Monday, July 16, 2012

James on the Divinity of The Lord Jesus

During the Dividing Line of July 13, 2012, Dr. White mentioned an Islamic argument alleging that James (the author of the book of James) did not believe that Jesus is God and that the church of Jerusalem (which he seemingly associates with James) was somehow in opposition to the church of Paul.

But James does make it clear that he holds to Jesus' divinity.

James 1:1-7
(1) James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. (2) My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (3) knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (4) But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (5) If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (6) But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (7) For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
In verse 1, James identifies Jesus as both God and the Lord. But if you will dispute this point, note that James clearly identifies Jesus as the Lord. Moreover, after suggesting that people can ask things from God, he immediately switches to the designation "Lord" in verse 7.  James' interchangeable use of God and Lord demonstrates that he held Jesus to be divine.

James 2:1
My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
Here James explicitly calls Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, which is a divine title. It's the same title that Paul uses for Jesus:

1 Corinthians 2:8
Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Moreover, James is explicitly teaching people to place their faith in Jesus, which would be very strange if James thought that Jesus was merely a man.

It would be especially strange given that just a little later in the chapter, describing faith, James states (James 2:18-19):
(18) Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (19) Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
Notice that James views faith as faith in God, and holds that there is only one God, yet it is the "faith of our Lord Jesus Christ," as we saw above.  Thus, for James, Jesus is God.

And again, this is the same as the teaching of Paul.

1 Corinthians 8:6
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
We see James equating Jesus and God again in the fourth chapter.

James 4:8-10
(8) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (9) Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. (10) Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
This is yet another example of James using "God" and "Lord" interchangeably.

Perhaps the most obvious example for a Muslim will come when James provides the Christian precursor to Islam's "Insha'Allah":

James 4:13-15
(13) Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: (14) whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. (15) For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
What Muslim would say, "If Mohamed will"? Surely the determination of what the future holds is something that is firmly the will of God - not the will of mere prophet or messenger, yet James assigns the future to the will that to the Lord, whom he has explicitly identified as Jesus Christ.  Thus, James held Jesus to be divine.

But James doesn't stop there. He describes the future return of Jesus to the world (James 5:7-11)
(7) Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. (8) Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. (9) Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. (10) Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. (11) Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
Notice that here James identifies this same coming Lord, namely Jesus Christ, with the Lord in whose names the prophets spoke, and particularly the Lord referenced in the book of Job, which is undoubtedly God.  You will recall that after all Job's sufferings, the Lord gave him better than he had before.

Another example is found in James 5:14-15
(14) Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
Notice here that prayer in the name of Jesus is commended, and it is alleged that Jesus will raise up the person. While this may be less explicit than the other cases, the very fact that the prayer is in Jesus' name indicates Jesus' divinity.

Thus, not only does James fail to deny the divinity of Christ (James affirmation of monotheism is no contradiction to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity), but James repeatedly treats Jesus as divine from the very first verse of the epistle.