prophets of the Old Testament were the mouth of God as what they spoke was directly from God himself. James wants these brothers to recall the difficult times that some of these prophets had to endure patiently. These prophets lived through the savage Assyrian and Babylonian Empires, but also wicked rulers from their people, who were known to kill prophets with a message they did not like. God’s prophets were about faith and endurance. In other words, these men from old have successfully faced what James’ readers were facing and what we have to face. Jeremiah, for example, suffered all kinds of afflictions but faithfully and patiently continued to serve as God’s prophet. (Jer. 20:8-11) Just before being martyred by the Jewish religious leaders, Stephen said, “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” – Acts 7:52.

These faithful prophets on occasion felt disheartened, confounded at why this or that was not happening. Some, like Habakkuk, went to God in prayers, asking him why he continued to allow these rich, powerful men and corrupt kings to rule. In all of this, they by no means abandoned their path of endurance in favor of sighing and groaning against God or their fellow brothers. Rather, they tried to use their office as God’s spokesmen to lovingly help those who were persecuting them. For example, Jeremiah warned, “They will not give you over. Please obey Jehovah in what I am saying to you, that it may go well with you and you may live.” – Jeremiah 38:20

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We count those blessed who endured. (5:11a)

Certainly, anyone who has endured in the face of serious trials has the blessing of God. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12) The brothers should be comforted by past examples of those who have faithfully endured as well as by Jesus’ words. It should enable them to walk faithfully through their own hardships, serving God with patience. If we can see in our heart the blessing of serving faithfully, we can be comforted as well.

You have heard of the endurance of Job (5:11b)

This is the only place in the New Testament Job is mentioned. If we have had an opportunity to read the book of Job, we might be thinking that Job is a bad example of patient endurance, as he complained to God quite a bit. However, the endurance James had in mind is one of a hero to the faith, one who faithfully survived the greatest trial when Satan had complete access to him. In this case, Job is an exceptional example of courageous endurance, especially in the fact that he was not even an Israelite. Moreover, the book of Job itself is a major part of the answer as to why God has allowed sin to enter into the world, placing mankind into an object lesson. – Job 1:7-22; 2:6-10

and have seen the outcome of the Lord, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. (5:11c)

After God had allowed Job to go through extreme difficulties and to suffer at the hands of Satan, with Job evidencing that he could patiently endure anything, he was rewarded for his loyalty. Job now had a better understanding of God’s will and purposes. He could now see God’s sovereignty, holiness, power, love, justice, faithfulness, righteousness, mercifulness, and wisdom. (Job 40:6-14; 42:2) Also, God stated his approval of Job before the three false comforters, who were supposed to be his friends. God made the reproved friends pray for Job. (Job 42:7, 8) Job had his health restored, and his life was extended another 140 years, during which he had another ten children and doubling his material possessions. (Job 42:10-17) Moreover, the respect, dignity and good name that Job had possessed before was now restored. Job became the symbol of righteousness. He and his family will receive a resurrection. – Job 14:13-15.

Because Job did not fully understand why God would allow him to go through these trials, he allowed wrong conclusions to come into his thinking. However, he remained faithful to God, unwaveringly rejecting any idea of denying God or accusing him of being unrighteous. (Job 1:21, 22; 2:9, 10) The way God dealt with Job throughout evidenced his great attributes of compassion and mercy. (Ex. 34:6; Ps. 103:8) In the end, Job repented over the mistaken things that he said during his conversation with the false comforters. – Job 42:1-7.

This should have brought comfort to James’ readers and should do so for Christians today, as God will be faithful to those who are faithful to him. We simply need to endure with patience and keep our inner thinking clean and firmly fixed on the coming of the Lord. We can know with certainty that God will walk with us through this evil age in which we live, helping us to be faithful to the end, just as he had done with the faithful men of old. – Micah 7:18-19.

James 5:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no,[8] so that you may not fall under judgment.

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under judgment. (5:12)

James likely had the words of Jesus in mind,

Matthew 5:33-37 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’[9] 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool of his feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’; anything more than this is from the wicked one.

Douglas J. Moo writes, “When James says Do not swear, it is not coarse or vulgar speech he prohibits but invoking God’s name to guarantee the reliability of what a person says.”[10] When James says, “above all,” he is not suggesting that refraining from swearing is the most important thing of all. He simply meant that aside from anything else they were doing, they should not be swearing. As swearing would be a misuse of the tongue that would result in more sinning, by using unproductive and worthless words. Likely, too, he was suggesting that it was worse than grumbling against one another. James is not referring to oaths that would be required of witnesses in a court of law, or at times when dealing with a very significant or severe nature.

The reason both James and Jesus spoke of swearing by “heaven and earth” specifically is, that the Pharisees had no problem swearing by anything except God. When Jesus covered this issue, he was clear that to swear by the things that God created is worthless, and worse still; it is displeasing to God. Swearing by such things was simply a pretense or convenience, avoiding the use of God’s name in a worthless way. The person swearing on insignificant things was simply trying to make his words carry more weight than they did. Kistemaker and Hendriksen write, “The people knew the commandment, ‘You shall not misuse the name of [Jehovah][11] your God, for [Jehovah] will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name’ (Exod. 20:7; Deut. 5:11, [ASV]). To remain guiltless, the Jews had made a distinction between binding and nonbinding oaths. Instead of using the divine name (which would be binding), they swore: “by heaven or by earth or by anything else.” In their opinion, that would be nonbinding and would not incur the wrath of God.[12] Both Jesus and James denounce this practice; the intention of appealing to God remains the same, even though one pretends to avoid using God’s name.[13] Persons, who are always saying, “I swear by …” are only evidencing that they are impulsive, unsteady and undependable persons. – Matthew 23:16-22.

