Lost and found identity
James, the younger brother of Jesus, brilliantly engages the subject of humanity's forgotten identity revealed and redeemed in the Incarnate Word.
From the first and the last verse of chapter one, James sets his teaching up against the sense of a lost identity: the twelve scattered tribes, and the widows and the orphans.
To lose one's land of heritage or immediate family, would be the greatest and most challenging test or temptation anyone can face: “to forget what manner of person you are.” (James 1:24, Deuteronomy 32:18.)
There was a time when neither he nor any of his family believed in Jesus. [John 7:5] It was only after the resurrection when Jesus appeared to him that the truth dawned on him; now he understood that his brother Jesus was indeed the one who all the rumors and prophetic pointers throughout time said he was. Jesus is God unveiled in flesh, the incarnate Word who redeemed the lost identity of mankind in his death and resurrection. James’ eyes were opened to the fact that neither Jesus nor he began in Mary’s womb. [1 Cor 15:7; James 1:17,18.]
Man began in God. We are not merely the desire of a parent, we are the desire of God. Mankind shares a common origin, the boulomai, the affectionate desire and deliberate resolve of God, the Father of lights, with whom there is no distortion or hidden agenda. The unveiling of our redemption also reveals our true genesis; we are God’s personal invention. We are anouthen, from above. We are perfect and complete and lacking in nothing. God’s Sabbath is the celebration of our perfection, both by design and redemption. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, (anouthen) from the Father of lights with whom there is no variableness and no shadow due to change, he brought us forth by the Word of truth.”
Born from above
John sees the same genesis. He only begins to write when he is already more than 90 years old. Unlike Luke and Matthew, he skips the genealogies of Joseph, he declares, “In the beginning was the Word, what God was, the Word was, and the Word became flesh. He sees that the destiny of the Word was not the book, but human life. God finding accurate expression of himself, his image and likeness revealed in human form. Genesis 1:26 lives again; mankind is standing tall in the stature of the invisible God. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” “Unless a someone is born from above (anouthen), they cannot see the Kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God (the reign of God’s image and likeness in human life) is made visible again on earth as it is in heaven; tangible in human form. (Jn 3:3)
In John 3 Nicodemus discovers that his irresistible attraction to Jesus was because of the fact that our natural birth is not our beginning. We come from above. God knew us before he formed us in our mother’s womb. [Jer 1:5] If people did not come from above, the heavenly realm would offer no attraction to them. In our make-up we are the god-kind with an appetite for more than what bread and the senses could satisfy us with. We are designed to hunger for and feast from the Logos that comes from above. From a dimension where the original thought remains preserved and intact without contamination; the Logos that comes from his mouth is the unveiled mirror radiance of our authentic origin, quickening and sustaining the life of our design. “No one ascended into heaven, who did not also descend from heaven, even the son of man.” (Jn 3:13)
Paul celebrates the same theme in Galatians 1:15 God’s eternal 1love dream separated me from my mother’s womb; his grace became my 2identity. (1eudokeo: his beautiful intention; the well done opinion. My mother’s womb, my natural lineage and identity as son of Benjamin. 2kaleo, to surname, to summon by name.) Gal 1:16 This is the heart of the gospel that I proclaim; it began with an unveiling of sonship 1in me, freeing me to announce the same sonship 2in the masses of non-Jewish people. I felt no immediate urgency to compare notes with those who were familiar with Christ from a mere historic point of view. (The Greek text is quite clear, “It pleased the Father to reveal his son in me in order that I may proclaim him in the nations.” 1en emoi, in me, and 2en ethnos, in the Gentile nations, or the masses of non Jewish people. Not ‘among’ the Gentiles as most translations have it. Later when Barnabas is sent to investigate the conversion of the Greeks in Acts 11, instead of reporting his findings to the HQ in Jerusalem, he immediately finds Paul, knowing that Paul’s gospel is the revelation of the mystery of Christ in the nations. Col.1:27. No wonder then that those believers were the first to be called Christians, or Christ-like.)
