Reflections: St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus and Martyr

Today’s Reading: Acts 15:12-22, Introit:Ps. 78:1–3, 4b; antiphon: Ps. 35:3b; 34:17a, 6b; 48:14a

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 24:10-25:10; Matthew 16:13-28

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. (Acts 15:19, 20)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. 

What wise words are spoken from the mouth of St. James in Acts 15:19,20. On this day each year, we remember the life of St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus and Martyr. He is not mentioned much in Scripture, but these words that he speaks are filled with wisdom and gentleness. Spoken at a time of an important meeting in the life of the early Church. Paul and Barnabas were working amongst the Gentiles in the land of Judah, when preachers came to the area from Jerusalem, teaching falsely with the claim, “unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). This was at odds with the Apostle’s teaching of being saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What were the people of Judah to believe, that of these false preachers or that of the Apostles? Unlike Jewish people who were familiar with what we know as the Old Testament, the Gentiles most likely would not have known of such teaching. Similar things happen in the world we live in today. We have the teaching of the Gospel whereby we are saved through baptism and believing Jesus Christ died and rose for you. Whereas other churches and religions teach of being saved through other means apart from Christ. Should we, or friends, or family, face such teaching that leads to questioning the Gospel in Jesus’ death and resurrection, take the lead from Paul and Barnabas, and take it to the Church Leaders, seeking guidance as to how to respond.

We may expect those who are teaching falsely should be reprimanded. But St. James of Jerusalem knows that he has no authority over such preachers as they were not part of the Jerusalem Church. He instead gives the guidance to encourage the Gentiles in Judah who had turned to God and basically practice spiritual circumcision, enacted by them not partaking in activities that are considered sinful according to God’s Word. By not partaking of such activities, they would not be influenced nor at danger of being led astray to believe the false gospel as they heard the false teachers. 

Pray that God would give us leaders in our Congregations and wider Church, to deal gently with situations where people are affected by false preachers, and guide with wisdom us and our fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ to remain in the true Church where only Jesus is our true Lord and Savior.

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just, brother of our Lord, to lead and guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect of the Day – LSB Altar Book)

-Rev. Carl Thiele is the Parish Pastor in Rosewood, Queensland, Australia

Audio Reflections Speaker: Rev. Duane Bamsch

Study Christ’s words on the cross to see how you can show more Christlike grace in your life. Perfect for group or individual study, each chapter has a Q&A at the end, and the back of the book includes a leader guide. Available now from Concordia Publishing House.