When James says that we should let our “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, he is referring to forthright, straight, simple and certain answers. If our word has always been one that can be trusted there is no need to go through extra steps to be convincing, or impressive, or to come off as being honest because everyone knows that our “yes” is yes and our “no” is no. If we cannot be trusted to be honest and forthright in oaths or vows that do not involve God, how are we to be taken seriously when our word does involve God? If we are constantly invoking God, “I swear to God,” in every little thing that we say, we come off as a person that cannot be trusted, and why would anyone want to be involved in a religion of a person that cannot be trusted, meaning our witnessing about Christ would be impeded.

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Helping Through Prayer and Forgiveness

James 5:13-18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.[14] 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick,[15] and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The supplication[16] of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. (5:13a)

We may recall back in chapter 5 verse 10, James wrote, “As an example, brothers, of suffering and patience, take the prophets.” He may have had the prophets in mind here just three verses later. Recall too that Paul told Timothy, “you, be sober-minded in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Tim. 4:5) No affliction should discourage any Christian. If ever, we are discouraged, it is our irrational worldly thinking because we have set aside our biblical mindset, the mind of Christ. We need to know that it is the sin of Adam, which has brought us suffering, not God. We need to know that it is inherited sin, missing the mark of perfection, human weaknesses, being mentally bent toward evil, having a deceitful heart, having a natural desire toward wrong, and an imperfect world run by Satan that causes us any suffering. We need to know that in the end, God wins, so we win. (Rom. 8:28) We simply need to draw close to God, and the God of comfort will draw close to us. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; James 4:8.

If we were to look to the faithful biblical persons and our primary example Jesus Christ, we see that it is prayer, talking with the Father over the challenging decisions we must make, the difficulties that this life of imperfection throws at us, which gets us through the suffering. (Luke 6:12-13) The night before his death, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed with loud cries and tears to the Father. Peter informed his readers that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” (1 Pet. 3:12) The apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Rom. 12:12) No matter the circumstance, praying is always available, and we know that Jesus will entreat the Father on our behalf. Jesus tells us, “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf;  ‎for the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26-27) Paul wrote, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  ‎Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16

Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. (5:13b)

James now goes from how one who suffers, to asking is any cheerful? James has just stated that the response to the one suffering is to pray. Here now James expresses that the response to the one who is cheerful is that he should sing praise. At times, we are quick to pray in the midst of our sufferings but so slow to praise the Father when the outcome is good.  In addition, at times, we are quick to pray for God to deliver us out of our situations but so slow to thank him when we are delivered. We see a great example of singing praises to God for the trials that he has brought them through in the writings of David in the Psalms. When David was close to being killed by Saul and God spared him, he writes

 Psalm 40:1-3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1 I waited patiently for Jehovah;
and he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction,
out of the miry clay,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and trust in Jehovah.

 The psalms are full of David’s praises to God for all the sufferings God had sustained him through during the course of his life. To sing praises to God is a reflection of the gratitude of the heart for what God has done or gives, which creates the joy within the heart. Paul wrote, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Col. 3:15-17) Similar words were echoed by Paul, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Ephesians 5:19-20

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, (5:14a)

James has covered the subject of how all Christians undergo evil in a general sense, because of inherited sin, human weaknesses and the world ruled by Satan. Now, he turns his attention to what has resulted and can result from having to deal with a bombardment of suffering through the evils of this fallen world, i.e., spiritual weakness or sickness. Almost all modern commentaries believe James is talking about physical sickness. However, Christian Publishing House does not, and it should be noted that the majority does not equal correct, as history has shown many times over that the majority can be wrong. It is the evidence that determines what is correct. We are in agreement with an older commentary, by a noted Bible scholar,

Here is the culminating point of the question whether the language of James is to be uniformly taken in a literal sense, or whether it uniformly bears a figurative character. The literal construction involves these surprising moments: 1. The calling for the presbyters of the congregation in the Plural; 2. the general direction concerning their prayer accompanying unction with oil; 3. and especially the confident promise that the prayer of faith shall restore the sick apart from his restoration being connected with the forgiveness of his sins. Was the Apostle warranted to promise bodily recovery in every case in which a sick individual complied with his directions? This misgiving urges us to adopt the symbolical construction of the passage, which would be as follows: if any man as a Christian has been hurt or become sick in his Christianity, let him seek healing from the presbyters, the kernel of the congregation. Let these pray with and for him and anoint him with the oil of the Spirit; such a course wherever taken, will surely restore him and his transgressions will be forgiven him.[17]

The spiritual sickness spoken of by James can be a direct result of the continued suffering of evil, i.e., his not understanding why God has allowed evil. Or, it may be a result of his human weaknesses in that he has committed some serious sin, or is living in sin, which has him distraught to the point he feels his unrighteous condition prevents his prayers from being heard by God (Pro. 15:29; 28:9), and has sought the righteous prayers of the elders. Then again, he might have drifted away from the faith to an extent (Heb. 2:1), or he may have developed an unbelieving heart, leading him to fall away from the living God. (Heb. 3:12-13) Then again, maybe he has become sluggish in his Christian walk. (Heb. 6:12) Maybe he has endured hostility from sinners so that he has grown weary or fainthearted. (Heb. 12:3) Moreover, some had grown weary of doing good, living in miserable, wretched, hopeless poverty, while those doing bad, lived in wealth. (Gal. (6:9) It is also true that prolonged anguish can bring about physical sicknesses as well. No one, who has suffered spiritual weaknesses should be ashamed to seek out the congregation elders, as they will be able to strengthen and fortify him with biblical counseling and prayer so that there will be no future irrational thinking, which can lead to wrongdoing.

