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God’s Word for You

James 2:5-7 God chose you

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, July 20, 2020

5 My dear brothers, listen! Didn’t God choose the poor of the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom, which he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonored the poor man.

God does not bar the wealthy from entering his kingdom. Paul gives special instructions for the rich in 1 Timothy 6:17-19. But in our day, we must assert with the strongest possible words that God also does not promise prosperity in this lifetime on account of our faith. While he did provide a certain amount of wealth to men like Abraham, David, and Solomon, these men were set up as spiritual examples and not as examples of how to get rich using your faith. Indeed, wouldn’t we be better to state that Abraham and David learned to be rich in their faith despite their worldly wealth? This fits much better with Jesus’s words that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25). Televangelists and ministers who preach a prosperity gospel as if their worship services are infomercials are leading their people into a trap with as little chance of any benefit for their people as a pyramid scheme. Fortunately, most Christians see them as wolves in wolves’ clothing, but some are drawn in by them, especially those who have been away from the true gospel for too long.

It is simply more likely to find that the poor will listen to the gospel and put their faith in Christ, and in most places in the world, the poor far outnumber the wealthy. “Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,” Paul says, “not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Corinthians 1:26), “but God chose what is low and despised in the world (1 Corinthians 1:28). The poverty and lowliness of those God has chosen is quite probably God’s design, to help open the hearts and more certainly guide the lives of his chosen in order to bring to them the gospel at just the right time, whether at their baptism as infants (with most) or, with some, later on.

The special election or choice by God, selecting those who would be his, is clearly taught in the Bible including here in verse 5 (“Didn’t God choose the poor… to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom?”). There is a difference between God’s gracious will that all would be saved, that all the sins of mankind would be washed away in Jesus, and our election to salvation. The will of God is stated in John 3:16-17, 1 Timothy 2:4, Ezekiel 18:23, and many other places. But God’s election extends only to a few specific persons. Paul explains, happily including himself with the word “us,” “He chose us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). Even though God’s will extends to all people, there are many who are lost because of sin. “Many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another” (Matthew 24:10). This takes place partly because sinful man resists the will of God, and partly because there are some who do not follow it firmly. Yet those God has chosen through his election will be saved, because salvation only follows election: “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). That is to say, there is only one path to heaven: It is through faith in Jesus Christ. Those who are chosen through election only attain salvation by means of that faith, and anyone who attempts any other entrance to salvation will certainly and without a doubt be lost forever.

So that we don’t get the wrong idea of our election, we need to remember that the Bible’s whole teaching about election is in every way only for our comfort. It is not a rule to be followed or a guideline to remain within. It is encouragement from the Holy Spirit that the life ring he’s thrown to us in the water, as it were, is what he is holding for our sakes. He shouts through this doctrine, “I’ve got you! It’s going to be all right! Don’t let go!” He does this so that we know we will be rescued, and that is all. As Jesus says in Mark: “For the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days” (that is, the end times, Mark 13:20).

Don’t the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Aren’t they the ones who blaspheme the noble name by which you were called?

James turns now to the rich, and quite probably he is calling to mind a scene from the past. How many of his people, the scattered Jewish Christians, had previously been Jews who persecuted Christians the way Paul once did, dragging them into the courts, or worse? Now that they were converted by the gospel, things were different, but the people they still played favorites with were guilty of the same sins. James wants them to consider this, and to focus more on what is best for their souls.

To be called by the “noble name” of Christ seems as if it might have two meanings. On the one hand, it might mean the way we are called by people who use the name of Christ when they refer to us as Christians. But while James was writing this letter, this was a brand-new nickname (Acts 11:26), and it may not have reached out to the Jewish Christians who were scattered out around the Roman world. It is more likely that this is once again a reference to our calling, that is, our election in eternity, by God the Father in the name of his Son. This is what God has in mind when he calls Jewish believers, “my people who are called by my name” (2 Chronicles 7:14), and Gentile believers, “the nations who are called by my name” (Amos 9:12). His people also happily call themselves, “we (who) are called by your name” (Jeremiah 14:9).

We have been called by God’s name to be his people. We might feel unworthy of such a call, but our Lord only has our best interests in mind. He wants us to be with him in heaven. He uses the world around us to shape our faith, to be a forum for the proclamation of law and gospel, so that his holy word can do its mysterious work in our hearts. Praise God for choosing you and thank him with your life. What better way to spend our days than to line up our desires with his? That’s what it means to truly thank Jesus for his great salvation.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

 

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