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Lesson 46: Kill Your Sin! (Romans 8:12-13)

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You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker that says, “Kill your TV!” That may be wise advice, but the apostle Paul gives us even wiser counsel in our text: Kill your sin! It’s a concept that we don’t hear much about any more. But it used to be a widely understood approach to sanctification. The Puritans called it “the mortification of sin.” In our times, to be mortified means to be embarrassed, but the word really means to be killed. The Puritans all knew that we are engaged in mortal combat with an enemy that lurks within: the flesh (or the old man, or indwelling sin). Either you kill it every day or it will kill you.

Back in the 1980’s I was at Campus Crusade’s Arrowhead Springs headquarters, when I ran into my former church history professor, Dr. John Hannah. I asked him, “What’s the best book that you’ve read on the spiritual life?” Without hesitation he replied, “John Owen’s, Temptation and Sin.” Since Dr. Hannah is both a godly man and widely read, I thought, “I need to read that book.”

It is the first half of volume 6 in Owen’s Works [Banner of Truth]. He writes over 300 pages on just about every imaginable aspect of what it means to mortify indwelling sin. I also discovered that Owen, who lived in the 1600’s, wrote in what J. I. Packer calls “lumbering Latinized idiom” (A Quest for Godliness [Crossway Books], p. 16). In other words, he’s not very easy to follow! But, like mining for gold, the reward is worth the effort.

Thankfully, there are some easier to read versions of Owen’s great work. One is, Sin & Temptation, abridged and edited by James M. Houston [Multnomah Press, 1983]. A shorter one is, What Every Christian Needs to Know, prepared by A. Swanson [Grace Publications, 1998]. Also, Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor have come out with a recent edition [Crossway, 2006]. Philip Graham Ryken, the president of Wheaton College, endorses it by saying, “John Owen is a spiritual surgeon with the rare skill to cut away the cancer of sin and bring gospel healing to the sinner’s soul. Apart from the Bible, I have found his writings to be the best books ever written to help me stop sinning the same old sins.” I can only scratch the surface on this topic today. If you want to go deeper, get Owen and dig in.

Paul here explains further and applies what he wrote in 8:6, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” The death in 8:13, like that of 8:6, is not physical death, which we all must face, but spiritual death, eternal separation from God. In other words, Paul is saying,

Kill your sin or it will kill you!

He is saying here what he says in Galatians 6:8, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” There are only two ways to live, with only two outcomes: To live according to the flesh ends in eternal death; to live according to the Spirit ends with eternal life. Charles Simeon (Expository Outlines of the Whole Bible [Zondervan], 15:269) put it, “Either sin must be our enemy, or God will.” So this is serious business!

To understand and apply these verses, consider three points:

1. To kill your sin, remember your obligation, not to the flesh, but to the Lord (8:12).

Romans 8:12: “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—” Paul breaks off in mid-sentence, leaving us to supply the implied second half, that we are under obligation to the Lord. He bought us with His blood, so that now we belong to Him (3:24, 25; 8:9). His Spirit now dwells in us. It follows, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation ….”

Paul expresses the negative, “not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.” The flesh is our old nature or old man that we are born with by virtue of our being “in Adam” (5:12-21). To live “according to the flesh” means to live under the domination of the flesh, according to its desires, which are self-centered, opposed to God, and not subject to His Word (8:7). Those who live habitually according to the flesh (or “in the flesh”) are not truly born again.

But the fact that Paul addresses this obligation to believers (“brethren”) means that we still have the flesh dwelling in us, trying to gain dominance over us. Everett Harrison (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. by Frank Gaebelein [Zondervan], 10:92) says, “It is tremendously important to grasp the import of v. 12, because it teaches beyond all question that the believer still has the sinful nature within himself, despite having been crucified with Christ. The flesh has not been eradicated.” Bishop Moule put it (The Epistle to the Romans [Christian Literature Crusade], p. 221), “Say what some men will, we are never for an hour here below exempt from elements and conditions of evil residing not merely around us but within us.”

Some teach, based on Romans 6:6, that the old nature or the flesh was eradicated because it was crucified with Christ. In my estimation, they are greatly minimizing the danger of the monster that dwells within the hearts of even the godliest saints. It’s never beneficial to minimize a great danger! If an enemy is threatening to kill you and you ignore it, he will succeed! If you live under the dominance of this enemy, you will die. But Paul says that we have no obligation or debt to the flesh. What good did it ever do us? What favors has it done? None! We owe it nothing.

But by implication, we owe God everything! He loved us while we were yet sinners (5:8). He sent His own Son to bear the awful penalty of our sin, so that we no longer fear condemnation (8:1). We now belong to Him and we owe it all to His grace, not to anything that we have done. So to kill your sin, remember your obligation, not to the flesh, but to the Lord.

2. To kill your sin, understand the horrific consequence if you do not kill it—it will kill you (8:13a)!

Romans 8:13a: “for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die….” Or, as the ESV puts it, “you will die.” The literal Greek is, “you are about to die.” While the expression is equivalent to a future tense, it implies that there is still time to repent and avert the horrific consequence. Paul is saying two things:

A. A life of unchecked sin leads to eternal death.

Death is a strong word, in stark contrast to the life promised to those who set their minds on the things of the Spirit and who by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body (8:6, 13). Note that Paul did not say, “If you don’t kill your sins, you’ll lose some rewards in heaven.” He wants us to view this as mortal combat: Either you kill your sin or your sin will kill you, not just with an early death, but with eternal death!

Paul says the same thing in Colossians 3. After stating that we have died with Christ and been raised up in Him, he draws a conclusion (Col. 3:5-8, NASB marginal reading): “Therefore, put to death the members which are upon the earth to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”

In these warnings, Paul is following Jesus, who in the context of warning about mental lust said (Matt. 5:29-30), “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” (See also, Matthew 18:8-9.) Jesus does not mean literally to tear out your eye or cut off your hand. That wouldn’t solve the root problem. But He is warning that if we do not get radical in killing our sin, we will spend eternity in hell!

Maybe you’re thinking, “If Christians are saved by grace, not by works, and are eternally secure, how can Jesus and Paul both say that if we don’t kill our sin, we’ll end up in hell?”

The New Testament has frequent warnings to those who profess to know Christ, but show no evidence of it. Perhaps the most frightening is Jesus’ warning (Matt. 7:21-23), “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” Those who truly know Christ live in obedience to Him, which means that they kill their sin. False believers may serve in ministry, but they do not kill their sin.

John Piper (“How to Kill Sin,” Pt. 1, on DesiringGod.org) explains, “Putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit – the daily practice of killing sin in your life – is the result of being justified and the evidence that you are justified by faith alone apart from works of the law.” He adds, “If you are not at odds with sin, you are not at home with Jesus, not because being at odds with sin makes you at home with Jesus, but because being at home with Jesus makes you at odds with sin.”

James Boice (Romans: The Reign of Grace [Baker], 2:826) puts it bluntly, “Paul is saying that if you live like a non-Christian, dominated by your sinful nature rather than living according to the Holy Spirit, you will perish like a non-Christian—because you are a non-Christian.” A life of unchecked sin leads to eternal death.

B. Sin is not neutral and it definitely is not nice.

Sin always destroys lives, both for time and eternity. It always dangles the promise of happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction before the victim, but it is only bait to lure him into the trap, which leads to eternal death. Burn Paul’s words into your brain, “If you are living according to the flesh, you will die”!

But Satan tries to get us to minimize the serious nature of our sin, so that we excuse it as no big deal, tolerate it as normal, or even re-package it as a good thing. I’ve heard Christians say things like, “I’ve lived with this angry, nagging wife for years. It’s impossible to please her. But now I’ve met a wonderful woman at work who treats me right. Don’t I deserve a little happiness after what I’ve had to endure?” And so he justifies his adultery and divorce.

Or, as I said, some Christians argue that as believers we’re never to view ourselves as sinners, but only as saints who occasionally sin. They camp on verses like Romans 6:6, which says that our old man was crucified with Christ so that our body of sin might be done away with. They insist that they are dead to sin, so they don’t fight against it. But that is to minimize the deadly enemy.

Some years ago, the French aristocrat Baron Richard d’Arcy kept a two-year-old lion in his home as a pet. One night in June, 1977, the Baron tried to make his pet go into the bathroom, where it usually spent the night. But the lion refused to go, leaped on its master, and in minutes, had clawed him to death.

Indwelling sin is like that lion. It may be nice at first, but at some point it turns on you and the result is never pretty. Kill your sin or it will kill you! But, how do we do it?

3. To kill your sin, put it to death by the Spirit and you will live (8:13b).

Romans 8:13b, “but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” This is a daily process that will not end until you are with Jesus. As Christ’s words about plucking out your eye or cutting off your hand imply, it’s not painless. But we’ve got to keep at it as long as we live in this body of sin. John Owen (The Works of John Owen: Temptation and Sin [Banner of Truth], 6:11) put it, “When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone.”

But what does Paul mean when he says, “But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body…”? Let’s take it phrase by phrase. First, “by the Spirit” means to rely on the Holy Spirit, or to trust in His power. The Holy Spirit is not a tool that we use, but a Person whom we trust. There is a mystery in that we are responsible to trust and obey and yet it is the Spirit who gives us the power to trust and obey.

Paul puts it together in Philippians 2:12-13, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (See, also Rom. 15:18; 1 Cor. 15:10.) We are not passive, but neither do we obey by sheer will power or determination. Matthew Henry (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible [Revell], 6:418) says, “We cannot do it without the Spirit working it in us, and the Spirit will not do it without our doing our endeavor.” Ironically, one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. When we rely on the Spirit, He gives us the power to control ourselves, which includes killing our sin.

By “putting to death,” Paul means cutting off sin before it goes anywhere. We must take whatever radical action is necessary to separate ourselves from sin. He explained how this works in chapter 6, where he said that when we believed in Christ, we were baptized into His death (6:2, 3). We died with Him when He died to sin. That’s our new position, but we have to act on it. Thus, Paul exhorts (6:11), “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” In other words, be what you are.

Why does Paul say “deeds of the body,” not “of the flesh”? Some commentators insist that the difference is significant, while others say that it is mainly a variation of style. Paul has used “body” to refer to the “body of sin” (6:6), “the mortal body” where sin should not reign (6:12), and the “body of this death” (7:24). He also refers to “the members of your body,” which we are not to present to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but rather to God as instruments of righteousness (6:13).

So if there is a difference here, he is focusing on the body as the instrument through which the sinful deeds of the flesh are expressed. Until Jesus returns, we live in a body that is still prone toward sin. Sin is sin even on the thought level, before it ever displays itself through the body (Mark 7:20-23). But if we kill it on the thought level, it will not become a deed of the body. Sins that are expressed through the body are always worse than sins of the mind, because they damage others and bring dishonor to God. Thus we must put to death the deeds of the body by cutting them off in the mind before they are expressed openly.

Conclusion

To make this as practical as I can, let me give seven steps to kill your sin. I could come up with more, but I hope that these help. I’m assuming that you have experienced the new birth, so that the Spirit of God now dwells in you (8:9).

(1). Purpose to be godly and discipline yourself for that purpose.

Paul writes (1 Tim. 4:7), “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” You must decide, “My aim is to become a man or woman of God, so that my life glorifies the God who saved me.” In light of that purpose, make plans not to sin. Usually, we fall into patterns of living that set us up for sinning. Study yourself and work out a plan to cut off any opportunity for sin. If you’re easily tempted to pornography, set up safeguards and accountability to keep you away from the temptation. If you’re tempted to drunkenness or drugs, stay away from people or places where you could fall. Discipline implies going against your immediate feelings and impulses for a higher goal. Just as an athlete who wants to win avoids certain foods even though they taste good and works out when he doesn’t feel like it, so a Christian who purposes to be godly disciplines himself for that goal.