Paul reminds the Greek philosophers in Acts 17 that we live and move and have our being in God; mankind is indeed the offspring of God. He is quoting from their own writings. [Epimenedes 600 BC and Aratus, 300 BC.] The incorruptible seed of sonship is as much in every person as the seed is already in all soil, even in the desert, waiting for the rain to awaken and ignite its dormant life. Mankind only has one Father. Matt 13:44 the treasure was already in the field before it was discovered. 2 Cor 4:4 & 7. God wrote the script of every individual’s innermost being when he knitted us together in our mother’s womb; the code is “Christ in you.” Col 1:27.
Jesus has come to reveal that the son of man is the son of God. “If you have seen me you have seen the Father. Matt 23:9 “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” He says to Peter, “Flesh-and-blood cannot reveal to you who the son of man is, but my Father who is in heaven; blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, I give you a new name that reveals your original identity: you are Mr Rock, a chip of the old Block. (Petros, hewn out of the rock, petra. Isa 51:1, Deut 32:3, 4, 18.) This revelation is the rock foundation that I will build my identity upon, [my image and likeness] and the gates of Hades, (from ha + eido, not to see) that trapped mankind into the walled city of the senses, will not prevail against the voice that surnames and summons mankind again. (Mt 16:13, 17) Church, ekklesia, from ek, denoting source or origin and klesia from kaleo, to surname or identify by name.)
Therefore, Paul did not consult with flesh and blood. He deliberately avoided the opportunity to get to know Jesus from a human point of view by visiting the eleven disciples who were still alive and living in Jerusalem. They could have informed him first-hand about the life, ministry, parables, and miracles of Jesus. [2 Cor 5:16.] But Paul does not make mention in any of his writings even of a single parable Jesus told or miracle he performed, because his mandate and revelation was not to merely relate Christ in history, but to reveal Christ in mankind.
Only three years later he returned briefly to Jerusalem specifically to visit Peter and James, the Lord’s brother. [Gal 1:18, 19.] One is not surprized to discover that the first believers ever to be called Christians were the Greeks in Antioch who sat under Paul’s ministry. [Acts 11.]
After his encounter with the risen Jesus James writes in Jam 1:17 that the Father of lights brought us forth by the word of truth. When anyone hears this word, he sees the face of his genesis as in a mirror. “for he sees himself”.
What James, Peter and Paul had in common was an understanding that their flesh and blood birth did not define them. Jesus came to reveal and redeem mankind’s authentic spirit identity.
Mankind share three births in common:
1/ Man began in God. Mal 2:10. Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? See John 3:13 No one ascends into heaven but he who also descended from heaven, even the son of man. See also Matt 22:41-46 and Matt 23:9.
2/ The only passport to planet earth is the womb of a mother. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Jer 1:5. It is not our brief history on earth that introduces us to God.
3/ In God’s faith every human life is equally represented and included in Jesus Christ. “One has died for all; therefore all have died.” 2 Cor 5:14. “While we were still dead in our sins, God made us alive together with Christ and co-raised us together with Christ.” Eph 2:5. We have been born anew through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1Pet 1:3. “Now if all were included in his death they were equally included in his resurrection.” 2 Cor 5:15; Hosea 6:2.
Paul describes the “metanoia-moment” in Titus 3:4 But then, oh happy day. It was the generosity of God and his fondness for mankind that dawned on us like a shaft of light. Our days of darkness were over. Light shone everywhere and we became aware: God rescued the human race. See Titus 2:11.
Titus 3:5 Salvation is not a reward for good behavior. It has absolutely nothing to do with anything that we have done. God’s mercy saved us. The Holy Spirit endorses in us what happened to us when Jesus Christ died and was raised. When we heard the glad announcement of salvation it was like taking a deep warm bath. We were thoroughly cleansed and resurrected in a new birth. It was a complete renovation that restored us to sparkling newness of life.
In 2 Cor 5:16 Paul declares: “From now on therefore, we no longer know anyone according to the flesh.”
James says, “We can say beautiful things about God the Father but with the same mouth curse a person made in his mirror likeness.” (True worship is to touch someone’s life with the same devotion and care you would touch Jesus himself; even if the other person seems a most unlikely candidate. James 3:9.)