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James - a living, working, undivided faith

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I'll start out with a carry-over of Gillian's question from last week:
Yeah, the more I look at the chapter as a whole the more I’m thinking that the “law of liberty” was just meant to identify God’s Word in general. It’s interesting to think *why* James calls it the “law of liberty”… He was clarifying (like John does) that obeying God’s word isn’t burdensome. Obedience is freeing and redeeming. I’m noticing the trend of James presenting God’s Word in a very positive light: “He brought us forth by the word of truth”; by receiving the Word, we can “achieve the righteousness of God”… it “is able to save your souls”; and lastly the one who obeys the Word (law of liberty) is “blessed in what he does”. It goes along with the fact that the Father doesn’t tempt us, but provides us with every good thing, including the word of truth, so that we would be first-fruits among His creatures. You mentioned that James is writing most likely to Jews here… Do you think the reason he paints God’s law (the Word) in such a positive light is partly because he wants the Jewish Christians to learn to love It? Perhaps they felt God’s commands were only meant to be demanding and pressure-some? (Rather than what they are to a Christian: a truly gracious gift and actually fairly natural response to who they are because of God’s work in them.)
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I'll start out by interacting with the question about Jewish Christians learning to love the Law...
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I would find it fairly surprising if that is the main point of what is going on. There seems to me to be a trajectory in Early Judaism that is quite different to the implication that the Jews viewed God’s word as bringing bondage. For example, although from a somewhat later period:

Furthermore, it is written,"And the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tablets (Exodus 32:16). Do not read harut (graven) but rather heirut (freedom), for no person is free except one who engages in the study of Torah.
[Soncino translation]

Mishna, Pirkei Avot 6:2

In fact, I would suggest that it is primarily Paul who counters the view that is prevalent in Judaism that the Law brings freedom, and he rather suggests that because of sin, the Law is unable to bring freedom, and rather brings condemnation (e.g. 2 Cor 3:9; Romans 7:4-6, 8:1-4;7-8 etc)
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Furthermore, if you look at the early church in the NT, it is clear that there is an apostolic teaching that the Law (in one sense) is burdensome. For example:

Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

(Acts 15:10-11; see also Rom 4:14-15)

On the other hand; there is a clear trajectory in the Bible that God’s word does bring Liberty, and sometimes God’s word is referred to as Law (e.g. Ps 19, 119 etc.). Without adequately nuancing all aspects of the following statement, I would say, even though it sounds a little paradoxical “Law, narrowly understood (in Paul – the Law of Moses) cannot save, brings wrath and condemnation, but God’s liberating word, especially through the gospel, brings life and salvation by His Spirit.” Hence Paul can teach that we are not under Law, yet also say that he is under God’s Law or the Law of Christ (1 Cor 9:21, Gal 5:18, 6:2).
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Probably, then James is teaching that God's word (as fulfilled in Messiah) brings an unavoidable demand for obedience to the Lord - cf Matt 5:17; 11:28-30. And he wants us to have a living, working, faith
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PS out of interest, note also from Philo, Every good man is free, 45