(2). Kill your sin at its root and it will not bear its deadly fruit.

You can knock the fruit off the tree, but if you don’t want it to grow, you’ve got to cut the tree down at the roots (Owen, p. 30). Sin begins on the heart or thought level. If you cut it off there, it will not go any farther. No one commits adultery without first thinking about it. So when lust, greed, selfishness, or pride pop into your mind, cut the thought off right there. Don’t entertain it.

(3). Cry out to God for deliverance and take whatever action you must to flee temptation.

This is the mysterious balance that I mentioned: You trust God, but you also take action. God says (Ps. 50:15), “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” But the Spirit also inspired Paul to write (1 Cor. 6:18), “Flee immorality.” “Flee youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22). Pray and flee!

(4). Set your mind on the things of the Spirit, not on the things of the flesh (Rom. 8:5; Col. 3:1-4).

The “things of the Spirit” refers to the many wonderful truths and promises of God revealed to us in His Word (1 Cor. 2:9-13).

(5). Spend time daily in the Word of God.

As has often been said, “Either sin will keep you from the Word or the Word will keep you from sin” (Ps. 119:9, 11). Jesus defeated Satan by quoting the Word (Matt. 4:1-11). Meditate on and memorize the Word, because you won’t always have a Bible and concordance handy when temptation hits.

(6). Keep the cross in view at all times to deepen your love for Christ, your hatred of sin, and your desire to glorify God.

The motive for killing sin is that the Son of God loved me and gave Himself up for me (Gal. 2:20), thus I want to honor and glorify Him. The motive for killing sin should not primarily be to rid yourself of a frustrating problem that is disrupting your life: “My anger or my drinking is causing problems in my marriage, so I want to kill these sins.” Rather, it should be, “My anger or my drinking is dishonoring to God, who gave His Son for me, so I want to kill these sins.”

(7). Walk each day in dependence on the Holy Spirit.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). A walk is a step by step process that takes you toward a goal. If you fall, get up and keep walking.

You’ve probably heard about or seen the movie about the young man who was hiking in Utah when a boulder fell and pinned his arm between it and the canyon wall. He was trapped like that for an agonizing week. He finally realized that he must cut off his arm or he would die there. So he did that gruesome deed and he is alive today.

You’ve got to do that with your sin. If you don’t kill it, it will kill you. The indwelling Holy Spirit will give you the power to kill your sin as you walk in dependence on Him.

Application Questions

  1. If killing sin is an evidence of eternal life and since we can never kill it all, how can we know if we’re saved?
  2. Where is the biblical balance between viewing ourselves as sinners versus saints? How do we maintain the proper tension?
  3. Someone may argue that the steps for killing sin are legalistic. How would you answer?
  4. What other steps for killing sin can you find in the Bible? Which have been the most helpful for you in the battle?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Hamartiology (Sin), Soteriology (Salvation)

Lesson 47: Signs of True Assurance (Romans 8:14-16)

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Assurance of salvation is a problem in two opposite ways. Some think that they are saved when in reality they are not. When it is too late to repent, they will hear the shocking words, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23). They thought that they had saving faith, but they were mistaken. So they have false assurance.

Others are truly saved, but they wrestle with doubts about their salvation. Their uncertainty causes them a lot of anxiety and grief. They’re like insecure children who live in an unloving home with a mean father who threatens to disown them. They miss out on the joy of experiencing the Heavenly Father’s love. They are unable to come to God with the assurance that He will welcome them into His loving arms. They need true assurance.

Romans 8 is all about assurance of salvation. If you are walking in the flesh but think that you are saved, this chapter will jar you into examining your heart. Only those who walk according to the Spirit can have true assurance that they belong to Christ. One ministry of the Holy Spirit is to assure us that we are His children.

In the New Testament, assurance rests on three pillars. First, have you abandoned all trust in your own good works so that you’re trusting in Christ alone for right standing before God? If you answer yes, then the question arises, “How do you know that your faith is genuine saving faith?”

That leads to the second pillar: If your faith is genuine, then you possess new life in Christ and that new life always manifests itself in changed thinking and behavior. There will be evidence in your life that God has changed your heart. You love God and desire to love Him more. You want to please Him by a life of obedience to His Word. You hunger to feed on His Word. You’re growing in godly character and behavior, as summed up by the fruit of the Spirit.

The third pillar is the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, who testifies that we are children of God (8:16). Although some would dispute any subjective element in this, it seems to me that this is a subjective, experiential matter. But, as I will explain, it is based on the objective promises of the gospel as revealed in God’s Word. In our text, Paul is giving us the signs of true assurance:

If the Spirit is leading us to kill our sin and confirming to us the promises of the gospel, then we can be assured that we are children of God.

Note two main things:

1. If the Spirit is leading us to kill our sin, then we can be assured that we are children of God (8:14).

Romans 8:14: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” It is important to note the first word of that sentence: “For.” Paul is explaining verse 13 and showing how it applies to the matter of assurance. In the context, he is not talking about how the Spirit may lead you to go to one college or another or to one career or another. Rather, Paul is saying that if the Holy Spirit is leading you to put to death the sinful deeds of the body (8:13), it is evidence that you are a child of God.

No one who is living according to the flesh kills his sin on the heart level. Some legalists or ascetics may control their sin outwardly, so that they can look good to others (Gal. 6:12-13). But they are filled with pride about their performance. They don’t kill their sin to glorify God, but to glorify self. But here Paul is saying that if the Spirit is leading you to kill your sin on the thought or heart level out of a desire to please and glorify the God who saved you, that is evidence that you are His child. To be led by the Spirit of God means to have the whole direction of your life determined by the Spirit, so that His fruit is growing in your life (Gal. 5:18-23).

Note that the verb is passive: “led by the Spirit of God.” As Thomas Schreiner (Romans [Baker], p. 422) explains, this “suggests that the Spirit is the primary agent in Christian obedience, that it is his work in believers that accounts for their obedience. Although this does not exclude the need for believers to follow the Spirit, it emphasizes that any human obedience is the result of the Spirit’s work.” John Murray (The Epistle to the Romans [Eerdmans], p. 295) expresses the balance: “The activity of the believer is the evidence of the Spirit’s activity and the activity of the Spirit is the cause of the believer’s activity.” This is the mystery that we saw in verse 13, where by the Spirit we kill our sin. God gives the power but we must take action to obey.

So Paul’s point in 8:14 is that if the Spirit of God is leading us to kill our sin, then we can be assured that we are “sons of God.” Some commentators see significance in the fact that Paul changes from “sons” (8:14, 15) to “children” (8:16, 17), but I agree with the majority who say that there is no significant difference. But it is significant that this is the first time in Romans that Paul mentions this wonderful truth, that we are children of God. We have been born into God’s family through the Spirit who imparts new life to us (8:2, 6, 10). And, we have been adopted into God’s family as His chosen heirs (8:15, 17).

Charles Hodge (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Eerdmans], p. 265) points out three implications of being “sons” of God: (1) There is similarity of disposition, character, or nature. After commanding us to love our enemies, Jesus explains (Matt. 5:45), “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Sons reflect the character of their father because they share his nature. (2) “Sons” are the objects of special affection (Rom. 9:26; 2 Cor. 6:18). I love all children, but I have a special love for my own children. God has a special love for His chosen children (John 13:1; 14:21). (3) “Sons” have a title to some peculiar dignity or advantage. They are heirs of the riches of their father (Rom. 8:17). They have special access to his presence that others lack. If the President is greeting a crowd, the Secret Service will prevent unknown children from breaking through the barrier and running up to the President. But his own children can be right at his side.

We could probably come up with many more privileges that are ours because we are God’s children. Paul’s first point is that if we are killing our sin on a daily basis, that didn’t come from us. It is an indication that the Spirit is leading and governing our lives. John Piper puts it (“The Spirit-Led Are the Sons of God,” on DesiringGod.org), “When you fight sin by trusting in Christ as superior to what sin offers, you are being led by the Spirit.” And that is a sign that we are sons and daughters of God.

2. If the Spirit is confirming the promises of the gospel to us, then we can be assured that we are children of God (8:15-16).

Paul goes on to explain some of the implications of 8:14. First (8:15), he shows that the gospel has given us the Spirit of adoption as God’s sons so that we are on intimate, childlike terms with the Father. Then (8:16) he shows how the Spirit confirms the gospel promises to us through His inner witness. He follows (8:17a) by showing the implication, that if we are God’s children, then we are heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ. Then in 8:17b he responds to an anticipated objection: If we are God’s beloved children, then why does He allow us to suffer? This theme runs like a thread through the rest of the chapter. I originally planned to cover 8:17 in this message, but it will have to wait until next time.

A. The Spirit confirms the gospel promise that through adoption we become children of God (8:15).

Romans 8:15: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’”

There is a difficult interpretive matter in this verse that we need to tackle before we apply it: How should we understand the two “spirits”? Some (such as the NASB) take both to refer to the human spirit in the sense of an inner attitude or disposition. But in light of the context, where the Holy Spirit is prominent and the parallel in Galatians 4:6, which clearly refers to the Holy Spirit, most understand the second reference in Romans 8:15 to refer to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of adoption. The Spirit brings us into this relationship as adopted sons of God.

But what about the first “spirit”? It could refer to the human spirit of unbelievers, in the sense that people are in slavery to sin and in fear of God’s judgment. But not all unbelievers fear God’s judgment. Or it could refer to the general spirit of those who were under the Law, which was a yoke of bondage that brought condemnation and fear of judgment (Acts 15:10; Gal. 4:7, 21-31).

But many argue that it is unlikely that Paul uses “spirit” to refer to both the human spirit and the Holy Spirit in the same verse. If it refers to the Holy Spirit, it may refer to way that He worked during the era of the Law (similar to the second view above). Others apply it more specifically to the work of the Spirit when He uses the Law to bring conviction of sin just prior to conversion (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The Sons of God [Zondervan]. Pp. 197-205). And still others contend that Paul is saying, negatively, that the Spirit we receive at salvation is not a Spirit of bondage, but a Spirit of adoption. Because of Galatians 4, I think that Paul is referring to the human spirit of bondage and fear that the Law brought (Heb. 12:18-24). By way of contrast, the Holy Spirit now transforms us from slaves to sons through adoption.

There are two ways that the New Testament speaks about our becoming sons of God: through the new birth and through adoption. Adoption is relatively rare, occurring only three other times with reference to Christians (Rom. 8:23; [9:4, the Jews]; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5). The last reference attributes our adoption to God’s predestining us “according to the kind intention of His will.” Like justification, adoption refers to a legal transaction that results in a change of status. Leon Morris (The Epistle to the Romans [Apollos/Eerdmans], p. 315) says, “It signifies being granted the full rights and privileges of sonship in a family to which one does not belong by nature.”

William Barclay (The Letter to the Romans [Westminster Press], rev. ed., p. 106) explains the consequences of adoption in Roman society, from which Paul borrowed this concept:

(i) The adopted person lost all rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family. In the most binding legal way, he got a new father. (ii) It followed that he became heir to his new father’s estate. Even if other sons were afterwards born, it did not affect his rights. He was inalienably co-heir with them. (iii) In law, the old life of the adopted person was completely wiped out; for instance, all debts were cancelled. He was regarded as a new person entering into a new life with which the past had nothing to do. (iv) In the eyes of the law he was absolutely the son of his new father.

When the Holy Spirit enables us to believe in Christ and to understand our new standing as adopted sons of God, all of these privileges apply to us and result in a great change in us. We have a new legal status before God, but also we have a new relationship with God as Father. Paul says that the result of our adoption is that by the Spirit we cry out, “Abba! Father!” “Cry out” is an emotional word, used about 40 times in the Psalms (LXX) for crying out to God in urgent prayer (e.g., Ps. 3:4; 18:6). God’s adopted children often cry out to Him as their Father when they are in need.