Acts 20:28 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

28 Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son.

and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (5:14b)

The father does not hear the prayers of the wicked, but he does the prayer of the righteous one. (Pro. 15:29) The loving biblical counsel and prayers from the elders (the righteous), would be like calming oil, alleviating the fears and quieting the doubts of the spiritually weak one, enabling him to feel at peace (cheerful even), in that, God is hearing the prayers. (Ps. 23:5; Jer. 8:22) The “word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) Scripture can be likened to the rubbing in of soothing oils. (Isa. 61:3) The soothing heartfelt voice of the elder as he prays to the Father will enable this weakened one to draw close to God once more. He can feel a relief of the weight he has been carrying lifted off his shoulders. He will come to realize that “Jehovah [i.e., the Father] is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18, UASV.

This meeting with the elders would not be a onetime deal, as the weakened one would be helped over time so he could make a full recovery. This would include assigning someone to shepherd him in making a full spiritual recovery. This could include rides to meetings, visiting his home once a week, and so on. The one shepherding would do so in a biblical manner and would not depend on the wisdom of this fallen world, which is foolishness to God, but rather on the Word of God. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (5:15)

Here is another reason to believe that we are talking about spiritual sickness or weakness over against the idea of physical sickness. This verse is an absolute guarantee that if the conditions are met, he will be restored. If it was physical, there could be no such guarantee, as God only miraculously heals those who have a role to play in his will and purposes. We all know of thousands that had tremendous faith, even the apostle Paul, and they still did not receive a physical healing. However, there can be an absolute guarantee when it comes to spiritual weaknesses. If a person receives prayers of faith from the elders and counsel from the Word of God, that they then apply, they can fully recover spiritually. The apostle John said, “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) What we have here is the fact that it must be according to God’s will and purposes, and we only have the promise that he hears us, not that he will act on it. However, if it is a spiritual weakness, God will bless anyone that comes to him in faith and with a repentant heart.

Jesus said, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matt. 21:22) Jesus also promised, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14) We will get what we ask for if it is according to God’s will and purposes.

Philippians 4:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 I can do all things through[18] him who strengthens me.

Bible scholar J. Vernon McGee writes:

Whatever Christ has for you to do, He will supply the power. Whatever gift He gives you, He will give the power to exercise that gift. A gift is a manifestation of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer. As long as you function in Christ, you will have power. He certainly does not mean that he is putting into your hand unlimited power to do anything you want to do. Rather, He will give you the enablement to do all things in the context of His will for you (McGee, Thru the Bible, V:327–8).

Matthew 6:30-34 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the nations eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

Keep Seeking Kingdom First

33 But be you seeking[19] the Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own wickedness.

Have not faithful Christians gone hungry, even starved to death? Do not tens of thousands of Christian Children go to bed hungry every night around the world? Do not many Christian homes in this world lack water? Do not many thousands of Christian families live in rundown homes, having only dirty clothes and in some cases not even having shoes?

Let us also add that “the prayer of faith” alone by the elders is not going to help one recover their spiritual health. The spiritually weak one will have to evidence faith in the elder’s words and the wise counsel from the Word of God. Therefore, if one is to recover spiritually, the following conditions must be met:

  • “the prayer of faith” must be by elders
  • According to God’s will and purposes
  • In Jesus name
  • The elders must offer comfort and guidance from God’s Word
  • The spiritually weak one must trust in the words of the elder and Scripture, acting on both

How do serious spiritual weaknesses come about? Generally, it is by irrational thinking or some behavior that had deteriorated. It can be a minor sin, which has gone on to become a serious sin, like flirting that leads to fornication. It can be a person, who is practicing some sin, which he alone has been unable to get control over, like pornography. Living with a secret sin can be so weighty that it causes one to stumble out of the faith. Then, there are those that allow doubts about their faith, God, or the Bible to grow to the point that they fall away from the faith into apostasy, or simply just abandon the faith. Once the weight has gotten so heavy, this one does not feel worthy of approaching God in prayer, because he believes he is beyond repentance. Thus, the loving prayers from an elder combined with corrective counsel from God’s Word will calm his spirit.

Once the elders have some idea of the depth of what lead to this spiritual sickness, they can apply Bible counsel like soothing oils. Even if the spiritually weak one has committed some very serious sin (like David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, her husband), the elders can show him how God views the matter and Scripture on how he can make a recovery. This would come from the elders as a reproof for correction and for training in righteousness of the sick one. On this point, David wrote, “Let a righteous man strike me, it is a kindness; let him rebuke me, it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” God will look approvingly upon such a humble person, who is able to bring his sins to another, as well as the prayers of the righteous elders. He will be willing to remove his sins as though they never were and call them to mind no more.

Psalm 6:2-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Show me favor, Jehovah, for I am growing weak;
heal me, Jehovah, for my bones are shaking.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O Jehovah—how long?

Turn, O Jehovah, deliver my soul;
save me for the sake of your loyal love.

