James 5 - Steve Wiggins Daily Devotional
“My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, he should know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.” James 5: 19-20
Before expounding on the last sentence of James’ letter, I think we should refresh our memories of its beginning.
“James, a slave of G_d and of the L_rd Yeshua, the Messiah: To the 12 tribes in the Dispersion.”
This letter is first & foremost a Jewish letter. More than simply “Jewish”, it was directed to a specific group of Jews: Messianic Jews living outside of Israel. These Jews had been scattered abroad for several generations, and their newfound acceptance of Yeshua, as Messiah, didn’t reflect the norm in Jerusalem.
Part of the reason why apostles like Paul began planting congregations outside of Roman-controlled Israel, was because the Jews abroad were more likely to assess the gospel, apart from the politics of Jerusalem. James’ letter was one of the first distributed, 17 years after Yeshua’s resurrection. James’ audience would have been more apt to weigh his words against Scripture, than they would in later epistles…simply for the fact that non-Messianic Jewish opposition had yet to saturate the entire Jewish culture, at large.
Speaking to the “Dispersion”, James was not trying to make his readers “Christians”, as we understand the “Church” today. At the time of James’ letter, believing that Yeshua was Messiah was not considered a whole other religion. It was considered to be a sect of Judaism, by non-Messianic Jews & Romans, alike. Of course, to Messianic Jews, believing in Yeshua was (and still is) considered the fulfillment of all they and their forefathers had longed for. That is, in Yeshua, the Jew is completed in his search for restoration & communion with Adonai.
James was exhorting his Jewish brothers to be good JEWS, by submitting to the Lordship of Messiah Yeshua. That’s not to say Gentiles were excluded. It’s just that they were not the primary people group targeted by James’ letter. Yeshua said, “I am THE Way” not, “I’m setting up another way”. It was the Apostles’ articulated belief that faith in Yeshua constituted salvation for both Jews and Gentiles. Apart from Him, there is no salvation.
Yeshua had ONE goal: Glorify the Father by atoning for the sin of the world.
James’ goal was to turn people from their sin, to a saving relationship with Yeshua; and he challenged other believers to do the same.
~Steve Wiggins, Associate Leader, Worship Leader
Daily Devotional, Wednesday, November 27, 2013