“Abba! Father!” combines the Aramaic and the Greek words for Father. Jesus addressed the Father in this way in Mark 14:36 as He prayed in the Garden just prior to His arrest. He taught His followers to pray to God as “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9). When Paul applies “Abba! Father!” to us as God’s adopted children, it means that we can draw near to God in our distress or time of need with the same sense of intimacy and assurance of being heard that Jesus had!

James Boice (Romans: The Reign of Grace [Baker], 2:841) points out that in the Old Testament, father was used of God only 14 times and never in a personal sense. In Jesus’ time, God’s name was so reverenced that the Jews would not even pronounce it. They would substitute “Lord” instead of “Yahweh” when they came to it in the Scriptures. But Jesus always addressed God as Father, except for when He cried out on the cross as He bore our sins (Mark 15:34), “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” And, astoundingly, He taught us to pray, “Our Father.”

Some have picked up on Abba by addressing God in prayer as “Daddy,” since it was the word that little children used in Aramaic to address their daddies. I confess that I’m a bit uncomfortable with that because Jesus adds that we should acknowledge that our Father is in heaven and that His name is to be hallowed, or set apart as holy. In other words, while Father or Abba connotes intimacy and dependency, we must also remember as we draw near that He is the sovereign of the universe and that His name is holy. So we should come to Him as a little child does to his father, knowing that He loves us and that He delights to meet our needs. But we also must come before Him reverently.

J. I. Packer has a wonderful chapter in Knowing God [IVP], pp. 181-208), “Sons of God,” on the subject of our adoption as children of the Father. He writes (p. 182),

You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God.

So the Spirit assures us by confirming the promises of the gospel to us, teaching us through the Word that we are God’s adopted children and that, as such, we can cry out to Him in any need as our loving Father, knowing that He cares for us.

B. The Spirit confirms the gospel promises to us through His inner witness (8:16).

Romans 8:16: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” There is some debate here as to the meaning of the verb. Strictly interpreted, it means “to testify or bear witness with.” Thus, there would be two witnesses, our spirit and the Holy Spirit. Many reputable commentators understand it in this way, but I confess that I do not understand how my spirit bears witness to me apart from the Spirit’s bearing witness.

But the verb can also mean “to bear witness to.” C. E. B. Cranfield (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [T. & T. Clark], p. 403, italics his) asks a pertinent question, “But what standing has our spirit in this matter? Of itself it surely has no right at all to testify to our being sons of God.” And so I understand this to mean that the Holy Spirit confirms to our spirit the promises of the gospel. It is an immediate and direct inner sense that the gospel is true and that it is true in my life.

If you believe personally in the truth of the gospel, where did that faith come from? It didn’t originate in you. “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14). “There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God” (Rom. 3:11). To understand and believe in the gospel requires a supernatural work of God’s Spirit in your heart. When you say, both at the point of conversion and many times in the years afterward, “Yes, I do believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord,” that is the inner witness of the Spirit to your spirit that you are God’s child.

When you’re feeling guilty and condemned because of your sins and you read, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1) and something inside of you exclaims, “Thank God!” where does that inner sense of joy come from? It is the Holy Spirit testifying to your spirit that you are a child of God.

Or, maybe you’re feeling all alone and wondering if anyone cares for you or is concerned about your problems and you read that you can cast all your cares on God, because He cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7). As you read that promise, your spirit is buoyed up with renewed hope in the Lord. Where did that hope come from? It is the Spirit of God testifying to your spirit that you are God’s child.

On one occasion many years ago in California I was going through the most difficult time of my then 14 years of ministry. An associate was spreading half-truths (or, half-lies) about me, causing a lot of problems in the ministry there. Many were criticizing my preaching. I was very discouraged. One night as I was about to get into bed, out of nowhere, the reference, Acts 18:9-10 popped into my head. I had not been reading in Acts recently. There was no human explanation for why that reference came to mind.

I grabbed a Bible that was on the nightstand and opened to Acts 18 and read how Paul was afraid during his ministry in Corinth. The Lord appeared to him in a vision and said, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” It was the Lord’s word to me, to go on preaching the truth and not be concerned about my critics. It was the Spirit’s witness to my spirit that I am a child of God.

Conclusion

Are you a child of God? Are you sure that you’re a child of God? How can anyone be sure? First, have you abandoned all trust in your own good works and trusted in Christ alone to save you from God’s judgment? That is the main source of assurance. But, how can you know if your faith is genuine? Is the Holy Spirit governing your life so that you fight against and kill your sin every day? Is the Holy Spirit confirming to you the wonderful truth that God has adopted you into His family? Part of that confirmation is that you often find yourself crying out to the Father for help and grace in your time of need. And the Spirit repeatedly confirms to you the many promises that God gives to His children. You can sing (author, Carolina Sandell-Berg),

More secure is no one ever
Than the loved ones of the Savior
Not yon star on high abiding
Nor the bird in home nest hiding.

Application Questions

  1. Should professing Christians who are continuing in a life of sin be assured of their salvation? Why/why not?
  2. Are some by personality or upbringing more prone to insecurity and doubt than others are? What can they do to overcome this and gain assurance of salvation?
  3. How important is assurance of salvation? How does the presence of lack of assurance affect one’s walk with God?
  4. Is there a danger in focusing on feelings of assurance or on the subjective inner witness of the Spirit? Where should we focus? Where is the balance?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Assurance, Hamartiology (Sin), Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)

The Bible Study Cheat Sheet: The Into Thy Word Bible Study Method

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The Main Goal Of Bible Study: Don’t Just Interpret It, But Apply It To Your Life!!!

Step I: “Knowing The Knowable:” Bringing Our Mind To Be Right With God!

Attitude Is Crucial!!! (Gal. 2:20)

         Remember to always: begin and end your study in prayer and in the meantime be in prayer.

         Direct your will and seize the opportunity!!! Be consistent!!!

         Be open to the Holy Spirit

Step II: “How:” The Method Of Getting Into God’s Word

Look at the whole book at least three times in an easy to read translation. Then read each chapter you are studying in a good translation at least three times. Then read the verses, verse by verse in order.

Step III: “Observe It:” Ask What Does It Say?! Before You Ask What Does It Mean And How To Apply It To Your Life!

         Give the Book the “Looks:” Purpose; Repeated Phrases; The Point; Who is involved; The time & sequence of events, “once, then, now, will be, etc.” Look for persons, places, ideas; Logical Connectives, i.e. Therefore, But, Since, So, Thus, Because, For, That, etc. What is actually being said?

         Verbs are crucial! Check out Nouns in “Bible Dictionaries.”

         Consider repeated words & phrases.

         Compare passage/verse to similar verses i.e. “Scripture interprets scripture.” Use a “Concordance.”

         Notice what is being taught

         Notice the promises

         Notice carefully the underlining principle(s) & implications

         What about the life, work, teaching, presence of Jesus Christ?

         Look out for types of “literary style;” history, philosophy, drama, poetry, wisdom and law.

         Look at different translations

Step III (B): “Observe It:” Ask What Does It Mean?

Let God have His way with you! Ask our Lord to open you before Him, to allow yourself to go beyond your culture, education and experience! Then the meaning will come alive!

         We must know our weaknesses and limitations because of sin!

         We must be aware of our nature and the nature of Scripture and the Divine Authors intent.

         Be focused on Christ not ourselves.

         Be aware of the context!!!!! The “historical” and “literary” settings?” What is going on?

         What is the point and train of thought?

         Analyze by gathering facts and all the information available to you.

         Paraphrase the passage yourself.

         What is supported?

         What are the conclusions?

Make an emotional identification into the text.

Things To Ask And To Apply:

         Ask what is actually being said?

         Try reading aloud!

         Consider nothing insignificant!

         Have a mentor to ask questions.

         Look for stuff to carry out in your life.

         Write down your questions

         What are the implications & promises to be applied to transformed us?

         What about the life, work, teaching, and presence of Jesus Christ?

         How can I model His Character?

         What is our duty?

         What is God’s character?

         Make a commitment to the meaning.

         Try to write the verse or entire passage in your own words!

         Accept what It says: This is God’s Word!

Step IV: “Questions:” Ask And Learn!!!

The Six Big Q’s We Must Always Ask!

         Who: are the people? Who did it? Who can do it? Who is it talking about?

         What: is it saying? What is happening? What is it talking about? What did they do?

         Where: are they going? Where did it happen? Where will it take place?

         When: did it happen? When will it happen? When can it happen?

         How: did it happen? How can it happen? How was something done?

         Why: did he say that? Why did he do that? Why did they go there?

Ask These Additional Questions:

         Are there any commands?

         Are there any contrasts?

         Are there things repeated?

         Is there cause and effect?

         Is there a problem and solution?

         Are there any promises?

         Are there any connections to other parts of the Bible?

         Notice the setting!

Step V: “Know It”!!!

Start Looking For The Answers

         What does something mean and why is it there?

         Be sure your information is correct!!!

         Use good commentaries, Study Bibles, and Bible dictionaries.

Digging Personally:

         How are you encouraged & strengthened?

         Where have you fallen short, and how can you improve?

         What do you now intend to do with the information given to you?

         We must have the confidence that the Bible is truth! This is knowing It!

         We must allow God’s Word to break our will and desires over to His!

         What did God say to you today?

         Is there a sin in your life that needs to be confessed and repented?

         Are you appreciating it?

         Are you receiving and practicing the great benefits to others around you?

         Are you a changed person as a result of receiving the Word?

Step VI: “Application!!!” (Gal 5:21-26)

         Application comes out of a Changed life. And leads to a life transformed!

         What must I do to make God’s Word real in me? What is my response?

         When will it end up in my day planner?

         Mediate over the passage

Ask Yourself These Five Questions:

         What illustration can I use to remember?

         How does the truth apply to my life?

         What is my personal prayer regarding these truths?

         What changes/improvements could I make in light of the truth?

         How should I carry out these changes?

         Pray to ask God how to implement His truth to you. Tell Others. Accountability.

Step VII: Make Use Of The Book Chart

         Write down what God is saying to you and what you have discovered and learned. By doing this, it will allow you to apply it to your life better!

“You Can Do It!”

Keep this guide “tucked” in your Bible for reference and guidance.

From: “Into Thy Word” C 2000 R.J. Krejcir

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Bible Study Methods

How to Have Family Devotions

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In an age of fractured families and hectic schedules, Christian families need to be deeply rooted in Christ. Church and Sunday school are essential. But equally important, Christianity must be lived in the home; Christ must be the center of our lives.

There is not magic formula for building a Christian home. However, Christian families through the ages have found joy, strength, and guidance through taking time daily to pray and read together from God’s Word.

How to Begin

The first step toward effective family devotions is setting aside regular time. Many families have devotions after breakfast or supper. These times naturally bring the family together and can lead conveniently into a devotional time. Other families find just before bed time works well. But whatever time you choose, be sure that the whole family can be together on a regular basis. Consistency is important because it shows that time with God is a high priority.

What to Include

Devotions can include many activities, but it is important to include at least these three:

1.      Reading from God’s Word

2.      Discussion and Teaching

3.      Prayer

Reading from God’s Word

The Bible is an exciting book! It is filled with true stories of God’s heroes, with down-to-earth advice, with spiritual insight, and with the plan of salvation. It is the primary way by which God communicates to us today. It is essential, therefore, that we feed upon God’s Word regularly.

There are many ways to approach daily Bible reading with your family. Here are a few:

Read a chapter or a portion each day. This is a simple plan used by many families. You can read consecutively through a book, taking a passage each day. Older children can take turns reading too. Then, each person can share what most impressed them about the passage. This can help each person see how God’s Word applies to him personally.