THE POWER OF GOD Let God Use You to Solve Your PROBLEMS PROMISES OF GODS GUIDANCE

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. (5:16a)

There is nothing in the verse, which would suggest that the spiritually weak one must confess his sin to the entire congregation to have them pray for him. “Confess your sins to one another” is speaking of person to person. If one has committed a wrong against another in the congregation, they may be moved to confess that wrongdoing, asking for forgiveness, and they may pray together. Then, again, it might be the one who was wronged, who goes to the one who wronged him, and the sin is confessed, followed by prayer. On the other hand, the wronged one may take a spiritually mature person along with him, maybe an elder. There is the possibility that a person who has sinned or is practicing sin may simply seek a spiritually mature one, to talk with about his sin, which ends in prayer. The Christian congregation should be a family-like atmosphere, where we can feel comfortable sharing our difficulties with others, knowing we will get comforting, even corrective advice and prayer.

If this sinner thought that the result is that they would be exposed to the whole congregation for something they are ashamed of and have not had any control over, this would be a deterrent from coming forward. On the other hand, knowing that the elders would keep one’s transgressions in confidence while helping him overcome his weaknesses, this would encourage him to contact the elders. Again, in looking at the expression “one another,” this is not suggesting that we air out our sins before the whole congregation, but rather that we all are sinners and none are exempt from having to seek help from others. Even the spiritually mature one, who has been sought out by someone who has sinned, they too one day may need to go to another. The beauty is in the fact that if we confess our sins to one another, it will serve as a protection from our continuing to sin because someone is now aware of our secret.

Lastly, when we think of “confessing” our sin, it should not be thought of as though it were a confessional, where congregation members regularly come in and confess their sins, attaining some kind of absolution. Again, the elders are not the only ones where a person can go to confess their sins.[20] Nevertheless, the one being sought out to hear the sins should be a spiritually mature one, because along with the confession comes a prayer and counsel from God’s Word. For example, a younger sister may seek the help of an older sister in the congregation. (Titus 2:3-5) Therefore, the one being sought for help is not limited but should be qualified to offer the level of help being sought. That person needs to be able to offer the healing help of prayer because the one seeking help has such a troubled conscience; he is unable to go to God in prayer. Just as the continued distress and anxiety of his sin could have caused physical sickness, the words and prayer of the one sought for help can just as easily remove the physical sickness once the tension is gone.

The supplication of a righteous man can accomplish much. (5:16b)

James is strongly advocating intercessory prayers for others, i.e., praying for one another. The apostle Paul encourages supplicatory prayers for others. He says, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1 Tim. 2:1) Paul exhorted the Thessalonica congregation, “brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you.” Paul urged the Colossian congregation, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison, that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” (Col. 4:2-4) Here James speaks of “a righteous man,” meaning anyone whom God counted as righteous because he has trusted in Jesus Christ and is living a life reflective of the Word of God.

Prayer is part of our worship. Prayer is very powerful because we have access to the Almighty at any time of the day. If a person has a righteous standing before God, he will have his prayers heard. The apostle Peter wrote, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” (1 Pet. 3:12) The apostle John helps to understand the effectiveness of our prayers. He wrote, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” Regarding praying on behalf of others, John continued, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life, to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.” (1 John 5:15-16) In other words, we would not pray for one that has committed sin that leads to death. Jesus also spoke of sin that “will not be forgiven,” that is, “blasphemy against the Spirit.” – Matthew 12:31-32

Only Jesus can judge if one has committed the unforgivable sin, so we should show loving concern for all erring ones, going to God in prayer on their behalf. A good example is King Manasseh of Judah, who sacrificed to false gods, even sacrificing his son to the god Molech. He also practiced spiritism and put a carved image in God’s temple. He literally caused thousands to die and was punished by being taken captive to Babylon. Did King Manasseh commit the unforgivable sin, i.e., sin that leads to death? No, because he eventually humbled himself, repented and went to God in prayer, and God restored him as king over Judah. – 2 Kings 21:1-9; 2 Chronicles 33:1-13.

BLESSED IN SATAN'S WORLD_02 WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU DIE GOD WILL GET YOU THROUGH THIS

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, (5:17a)

James gives an example of how a righteous man’s prayer in faith is effective and can accomplish much using Elijah as an example. Once again, James uses another Old Testament figure to make his point, which seems to be a common theme now in the book of James. Elijah like Abraham, the prophets, and Job, was very much respected by all Christians and held in high esteem. It was for this reason that James would use him as an example of a righteous man’s prayer being effective. Elijah was a mighty prophet used of God, and the account of his life and working can be found in I Kings chapters 17-22 and 2 Kings Chapters 1-4.

James makes the case that although Elijah was a great prophet used of God; he was also a man just like the rest of us. That is why James says that Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, to signify the fact that Elijah has flesh, bones, and a spirit like everybody else. James wanted his readers to understand that it was not Elijah himself, who was powerful, but rather it was God, who worked through him. James wanted his readers to understand the fact that Elijah was a man just as they were, so they should consider what was accomplished through his prayers because he was a righteous man.

and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. (5:17b-18)

We do not know much of the life of Elijah apart from what is written in First and Second Kings, and he seems to burst onto the scene of scriptures in First Kings chapter 17. We first meet Elijah during the reign of the evil king Ahab. It was during his reign that the great prophet Elijah was sent to speak the words of God. First Kings 17:1 reads, “Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.’”

Elijah tells Ahab upon meeting him that in accordance with God’s power as a judgment upon the land that there would be a famine in the land for the next three years. Shortly after Elijah spoke those words to Ahab, God allowed a great famine to strike the land for three years. Then Elijah was called to go back to Ahab again with another message, which is recorded in I Kings 18:1, informing Ahab that he was going to send rain on the earth.

