This week's Sabbath School Bible Study Guide considers Getting Ready for the Harvest. The following commentary by Matt Reeves considers the topic through the lens of the Matthew's telling of the Parable of the Ten Virgins. -Ed
A cry was heard that night in Palestine. “Look! The bridegroom is coming! Hurry!”
After firmly condemning the rich, James then turns to his readers/listeners and admonishes them to be patient. After nearly inciting them to riot by condemning the rich landowners (or so it might seem), he then counsels them to accept their troubles with patience. James refers to the prophets and to Job as examples of those who suffered and were patient.
After the call to patience, James seems to drop in another unconnected admonition: Don’t swear at all, either by heaven or by earth (5:12). The connection with what precedes or what follows does not seem to be clear.
James 5:1-6 is the third frontal attack on the rich in the book, and this one the most brutal. Here the oppressive rich are the wealthy landowners who abuse their workers. In short, they have kept back the wages of their workers (5:4).
The attacks against the rich represent different groups within society. In 3:6 the offending ones are the bankers who drag the poor into court; in 4:13-17 the offenders are the traveling merchants; in 5:1-6 the offenders are the wealthy landowners.
Questions for Discussion:
In 1:26 James dropped a small bombshell against the unbridled tongue. Now in 3:1-12 he drops a large one, a blistering attack against the tongue. He does not really explain why this issue is so important to him, given his concern for social justice. Nor does he give us any direct help in controlling the tongue. But it is an urgent issue that deserves our attention.
Questions for Discussion:
The most highly visible passage in James involves the apparent tension between Paul and James on the question of faith and works. The most striking “contradiction” is between James 2:24 – “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” – and Romans 3:28: “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.”
Conversion and sanctification are the renewing of the mind, a change not of the substance, but of the qualities of the soul. It is the same with making a new heart and a new spirit-new dispositions and inclinations, new sympathies and antipathies; the understanding enlightened, the conscience softened, the thoughts rectified; the will bowed to the will of God, and the affections made spiritual and heavenly: so that the man is not what he was-old things are passed away, all things are become new; he acts from new principles, by new rules, with new designs.
James stands unparalleled among biblical books. Possibly first and foremost, its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is a transitional work that serves as a bridge between the first and second Testaments. In content and emphasis it can be seen as the last of the Old Testament’s prophetic or wisdom literature, and at the same time, the first of the New Testament’s affirmation of Jesus as Lord.
After the inscription and salutation Christians are taught how to conduct themselves when under the cross. Several graces and duties are recommended; and those who endure their trials and afflictions as the apostle here directs are pronounced blessed and are assured of a glorious reward. But those sins which bring sufferings, or the weakness and faults men are chargeable with under them, are by no means to be imputed to God, who cannot be the author of sin, but is the author of all good. All passion, and rash anger, and vile affections, ought to be suppressed.
Since this is the last Sabbath of the quarter dealing with the “Teachings of Jesus,” I am going to break some polite rules governing this column – mostly unwritten and some of them of my own making – because this particular lesson provides a wonderful opportunity for us to discover things in Scripture we had forgotten or never knew before. And let me be extraordinarily candid about the situation facing Adventism right now. A great fear is stalking the land, a fear that if we don’t reinforce what we have always said, and with greater emphasis, the church will disintegrate.
In some ways, Adventists are very conservative, believing in a God who answers prayer and who is coming again. But even the most conservative Adventists are “liberal” in at least one key respect: “mortalism,” the belief that the body is a holistic unity and does not have a separate soul. Mortalism means no eternally burning hell, a very “liberal” idea.