Bible reading plans. A similar approach is to follow a program designed to guide your family through the Bible in one or more years. (Lumina has a number of personalized reading plans) One advantage of this is that your family will be exposed to the whole Bible in a systematic way.

Devotional Guides. A variety of excellent devotional guides can be found fromBible.org

Family Bible Study Programs. Families with older children may want to try studying the Bible in depth together. Each family member can read and reflect on the daily portion beforehand. After re-reading the passage together, discussion can follow. Many good Bible study books and articles can be found on Bible.org.

Younger Children. Children under six or seven probably won’t be able to read the Bible themselves. But they can still learn much from Bible reading. Even the youngest child begins to see that God’s Word in important. Explaining the passage in simple language, avoiding abstract ideas, will help keep the interest of younger children. And many a parent has been amazed by the insights their little ones come up with!

Childhood is also an excellent time to memorize Bible verses, when minds are quick and eager to learn. And it is an excellent time to begin sharing the basic truths that are the foundation of salvation.

Discussion and Teaching

Discussion and teaching about the Bible passage for the day is an integral part of Bible reading as mentioned already. A few additional suggestions may be helpful:

First, try to keep the discussion clear and concise. Often basic questions will help your family understand the passage: “What happened?” “What is being taught?” “How does this apply to your life?”

Second, it is important to maintain a good balance between leadership and participation. The whole family should be encouraged to participate actively and naturally. But the one leading family devotions should correct any erroneous observations, leading in a loving way towards the truth.

Third, it is important to be sensitive to the family’s special needs. Some questions may seem “off the subject” but are good indicators of issues the children are facing. We can help them discover needs and circumstance.

With positive, prayerful leadership, a time of discussion and teaching can provide an opportunity to grow together in the Lord.

Prayer

God’s communications comes to us through His Word, but is a one way conversation unless we lift up our hearts to him in prayer. Our loving heavenly Father wants us to talk to Him. He delights in our praise, thanks and petitions, just like any loving Father does. Thus the family prayer time should include:

Worship and Praise - When we think of God’s goodness and greatness, our hearts should well up in worship and praise - for the beauty of His creation, for the gift of life, for a loving family, for the fellowship of Christians and above all for salvation through Christ’s atoning death. There is no end to the list. Even the youngest child can add his own worship and praise. Perhaps each person could share at least one thing to praise God for each day.

Confession - As we lift up our hearts to the Lord, we should also recognize our own unworthiness and sinfulness. God has forgiven our sins once and for all. But in order to walk in fellowship with Him (and with others) we need to confess that we continue to fall short of God’s perfect standard. As we confess in prayer, we are drawn closer to God and to each other, growing in grace and in the knowledge of God’s forgiveness.

In making confession part of our prayer time, it may be helpful for the leader to suggest:” Let’s remember in prayer those things that we need to confess to the Lord and each other, asking God’s forgiveness both for things we have done and left undone.

Personal Request and Intercession - Like a loving Father, God desires to know our deepest concerns just as much as to receive our praise. We can open our hearts to Him, knowing that He hears and answers our prayers, and that He will work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). And as we share needs with each others, we will be drawn closer together as a family.

Many families find it helpful to keep a prayer list or notebook. This might include special needs of the family, of neighbors, of missionaries, or government leaders. It can also provide a record of answers to prayers. Whatever the answer we know that God hears and responds according to his will.

Some families may wish to include other things such as singing hymns or chorus, or acting out a Bible story, or doing a craft. These can be meaningful; but there is no need to begin with something elaborate. The important thing is to daily read and discuss God’s Word and prayer together.

It is often said that “the family that prayers together, stays together” and the statistics show this is true. But this is not all. As we seek God daily, we renew our relationships with each other and with God. He talks with us; and we talk with Him. He receives our praise, confession and petitions; and we know the joy of His presence.

If you have not already, won’t you make family devotions part of your home, so that as a family you may “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2nd Peter 3:18)

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Bible Literacy, Parent Resources, Christian Home, Fathers, Mothers

Questioning James: A Study on the First Chapter of James

Introduction

If we ask questions of the book of James we can learn a great deal. What follows is a list of questions. From these, perhaps together we can seek answers from God’s Word and gain wisdom from it. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

I began this study seeking to be trained in righteousness so that I would be better equipped to do whatever good works God has prepared for me (Eph 2:10). I make every effort to be as complete and thorough as possible in this study, which is why a book that takes up only 5 brief chapters is herein stretched out so much. There’s truly a lot to learn from James.

To aid in this study I consult primarily three English translations. The Authorized Version, better known as the King James Version (KJV), is a word for word translation. This and its poetic style to the modern ear are its primary virtues. The archaic word usages and syntax are the primary drawbacks.

The second English translation I use is the New International Version (NIV). The primary advantages it offers include being easy to read and very commonly used by lay people. The disadvantage is that it is a thought for thought translation rather than a literal translation. By its nature anything other than a literal word for word translation is tainted to some degree by the translator. Still, being a very common version it is almost mandatory we explore its unique qualities to gain the most broad understanding possible.

A relatively new English word for word translation is the English Standard Version (ESV). This version is highly accurate, like KJV, but with updated syntax and sentence structure it is far easier to read and in that respect is much more like NIV. While it is my personal preference, its prime disadvantage is that it is still relatively new and therefore uncommon. In spite of that minor problem, I will use ESV for all scripture quotes not otherwise specified. Note that scripture references are embedded in the text in italics

For the sake of breaking this study into bite sized portions, our study is divided into chapters based on verses of James. At the start of the study of each verse I include the whole paragraph containing the verse for the sake of context. There may be several paragraphs in a broad theme, but each paragraph tends to have a more precise theme. At the end of each paragraph we study there is a brief summary, which is an attempt to tie together some study concepts which may seem at a tangent to the theme of the paragraph under our microscope at the time.

Editor’s Note: This series here on Bible.org only includes the first chapter of James

Information on James

The book of James is a letter in the New Testament of the Bible. People think that the writer was James the brother of Jesus. He became a leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians1:19).

James tells his readers about different things:

We may suffer because we follow Jesus. But we must be patient (James 5:7-11). This will make us better people (James 1:2-4)

He speaks against rich people who do wrong things to poor people (James 2:1-4, James 5:1-7).

God will say that they are wrong. If poor people trust God, this is better than wealth (James 2:5-7)

God will give wisdom to those who ask for it (James 1:5). This is because true wisdom comes from God (James 1:16-18). God's wisdom teaches us the right behaviour (James 3:13-16).

If we trust in God, we will show it in our actions (James 2:14-26).

James warns us to be careful about our words (James 3:1-12).

He tells us that we should pray sincerely (James 5:13-16).

James is a favourite book for many people.

James Facts

Author - James, the brother of Jesus.

Audience - Followers of Jesus; orginally written to early Jewish Christians scattered because of persecution.

Date - About A.D. 49.

Setting - James encouraged the former members of the Jerusalem church now dispersed throughtout the holy land.

Key Verse - Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merly listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (1:21-22 NIV)

Central theme - Our faith determines our actions and attitudes.

Related Topics: Bible Study Methods, Bibliology (The Written Word)

James 1:1

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the 12 tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. — NIV

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. — KJV

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:1 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
Iaeiros [2385] James theos [2316] God kai [2532] and kurios [2962] Lord, Master, Sir iesous [2424] Jesus christos [5547] anointed, messiah, Christ doulos [1401] slave ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) dodeka [1427] 12 phule [5443] tribe ho [3588] the en [1722] preposition denoting place: such as in, at, of, through… ho [3588] the diaspora [1290] dispersion, scattering chairo [5463] greetings, God speed, fairwell, hello, etc. (friendly salutation to greet or part company).

1.1.0 Introduction to James 1:1

Verse 1 is a welcome providing an introduction to the author, his position in Christ, and states who the letter is addressed to. The author is generally accepted to be James, the half-brother of Christ.

1.1.1: Who was James?

The author identifies himself as James. This James is generally accepted to be the biological half-brother of Jesus (Jn 7:2-5). Mt 13:55 “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” This verse tells us about a James who is not the Apostle James who was with Jesus through his ministry. This James didn’t even get along with Jesus while he was alive in the flesh. Obviously he came into his salvation at a later time, almost certainly after the resurrection. He became well known and a leader of church council in Jerusalem - Ac 15:13, 2:8, Jude 1, Gal 1:19, 2:9. Secular records indicate he was martyred 62 AD. There’s some debate, but many scholars hold that he probably wrote the book around 45-50 AD. This makes it one of the earliest books. The Apostle James was martyred earlier than this period.

There was some debate in the early church as to whether this book was authentic, but after much deliberation and the weight of available evidence at the time this book was accepted as cannon some time in the second or third century AD. Much of the debate came from the perception that this book has a very “Jewish” flavor with greater emphasis on the practical outward display of works than most other New Testament writings. The book refers to God or Lord while Jesus is only mentioned by name in this first verse. This lead some to believe it was an older Jewish writing adapted for new Christians. While this is something of a curiosity, there are several reasonable explanations. I believe this deep and extended study will only serve to support the balance of old and new testament scriptures. The perfect agreement we shall discover only serves to validate the presumption this book is the inspired work of our Lord and God Almighty.

If I had to sum up the book with one sentence it would be: “The Book of James – An Operator’s Manual for Christianity.”

1.1.2: How does James identify himself?

James 1:1 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the 12 tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.” James here identified himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Assuming he was the Lord’s half-brother, it seems telling to me that he identified himself in this way and didn’t use his clout as Jesus’ sibling. Of course how could we expect otherwise? With this opening remark it seems he is placing himself at a level equal to other believers and below the level of his pseudo-sibling - God incarnate.

1.1.3: What are the qualities of a servant?

A servant serves, of course. A servant is in the employ of a master. The servant DOES what the master requests. The 4th chapter of James talks about this, and it is a common theme throughout the entire bible.

Jn 4:34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” Jesus said he came to work.

1 Cor 1:10 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” Here we see that servants share a common purpose with their master. Jesus’ own words confirm this in Jn 5:17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” In the passage Romans 13:1-7 we are given instructions about servanthood, both worldly and Godly. Ro 13:4 For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. This is very telling with regard to the “other side of the coin.” It is a stark warning to be faithful in service. If God gives the sword to our earthly masters to punish us for wrongdoing, how much more so will God punish those who fail to serve him?

Jn 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” A servant of God will worship in spirit and truth.

Rev 2:23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve. This verse makes it startlingly clear that we cannot hide what is in our hearts any more than Adam could. Service not done from our hearts (spirit and truth) is of no value and will be “repaid.” Notice in Rev 2:23 that our “deeds” are repaid based on what is in our hearts. I find this intensely sobering.

1 Pe 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Peter offers guidance and hope in light of what we just read. To be a good servant, we must prepare our minds, be self controlled, and put our hope in Jesus. If we put our hope in anything else, our hearts will follow it to the wrong places.

Perhaps my favorite verse on the subject is Jn 12:26. “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My father will honor the one who serves me.” I think people take this the wrong way and think that where they go Jesus will also be. That’s just plain wrong. It clearly says we must follow him. He will be with us because we’re where he, and this is because we followed him there. The great part is the promise that we won’t be forgotten, that we will be “honored” by God for our service - service offered with the right heart.

1.1.4: What about humility?