It should be mentioned that James here specifically speaks of three and a half years of no rain. Jesus gives us the same information in the sermon he delivered in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, “I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land.” (Luke 4:25) Did James and Jesus have a source that gave them some greater detail than the author of Kings, as the account in 1 Kings 18:1 refers to the rain “coming in the third year”? That certainly is not the same as three and a half years. Of course, the Bible critic would say we have an error in the form of a contradiction. There are absolutely no errors in the originals and if there is a reasonable answer; then, there is no issue at all. We should note first that Jesus was in heaven when the account took place and when the book of Kings was written so he would know that his comment was not worded the exact same way.

1 Kings 18:1 says the rain came “in the third year,” could have meant the third year of actual drought. First, we must consider the dry summer season of ancient Israel, which ran from April to September, i.e., six months. If the three years of drought spoken of in First Kings followed this, both Jesus and James could speak of three and a half years, being more specific in their reference. On this, Kistemaker and Hendriksen offer another possibility when they write, “From Jewish sources, we learn that the expression three and a half years is an idiom which, because of frequent usage, came to mean ‘for quite some time.’[21] Therefore, we ought to take the expression figuratively, not literally. Furthermore, the Jewish custom of counting part of a unit of time as a full unit sheds additional light on our understanding of the text.”[22] On this, apologist Norman L. Geisler writes, “There are three possible solutions here. First, the three years may be a round number. Second, the third year in Kings may be reckoned from the time of Elijah’s stay with the widow of Zarephthah, not the full time of the drought. Third, it is possible that the drought began six months before the famine did, making both passages precise but referring to different things.”[23] Therefore, we have no error within Scripture, as there are several reasonable and logical explanations.

After having a showdown with the Baal prophets in I Kings 18:20-35, Elijah goes to the top of Mt. Carmel to pray for the rains to fall. God listened to Elijah’s prayer, and the rains came ending the drought across the land. Although the account from I Kings 18 does not specifically say that Elijah prayed for it not to rain and then to rain again as James says, it is implied. It was the prayer of Elijah, a righteous man, who brought about the judgment of God on the land through the famine and the rain to alleviate the drought after three and a half years. Again, James confirms what Jesus had already said some thirty years earlier in Luke 4:25, “But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land.” Yes, we have the greatest authority of all in Christ Jesus, the Son of God.

That Elijah did pray is implied at 1 Kings 18:42, which reads, “Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees.” The key here to Elijah’s prayer beside the fact that he was a righteous man was also the fact that Elijah prayed fervently that it might not rain. Elijah truly believed in what he was praying for and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. He believed God again, in the fact, that he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. It was not that Elijah was better than any other Bible person was at having his prayer answered, but rather he was earnest in petitioning God for his answer. Elijah’s righteous life unto God and his earnestness in prayer accomplished much through God’s working through this man.

The example of Elijah and his praying for withholding rain is a very powerful one. On this, Gary Holloway offers a very important point to keep in mind: “This verse does not mean God will grant all the requests of the righteous, for he did not give Elijah all he prayed for (see 1 Kings 19:4). It is a call for confidence in the power of prayer, or better still, confidence in the power of the Lord to whom we pray.”[24]

REASONABLE FAITH Why Me_ FEARLESS-1

Helping a Sinner to Return

James 5:19-20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

19 My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (5:19-20)

The truth referred to here by James includes Bible doctrines or Christian beliefs as well as Christian ethics.[25] Over 41,000 different denominations call themselves Christian, all claiming to be the truth and the way. However, all of them believe differently, meaning that they are not just different roads leading to the same place. What we believe about God and his Word is what can make us a part of the truth or not. A new one, i.e., an unbeliever coming into the truth must first be taught the Word of God, and the Christian morals will follow. “This is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) James did not have all twenty-seven books of the New Testament, as the apostle, John had not yet written the Gospel of John, his three epistles and the book of Revelation. In addition, James would not have been aware of Peter’s epistles either, or a couple of Paul’s letters. Nevertheless, like all New Testament authors, James used the Old Testament extensively, and he viewed God’s Word as the foundation of the truth. Today, we have all sixty-six books of the Bible, thirty-nine of the Old Testament and twenty-seven of the New Testament, which contain all that is necessary for the truth. James says of God in 1:18, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

“We know that we have passed over from death into life” (1 John 3:14), but it is also just as possible to pass over from life to death if we stray too far from the truth. Every Christian, not just the elders have the obligation, to help a brother back to the path of the truth. The apostle Paul tells us, “Brothers if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1) When we think of James informing us of our obligation of helping those who have stumbled in the truth, we think back on the power of prayer. Remember, James had just written, “the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick.” (5:15) For there to be a success, one must diligently apply God’s Word and deep prayer to achieve the regaining of the one who has stumbled from the path of the truth. If the erring one does not receive the needed help, he can go beyond repentance. Being beyond repentance refers to being beyond the desire to repent, or to return to the truth. In some cases, he will be lost to Satan’s world and no one will be able to reawaken his former desire. – Hebrews 6:4-8; 10:26-29

Every year we have tens of thousands of Christians who stray from the truth because they have misinterpreted or misunderstood scripture, as they have been reading misleading information, or they have drifted away, turned away, or fallen away because they had become sluggish, so they grew weary or fainthearted. Many others have fallen away because they have stumbled morally. All of these find themselves in a very dangerous position. When we ponder the phrase “turns him back [Gr epistrepsas, having returned],” it helps us to appreciate that we are talking about a Christian, not one who has never accepted the truth. Yes, we are dealing with a fallen brother, who has strayed from the truth that he accepted but now rejects by behavior or belief.