(45) Moreover, as among cities, some being governed by an oligarchy or by tyrants, endure slavery, having those who have subdued them and made themselves masters of them for severe and cruel tyrants; while others, existing under the superintending care of the laws and under those good protectors, are free and happy. So also in the case of men; those who are under the dominion of anger, or appetite, or any other passion, or of treacherous wickedness, are in every respect slaves; and those who live in accordance with the law are free. (46) But the unerring law is right reason; not an ordinance made by this or that mortal, a corruptible and perishable law, a lifeless law written on lifeless parchment or engraved on lifeless columns; but one imperishable, and stamped by immortal nature on the immortal mind.
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Thanks for preserving my comment! I had forgotten what exactly I said. :)
Thanks for your answer. I agree with you,"to love God's Word" isn't really a major point in James 1... more like"be doers, not hearers only". It is still somewhat mind-blowing to me though, thinking of the difference between OT obedience to the Law and our NT obedience to heart-inscribed law. Not only can we be doers, but willing doers of God's will. I really liked that Philo quote you added; what a great description!
David's expressions in Psalm 119 are interesting because he was under the Law, and yet the law of God was written in his heart. Wouldn't it be accurate to say that because David was"a man after God's own heart" that even the Mosaic Law became something he could rejoice in? It sounds like David loved every command and word from God simply because God had given it."You have ordained Your precepts,
That we should keep them diligently.
Oh that my ways may be established
To keep Your statutes!
Then I shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Your commandments.
I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
I shall keep Your statutes;
Do not forsake me utterly!" Psalm 119:4-8
This is a hard concept for me to grasp, but maybe you can help me out... Those who knew God in the OT (like David) and later in the NT before Christ's completed work (like Anna)... They were still under the Law, and yet their hearts were soft toward the Word. They lived by the Law, but that wasn't what saved them. For these Old Covenant believers, they knew that they could not please God through the Law, and yet they still lived in obedience to it without it detracting from their faith. My question is, was the Law"burdensome" to David and Anna? I'm inclined to think it is only burdensome to those who think it's brings salvation.
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I'll start out with a carry-over of Gillian's question from last week:
Yeah, the more I look at the chapter as a whole the more I’m thinking that the “law of liberty” was just meant to identify God’s Word in general. It’s interesting to think *why* James calls it the “law of liberty”… He was clarifying (like John does) that obeying God’s word isn’t burdensome. Obedience is freeing and redeeming. I’m noticing the trend of James presenting God’s Word in a very positive light: “He brought us forth by the word of truth”; by receiving the Word, we can “achieve the righteousness of God”… it “is able to save your souls”; and lastly the one who obeys the Word (law of liberty) is “blessed in what he does”. It goes along with the fact that the Father doesn’t tempt us, but provides us with every good thing, including the word of truth, so that we would be first-fruits among His creatures. You mentioned that James is writing most likely to Jews here… Do you think the reason he paints God’s law (the Word) in such a positive light is partly because he wants the Jewish Christians to learn to love It? Perhaps they felt God’s commands were only meant to be demanding and pressure-some? (Rather than what they are to a Christian: a truly gracious gift and actually fairly natural response to who they are because of God’s work in them.)
Amen. Loving God should never feel like a job. When his light and his love flows through you there is no second thought. All of your actions are in sync with the word. Even in dark times we should find it easy to shine through.
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Thanks for preserving my comment! I had forgotten what exactly I said. :)
Thanks for your answer. I agree with you,"to love God's Word" isn't really a major point in James 1... more like"be doers, not hearers only". It is still somewhat mind-blowing to me though, thinking of the difference between OT obedience to the Law and our NT obedience to heart-inscribed law. Not only can we be doers, but willing doers of God's will. I really liked that Philo quote you added; what a great description!
David's expressions in Psalm 119 are interesting because he was under the Law, and yet the law of God was written in his heart. Wouldn't it be accurate to say that because David was"a man after God's own heart" that even the Mosaic Law became something he could rejoice in? It sounds like David loved every command and word from God simply because God had given it."You have ordained Your precepts,
That we should keep them diligently.
Oh that my ways may be established
To keep Your statutes!
Then I shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Your commandments.
I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
I shall keep Your statutes;
Do not forsake me utterly!" Psalm 119:4-8
This is a hard concept for me to grasp, but maybe you can help me out... Those who knew God in the OT (like David) and later in the NT before Christ's completed work (like Anna)... They were still under the Law, and yet their hearts were soft toward the Word. They lived by the Law, but that wasn't what saved them. For these Old Covenant believers, they knew that they could not please God through the Law, and yet they still lived in obedience to it without it detracting from their faith. My question is, was the Law"burdensome" to David and Anna? I'm inclined to think it is only burdensome to those who think it's brings salvation.
I second your question Gillian, and Michael remember that you said that everyone needs to be nice to us because we're guests. Or does that only apply to the previous Gathering? :) - Just kidding...
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Hello good people.
I have a question
If we follow the good shepherd
Does that make us sheeple?
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Sorry for the suspense, I'll try to think of a thoughtful answer tomorrow morning, I'm falling asleep now. Not only am I master of suspense, but I...
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Hey Gillian... The past few days have been pretty busy for me, so apologies for keeping you eating. You've asked a really interesting and difficult question, and the answer given would likely be different (and debated) depending on people's presuppositions/ Theological school. One of the big debates has to do with salvation in the Old Testament, and whether regeneration was a reality that was experienced by OT saints.
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So, for example, I am fairly comfortable in saying that salvation was always by grace, the grounds of salvation was ultimately always the sacrifice of Christ (Rom 3:21-26), and the conscious object/ content of faith depending on the time/ epoch I'm which the person lived. Furthermore, I feel fairly comfortable in saying that the permanent Indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a feature of the New Testament.
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Having said all of that, the question arises as to whether, when an OT person came to 'saving faith'/ justification, did he also experience regeneration? Many NT theologians would say yes (e.g Jim Hamilton), but the question does arise whether we should say, for example, that 'circumcision of the heart' should be equated with regeneration? The problem is that the OT doesn't talk explicitly about people being regenerated, and the NT says that people are regenerated through God's word/ the gospel.
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In the NT, we also have to wrestle very seriously with all 'the negative' things Paul etc have to say about the Law, not in the sense that the Law is bad, but in the sense that the law somehow provokes and exacerbates sin (e.g Rom 7:5), along with the clear affirmation that believers are no longer under the Law (Rom 7:6). Not just to add further complexity to the issue, but because it also features in the mix, I think there is a legitimate question as to how much to make of the idea of 'having God's Law written in our hearts', and how to take the Jeremiah 31 promise, which is made to Israel, and figure out the extent to which we should apply the future experience therein described to the church today. This is a massive topic and I don't want to cloud the issue, but maybe we can have a separate discussion (gathering!) at another stage.
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Coming back to your question, part of the complexity also has to do with what was expected of a 'believer' living under Mosaic Law - like David - who were commanded and expected to rejoice in the Law. See Deut 4:5-8, 28:47. As you have pointed out though, there are clearly places in the OT where saints affirm their delight in God's Law, and give high praise to it. So a proper synthesis of this issue is critical to 'getting the Bible right'.
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To make one final comment, I think we also need to take seriously the trajectory and changes of salvation history (or alternatively, the changes in dispensation). So not just in Paul, but for example in Matthew, Jesus says things like:

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence,[d] and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.

And the book of Hebrews says of the OT sacrifices:

This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.

(Hebrews 9:9-10).

The writer to the Hebrews had earlier said:

But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning

(Heb 9:7-8).

So here’s a question…. Did the OT saints rejoice in the sacrifices and the Tabernacle/ Temple? I would say that the answer is clearly yes, and could validate this by various examples. Yet at the same time, those sacrifices provided an annual reminder of sins and couldn’t clear the conscience, and the Temple prevented access to not only the Gentile world, but to most of the nation (beyond a point at least). In other words, there is a way they could both rejoice and sense that something was missing/ incomplete. Just a thought.
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Hey Gillian... The past few days have been pretty busy for me, so apologies for keeping you eating. You've asked a really interesting and difficult question, and the answer given would likely be different (and debated) depending on people's presuppositions/ Theological school. One of the big debates has to do with salvation in the Old Testament, and whether regeneration was a reality that was experienced by OT saints.
That's okay, Michael, I'm not that bad of a stress-eater. :-)) Ah, that was such a great typo....
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Thanks for preserving my comment! I had forgotten what exactly I said. :)
Thanks for your answer. I agree with you,"to love God's Word" isn't really a major point in James 1... more like"be doers, not hearers only". It is still somewhat mind-blowing to me though, thinking of the difference between OT obedience to the Law and our NT obedience to heart-inscribed law. Not only can we be doers, but willing doers of God's will. I really liked that Philo quote you added; what a great description!
David's expressions in Psalm 119 are interesting because he was under the Law, and yet the law of God was written in his heart. Wouldn't it be accurate to say that because David was"a man after God's own heart" that even the Mosaic Law became something he could rejoice in? It sounds like David loved every command and word from God simply because God had given it."You have ordained Your precepts,
That we should keep them diligently.
Oh that my ways may be established
To keep Your statutes!
Then I shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Your commandments.
I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
I shall keep Your statutes;
Do not forsake me utterly!" Psalm 119:4-8
This is a hard concept for me to grasp, but maybe you can help me out... Those who knew God in the OT (like David) and later in the NT before Christ's completed work (like Anna)... They were still under the Law, and yet their hearts were soft toward the Word. They lived by the Law, but that wasn't what saved them. For these Old Covenant believers, they knew that they could not please God through the Law, and yet they still lived in obedience to it without it detracting from their faith. My question is, was the Law"burdensome" to David and Anna? I'm inclined to think it is only burdensome to those who think it's brings salvation.
Yes, the being doers part does seem to be a (or the) major part of James:, are we just showing off our knowledge of the truth or are we actually living it?

Jen, Trisha and I are reading the Pilgrim's Progress together and today we came across the part where
Christian and Hopeful come across a man called Talkative, he knows a lot about many of the intricate doctrinal points of salvation, but he does not live them out. In their critical assessment of Talkative Christian and Hopeful make many observations about the man,"His religion is to make a noise with it….He talks about prayer, of repentance, of faith, and of the new birth; but he only knows how to talk about them."

Then Hopeful says,"When Christ said, 'Do you know all these things?' and the disciples answered, 'Yes,' he added, 'Blessed are you if you do them.' He doesn't lay the blessing in the knowing of them, but in the doing of them. …Indeed, to know is a thing that pleases talkers and boasters, but to do is what pleases God."

(This is from a modern english edition of Pilgrim's Progress)
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I noticed it the other day in Gillian's comment, but I sort of forgot about it until I just posted my own comment... we can make paragraphs! :)

For anyone who thinks that I am being insanely joyous about the ability to make paragraphs, the site didn't have the option to make paragraphs some days ago and I didn't realize how much I appreciated paragraphs until I couldn't make them… Now I'm thankful for paragraphs whereas before I just took them for granted. :)
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