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    Martin Luther had once referred to the book of James, our topic for this quarter, as “an epistle of straw” because he erroneously believed that it taught salvation by works. Although Luther never removed it from the canon of Scripture, he separated it from what he considered the core of the canon.
     Not all of the Reformers shared Luther’s low opinion of James. No less a luminary than Melanchthon, Luther’s closest associate, believed that the writings of Paul and James were not in conflict. In this we believe that Melanchthon was right and Luther wrong. 
    The book of James is powerful.  James himself had a firsthand knowledge of Jesus. In fact, his epistle of all the epistles may very well be the earliest Christian writing in existence, and, of all the epistles, reflects most closely the teachings of Jesus that we find in the Gospels. As in the parables of Jesus, imagery from agriculture and the world of finance are abundant. Other important themes include wisdom, prayer, and above all, faith.

    James is unique in other ways, too, thereby opening a window for us into some of the struggles that the earliest Christian congregations faced. With envy, jealousy, and worldliness creeping into the fold, there seems to have been societal and cultural pressures that pitted wealthier Christians against poor ones. We also see the great controversy being played out as James attacks counterfeit forms of wisdom and faith.
    Most important for Seventh-day Adventists, the epistle of James exudes confidence in the return of Jesus; it also provides crucial perspectives on the law, the judgment, and the Second Coming. Elijah is even presented as a model for us to emulate. This has special relevance for us, as Seventh-day Adventists, who are entrusted with preparing the way for Christ’s second advent.
    Thus, in some ways, our journey this quarter spans the entire Christian era, as it includes some of the earliest preaching, as well as special insights for these last days.

 

 

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