When Jesus knew one of his most intimate disciples was going to stumble spiritually, to the point of betraying Jesus three times after boasting that he never would do such a thing, what did Jesus say? He said to Peter, “but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again [Gr epistrepsas, having returned], strengthen your brothers.” (Lu 22:32) In both texts, we are talking about the recovery of an erring person, with Jesus’ great love for Peter and our great love for our bothers, like Jesus, we can lovingly help someone back on the path.

The word “know” stresses the significance of our restoration ministry. When a military unit is in the heat of battle, their senses are heightened by the perilous situation they find themselves in and are mindful of where every team member is, as it could mean the difference between life and death. Christians find themselves in the heat of a serious battle with inherited sin, human weakness, being mentally bent toward evil, a deceptive heart, Satan and his demons, the world of mankind alienated from God, all working toward our demise. We need to be mindful of where every Christian team member is in his walk with God. Would it not be prudent to assist a brother when he simply trips over something rather than trying to help him up once he has fallen? When we err in certain ways, we are literally tripping toward death and this spiritual death can lead to eternal death for him, if someone does not turn him back. Our help can come in the form of loving guidance, prayer, the opportunity to give some helpful service; we assist the erring one in receiving the atonement of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. If we commit a sin, we have Jesus’ ransom sacrifice (Matt 20:28; 1 John 2:1), which covers human weaknesses and Adamic sin (Rom. 5:12, 18). However, if we enter into the practice of sin or are living in sin, we no longer receive that ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ (1 John 3:8-10), unless we have returned again [Gr epistrepsas, having returned].

When we think of turning one back from their sin, it might be best to use the example of the Father in his dealing with the Israelites.

Isaiah 1:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

18 “Come now, let us reason together, says Jehovah:
“though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

First, it should be noted that the phrase, “let us reason together,” does not suggest a give and take conversation, where both sides are going to argue their case, with both making concessions. We need not worry; the Father is the most generous and compassionate Judge. His forgiveness is unmatched. (Ps. 86:5) He has appointed his Son, Jesus Christ to do the judging. Jesus tells us constantly in the Gospel of John about his relationship with the Father. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19) Jesus as the appointed judge can take the sins of Israel that “are like scarlet” and make them “as white as snow.” The sins of Israel were the worship of false gods, orgies under trees, sacrificing sons to the god of Molech, the murder of prophets and so much more. Yes, their sins were “red like crimson,” and Jesus as the appointed judge has the authority (Matt. 28:18), to make them “like wool.” No human can do this. There is no number of works that can remove any sin, let alone this level of egregiousness. Only the Father, through his appointed Son, can wash away sin. The forgiveness of sins is based on God’s standards, not some reasoning back and forth. There must be genuine heartfelt repentance. On the phrase “To “reason together” A Commentary on the Book of Isaiah says that it “implies the background of the court of appeal mentioned at Isa. 1:2. God appeals to Israel with the hope that they are still reasonable beings who can discuss matters without prejudice. The very nature of forgiveness is of grace alone.” (Apranawa 1990, p. 8)

The commentary goes on to make some very good observations, “The very nature of forgiveness is of grace alone. It is sola gratia, radical but also conditional—radical because it is complete and perfect, conditional because it requires an honest response from Israel. There are only two alternatives for Israel: either to be willing and obey, resulting in new life and in eating the good of the land—and this includes the promise of the renewal of the land (v. 7); or to refuse and rebel, resulting in total destruction by the sword of the Assyrians. This is indeed the essence of the gospel message (cf. John 3:16, 18). “Between life and death there is no compromise!” (Apranawa 1990, p. 8)

Thus, if God can forgive 1,500 years of Israelite history that was so sinful, he will cover the missteps of a brother that has stumbled in either belief or behavior. However, we must acknowledge that God’s patience does not go on forever, as Israel went on to reject the Son of God, so God rejected Israel as his chosen people.[26] Thus, we would want to assist our brother in his return to the fold [Gr epistrepsas, having returned],” before it becomes an all-out rejection of the truth, i.e., a rejection of Jesus Christ. One way that we help our brother is not making his missteps known to others. Yes, if the situation seems beyond our abilities, we might seek the help of another, but we would never tell other congregation members of his sins. (Pro. 10:12) When this erring one has returned; the words of King David will be realized. David wrote, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit, there is no deceit.” (Ps. 32:1-2) We know that God sees the living concern we have for our brothers, and it will not go unrewarded. – 2 Corinthians 5:10; See Colossians 3:23, 24; Luke 14:13, 14

REASONABLE FAITH Why Me_ THE BOOK OF JAMES

BIBLE DIFFICULTIES Chapter 5

James 5:1-6 – Are riches a blessing or a curse?

James 5:1-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

5 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.[27] You have lived on the earth in luxury and in sensual indulgence. You have fattened[28] your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, and you have murdered[29] the righteous one; he does not resist you.

Unlike many others, we are not going to deny the benefits of riches. Money is not the problem it is the love of money to the exclusion of our spiritual needs. Money will buy food, clothing, medical care, housing, and many other necessities of life. However, to become obsessed with money is when we cause ourselves many pains.

James 5:12 – Is oath-taking forbidden or blessed?

James 5:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no,[30] so that you may not fall under judgment.

Jesus Christ said,

Matthew 5:33-37 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Counsel on Oaths

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’[31] 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool of his feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’; anything more than this is from the wicked one.

