Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 21, PAGE 3,10a

From A Preacher's Note-Book

James W. Adams

Purity And Works

So much has been said and written, about James 1:27 in the past few years that the real intent of the writer has been largely obscured. To the careful Bible student it is evident that James wrote rather late, comparatively speaking, in the apostolic period. He speaks of the "twelve tribes which are scattered abroad." (Jas. 1:1) Time enough had elapsed from the beginning of the church on Pentecost for Christians to be diffused throughout the Roman Empire. Too, enough time had passed for false doctrines to arise and become a serious threat to the peace and soundness of the people of God. The Gnostics had quite evidently become a rather strong and dangerous sect. The material which James includes in his letter is indicative of the fact that at least one of the purposes of his letter was to combat the influence of this heretical party among Christians.

Not too much is known for certain about the Gnostics. However, Bible students are generally agreed that, among other things they taught the pernicious theory that "Christ's mission was not to die for sins but to impart to man a knowledge of his heavenly origin, and to instruct him how to regain his lost condition. Those who attain this knowledge were saved. Salvation was the result, not of a sacrifice but of gnosis." (Sanford) Growing out of this idea were two vicious concepts of the duty of the Christ, or, to put it more exactly, two vicious concepts relative to freedom from responsibility on the part of the Christian.

Since being a Christian was wholly a matter of gnosis (knowledge), the Gnostics denied the necessity for works of benevolence and mercy and for a life of abstinence and purity. Their earthly time and substance could be spent in gratification of the sensual appetites of the body without regard to any kind of moral restraint and without regard to the physical needs of their fellowmen. They recognized no moral or benevolent responsibilities as emanating from God or being in any 'way connected with their eternal Salvation. From this vile seed bed was germinated the doctrine of chiliasm, or pre-millennialism as we know it. Cerinthus, the father of this doctrine, was a Gnostic. His concept of the earthly reign of Christ was that it was to be a blissful period spent in reveling in the delights of sensual pleasure. Many modern sects have in one degree or another followed his teaching.

Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History, tells an interesting story handed down by tradition which illustrates the abhorrence with which the doctrines and practices of the Gnostics, Cerinthus in particular, were regarded. He says: "But Irenaeus, in his first book against heresies, adds certain false doctrines of the man (Cerinthus J.W.A.), though kept more secret, and gives a history in his third book, that deserves to be recorded, as received by tradition from Polycarp. He says that John the apostle once entered a bath to wash; but ascertaining Cerinthus was within, he leaped out of the place, and fled from the door, not enduring to enter under the same roof with him, and exhorted those with him to do the same, saying, 'let us flee, lest the both fall in, as long as Cerinthus, that enemy of the truth, is within'." (EccIestiastical History, p. 114)

James writes warning and teaching against the baneful influence and doctrines of such characters. He warns the teacher -of the word about "bridling not his tongue" advising him that to fail to do so is to render his "religion vain" and to "deceive his own heart." (Jas. 1:26) James is not writing against gossip in this passage, but against the practice of heretical teachers of the word of God "going beyond" the teaching of Christ or the truth in their speaking. In verse 27, James identifies the particular teaching he has In mind when he says, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." By metonymy, "visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions" stands for all works of mercy and benevolence that are the obligation of the Christian individual — the Lord having set the perfect example in this regard in his own life of mercy and compassion. "To keep himself unspotted from the world" lays upon the Christian individual the obligation to live a life of purity abstaining from fleshly lusts that war against the soul. In other words, James says, "Gnosis is not sufficient. Being a Christian Is more than a theoretical knowledge of man's divine origin and the means of attaining his original state. It is a way of life — a life filled with good works (James chapter 2 discusses the relation of faith and works at length) and dedicated to abstinence from the gratification of fleshly lusts, a life of purity, spotless from the world.

For institutionally-minded brethren to imply that those who oppose human benevolence societies do not accept and believe James 1:27 is to grossly misrepresent the faith and character of their brethren. We have yet to meet the individual professing to be a member of the Lord's church who did not believe the two obligations of James 1:27 to be the duties of Christians. We have met many who did not practice these duties in the degree that they should, but out of some other consideration than a denial of their being the obligation of the Christian. However, that James is here discussing the work of the congregation as an organized group or body is a concept too foolish to waste time upon.

Trusting Appearances

Gullibility is one of man', most pronounced characteristics. Gullibility is the quality of believing wthout adequate evidence. The handsome dividends reaped by "con" artists in our society testify to this weakness of human character. The success of so many weird religiOus cults likewise offer proof to the prevalence of this trait.

and money, brethren will embrace it with gusto. The time was when everything was tried in the crucible of divine truth and embraced only after careful and painstaking analysis. Are we trusting in appearances when we should be insisting on reality and evidence? We think so!

Recently, in Nuggets, we read the following interesting and amusing story which was in turn copied from Clapper's Weekly: It seems that a woman went to her doctor to have a prescription renewed. She sat in the crowded waiting room and became engrossed in a magazine. When the nurse called her name, she found her leg had gone to sleep and she limped awkwardly into the doctor's office. The doctor wrote a new prescription and two minutes later the woman walked briskly, out into the waiting room again. As she put on her coat, she noticed another patient staring at her in astonishment. The surprised patient poked her companion and whispered excitedly, "See, Myrtle? I told you he was the best doctor in town."

Our perennial faith healers in their gigantic rallies bring in a procession of limping cane and crutch carrying, and stretcher-borne people and send them out walking and sometimes leaping but always testifying to the glorious healing (?) which they have experienced. In days gone by, along with others, we have investigated and helped expose the chicanery, deception, and downright lying of these "divinely-healed" individuals. In one such meeting in East Texas, we must have investigated a hundred such cases. In no case did we find a single instance in which there was an actual healing of a real disease or affliction. We found real cures 'for imaginary ills and imaginary cures for real diseases, but not a single case in which there was a real cure of a real malady: Often these faith (fake!) healers and their followers show us rooms full of canes, crutches, artificial limbs, wheels chairs, and stretchers, but never irrefutable evidence of real cures. We hear a great deal about cures effected on people who have diagnosed their own eases and their own cures, but we are never introduced to anyone who has been dead and in the grave four days and subsequently raised. We have never met a one-legged man who has two, whole, healthy limbs. We have never met a man known to have been born blind whose sight has been restored. Never have we seen a man lame from his mother's womb running and leaping; and praising God in one of these so-called healing meetings.

It surprises us no end, and yet it should not, to find otherwise intelligent people returning from one of these healing (?) meetings shaking their heads and saying, "Those people must have something!" For supposedly intelligent people to believe on the sort of evidence exhibited in these meetings is gullibility at its worst. When will people learn, in religion, to look beyond the facade or the stage scenery?

Brethren; are generally contemptuous of the ballyhoo and chicanery of the fake, faith healer, yet are often quite as gullible along other lines. In our day, if a thing is BIG, if it Attracts the attention of the world, if it produces results in the form of crowds and popularity.