Humility is the foremost character trait of a servant. This main question is actually comprised of several smaller questions:

a) Was James humble? James identified himself as a servant. James did NOT identify himself in a way which showed he had a special relationship with Jesus, though as far as know he was Jesus’ half-brother. In v2 he refers to fellow believers as brothers, placing himself at the same level as them, once again not as a brother of Jesus. Personally, I think James was a no-nonsense kind of guy, privately humble, but unafraid to be bold publicly for Christ.

b) What did James have to say on the subject of humility? Jas 4:10 says “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.” In fact, the whole principle of the 4th chapter is humility to God, what it is, and what the benefits are, and the dangers of turning from humility. We’ll spend time on this chapter when we get there, but feel free to go ahead and skim over it so you’ll be able to put James’ humility into perspective with this opening verse.

c) Is humility Christlike? Col 2:16-19, in particular v18, addresses this question nicely. There’s a lot of meat in this passage, but with regard to humility in particular v 18 reads Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind… Verse 19 goes on to say that this indicates the person has lost their connection to “the Head”, aka God. You have only to read the gospels and the account of Jesus washing Peter’s feet to gain a better understanding of Jesus’ humility; not to mention dying on the cross.

d) How does humility help us with respect to one another? Eph 4:2 says with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. Humility makes it possible to get along, and more than that it allows us, in mutual submission to a common master, to be of a like mind and to be effective in service. After all, it was the subject of Service that sparked this conversation on humility.

As for myself, I hope I am humble in this study. I hope and pray I am not like the person described in Col 2:18. I hope God blesses each and every reader of this. I hope together we are all growing closer to Christ. I encourage you to test yourself, test me, and in so doing test the spirits to see that they are of God (and immediately discard any which are not of God).

1.1.5: Why does James differentiate God and the Lord Jesus Christ?

This is admittedly a touchy subject, but since James brought it up, we must deal with it. I know many God fearing Jesus loving Christians who struggle with the concept of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the whole supernatural aspect of who and what Jesus really is.

1 Cor 8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. This verse is similar to Eph 4:6 and 1 Tim 2:5 identifying God as a lone supreme being.

Jn 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. This passage describes Jesus by addressing his divinity.

Jn 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John ties together the divine with the human in this verse.

We know all scripture is divinely inspired, we know God doesn’t lie, so we therefore know that no matter how some passages may appear to our eyes to be in conflict, the conflict lies in our understanding rather than God’s word.

It is interesting to note the word “trinity” does not appear in scripture. Rather, this is a man-made term to try and capture an understanding of the essence of God the Father, God incarnate as the Lord Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit. It seems that God presents himself in each of these capacities so that we might better know him in totality. To try to divide God is a common error. God is larger than our ability to comprehend, so he gives us what we can comprehend. The spiritual family (Father, Son, Spirit) are one, yet presented in scripture as three. In our minds it is a three-way experience, but God is not nearly so limited. God has many names in the bible. The simplest, the one God used with Moses (Ex 3:14) was also used by Jesus (Jn 8:58): I AM. Jesus himself made it clear he was God when he spoke of himself this way, albeit living in human flesh for his divine purpose.

1.1.6: Who is the Message For?

James 1:1b (NIV) “to the 12 tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.”

James 1:1b (KJV) “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.”

James 1:1b (ESV) “To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.”

James uses the phrase “12 tribes” to describe his target audience, however each of the three versions of scripture above describe these tribes differently. James was basically running the church in Jerusalem, so if he was writing a letter it stands to reason it would be to someone some distance away. To have become a book of the bible at all it had to have been mass produced and copies distributed far and wide. There are lots of other requirements as well I’m sure, but this is enough for now. Let’s break this down a bit…

a) To the Jews only? Ro 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Paul provides good perspective here. The message went to the Jews first, but certainly to the gentile believers also. Don’t get caught up here thinking James is limited only to Jews.

b) Who then are the 12 tribes? This is not a fight worth having. Again, Paul explains this nicely in Ro 2:9-11 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. The message is addressed to the Jews because the Jews were to receive it first, but not only. It isn’t implicitly stated, but I think it is also obvious that James is writing firstly to fellow believers. The persecution of the early church came primarily from the Jews, so certainly it wasn’t to all the Jews or just Jews. The remainder of the letter feels like it is written specifically for the benefit of all believers, not just Jews or Jewish believers in general. On close examination James only serves to confirm Paul.

c) What were the “12 tribes” doing? Mt 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Carrying out The Great Commission is the paramount thing that they were doing, or at least supposed to be doing. These were “scattered” people. That’s what the early Christians did, they spread the Good News to all the world. True enough that only the Lord could manage such a structure, but through James He expressed himself with this wonderful, practical, and pertinent letter to all the new believers as far as the letter could be carried.

d) Where were they? Scattered, of course. They were spreading out all over the civilized world and beyond. Ps 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” God is a global God. Gen 1:1 declares the beginning and His mighty hand in making the majesty that is greater than the capacities of all the hard drives on all the universities of the world to hold. Ps 67:1-2 further explains the purpose of this letter James wrote: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.”

The ESV translation accurately translates the Greek word diaspora as Dispersion. The spreading of the believers equaled the spreading of the Gospel, fulfilling the Great Commission. Some argue they were forced to scatter due to persecution in Jerusalem and some argue they took off on their own in direct obedience. Even if you doubt the motivation of the individuals, there can be no denial that God’s purpose was accomplished.

e) Does God play favorites? If you looked up Ro 2:11 you already know the answer. Here’s another reference - 1 Tim 5:21 says, “I charge you in the sight of God and Jesus Christ and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.” This last question is one we must look in the mirror to answer. Do you follow the same instructions given to Timothy? Who wants to see a bum off the street walk into their service? Are you frustrated by the disruption of a crying baby? Maybe the boss in the corner office doesn’t need your witness because he’s too important or has too much money. Who do you NOT tell them the Good News? Why? What are your prejudices?

1.1.7 How are you at telling the good news?

The following are a series of personal questions for you to ask yourself… Who have you shared the Good News with lately? How did you first hear it? Do you feel different now? Are you involved in any international missions? Do you think it is fair if God has favorites yet we’re not supposed to? Who do you serve?

Now I know why vampires hate the mirror. When God looks through your eyes into a mirror, He can see right through you.

1.1.8 Summary of James 1:1

James 1:1 James, a servant* of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. (ESV) *or slave or bondservant

In this verse of our study we learned the author was most likely James the half-brother of Jesus. James didn’t get along with Jesus prior to the crucifixion, but later became an important figure in the Jerusalem church. This was probably one of if not the first NT book written. It was written to aid the early Christians, at that point primarily Jews, who had by this time left Jerusalem in obedience the Great Commission issued by Jesus (Mt 28), helped along by persecution of the Jewish leaders.

James 1:2

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials [temptations] of many kinds, 3 because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — NIV

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. — KJV

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:2 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
pas [3956] all, any, every chara [5479] joy, gladness, cheerfulness, delight hegeomai [2233] deem, consider, esteem, count, command, lead adephos [0080] brother, sibling (connected by womb, literal or figurative) mou [3450] I, me, my hotan [3752] when, while, till poikilos [3986] various, diverse, motley, of uncertain derivation peirasmos [4045] prove by: experiment, temptation, or adversity peripipto [4164] fall into or among, be surrounded with poikilos [3986] various, diverse, motley, of uncertain derivation

1.2.0 Introduction to James 1:2

In this verse James begins his letter in earnest. The very first subject he addresses is the difficulty of life. He smacks the reader upside the head with the instruction to take joy in all sorts of hard times. In our study of verse 2 we will explore this instruction in depth.

1.2.1 What is a brother?

James uses the phrase My brethren (or my brothers) to begin the body of the letter. Of course the nature of the sentence structure allows this phrase to go nearly anywhere inside verse 2, but I would prefer to cover the subject of brotherhood before going into other things. The Greek word used for brother is adelphos. It means from the same womb, nation, nature; of equal rank and dignity; associate. It could be translated as either “brothers” or “brothers and sisters.”

We know the term brother, as used here, is not limited to the males only. I don’t think it literally means the same womb, either, although (if we assume this James was Jesus’ half-brother) we know James did share the same womb with Jesus. James did not make his physical relationship with Jesus an issue, and in fact was effectively nullifying his half-brother physical status in favor of his brotherhood with fellow believers. James knew Jesus wasn’t just a man, He was divine. He was God wrapped in flesh.

Ro 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Of course we are not equal to Jesus, but we are in a brotherhood, sharing at least a bit of the nature of God by having the indwelling Spirit. We are of the same “nation” as God by having our home in the eternal. We are aliens here, as Abraham noted. Be cautious with this, though. Some would be tempted to say we are made in God’s image, and that justifies our brotherhood. This is not so. We are the clay. We can share brotherhood only in as much as the amount of the Spirit of God is put into our pot. It is a supernatural pot filled with its creator. The pot is not a “brother” unless it is filled with the stuff making it so. Don’t fall for a lie here. If you are full of the world, there’s no room in your pot. It is empty if you try to fill it with anything but the Water of Life (Jesus). We will speak much more on the authentic vs. inauthentic later.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. This Proverb adds another interesting angle, one which I think is a wonderful comfort. Jesus referred to us as friends as well as brothers. Earlier we talked about being servants. This verse supports the one where Jesus says there’s no greater friend than the one who lays down his life for another. Jesus called us his friends. That’s better than being a servant, don’t you think? Now we have as part of our identity being brethren together, of the same Spirit of God, children together of God. We get more than a gold watch for our service, we get a piece of inheritance. Praise God!!! As to this Proverb, it says a brother is born for adversity. If you have a sibling, or know anyone who has a sibling, you know siblings tend to fight amongst themselves at times. You also know that’s okay until someone else picks on a brother, then whoa to the outsider. Jesus and the Holy Spirit indwelling and outpouring comfort us in adversity, help us in various ways, and lead us through difficulties to something better.

1.2.2 Why did James appeal to fellow Christians by calling them brothers?

Do you think it was to suck up? Do you think it was just a common manner of speech? Do you think he was trying to identify with other believers away from Jerusalem? Was he simply trying to get their attention? Maybe he was trying to make it clear this message was directed at fellow believers and not merely wannabes?

I think part of this does have to do with James’ unique position of being Jesus’ half-brother. He was demonstrating that he was no better, or that other believers were no worse (depending on whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person.

Another advantage of launching this way is its diplomatic effect. They say people don’t care what you know until they know you care. James started the letter in a very friendly and personal way. We already saw there are plenty of scriptures to sustain the concept of fellow Christians being brothers with each other and being children together of God. In light of this phrase from James’ letter my attention was brought to Mt 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.” Are you a peacemaker?

1.2.3 Are fellow Christians your brothers?

This question is really two…

a) Do you feel close to fellow Christians, as like brothers?

This is a personal question. For me, I feel an immediate kinship with someone I recognize as a fellow believer. After asking this question of others I know many people do not quickly accept others as siblings in Christ. There’s at least something we all have in common. I don’t expect to agree on politics or even theological details, but Jesus Christ doesn’t change, nor his Lordship or Sovereignty.

b) Do you think of them as brothers?

This is kind of the same question, but rather than the subconscious feeling, do you make it conscious? Philemon 16: no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

1.2.4 Regarding family problems…

Again, this is a multi-faceted question:

a) Do you always get along with your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Its not a perfect world - not yet anyway. The closer we draw to Jesus, the closer we will draw to each other, I think. Historically, it is sad to note that the church (little ‘c’) is often referred to as the only army which shoots its own wounded. This is a sarcastic stereotypical view of christianity (little c), but unfortunately it is well earned. Christians are called to take care of their own first and foremost, and to then share that kindness with others. Now this can easily be taken the wrong way, so don’t think I’m saying its supposed to be some exclusive club. I’m just saying we need to always be mindful of our family and take care of them. Don’t let a brother or sister languish in pain if you can help them. Don’t let them be hungry or naked. Don’t put them down and prevent them working. Help them avoid getting into a position of ridicule for their own foolish mistakes.

b) What about when I have problems with a ‘brother’?