Jesus Christ was correcting the Jews in their practice of light, loose, and indiscriminate making of oaths. Therefore, Jesus was not prohibiting the making of all oaths, for he himself was under the Mosaic Law, which required oaths at certain times. We may recall that when Jesus was on trial, the high priest put him under oath, which he did not reject. (Matt. 26:63-64) What Jesus was saying is, we should not have two standards. When we give our word, we are to keep it and view that obligation as a sacred duty. We should carry out any oath that we make.

James 5:17 Was the drought three years or three-and-a-half years?

James 5:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.

It should be mentioned that James here specifically speaks of three and a half years of no rain. Jesus gives us the same information in the sermon he delivered in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, “I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land.” (Luke 4:25) Did James and Jesus have a source that gave them some greater detail than the author of Kings, as the account in 1 Kings 18:1 refers to the rain “coming in the third year”? That certainly is not the same as three and a half years. Of course, the Bible critic would say we have an error in the form of a contradiction. There are absolutely no errors in the originals and if there is a reasonable answer; then, there is no issue at all. We should note first that Jesus was in heaven when the account took place and when the book if Kings was written, so he would know that his comment was not worded the exact same way.

1 Kings 18:1 says the rain came “in the third year,” could have meant the third year of actual drought. First, we must consider the dry summer season of ancient Israel, which ran from April to September, i.e., six months. If the three years of drought spoken of in First Kings followed this, both Jesus and James could speak of three and a half years, being more specific in their reference. On this, Kistemaker and Hendriksen offer another possibility when they write, “From Jewish sources, we learn that the expression three and a half years is an idiom which, because of frequent usage, came to mean ‘for quite some time.’[32] Therefore, we ought to take the expression figuratively, not literally. Furthermore, the Jewish custom of counting part of a unit of time as a full unit sheds additional light on our understanding of the text.”[33] On this, apologist Norman L. Geisler writes, “There are three possible solutions here. First, the three years may be a round number. Second, the third year in Kings may be reckoned from the time of Elijah’s stay with the widow of Zarephthah, not the full time of the drought. Third, it is possible that the drought began six months before the famine did, making both passages precise but referring to different things.”[34] Therefore, we have no error within Scripture, as there are several reasonable and logical explanations.

James 5:20 “He who turns a sinner back from the error of his way” will save whose soul from death?

James 5:20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Christians can save another person’s soul by turning them away from a sinful course that would have cost them their eternal life had they not turned around and repented. The individual helping the sinner in this way will also “cover a multitude of sins.”

Review Question

  • [ 1] Why is materialism so consuming?
  • [ 2] What did James mean here?
  • [ 3] How is this true?
  • [ 4] How are the laborers crying out?
  • [ 5] What is sensual indulgence?
  • [ 6] In what sense had they condemned and murdered the righteous one?
  • [ 7] Why is patience highly important as we await the return of Christ?
  • [ 8] How can we be patient?
  • [ 9] How may we grumble against one another and not even realize?
  • [ 10] In considering suffering and patience, why should we look to the prophets?
  • [ 11] Why should the endurance of other bring us happiness and make us stronger?
  • [ 12] Just how important is our word, as to our relationships with others?
  • [ 13] Why do bad things befall us all?
  • [ 14-15] How do we know that the “sickness” here is a reference to spiritual weakness or sickness, not some physical sickness?
  • [ 16] Why does the spiritually weak or sick need the prayers of a righteous one?
  • [ 17] Why does James point to Elijah?
  • [vs 18] What does this prove? Does it prove that we should expect a miraculous answer to everything we pray for simply because we are faithful?[35]
  • [vs 19] What is required of us, if we are to be skilled enough to turn someone back?
  • [vs 20] How are we to understand this verse?

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Bibliography

Anders, Max, and Steven Lawson. Holman Old Testament Commentary – Psalms: 11. Grand Rapids: B&H Publishing, 2004.

Apranawa, Widy S. H. THE LORD IS SAVIOR: FAITH IN NATIONAL CRISIS A Commentary on the Book of Isaiah 1–39. Grand Rapids: wm. b. eerdmans publishing co., 1990.

Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Arnold, Clinton E. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Volume 4: Hebrews to Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.

Baker, William, and Paul Carrier. J. James-Jude: Standard Bible Series. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing, 1990.

Barclay, William. New Testament Words. Louisville: Westminster Press, 1974.

Blomberg, Craig L., Mariam J. Kamell, and Clinton E. Arnold. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: James. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.

Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, and England Archie. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary: Revised, Updated and Expanded. Nashville, TN: Holman, 2003.

Bratcher, Robert G., and Howard Hatton. A Handbook on the Revelation to John. New York: United Bible Societies, 1993.

Bromiley, Geoffrey W. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Vol. 1-4). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986.

Bromiley, Geoffrey W., and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, vol. 4. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-.

Campbell, Alexander. The Christian System (6th ed.;. Cincinnati: Standard, 1850.

Comfort, Philip W. New Testament Text and Translation Commentary. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008.

Easley, Kendell H. Holman New Testament Commentary, vol. 12, Revelation. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.

Elwell, Walter A. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.

Erickson, Millard J. Introducing Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Baker Book Hous, 1992.

Gangel, Kenneth O. Holman New Testament Commentary: Acts. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.

Harris, Robert Laird, Gleason Leonard Archer, and Bruce K Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999, c1980.

Holloway, Gary. The College NIV Commentary: James & Jude. Joplin: College Press Publishing Company, 1996.

Hort, F. J. A. The Epistle of St. James. London: The Macmillian and Company, 1909.

Kaiser, Walter C, and Moises Silva. Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994, 2007.

