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Highlights From the Letters of James and of Peter

Highlights From the Letters of James and of Peter

 Jehovah’s Word Is Alive

Highlights From the Letters of James and of Peter

NEARLY 30 years after Pentecost of 33 C.E., the disciple James​—a half brother of Jesus—​writes a letter to “the twelve tribes” of spiritual Israel. (Jas. 1:1) His objective: to exhort them to be strong in faith and to show endurance when facing trials. He also provides counsel to correct disturbing conditions that have developed in the congregations.

Just prior to Roman Emperor Nero’s campaign of persecution in 64 C.E., the apostle Peter writes his first letter addressed to Christians, encouraging them to stand firm in the faith. In his second letter, penned soon after the first, Peter encourages his fellow believers to pay attention to God’s word and warns them about the coming of Jehovah’s day. Indeed, we can benefit from paying attention to the messages of the letters of James and of Peter.​—Heb. 4:12.

GOD GIVES WISDOM TO THOSE “ASKING IN FAITH”

(Jas. 1:1–5:20)

“Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial,” writes James, “because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life.” To those who “keep on asking in faith,” Jehovah grants wisdom needed to endure trials.​—Jas. 1:5-8, 12.

Faith and wisdom are also needed by those who “become teachers” in the congregation. After identifying the tongue as “a little member” capable of ‘spotting up the whole body,’ James warns of worldly tendencies that can damage one’s relationship with God. He also outlines the steps anyone spiritually sick should take in order to recover.​—Jas. 3:1, 5, 6; 5:14, 15.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

2:13—In what way does ‘mercy exult triumphantly over judgment’? When it comes to rendering an account for ourselves to God, he takes into consideration the mercy we have shown toward others and forgives us on the basis of the ransom sacrifice of his Son. (Rom. 14:12) Is this not one reason to make mercy a dominant quality in our lives?

4:5—What scripture is James quoting here? James is not quoting any specific verse. However, these divinely inspired words are possibly based on the general thought behind such scriptures as Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Proverbs 21:10; and Galatians 5:17.

5:20—“He who turns a sinner back from the error of his way” will save whose soul from death? A Christian who turns a wrongdoer back from a sinful course saves the soul of the repentant person from spiritual death and perhaps from everlasting destruction. The individual helping the sinner in this way will also “cover a multitude of [that one’s] sins.”

Lessons for Us:

1:14, 15. Sin has its beginning in improper desire. Therefore, we should not nurture wrong desires by dwelling on them. Rather, we need to “continue considering” upbuilding things and filling our minds and hearts with them.​—Phil. 4:8.

 2:8, 9. “Showing favoritism” is contrary to “the kingly law” of love. Hence, true Christians do not show favoritism.

2:14-26. We are “saved through faith,” “not owing to works” of the Mosaic Law or of those performed as Christians. Our faith should be more than mere professed faith. (Eph. 2:8, 9; John 3:16) It should move us to godly action.

3:13-17. “The wisdom from above” surely is superior to “the earthly, animal, demonic” wisdom! We should ‘keep searching for godly wisdom as for hid treasures.’​—Prov. 2:1-5.

3:18, footnotes. The seed of the Kingdom good news is to be “sown with peace by those who are making peace.” It is important that we be peacemakers and not arrogant, quarrelsome, or riotous.

‘STAND SOLID IN THE FAITH’

(1 Pet. 1:1–5:14)

Peter reminds his fellow believers of their “living hope” of an inheritance in heaven. “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,’” Peter tells them. After giving specific counsel on subjection, he exhorts all to be “like-minded, showing fellow feeling, having brotherly affection, tenderly compassionate, humble in mind.”​—1 Pet. 1:3, 4; 2:9; 3:8.

Since “the end of [the Jewish system of] things has drawn close,” Peter counsels the brothers to ‘be sound in mind and vigilant with a view to prayers.’ He tells them: “Keep your senses, be watchful. . . . Take your stand against [Satan], solid in the faith.”​—1 Pet. 4:7; 5:8, 9.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

3:20-22—How does baptism save us? Baptism is a requirement for those seeking salvation. However, baptism itself does not save us. Salvation is actually “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The baptismal candidate must have faith that salvation is possible only because Jesus died a sacrificial death, was resurrected, and “is at God’s right hand,” having authority over the living and the dead. Baptism founded on such faith is what corresponds to ‘eight souls being safely carried through the water.’

