Wednesday, March 16, 2016

James Chapter One, Part 1

1:1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: greetings.

James is recognized by most biblical scholars as being a half-brother to Jesus through the marriage of Joseph (Jesus' adoptive father) and Mary. He is made mention of in Matthew 13:55, along with his full brothers Joses, Simon, and Judas, and again in Matthew 27:56, along with his brother Joses. It is significant to mention that both times he is corollated directly with being the son of Mary, and in Matthew 13:55, the writer links both Mary and James to being related as family to Jesus through the flesh.

By this point James has clearly believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, as was also evidenced by his position in the church located in Jerusalem during that famous council in Acts 15. Prior to Jesus' death and resurrection James, along with his other brothers, did not believe in Jesus, John 7:3-5.

The nature of the epistle we are about to study is evidently (initially) addressed to Jewish Christians from all twelve tribes who were without Israel and Jerusalem. Mind you the Jews had been dispersed numerous times, living in quarters of Assyria and Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece. They had been taken away by the Lord into exile and brought back during the days of Nehemiah and Ezra. But not all returned, either then or in James' day. What is significant is that in James' day the twelve tribes of Israel were apparently alive and intact, as James could not write to a people group that had been assimilated into another culture. This verse alone casts suspicion on Anglo-Israeli theology that asserts that America and Britain are now inexplicably Judah and Israel.

1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

James is a wonderful practical epistle. Here we have, in verses two and three, one reason who Christians suffer. The reason is two fold: a trial has come upon us, or rather we have fallen into it; and this trial is engineered to produce patience when faith is tested. Peter writes "For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God," 1st Peter 2:20. We learn from Peter that James is then not referring to a trial we have brought on by poor judgment; rather this is something that happens to us by God's permission. It may be by man's hands, or the failure of health, or the loss of possessions, or worse. But as God refined Job through what he suffered and taught an already godly man important lessons then this is one way God teaches. A faith that is never tested or tried is useless and may not even be genuine. More on this later.

1:4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

The outcome of a faith that patiently waits on God is that it completes our Christian character. When silver is heated it brings forth dross, which is removed from the metal when it comes to the surface. It is a process that requires endurance but the outcome is more than worth the effort. If we wish, like James commends, to be perfect and complete, then we need to permit the Holy Spirit to use said trials to work in us something beneficial. It is glorifying to God, strengthening for us, and can be vital for service to others.

1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (6) But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.

James begins by addressing suffering, and how trials can benefit the Christian. Then he suggests that those who lack wisdom, that is, godly wisdom, ask of God. Such wisdom can see in those trials their purpose, at least in terms of how it can train us to be strong in faith and patient, waiting on the Lord. Indeed, faith is made manifest in us only when something that requires us to exercise it rears its head. We need divine wisdom to understand that God is not out to harm us. Instead he is burning away that dross until we have come to the perfect work formerly mentioned, complete and lacking nothing. Like a godly patience that requires genuine faith, so too does the request for wisdom. The idea of doubting here is not one of an ephemeral trouble but of a persistent attitude. Our attitude toward God will determine much of how we view Him and His word.

1:7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

The perpetual doubter lacks faith in God. It is not a small faith that can still move mountains, Matthew 21:21; Luke 17:6. Rather it is a lack of efficacious faith that is sterile and powerless. It was this lack of faith that prevented Jesus from performing miracles, Mark 6:5-6. The term "double-minded" portrays someone with a mind for God, but also a mind set on other things. It may be then that this preoccupation on these other things that prevent this one's faith from maturing; and it is certainly a reason why they may not desire godly wisdom. We read "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction," Proverbs 1:7. This thought carries on when Solomon writes "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil," Proverbs 3:7. Proverbs, like James, is filled with good, simple and practical knowledge. It may be that one's double-minded nature has its sights set on something contrary to God's will, and therefore wisdom and trials avail nothing on such a one until they agree with God that their pursuit is not good for them. Trying to straddle the fence makes one "unstable" in his ways. Such a saint cannot be trusted with gifts of that nature. They would be poorly used. More on that later.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Ian, This double mindedness is exactly the point Jesus made talking about the cross eyed person who doesn't focus in Matthew 6:22-24, or the person who isn't willing to give up his own life in Luke 14:26-33.

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