There’s a wealth of scriptures that deal with brotherhood. Mt 5:23-24 helps with this question: So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. There are others, but this one speaks to the importance of dealing with personal conflicts. I think our purpose for being in this world is to help others with their journey in this world. If you have a personal problem with a ‘brother’ then it stands to reason you need to work that out, not let it fester. Those kinds of things get in the way of your relationship with Jesus. The wisdom of this passage in Matthew to me is that you’ll find peace and help another wounded person if you take care of the issue sooner rather than later. It will please the Lord and make your offering more acceptable.

c) How does it affect you if you’ve got a problem with a brother?

1 John 2:9-11. “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded him.” Perhaps a discussion of the meanings of love and hate are in order, and if you feel the need to discuss it that’s what the comments are for. I’m going to leave off this and let the verse stand on its own merits as an answer to this question.

1.2.5 Are we really supposed to find joy during trials and temptations?

This is kind of a bogus question. James 1:2 tends to be a poorly understood passage because of the word “when.” Many people somehow think you should enjoy the experience of a trial or temptation. That is not what James is saying. It is more appropriate to think of the word “when” as referring to the result of the trial, not necessarily the experience as it is happening. The trial isn’t the joyful part, rather it’s the result of the trail.

I know people who have a lot of trouble with God because they think they’re supposed to be happy when they get hit in the face with five flavors of crap slung by five different people. Some get from verse this that God gave them the hard way to go and they’re supposed to be happy anyway. Nonsense. God has a magnificent way of taking manure and turning it into something beautiful. Satan destroys, but God creates. It takes fertilizer to grow a flower. If you only had sunshine, would the crops ever yield? You don’t have to like the rain, and you don’t have to like the crap, and you don’t have to like to the trials and temptations. God uses (not necessarily creates) problems we face to make us grow in our faith, to grow closer to Him. If we react as we’re instructed in this passage we will grow in our perseverance and we will one day lay hold of the prize.

Rev 3:18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.

Mal 3:2-3 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.

Certainly being the silver or gold going through the refinement isn’t a lot of fun. It’s the high quality product at the end of the process God is interested in (and therefore WE should be interested in). God seeks perfection. We aren’t perfect. When we love God and let him refine us and accept his refining process, we become purified, his Grace being the staple of this, the atoning blood of Jesus providing the opportunity for grace.

1.2.6 What is meant by the term diverse temptation (trials of many kinds)?

According to my interlinear and other sources I checked, the Greek words “poikilois peirasmos” translate directly to “diverse temptation.” Diverse meaning “of many kinds” and the word for temptation also having possible connotations as trial or difficulty.

The Greek words poikilois peirasmos are the words translated here. I struggled with the different languages of NIV vs KJV, but with a little help from an online interlinear I gleaned a few things to help clarify.

The Greek word poikilois is translated as “diverse” in KJV and as “of many/varied kinds” in the NIV/ESV. These are all reasonable.

Greek word peirasmos is translated in KJV as “temptation,” but in NIV and ESV as “trial.” It was used more often in the NT mostly as what we traditionally think of as temptation, as from the devil. Some other places used include Mt 6:13, Mt 26:41, Lk 4:13, 1 Co 10:13, 1 Ti 6:9, to name a few. Here’s the literal translation:

Peirasmos:

1. an experiment, attempt, trial, proving: the trial made of you by my bodily condition, since condition served as to test the love of the Galatians toward Paul.

2. the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy

1. an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from the desires or from the outward circumstances

2. an internal temptation to sin 1b

3. of the temptation by which the devil sought to divert Jesus the Messiah from his divine errand

1. of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness

2. adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness

4. temptation (i.e. trial) of God by men

1. rebellion against God, by which his power and justice are, as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves

The Greek word more commonly translated as “trial” is “dokime.” It literally means proving, trial, approved, tried character, or a proof - as in a specimen of tried worth. In James 1:2 it seems either trial or temptation is acceptable, though later in James 1 the subject of temptation is dealt with in more detail. Temptation makes more sense in a no-nonsense view of what God wants to tell us. Trial, however, is more all-inclusive to the overall message James is conveying in this paragraph. Since either word is arguably valid we shall discuss both. We need to look for the good that comes from difficult challenges, whether presented by men, Satan, or God. Trials or temptations aren’t typically fun in and of themselves, but certainly when we persevere the gold we’ve purchased was well worth the price (ref Rev 3:18).

1.2.7 Do you feel pulled in many directions? Lots of distractions? Is it difficult to focus on God?

Phil 3:13-14 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Paul framed his fleshy experience walking in the world for Christ as a metaphor, in this case of a race. Paul used sports because races were popular. The first Olympics were during that era. Races were something people could relate to. I mention it in relation to the words of James because the antidote for distractions is to focus. Paul didn’t say it was easy to focus, in fact he said he strained (kicked at the goads). He didn’t say it was automatic, either. He said he was pressing toward the goal to with the prize he felt called toward, and in fact said he didn’t feel he’d yet taken hold of that prize.

We can become cocky if we think our salvation is secure on any given day of the week. Jn 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. Jesus warns us to remain in him, speaking about the vine and branches. The world is one gigantic distraction. Cars, TV, work - these are the innocuous things that distract us, never mind the more overt temptations like sex, money, gluttony, and so forth. I spend a lot of time and effort breaking down these verses and doing commentary. Lots of details. My goal isn’t to dissect in great detail, but to grow closer to my Master and share Him with anyone willing. It is a temptation to me to focus on these fine details and forget the reason for the message - to reach a lost world with a message of hope.

Jn 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Jesus declares he is the source of eternal life.

Rev 21:4 gives enough of a glimpse at what this life will be like to know it is worth any price. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

The good news of Eph 2:8-9 is that the price was paid by another and for us it is free. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Jn 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John makes it clear that there is a string attached: “believe.” This is a verb, and it requires action. Jn 15:5 tells us to abide in Jesus. Jn 5:14 warns us to stop sinning - our sin has consequences. Jn 15:6 gives us a glimpse as to what those consequences are. Focus on the goal, and press on.

1.2.8 What is joy?

Joy is often confused with fun or happiness. My pocket explanation is as follows: Fun is pleasure, physical and light hearted. Happiness is the external expression of pleasure. Joy is internal, spiritual, deep, and consuming. From the dictionary:

Fun:

1.      A source of enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure.

2.      Enjoyment; amusement: have fun at the beach.

3.      Playful, often noisy, activity.

Happiness:

1.      Characterized by good luck; fortunate.

2.      Enjoying, showing, or marked by pleasure, satisfaction, or joy.

3.      Being especially well-adapted; felicitous: a happy turn of phrase.

4.      Cheerful; willing: happy to help.

5.      Characterized by a spontaneous or obsessive inclination to use something. Often used in combination: trigger-happy.

6.      Enthusiastic about or involved with to a disproportionate degree. Often used in combination: money-happy; clothes-happy.

Joy:

1.      Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness.

2.      The expression or manifestation of such feeling.

3.      A source or an object of pleasure or satisfaction: their only child, their pride and joy.

1.2.9 How do you feel about having to face trials and/or temptations? How do you “count it joy” when things are tough?

Ro 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For starters, know God is calling you and your journey will include carrying a cross. Ultimately, however, it all works out in the end.

Neh 8:10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Joy is a source of strength. That isn’t obvious, but experience only proves God’s word given in this verse.

Ro 5:3-5 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. This passage reads almost as though Paul were quoting James, though Paul puts a little different spin on the subject. The source of joy is the Holy Spirit. This is why I think of joy as internal and spiritual rather than external.

Col 1:9-12 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Yet another example of Paul standing in firm agreement with James, amplifying his words, but in no way taking away or changing the meaning of God’s message. Joy here is tied to patience and endurance, strength, knowledge, and obtaining the ultimate prize in eternity.

Happiness is contingent upon exterior conditions. Joy is contingent upon interior conditions. If we count it joy (internal) to fall into diverse temptations (external), we are able to persevere in the Lord (internal) during the trials (external). ’When’ denotes inevitability. Even the non-believer faces diverse trials/temptations. James 1:2 is a preparation verse, girding the saint for what lies in his path. Over time you can grow in faith to the point where trials aren’t distractions dividing you from the Lord, but rather they are the things that propelled you toward the Lord.

And so, the question above looms: Are you able to find the joy?

1.2.10 What is temptation?

In an earlier question we looked at the Greek word peirasmos translated “temptation” in the KJV and “trial” in the NIV and ESV. For now we are going to concentrate on temptation.

Websters defines “temptation” (n) as the act of tempting or the state of being tempted, or as an enticement. The root word, tempt (v), means to entice to do wrong by promise of pleasure; it also means to make a trial of a test; to provoke, to induce; to cause to be strongly inclined.

Lk 4:1-13 illustrates the Temptation of Christ that took place in the desert at the start of Jesus’ ministry: And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Jesus went straight from his water baptism by John to the desert where he fasted 40 days, preparing for his encounter with Satan. Satan tried three times to tempt Jesus. First with food. Second with power. Finally to tempt him to prove who he was. There are probably a hundred lessons we can take from this passage, but in context with our study we see that what Satan did met the textbook definition of temptation. The same Greek word used for temptation in this passage of Luke is also used by James.

While Jesus overcame the temptation, in Acts 5:1-10 we see an example of a temptation that wasn’t overcome by Ananias and Sapphira, and the result. James 1:13-15 explains the process of how temptation becomes sin, but we’ll discuss that later.

1.2.11 Who Tempts Us?

James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. Satan is the ultimate – if not direct – source of temptation. God does not tempt. Temptation is not just an enticement to do wrong in exchange for pleasure. The pleasure is a lie because after you’ve sinned you always feel empty, dirty, sick, and there is no pleasure. Most people would call this your conscience. The promise of pleasure was a lie. Duh: it was Satan making you the promise. What else did you expect?

Heb 12:7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? The source of discipline is God. Discipline may seem unpleasant at the time, but the results are good – unlike temptation which is manifested in sin. (Heb 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.)

Tests/trials may be of God, of Satan, or of man. Not necessarily enjoyable themselves, still God uses for good what was intended for evil. We are told to test (prove – KJV) all things and hold onto the good (1 Thess 5:21), so testing can certainly be humanly induced. Testing (proving) is the kind of righteous judgment we are authorized to undertake. Testing by God divides good from bad, like the pruning of Jn 15. Satan is also judgmental, but he’s looking for prey. Unrighteous judgment is a tool, in fact a temptation, he uses to lure us into division.

 

Discipline

Test/Trial

Temptation

From

God

God/World/Satan

Satan

Result of

Disobedience/Ignorance

Following God

Pride/Exposure

How to tell

Fits Crime

Proves Faith

Leads Astray

Feeling

Painful

Challenging

Enticing

Right Response

Repent

Persevere

Resist

Do Not

Make Light of

Shine Back

Fall Into

God Says

We’re Sons

His Name’s in Us

Flesh is Weak

Ends With

Fear & Holiness

Death & Glory

Sin or Victory

1.2.12 Why does Satan try to tempt us?

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. This verse makes it clear the devil is looking for prey. He will steal our souls if we let him (Mk 13:22). Short of that he’ll do whatever he can to prevent us from being effective in our service to our Master (2 Pe 1:3-15). At every turn he will try to steal our joy (2 Cor 12:7).

The bible calls Satan a deceiver (Rev 20:8), an accuser (Rev 12:10), and a tormentor (2 Cor 12:7). Satan does so well because he looks so good (2 Cor 11:14). One of Satan’s greatest successes was in the garden (Gen 3). One of his greatest failures was in the desert (Lk 4).