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downer Groves, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Kistemaker, Simon J. NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY: Exposition of James and the Epistles of John. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1986.

Kistemaker, Simon J., and William Hendriksen. Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, vol. 18, New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1953–2001.

Lea, Thomas D. Holman New Testament Commentary: Vol. 10, Hebrews, James. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.

Louw, Johannes P, and Eugene Albert Nida. vol. 1, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd edition. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.

Maier, Paul L. Josephus the Essential Works. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1988.

McReynolds, Paul R. Word Study: Greek-English. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999.

Moo, Douglas. The Letter of James: Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 2000.

Mounce, William D. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006.

Packer, J. I, and M. C Tenney. Nelson Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1980.

Pratt Jr, Richard L. Holman New Testament Commentary: I & II Corinthians, vol. 7. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Biblical Interpretation: A Textbook of Hermeneutics, 3rd rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1999.

Reese, Gareth. New Testament Epistles James and 1,2,3 John. Scripture Exposition Books: Moberly, 2007.

Richardson, Kurt. The New American Commentary Vol. 36 James. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997.

Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Oak Harbor, MI: Logos Research Systems, 1933, 1997.

Rooker, Mark F. The New American Commentary, vol. 3A, Leviticus. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Stein, Robert H. A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Playing by the Rules. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994.

Sweeney, Z. T. The Spirit and the Word (: , n.d.), 121–26. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 2005.

Terry, Milton S. Biblical Hermeneutics: A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1883.

Thomas, Robert L. Evangelical Hermeneutics. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2002.

Vincent, Marvin. Word Studies in the New Testament. Bellingham: Logos Research Systems, 2002.

Vine, W E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.

Virkler, Henry A, and Karelynne Gerber Ayayo. Hermeneutics: Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1981, 2007.

Whiston, William. The Works of Josephus. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987.

Wuest, Kenneth S. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997, c1984.

Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993.

 

[1] I.e. Hosts

[2] Lit., nourished

[3] Or put to death

[4] Jewish people scattered throughout Gentile lands

[5] http://www.ehow.com/how_4798050_put-weight-pig.html

[6] Or strengthen your hearts

[7] Or steadfastness

[8] Lit., yours is to be yes, yes, and no, no

[9] A quotation from Lev. 19:12

[10] Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2000), 232.

[11] Christian Publishing House finds it a bit insulting when modern translations remove the personal name of God for a title (i.e., “the Lord”), and verses such as this makes our position even clearer. How can one have a verse that speaks of misusing God’s name (not title), and the translators remove that name and replace it with an impersonal title? The irony is that these translators are following a Jewish tradition by removing God’s personal name, and what did Jesus say about the traditions of the Jewish leaders? He said they were ‘making void the word of God by their tradition that they had handed down.’–Mark 7:13.

[12] Refer to SB, vol. 1, pp. 332–37, for rabbinic sources. Also see D. Edmond Hiebert, The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith (Chicago: Moody, 1979), p. 310; D. Edmond Hiebert, “The Worldliness of Self-Serving Oaths,” Direction 6 (1977): 39–43.

[13] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of James and the Epistles of John, vol. 14, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 172.

[14] Lit., sing psalms

[15] The “sickness” here is a reference to spiritual weakness or sickness, not some physical sickness. The J. P. Lang Commentary says, 1. The calling for the presbyters of the congregation in the Plural; 2. the general direction concerning their prayer accompanying unction with oil; 3. and especially the confident promise that the prayer of faith shall restore the sick apart from his restoration being connected with the forgiveness of his sins. Was the Apostle warranted to promise bodily recovery in every case in which a sick individual complied with his directions? This misgiving urges us to adopt the symbolical construction of the passage, which would be as follows: if any man as a Christian has been hurt or become sick in his Christianity, let him seek healing from the presbyters, the kernel of the congregation. Let these pray with and for him and anoint him with the oil of the Spirit; such a course wherever taken, will surely restore him and his transgressions will be forgiven him. – John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: James (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 138.

[16] I.e., prayer

[17] John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: James (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 138.

[18] Lit in

[19]  Gr., zeteite; the verb form indicates continuous action.

[20] Therefore, it would be fine if a sister in the congregation, who was struggling spiritually or with problems, chose to go to a mature female sister in the congregation.

[21] Refer to SB, vol. 3, pp. 760–61. For additional information consult Mayor, James, pp. 180–81; and Ropes, James, p. 311.

[22] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of James and the Epistles of John, vol. 14, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 181.

[23] Thomas Howe; Norman L. Geisler. The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation (Kindle Locations 6186-6188). Kindle Edition.

[24] Gary Holloway, James & Jude, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub., 1996), Jas 5:17–18.

[25] Christian ethics is a branch of Christian theology that defines concepts of right (virtuous) and wrong (sinful) behavior from a Christian perspective. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_ethics)

[26] http://www.christianpublishers.org/the-jews-chosen-people

[27] I.e. Hosts

[28] Lit., nourished

[29] Or put to death

[30] Lit., yours is to be yes, yes, and no, no

[31] A quotation from Lev. 19:12

[32] Refer to SB, vol. 3, pp. 760–61. For additional information consult Mayor, James, pp. 180–81; and Ropes, James, p. 311.

[33] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of James and the Epistles of John, vol. 14, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 181.

[34] Thomas Howe; Norman L. Geisler. The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation (Kindle Locations 6186-6188). Kindle Edition.

[35] See DIGGING DEEPER Does God Step in and Solve Our Every Problem Because We are Faithful?

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