In verses 14 through 16 James asks three rhetorical questions, followed in verse 17 with a conclusion. You know what a rhetorical question is don’t you? Men, it’s when your wife comes home with a new haircut and asks, “Do you think this haircut looks good?” That is not a real question. In a rhetorical question the answer is implied in the question. It’s like when a man asks his wife, “Don’t you think that ‘bigger’ flatscreen TV would look good in the family room?” It’s more of a statement than an actual question
If you could ask God for one, and only one thing, in your life, what would you ask for—more money, health, a long life? What would you ask? In fact, there’s an account in the Old Testament where God actually gave a man the opportunity to ask for anything he wanted, and this man asked for wisdom. You probably know the story from 2 Chronicles chapter 1—Solomon became king of Israel following his father David, and he became a great king because the Lord was him. One day Solomon went up to the tabernacle his father David set up for the ark of the covenant, and he offered a sacrifice on the bronze altar. That night, God appeared to Solomon and said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”
The personal journey from being the unbelieving brother of Jesus to a believer in Jesus as the Messiah, had been difficult, but James shows us that it doesn’t matter how you get there, just get there.
Jude opens his epistle making it clear that his intention is to sound the alarm about “certain men” who have “crept in unnoticed.” Jude intends to expose these people and to warn the church not to let these men to seduce the church with their twisted message. These people taught that it is possible to be a believer while also engaging in sexual behavior that violates the very precepts of God’s Word, including the teaching and example of Jesus Christ. Indeed, these people even denied “the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” So why were these people in the church, how did they get into the church, and why should these people be forced out of the church unless, of course, they repent and observe whatsoever Jesus commanded? In verses 12 and 13 Jude provides a compact but powerful answer to these questions.
A common misconception of Christians is we must always be non-confrontational and passive … no matter what. Even within the Christian community there is a rather pervasive view that believers should always be smiling and agreeable while conceding to others in our attempt to keep the peace. It is true that we are called be peacemakers, ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors of Christ (2 Co 5:19-20), yet the example of Jesus clearing the temple with a whip, along with various militant metaphors employed in the epistles, demonstrate that there are, in fact, times when we must fight for what we believe. Jesus Himself said that “from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Mt 11:12).
In our text we see a Gentile mother going to a man from Galilee named Jesus—a man some were saying was the Jewish Messiah. Only a mother desperate for her daughter’s deliverance would presume to go to person from an ethnic group who considered her to be an unclean dog. Yet, before this encounter was over, Jesus said this Canaanite woman had “great faith.” This is significant, because only two times in the Bible does Jesus call someone’s faith “great,” and in both cases they are Gentile.
It is to the faithful flock who remained that John is writing to encourage and assure them that the gospel he preached, and the message by which they were saved, was the truth. He wanted them to know that they could be assured of their salvation through faith in Jesus, which manifested in their love for one another. As you can imagine, some in the church were conflicted. They were struggling to know with certainty that they were right to stay with John and the church, rather than going along with the deception of these persuasive teachers. To the faithful John says, “First of all, you can tell that they are wrong, because they do not live in the light according to the commandments of God, and second, because they are lacking in love.”
What do you have faith for? Do you have faith for God to heal a headache? Do you have faith for God to supply the funds you need to pay a bill? Do you have faith for God to provide employment? We talk about having faith and we say we believe, but there will be times when our faith is tested, and this is part of the process by which God works in us to “purify” our faith (1 Pt. 1:6-9), to take us from shallow faith concerned only about our own wants in the moment, to larger concerns that comprehend the implications of eternity in all that we do, or think, or believe. It is through this process that we become mature believers who endure to the end, who remain faithful when the pressure is on, and who learn patience when everything in us is crying for Jesus to do it now (Ja. 1:3).