James 1:15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Temptations play on our carnal desires. If the lies can be sold to us through convincing deception (and our nature is to want to hear what we want to hear) we let the desire turn into sin. If Satan could cause the fall of the perfect creation of God (Gen 1:31, 3:6), don’t you think he can get to us? Especially if we don’t seek (Jn 15:7) a “hedge” of protection from God (Job 1:10).

I heard it said that Satan is just trying to make us ineffective, that he can’t harm us directly. Don’t be deceived! Remember the parable of the seeds (Lk 8)? They all got the same seeds, but Satan can try and all too often succeeds at taking away the faith. Do you think you can’t fail in faith? Then you have already accepted a lie. The warning is 2 Pe 2:21. No faith, no salvation (Jn 3:18).

1.2.13 Are we alone when we face temptation?

1 Peter 5:9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. Do you ever feel like you’re fighting the good fight, but you’re doing it all by yourself and there’s nobody else out there on the same team? You’ve heard it said that misery loves company. While I take that as a worldly euphemism, I think its true for many that comfort and strength can be drawn from knowing that you are not alone in your struggles. Jesus faced temptations (Lk 4), too. Aside from Christ, none of the prophets or disciples were perfect, they all struggled, and most of them had it pretty bad. Whatever you are struggling with today, abide in the company of the Lord (Jn 15:5) and you will find help (Ps 121) when you ask (Jn 15:7).

1.2.14 What should we do about temptation?

Before I even try to answer, let me tell you there’s a big difference between what to do about Satan and what to do about temptation. People tend to get confused about this, so I’ll try to be as clear as possible. There are two basic choices: fight or flight. Which is right?

Avoid it. 1 Thess 5:22 “Avoid every kind of evil.” Make every effort not to be put into a bad position.

Abstain from it. 1 Peter 2:11 “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” As Nancy Reagan liked to say, “Just Say No.”

Flee From it and Replace it. 2 Tim 2:22 “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” This verse is extremely good because it contains two parts, and the second is the real key, in my humble opinion. Like the other verses above it tells us to run away from the bad, but this one states what should be obvious - run to what is good. Replace the desires of the flesh with a desire for the Lord. If you’re concentrating on what is good, it will be more difficult for the selfish desires to get hold of you. 1 Cor 6:18 and 10:14 also provide instructions to flee temptation.

Deny Self. Lk 9:23 “Then he said to them all, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’“ This verse, like the one above it, essentially says to turn from your self (your selfish desires which capitalize on temptation) and seek the Lord instead. I think this is the distilled essence of repentance.

Put your confidence in the Lord. 1 Cor 10:13 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it.” Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun. I just love that saying.

Nowhere in scripture does it tell you to fight temptation. Nowhere does it say use willpower to stand up to temptation. The word tells us to avoid it, escape it (flee), replace it with what is Godly. In fact, in my bible’s concordance it lists the word ‘flee’ 6 times, 5 of those are about fleeing temptation (the other says you can’t flee God). Don’t give temptation a foothold to get inside your tent.

1.2.15 What should we do about Satan?

First, consider this: What are we supposed to do about God? Well, chiefly we are to worship him. What does God do? Among other things, God creates. As part of the creation, we like it and therefore worship him. We don’t worship creation, do we? No, we accept and appreciate and cohabitate with the rest of creation, but worship is reserved for God alone.

As to Satan, we know he doesn’t worship. He lies and destroys. If someone came into your home and tried to kill your children, wouldn’t you fight them? If you wanted to reduce the risk of this happening, you would move to a better neighborhood, get a good set of door locks, get an alarm system, join a neighborhood watch, and so forth. You would take preventative action. Yesterday when we spoke of temptation and what to do, we were taking preventative actions. With regard to Satan’s attacks, we shift from the passive action of preventing a problem to facing and dealing with a problem in progress.

Jas 4:7b Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. With temptation we were told to flee. With Satan, we are told to resist. Resist is an interesting word. It implies a defensive confrontation. We aren’t instructed to pick a fight, rather to defend ourselves when the enemy presents himself.

Eph 6:10-18 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… This is known as the “Whole Armor of God” passage. It is included here in its entirety so you can see for yourself what it entails. God wins, not us. Satan schemes against us. Our enemy is not merely men. Most of the armor is defensive. Only the “Spirit, which is the word of God” is an offensive weapon of attack. Of all the components, this item is purely God and not at all human. Finally, we are instructed to use constant prayer to maintain communication with the battle commander. If we stop communicating with God, we then take matters into our own hands. Of what value is our only offensive weapon if we cannot wield it?

We don’t do battle against temptation because it is unrealized sin. We avoid sin by avoiding temptation. Satan seeks to devour (1 Pe 5:8), so him we have to face and fight.

Dt 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. We aren’t alone. If we don’t “abide” in Jesus, can we expect to have God’s help and his authority to make Satan flee? No, I don’t think so. None of this scripture stands alone. It must be taken as a whole and in context to understand the full gravity of what is going on. That’s why we need the full armor of God. We can’t win alone.

Various authors say not to give Satan authority he doesn’t have. I would say don’t be deceived about the authority he already has (Gen 3, Ro 5, Eph 6:12, Rev 12:9). We don’t need to give him authority because God already has done that. I’ve also heard that Satan can’t be everywhere at once and he doesn’t attack and tempt us directly all the time. Be very careful if that’s what you think. We don’t know how quickly Satan can move from place to place and we don’t know what God permits Satan to do in any given situation (remember Job?). We know Satan isn’t alone. There’s plenty of demons who do the same work and we have no idea how many of them there are - all are classified as “devil” as far I can tell. And, the “dark principalities and powers of this world” are the men who do the bidding of Satan (evil). They’re certainly lurking all around us, too, and they’re visible!

The desire to sin already lies in our flesh. In Romans 5 we see a sinful nature is passed down from Adam, brought to him courtesy of Satan, thus we are susceptible to temptation and sin. Satan doesn’t have to be personally and directly involved for you to “feel” temptation. He is the ultimate author of sin and lies. The world (property of Satan) provides plenty of common temptations courtesy of its author.

Why must we deny the self and pick up our cross daily and follow Christ if not to fight?

1.2.16 Should we fear Satan?

2 Tim 4:18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. It is worth noting that the rescue might be more like Stephen’s case where you are “rescued” to heaven (Acts 7:54-60) rather than Peter’s escape from prison (Acts 12:1-17). Either way, God makes provisions according to His will. We aren’t taught to fear Satan, but to resist him. Resist implies defensive fighting rather than offensive, but it is still fighting. We are only told to fear God (Pr 1:7). Fear him because he can more than kill you, he can throw you into hell (Lk 12:4-5).

Short answer: No.

James 1:3

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials [temptations] of many kinds, 3 because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — NIV

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. — KJV

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:3 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
ginosko [1097] know, be certain, feel, perceive hoti [3754] that, which… (conjunction) ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) dokimion [1383] determination of trustworthiness through: testing, try, trial humon [5216] you, your, yourselves ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) pistis [4102] belief, assurance, faith, fidelity, moral conviction, system of religious truth katergazomai [2716] accomplish, finish, perform, work out hupomone [5281] endurance, constancy, perseverance, patience while waiting

1.3.0 Introduction to James 1:3

This verse continues the flow of thought from the previous verse by adding a purpose to the perplexing problems of life. While studying this verse we shall explore the concepts of faith, testing, and perseverance.

1.3.1 Why are we subjected to testing?

Zech 13:9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” Surely if it’s the work of God, it is for the best possible purpose. That’s a good reason to find joy in your struggles.

Actually, James 1:3 answers the question quite nicely without the help of Zechariah, although it illustrates with poetic beauty of what perseverance, patience, or steadfastness is really all about.

1.3.2 How can we determine if something is a temptation toward evil or test to develop Godliness?

First, let’s understand the word translated as “testing” in NIV/ESV or “trying” in KJV. This particular word in the Greek is transliterated dokimion. It appears only twice in NT scripture: here and 1 Pe 1:7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. NIV translates dokimion as “prove”. The word appears to have the same basic meaning when read in context, regardless of the version.

To paraphrase Webster’s, a “test” essentially is a critical observation, examination, evaluation, or procedure to prove or disprove something supposed. A trial may also be defined similar to test, which is to say a trial proves or disproves something.

Ro 5:4-5 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5 needs to be read to see the entire context, but verses 4-5 are critical to supporting and expounding on James 1:3. God’s tests prove us to be his, and cleanse us along the way, making us better (more Godly) people, and strengthens our relationship with our Lord and thus our hope in the prize which we strive for.

1 Thess 5:21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. I’m kind of turning the question around here, but I think it’s also a valid approach. If we want to know the source of a test, then we must test the test, so to speak. If it is good, or rather if the results are good, then we are proving God’s work. Again I would refer you to Zech 13:9, or you can look up “refine” in your concordance. See also Gal 5:22-23, the “fruit of the spirit” passage.

If something results in our falling into sin, it was probably a temptation and we were probably suckered. If the test was of God and we still failed, its because Satan was offering us the wrong answer – which probably looked easier and better and right to our minds – when our minds aren’t focused as they should be on God. I don’t think God sets us up for failure. God promises not put more on us than we can handle. But still, Satan will take advantage of our weakness for harm just as God will use our weakness to Glorify himself.

1.3.3 What about when we flunk a test?

Heb 12:5b-6 (quoting Prov 3:11-12) “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” This is a loaded question. To be fair, I don’t think we “flunk” tests. If God knows all, then He knows the outcome of the test before it happens. He still allows it because it fits in with His divine purpose. Whether or not we choose what is right in a situation, we grow from the experience.

Pr 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. We already know why God tests us. It isn’t a matter of pass or fail. It always comes back to the condition of our heart. In Luke 10:27 Jesus speaks very clearly when he says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

1.3.4 May we test God?

Lk 4:12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Here is speaking directly to Satan during the wilderness temptation. This verse seems to say No.

1 Thess 5:21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. This verse seems to say yes.

1 Jo 4:1-2 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, This verse helps put the other two in perspective.

There’s a big context difference between the verses I quoted from Luke and 1 Thessalonians. In Luke Jesus is speaking directly to Satan. Satan already knows who Jesus is. Satan wasn’t trying to determine whether Jesus was good or evil. To think so would be absurd. The reference from Paul is an instruction to determine the source of things. It isn’t saying put God on trial, its saying find out if something is from God. Its only after you know something’s from God that you tread thin ice by testing further. The reference from 1 John is a practical aide in making such judgments and even goes so far as to explain why its important to do so.

Test things to determine (prove) whether they are from God. More than a good idea, this is an explicit instruction. See also 1 Cor 12:9.

Do not put God on trial or tempt him, so to speak. See also Ps 77:13, Dt 32:4, Isa 55:8, Job 23:10. The Lord proclaims his way is right. Who are we to judge? The real issue is doubt versus faith. Once you determine something is from God, you display a lack of faith if you test God further and outright sin if you disobey.

1.3.5 Is it fair that God tests us and we’re not supposed to test him?

Zech 13:9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” We’re tested to be refined. God needs no refinement. He tests us because of His love for us. God proves Himself in His faithfulness to us all the time.

Ro 9:20-21 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? We are merely the clay and must never forget this. It is an essential understanding, not just to grasp the concept of testing, but the very concept of salvation itself. If we seek to place God on trial, we do as Satan suggested Eve do. Satan told Eve she would be like God. She bought the lie. If we buy the lie, then we forget we are the molded clay. The first step toward salvation is the realization we are imperfect created beings, not sovereign unto ourselves, and in need of the perfect sacrificial salvation courtesy of God’s grace – the unearned free gift of our loving creator.

