Pastor Wade's Blog

A Perfect Witness Isn't Enough to Convince Loved Ones to See and Believe the Gospel!

1 Corinthians 15:7, “…Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”

The James mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:7 is the half brother of Jesus, who was the oldest remaining son of the family that grew up in Nazareth.

John tells us that Christ’s brothers did not believe Jesus was the Messiah (Jn. 7:5).

Hegesippus (c.110–c.180), wrote five books of Commentaries on the Acts of the Church. (now lost except for some quotations by Eusebius)

If his description of James is correct, then it becomes obvious that Jesus offended the legalistic religiosity of James, his half-brother. In describing James's ascetic lifestyle, Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History (Book II, 23) quotes Hegesippus' account of James from the fifth book of Commentaries on the Acts of the Church:

"James, the Lord's brother, succeeds to the government of the Church, in conjunction with the apostles. He has been universally called the Just, from the days of the Lord down to the present time. For many bore the name of James; but this one was holy from his mother's womb. He drank no wine or other intoxicating liquor, nor did he eat flesh; no razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, nor make use of the bath. He alone was permitted to enter the holy place: for he did not wear any woolen garment, but fine linen only. He alone, I say, was wont to go into the temple: and he used to be found kneeling on his knees, begging forgiveness for the people-so that the skin of his knees became horny like that of a camel's, by reason of his constantly bending the knee in adoration to God, and begging forgiveness for the people. On account of the sternness of his character he was called James the Just, and James the bulwark of the people."

The famous Scottish pastor, Dr. Alexander Whyte, in his book, "Bible Characters", expresses most, if not every Christian's sentiments as he writes, "Who, indeed, would not be absolutely captivated, fascinated, and enthralled, both in imagination and in heart, at the thought of holding James's relationship to Jesus Christ! For thirty years eating every meal at the same table with Him; working six days of the week in the same workshop with Him; going up on the seventh day to the same synagogue with Him; and once every year going up to Jerusalem to the same Passover with Him. For James was, actually, the Lord's brother. Not in a figure of speech. Not mystically and spiritually. But literally and actually - he was James the Lord's brother.

"But, all the time, James His brother did not believe on Him. No, nor did James believe down to the very end. I wish I had the learning and the genius to let you see and hear all that must have gone on in Joseph's house for the next three years. The family perplexities about Jesus; the family reasonings about Him; the family divisions and disputes about Him; their intoxicating hopes at one time over Him, and their fears and sinkings of heart because of Him at another time. Think out for yourselves those three years, the like of which never came to any other family on the face of the earth. And, then, think of the last week of all; the arrest, the trial, the crucifixion, the resurrection of Mary's first-born Son-whose imagination is sufficient to picture to itself Joseph and Mary and James and the other brothers and sisters of Jesus all that week! Where did they make ready to eat the Passover? What were they doing at the hour when He was in Gethsemane? Were they standing with the crowd in the street when He was led about all night in His bonds? And where were they while He was being crucified? For, by that time, no one believed on Him but the thief on the cross alone. All the faith in Christ that survived the cross was bound up in that bundle of smoking flax, the penitent and praying thief. The next time we come on James is in these golden words of Paul written concerning him long afterwards, "and that Jesus Christ was buried, and that He rose the third day according to the scriptures. After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles." He was seen of James somewhere, and to somewhat of the same result, that He was seen of Saul at the gate of Damascus."

The continuing comments of Dr. Alexander Whyte are astounding! He writes, "Now, in that contemporary account of James may we not have a clue to the obstinacy of his unbelief, and to his all but open hostility to our Lord? For James was a Nazarite of such strictness and scrupulosity that he could not fail to be greatly offended at his Brother's absolute and resolute freedom from all such unspiritual trammels. James's eldest Brother (Jesus) was no Nazarite, or Scribe, or Pharisee. And He must often have stumbled James, so far did He come short of a perfect righteousness, as James understood and demanded perfect righteousness. In His public preaching He was compelled to denounce what James scrupulously practiced as the law of Moses and the law of God. The Scribes and the Pharisees were continually finding fault with James's Brother for His laxity in the traditions of the elders, and no man would feel that laxity so acutely as James would feel it. So rooted was James in the old covenant that, even after his conversion, he still continued to cleave fast to his unevangelical habits of thought and practices of life, in a way and to an extent that caused the greatest trouble to the rest of the apostles, and to Paul especially. In our Lord's words, James, all his days, was one of those men, and a leader among them, who continued to pour the new wine of the gospel into the old bottles of the law, till the old bottles burst in their hands and the new wine was spilled. Converted as he undoubtedly was, James was half a Pharisee to the very end. And, if ever he was a bishop at all, he was the bishop of a half-enlightened Jewish ghetto rather than of a Christian church. Still, when all is said, we have an intense interest in James; not so much for his position or for his services in the apostolic church, as for this, that he was the brother, the born and brought-up brother, of our Lord." (Not that I agree with Dr. Whyte, but WOW - just never heard such statements before!)

The encouraging reality is that even a perfect witness isn't enough to convince and convert our loved ones and friends to Christ. It took a special revelation of the Risen Lord Jesus to convince and convert these skeptical relatives to believe that He was the Son of God, the Creator of the universe. In fact none of Christ’s four brothers (Mt. 13:55) were truly converted until after the resurrection. That was when they became convinced Jesus was the Son of God. James must have had a fantastic conversion and in the Epistle of James he calls Christ “our glorious Lord” (James 2:1).

Nothing has changed - it still requires a special, supernatural, revelation of the Risen Christ by the Holy Spirit to all persons who are ever converted to Christ.

Jon Bloom gives us encouragement in respect to skeptical, unbelieving family and friends: “So as we assess the role our weak, stumbling witness plays in our family members’ unbelief, let’s remember Jesus – not even a perfect witness guarantees that loved ones will see and embrace the gospel. We must humble ourselves and repent when we sin. But let’s remember that the god of this world and indwelling sin is what blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4).

“The story of Jesus’ brothers can actually give us hope for our loved ones. At the time his brothers claimed that Jesus was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:21), it must have appeared very unlikely that they would ever become his disciples. But eventually they did! And not only followers, but leaders and martyrs in the early church.

“The God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” shone in their hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of their brother, Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:6).

“So take heart! Don’t give up praying for unbelieving family members. Don’t take their resistance as the final word. They may yet believe, and be used significantly in the kingdom!”

 

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