Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Faith that Works Works Like This (James 1)

Scripture: James 1.1-27
Translation: 1.1Jacob/James, God’s and the Lord Jesus Christ’s slave
To the twelve tribes, the ones in the Diaspora


2Consider [it] total happiness, my brothers, whenever you stumble upon different kinds of testings, 3because you know that the testing-designed-to-prove-the-authenticity*** of your faith produces endurance. 4And the endurance had better have its complete work, so that you can be complete and whole, lacking in nothing. 5But if one of you lacks wisdom, he had better ask from the God Who gives to all generously and Who doesn’t mock, and it will be given to him. 6But he had better ask in faith, doubting nothing, because the person who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is blown and thrown around. 7Indeed, that human had better not expect that he will get anything from the Lord, 8a man doubting and unstable in all his ways.

9And the lowly brother had better brag about his high position. 10And the rich one in his lowly position, because like a flower of grass he passes away. 11For the sun rises with the heat and dries up the grass and its flower falls off and the beauty of its face is destroyed, so too the rich [brother] fades during his travels.

12Blessed is the man who endures testing, because after he has become proven-authentic-by-testing he will receive the crown of life, which He promised to those who love Him! 13No one who is being tested had better say that “by God I’m being tempted!” because God is untemptable by evil things, and He tempts no one. 14Rather each person is tempted by their own desire, being dragged away and lured. 15Then the desire gives having conceived gives birth to sin, and the sin when brought to completion gives birth to death.

16Don’t be tricked, my loved brothers! 17every good giving and every perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of lights, concerning Whom there is no variation or shadow of change. 18Because He decided to, He gave birth to us by the message of truth, so that we would be a firstfruits, one of His created things.

19Know [this] my loved brothers, and every man had better be fast when it comes to listening, slow when it comes to speaking, slow when it comes to anger, 20because anger from a man does not accomplish God’s righteousness. 21So, because you’ve put off all dirtiness and an abundance of badness in humility, take the implanted message, the one able to save your lives!

22And become doers of the message and not only hearers, thereby deceiving yourselves, 23because if someone is a hearer of the message and not a doer, this person is like a man who studies the face of his existence in a mirror, 24because he studies himself and goes out and immediately forgets what he’s like. 25But the person who looks into the perfect law, the one of freedom and who continues, not becoming a forgetful hearer, but an action taker—this one will be blessed in his doing. 26If someone seems to be worshipful who doesn’t bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, the worship of this guy is empty. 27Worship that is clean and undefiled before the God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their suffering, to keep oneself untainted by the world.

