Steeping in James – 1:18-2:14

Meg and I continued our Non-Cheesy Bible Study in the Letter of James this week focusing on James 1:18-2:14. The pages from Moo’s TNTC Commentary on James for this section are pp 77-101. For other posts in this series select “Steeping in James” from the Category pull-down on the right side-bar.


  • We’re beginning to get into the heart of the letter with this section dealing primarily with the relationship between faith and works.
  • From the outset, James writes (1:21), “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
    • I love the tension contained here in “receiving…the implanted word.”
    • By “implanted,” we are to view God’s Word as an inseparable part of our life. It guides, shapes, and leads our lives. This word, implanted, also carries the connotation that it was placed in us.
    • By “receive,” we realize that this is not something we merely obtain by our efforts, but rather it is granted to us by God.
    • Combined, we demonstrate that we have in fact received God’s Word and that it is implanted in our hearts by humbly accepting God’s Word as our authority and guide for life.
  • Moo handles the topic of faith and works quite well and here I will simply quote from him:
    • Writing on the topic of the heart of James’ pastor concern, Moo states:
      • “However important may be the mental assent to the Word, it has not been truly received until it is put into practice.” (p81)
      • “Those who fail to do the word, who are hearers only, are guilty of a dangerous and potentially fatal self-delusion. If the gospel, by nature, contains both saving power and summons to obedience, those who relate only to one have not truly embraced the gospel. That is why James can say that people who hear the word are deceiving themselves. They think that they have a relationship with God because they regularly attend church, go to Bible studies or read the Bible. But if their listening is not accompanied by obedience, their true situation before God is far different.” (p82)
      • “The true test of any religious profession, suggests James, is not the outward ritual of worship, which may go through unthinkingly and with little heart commitment. No, the real litmus test of religion is obedience – without it, religion is vain: empty, useless and profitless.” (p86)
  • 2:1-7 deal primarily with partiality and discrimination.
    • Here we do well to learn that as Christians we are not to evaluate others by the standards of the world, but rather to recognize and acknowledge that whether believer or not, rich or poor, or whatever – all bear the image of God and and should not be treated with partiality or discriminated against.
  • When we look at how James talks about faith and works (2:24 for example, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”) and compare it to how Paul talks about faith and works (Romans 3:28 for example, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”), a few things must be noted:
    • The context of James is different from the context of Paul.
      • Paul’s context: works without faith.
      • James context: faith without works.
    • It is also important to note that James is dealing with “faith” here in a sense of “bogus faith.” That is, unsaving faith.
    • The corollary, is that Paul is dealing with “works” in a sense of “bogus works.” That is, improperly motivated works or self-righteous works.
    • So whereas James and Paul seem (and are often accused of) being at odds, they in fact are in agreement, but are merely approaching two different problems.
    • As Moo summarizes, “Paul denies that works can have any value in bringing us into relationship with God; James is insisting that once that relationship is established, works are essential.”
  • We’ll look at this more next week.

Application Questions:

  • Are you a doer of the word, or a hearer only?
    • What does that look like, specifically, in your life?
    • In what ways is God calling you to not just be a hearer of the word, but also a doer?
    • Are there evidences in your life that you have “received with meekness the implanted word”?
  • What does it mean to “keep oneself unstained from the world”?
    • How are you doing with that?
  • What is the relationship of faith and works?
    • How does James 2:24 jive with Romans 3:28?
    • What does Jesus have to say in Luke 11:28?
    • Do you lean towards faith without works (James’ concern) or works without faith (Paul’s concern)?

~ by toddbumgarner on September 2, 2008 12:16 pm.

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