4:6—Who were “the dead” to whom “the good news was declared”? These were ones who were ‘dead in their trespasses and sins,’ or who were spiritually dead, before they heard the good news. (Eph. 2:1) After putting faith in the good news, though, they began to “live” spiritually.

Lessons for Us:

1:7. For our faith to have excelling value, it must be of proved, or tested, quality. Such strong faith does indeed ‘preserve alive the soul.’ (Heb. 10:39) We must not shrink back from tests of our faith.

1:10-12. Angels desired to peer into and understand the deep spiritual truths that God’s prophets of old times wrote concerning the anointed Christian congregation. However, these things became clear only when Jehovah began dealing with the congregation. (Eph. 3:10) Should we not follow the example of the angels and strive to search into “the deep things of God”?​—1 Cor. 2:10.

2:21. In imitation of our Exemplar, Jesus Christ, we should be willing to suffer even to the point of death in order to uphold Jehovah’s sovereignty.

5:6, 7. When we throw our anxiety upon Jehovah, he helps us to keep giving true worship priority in our life instead of being unduly concerned about what the next day may bring.​—Matt. 6:33, 34.

“JEHOVAH’S DAY WILL COME”

(2 Pet. 1:1–3:18)

“Prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will,” writes Peter, “but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy  spirit.” Paying attention to the prophetic word can protect us from “false teachers” and other corrupting individuals.​—2 Pet. 1:21; 2:1-3.

“In the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule,” warns Peter. But “Jehovah’s day will come as a thief.” Peter closes his letter with sound advice to those ‘awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of that day.’​—2 Pet. 3:3, 10-12.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

1:19—Who is the “daystar,” when does he rise, and how do we come to know that this has happened? The “daystar” is Jesus Christ in Kingdom power. (Rev. 22:16) In 1914, Jesus rose before all creation as the Messianic King, heralding the dawn of a new day. The transfiguration provided a visionary foreview of Jesus’ glory and Kingdom power, underscoring the dependability of God’s prophetic word. Paying attention to that word illuminates our hearts, and we are thus made aware that the Daystar has risen.

2:4—What is “Tartarus,” and when were the rebellious angels thrown into it? Tartarus is a prisonlike condition to which only spirit creatures​—not humans—​are consigned. It is a state of dense mental darkness regarding God’s bright purposes. Those in Tartarus have no hope for the future. God threw the disobedient angels into Tartarus in Noah’s day, and they will remain in that abased condition until they are destroyed.

3:17—What did Peter mean by “advance knowledge”? Peter was referring to advance knowledge, or foreknowledge, of future events, given to him and other Bible writers by inspiration. Since this was not an infinite knowledge, having it did not result in the early Christians’ knowing all the details about future events. They came to know only the general outline of what could be expected.

Lessons for Us:

1:2, 5-7. In addition to helping us increase in “accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus,” our putting forth earnest effort to cultivate such qualities as faith, endurance, and godly devotion can “cause [us] to be neither inactive nor unfruitful” regarding that knowledge.​—2 Pet. 1:8, ftn.

1:12-15. To remain “firmly set in the truth,” we need constant reminders, such as those we receive through our congregation meetings, personal study, and Bible reading.

2:2. We should be careful that our conduct does not bring reproach on Jehovah and his organization.​—Rom. 2:24.

2:4-9. In view of what he has done in the past, we can be certain that “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off.”

2:10-13. While “glorious ones,” that is, Christian elders, have faults and may err at times, we must not speak abusively of them.​—Heb. 13:7, 17.

3:2-4, 12. Paying close attention to “the sayings previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior” will help us to keep in focus the nearness of Jehovah’s day.

3:11-14. As those “awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah,” we must (1) ‘be holy in conduct,’ maintaining physical, mental, moral, and spiritual cleanness; (2) abound with deeds that reflect “godly devotion,” such as those in connection with the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work; (3) keep our conduct and personality “spotless,” untainted by the world; (4) be “unblemished,” doing all things with a pure motive; and (5) be “in peace”​—at peace with God, with our Christian brothers, and with fellow humans.