The Point I’m Stressing: James discusses three main two-part areas where a faith that works has an impact: 1) our response to trials, difficult times, and pain and our response to temptation; 2) How we Interact with God in Prayer (do we pray with faith) and His Word (do we do it); and 3) How do we think about our socio-economic status, and how do we act towards those with low socio-economic status who need help. But James also weaves in the wisdom thread into those three main points, which asks us do we seek to live wisely?
1.      Structure
a.       Epistolary Opening (i.e. who wrote to who and greetings)
b.      Proper Attitude Towards Testing
c.       Proper Attitude Towards Prayer for Wisdom
d.      Proper Attitude Towards Social/Financial Ranking as it Relates to the Christian Community
e.       Proper Attitude Towards Temptation
f.       Proper Attitude Towards The Message which contains instruction for Wisdom
g.      Proper Attitude Towards the underprivileged and practiced wisdom
2.      Themes
a.       Testing/Temptation
                                                              i.      Testing (πειρασμος)
1.      This element of theme opens the book, v.2, it focuses on the part of the idea (testing and temptation are two sides of the same coin, depending on the perspective under consideration. This side of the coin view the event of testing as something that people experience that proves the quality of their faith and that produces greater maturity, while the opposite side of the coin is the pull by an experience towards sin, and it can be the same experience that is designed to prove the quality of our faith and generate greater maturity)
2.      It then appears at the second cycle in v.12 and is connected with the theme of life and endurance again
                                                            ii.      Temptation (πειραζω, απειραστος)
1.      Vv.13-14 really talk about how we are pulled towards sin, and this is a test of our character,
2.      V.13b indicates that the tempting side of a given event or opportunity or situation is not something that God is subject to, and does not try to get people sin, because His nature is violently opposed to that, so He does not try to ingrain into our nature a susceptibility to temptation, but the opposite. Remember for us the inverse of temptation is the testing, God is seeking to authenticate our faith, not trying to pull us into sin, and while in one sense it does come from God, the problem is with us, so we should not try to put God on the hook for our sin, moreover it is only someone who has a view of God’s absolute sovereignty that can accuse God of being the reason we sin,
                                                          iii.      Authentication testing (δοκιμιον, δοκιμος)
1.      This is the clear aim and goal of the testing/temptation: authenticating our faith and giving us an authenticated nature, proven character, which has the end result of affirming that we really have real faith, which proves us qualified in Christ for eternal life
2.      That this is a good and perfect gift from God is made clear by the way it is talked about in v.2-4 and what it means for the person who has in v.12 and by the fact that the inverse to seeing temptation as God’s fault and something really evil is recognizing that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift (so temptation is not from Him, but testing and all that it is meant to produce is) and that it is strongly thereby connected to the message of truth (vv.16-18).
b.      Faith
                                                              i.      The word pops up in v.3 indicating that testing is for the sake our faith
                                                            ii.      In v.6 where the word faith is found, we see that it is the way we need to be asking for things from God, and this theme is reinforced by the antithesis to it, doubt. Doubt is the opposite of faith and indeed this also indicates that testing is designed to prove that our faith is firm
                                                          iii.      In v.12, it is found implicitly by the mention that God has promised life to the person who’s faith is proven by testing, and interestingly it is connected powerfully to love, a tested faith is intimately connected to loving God, the things reinforce each other, and in some ways are different ways of talking about the same thing.
                                                          iv.      Also our faith in God via the message is credited to God as His action, which suggests to us that faith is a gift from God, the message was the way God made us His children,
                                                            v.      In v.21 it is the means by which we take the message that has the power to save our lives
                                                          vi.      In v.22ff it is worked out by what we do
                                                        vii.      Implicitly, it is what comes with our worship in vv.26-27 that is worked out
c.       The Needy
                                                              i.      They appear as the poor people in contrast to the rich in vv.9-11, where they are given respect by God when not given respect by others
                                                            ii.      In v.27, they appear again as the orphans and widows who suffer and need the support and care of Christians, which constitutes a core part of our worship to God
                                                          iii.      This will be a major theme in the book
d.      The message
                                                              i.      It pops up in vv.18, 21, 22, 23, 25(implicitly by means of law)
                                                            ii.      It is qualified as truth and as powerful to save our lives and as something that must be practiced and not just heard, and of course it is appropriated and lived out by faith
e.       Wisdom
                                                              i.      This is what is needed and requested in v.5, but the “slow to speak and get angry, and quick to listen” constitute some common wisdom ideas and are phrased that way to some degree. The trifecta will be developed more fully later
                                                            ii.      To some extent most of the instruction in this passage has shades of the wisdom genre, from the discussion of rich vs. poor, temptation and how to live out the faith in worship that works
f.       Actions/living out our faith
                                                              i.      As in ch.2 two, actions, living out the faith is critical, it is the basis of the need for the instruction. It is the context of testing/temptation, it is at work in prayer, it is at work in how we see ourselves, it is connected to moral actions in our own person and towards others, and is the blunt focus of vv.22-25, and in vv.26-27 we have it at the core of what worship is
                                                            ii.      It is achieved in how we act in the above areas, in our attitudes and actions, towards God, ourselves, and others
g.      Life
                                                              i.      Threaded through out is the recognition that faith is connected to life, or more specifically the reception of the message in faith and the proving of our faith—proving our faith shows that we are qualified to receive the crown of life, that is eternal life with God, and receiving the message in faith is what saves our lives. Thus, salvation is by faith in God according to the message He has revealed, and received when by enduring into death in faith we prove that we had faith and are given the life that comes with it
                                                            ii.      The theme is also highlighted by its inverse death, which is the end result of a sin and is what rich men face as well (no security is conferred by riches)
                                                          iii.      Also the mention of first fruits implies life, and the birthing metaphors imply it as well
                                                          iv.      Lastly it is also suggest by the concern that we have for the lives of others, for their suffering.
h.      Worship
                                                              i.      This is what we are all about in a lot of ways
                                                            ii.      It is shown here has not merely words said, or things believed, but as things done
                                                          iii.      In fact, the reality of worship is only proven in us when we have the other actions to back it up, just being in church or doing Christiany things doesn’t prove it,
3.      Doctrines
a.       Trusting God
b.      Living out the faith
c.       Total Depravity of Man (we are completely corrupted by sin)
d.      Perseverance of the Saints: faith must last and it must work, but if it does it means we have eternal life by grace from God
e.       The message of the Gospel contained in God’s Word is the means by which God saves souls
f.       Moral purity is core to the Christian lifestyle
g.      Concern for others is a core to the Christian lifestyle
h.      How we speak is a core feature of living out our faith
i.        Prayer must be done in faith
j.        Immutability of God
k.      God as Untemptable by Evil and the Source of All Good and Gifts


1.      There is always a choice set in front of us when it comes to difficult event, or opportunity for a course of action in our lives, if we approach the event from one perspective we see it as something to endure or resist that by doing so will prove our faith authentic and develop greater Godliness and Christian maturity in us, or if we see it as something to be indulged because of our desires, something that we don’t want to resist, as something that is really hard not to do because our own interests or feelings or desires wants/needs, then we see that difficult event or opportunity as temptation. When we are in that opportunity to either endure or give in, we have two paths. One path will lead to greater Christian maturity and eternal life. That is the road of endurance, of refusing to give in to what we would want but would be sinful to do or not do. The other path in front of us when we have an opportunity to sin will to indulge our desires, which will lead to sin, which will lead to death (that is hell). One area that is especially true of is our desires for sexual expression or arousal, what is commonly called “lust” in Christian circles. Now, many have the false impression that “lust” is a guys only problem, but I don’t think that’s true. Rather it is a guys and girls problem, for you it is especially a problem because your hormones are going crazy and your desires are primed and for much of your life before puberty they were mostly dormant, but now sexual desires have been awakened in you, all of you guys and girls. And in fact, all of us have gone through that. And in the right context, sexual desires are a good thing, a gift from God, but in the improper context and directed at inappropriate people and times, sexual desires are sin, heinous sin, still forgivable, but not minor in any way. And the truth is all of us here face those desires to one degree or another, and just because those desires don’t always take the same form or manifest themselves in the same ways, does not mean that the choice to either indulge them or refuse them until the we are in the proper time and directing them at the proper person is not in front of all of us. Guys say and think different kinds of things than girls do sometimes, but that doesn’t make girls lust not lust or guys lust not lust. We are not supposed to say “my lust looks different from other people’s, so it is not really lust” rather we need to be honest and say “my lust is lust and its evil, Lord, forgive me and empower me to resist, I want the blessing of maturity and closer relationship with you that comes when I endure testing, authenticate my faith, and deny the tempting desires their gratification!” and to be honest, although guys sometimes lie to themselves about whether they were really lusting or not, my experience has been that it is the girls who say “what I was doing was not lusting”

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