James 1:4

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials [temptations] of many kinds, 3 because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (NIV)

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (KJV)

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (ESV)

Greek Transliteration of James 1:4 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) de [1161] and, but, now… (conjunction) hupomone [5281] endurance, constancy, perseverance, patience while waiting ergon [2041] toil, work, labor, doing, deed, act telieos [5046] complete, full age, perfect echo [2192] hold, accompany, count, next hina [2443] in order that, because, lest, so that o [5600] may, might, can, could, would should… telieoi [5046] complete kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too holoklaria [3648] integrity, physical perfection en [1722] preposition denoting place: such as in, at, of, through… medeis [3367] none, not, nothing leipo [3007] leave, fail, absent, lack, destitute

1.4.0 Introduction to James 1:4

Verse 4 continues the flow again from the preceding verses. It instructs us to utilize what we gain from our adversities for maximum benefit and expounds with even more good reasoning. While studying this verse we will dig deeper into the concepts of patience, perseverance and steadfastness. That is followed by an extended look at maturity and completeness.

1.4.1 What are patience (KJV), perseverance (NIV) and steadfastness (ESV)?

Patience may be a virtue, but you don’t get it overnight. This isn’t fast food faith here, and we’re not going to rush patience. In the last verse we focused on testing. We saw, among other things, that the positive result of testing is patience/perseverance. As we move into this verse we’re going to explore a bit this concept of patience/perseverance. The definitions below are from http://dictionary.reference.com, the online interlinear resource I use is Patience may be a virtue, but you don’t get it overnight. This isn’t fast food faith here, and we’re not going to rush patience. In the last verse we focused on testing. We saw, among other things, that the positive result of testing is patience/perseverance. As we move into this verse we’re going to explore a bit this concept of patience/perseverance. The definitions below are from http://dictionary.reference.com, the online interlinear resource I use is http://bible.crosswalk.com/InterlinearBible, and an older Interlinear Greek translation (Dr. George Ricker Berry, 1943).

Patient (The definition of patient is required to fully understand patience):

1.      Bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness.

2.      Marked by or exhibiting calm endurance of pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance.

3.      Tolerant; understanding: an unfailingly patient leader and guide.

4.      Persevering; constant: With patient industry, she revived the failing business and made it thrive.

5.      Capable of calmly awaiting an outcome or result; not hasty or impulsive.

6.      Capable of bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance: “My uncle Toby was a man patient of injuries” (Laurence Sterne).

Patience

1.      The capacity, quality, or fact of being patient.

2.      Chiefly British. The game solitaire.

Synonyms: patience, long-suffering, resignation, forbearance These nouns denote the capacity to endure hardship, difficulty, or inconvenience without complaint. Patience emphasizes calmness, self-control, and the willingness or ability to tolerate delay: Our patience will achieve more than our force (Edmund Burke). Long-suffering is long and patient endurance, as of wrong or provocation: The general, a man not known for docility and long-suffering, flew into a rage. Resignation implies acceptance of or submission to something trying, as out of despair or necessity: I undertook the job with an air of resignation. Forbearance denotes restraint, as in retaliating, demanding what is due, or voicing disapproval: “It is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other” (Patrick Henry).

Persevere

To persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement.

Perseverance

1.      Steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose; steadfastness.

2.      Christianity. The Calvinistic doctrine that those who have been chosen by God will continue in a state of grace to the end and will finally be saved.

Steadfast

1.      marked by firm determination or resolution; not shakable; “firm convictions”; “a firm mouth”; “steadfast resolve”; “a man of unbendable perseverence”; “unwavering loyalty”

2.      firm and dependable especially in loyalty; “a steadfast ally”; “a staunch defender of free speech”; “unswerving devotion”; “unswerving allegiance”

Synonyms: firm, steady, unbendable, unfaltering, unshakable, unwavering, staunch, unswerving, faithful The root word, stead, literally means fixed, as fixed in place.

Greek: hupomone

The interlinear transliteration of the word rendered patience (KJV), perseverance (NIV), and steadfastness (ESV) in James 1:4 is hupomone. The word appears 31 times in the NT. I don’t have a good resource to know about NIV without actually looking up each reference, but I’m not sure it really matters. The ideas conveyed by the word perseverance seem to be consistent with that of patience. Both terms speak to enduring a difficulty while remaining steadfast in one’s purpose and belief. In fact, my own interlinear bible actually translates the Greek word hupomone as endurance.

I think it is absolutely critical that we understand the words we are using if we what to know completely what this passage is really saying. That said, as we go through the next few questions I may use the terms perseverance, patience and endurance interchangeably.

1.4.2 Why do we need patience/perseverance/steadfastness?

Prov 14:29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. The Proverb is a very practical reason for needing patience. The patient person isn’t seen as a fool. They are thought of as thoughtful and wise. Of course how God sees us and how people see us are different, but certainly if you’re going to be an effective witness to others you need to be respected.

Eph 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. If you are wondering why I chose this verse as a reference, consider what it takes to stand up to adversity. Does adversity come quickly and leave quickly? Well, it may seem to come quickly but rarely are problems solved as quickly. It takes perseverance/steadfastness to see through a troubling situation to the end and come out standing tall on the other side. It takes patience to deal with all the crap along the way and not loose your cool, thus your footing, and become the man of folly from the Proverb above.

Ro 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. I think this verse is both relevant and interesting with regard to our question. God is eternal and so His perseverance, steadfastness, and endurance are indeed perfect and eternal. If the Word of God is real, then it stands to reason that the Word is likewise eternally steadfast. It is unchanging and error free.

1.4.3 What can cause us to loose our perseverance/steadfastness?

James 1: 2-8 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Doubt is unbelief. It makes you wishy-washy. Certainty of faith makes you steadfast – completely unshakable and stubborn for the Lord.

When I am certain of something, I’m very steadfast about it. Or, as my lovely wife will attest, I am stubborn. When I doubt, though, I am more easily tripped up. Both Paul (Ro 9:33) and Peter (1 Pe 2:6-8) reference Isaiah 8:14 speaking of Jesus as the stone which causes stumbling of the unbelieving, but is a cornerstone to those who do believe. The opposite of belief (and the killer of belief) is doubt! James explains very clearly and eloquently in 1:6-8 what the doubter faces. Just like Paul and Peter, James explains in his own words the critical importance of having a faith that is deep, sure, and true. It must be based on the Rock, Jesus Christ, and it must be devoid of doubt. If your faith is solid and you are sure of what it is you believe in, you will be very stubborn indeed about it, and you will not fall when you are pushed by the world.

1.4.4 How do we become equipped to persevere?

2 Tim 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” God’s Word seems to be a pretty good place to start.

1 Chron 28:9 (David speaking to his son, Solomon) “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” (Emphasis added.) The carrot always seems to have a stick behind it, but key part for now is in bold. Start in the word, then go to the Lord in person (i.e. in prayer).

Lk 9:23 And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’ This verse impacts so many subjects, and here it is again. Once we learn, and we’ve gone to the Lord and we have that personal relationship, we must step out in trust and obey him. True enough: we are saved by grace; but we were also created to do good things (Eph 2:8-10). When we deny ourselves and take up his cross we are putting actively developing perseverance. Can you learn the piano by studying a book or speaking with the teacher? No, those are important steps and can’t be skipped, but they’re not enough to make you a pianist. You must practice. You’ll need the teacher’s help, and you will need sheet music, but you absolutely must put your hands on the instrument and play in order to truly learn and be good enough to play a real song. Oh, this is such a fine analogy, I hope I don’t need to go on.

If you go back and review the definitions from question 1.4.1 you will see that perseverance is developed over time through action. The action is guided by the Master, directed, and made possible by the Lord. Still, we are the performers. His stage, his audience, his “piano,” but we are the players. He will clap when we succeed, and lovingly correct us when we miss a note. As we get better we will be able to play beautifully for the most horrendous crowd and will not be distracted by the hecklers. Don’t fret, because God is holding the cue cards for the audience. Just trust him, and go out there and play.

1.4.5 What are we persevering against?

1 Tim 4:1-2 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared. If you were thinking ahead I bet you were expecting me to quote Eph 6:12. And that would be another great verse to use, but I like what Paul is telling Timothy because it is so very practical. It illustrates exactly what the passage in Eph 6 is talking about. The point is, we are persevering against the lies and the liars. Of course the first, greatest, and father of lies is Satan, but we also oppose the natural man living in his sinful selfish nature. The sins of Adam carry down to us all, so we ought not get haughty and think ourselves above our flaws or we become the hypocrite. We must persevere against the lies and the liars. When we persevere, we stand and are not pushed or fooled by the world and its lying liars.

1.4.6 How long must we persevere?

1 Thess 4:15-17 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Until then. That’s how long.

This passage is one of great mystery and beauty to me. It identifies clearly (if not plainly) what we have our hopes set upon. Rev 21:4 also speaks to me of what it is I am hoping for. I can’t explain the form and function beyond the scriptures, I can only trust God to keep his word about all the other stuff he says in his instruction manual. He will keep his word about what we are looking forward to.

1.4.7 What is meant by ‘mature and complete’?

Mt 18:3-4 Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. This verse wouldn’t seem to be describing maturity or completeness, but it does. It is the very most essential aspect of spiritual maturity. It is the utter acceptance of those who know that they don’t know anything, that they are just a babe, and that they look with awe and wonder and absolutely devoted trust and faith to their loving father. God said he would confound the wise. Are you confounded?

1 Cor 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. In this passage Paul is speaking of childishness, not the characteristics of being childlike. Childish and childlike are utterly different concepts. When we first believe we are spiritual newborns, thus in our faith we are childlike. As our spirituality matures, we grow in faith and wisdom.

1 Pe 2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation — This verse talks of craving milk as a newborn (new convert). Hebrews 5:11-14 expounds on this by telling believers that you can’t remain a babe in the spirit: About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Just as your flesh matures, your spirituality is expected to mature. Verse 14 even tells you why. Mature so that you can tell good from evil. If you can do that, it is much easier to endure the pushing of the world and remain standing. When you mature the opportunities for doubt diminish and you are less likely to be blown about, and you will be stable. Maturity means you will be able to earn rewards (fulfilled expectations) from the Lord (Jas 1:7)

1.4.8 What are some benefits of maturing?

Maturity is the absolute faith and loyalty of a child, but without the childish (selfish) behavior that goes with being a literal child. Okay, so what’s the big deal?

Heb 5:13-14 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. I know we referenced this in the previous question, but this time it’s the primary answer. When you become more mature you get solid food. If you’re a baby then maybe you only want milk. Is that the kind of faith you want to have? Do you want only the soft stuff? I want to grow and be strong. I want meat and potatoes. I want to chew, and grow tall. I want to be able to stand. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. The wind blows in the same fashion. The world pushes. The liars lie, and the lie is the same whether you are strong are weak. Better to be strong so as to endure, and at the end to be standing. If you can’t tell good from evil, you probably won’t be standing when the wave rolls back.

1.4.9 How are maturity and completeness demonstrated?

Maturity: Gal 5:22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. A lot of people can quote v22-23, but how many have v24-25 memorized as well? These are much more challenging words to accept and hold dear, but they are no less important. The fruit demonstrate maturity, to be sure. But foundational is the crucifixion of our natural selves, the selfish people who we were as when unregenerated. The old man was crucified when the seed was planted in us, but if we are actually walking in step with the Spirit then we must surely enjoy the benefit of our carnal passions and desires being displaced by the Holy Spirit.

Completeness: Jn 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. We are complete when we are grafted into and remain in Christ. The sapling doesn’t bear good fruit, but the mature plant is complete and it bears fruit. If grafted to the good vine it bears good fruit. That’s complete.

1.4.10 Perfect or Mature?

Telios: The Greek word is telios is defined as: 1. brought to its end, finished; 2. wanting nothing necessary to completeness; 3. perfect; 4. that which is perfect: 4a) consummate human integrity and virtue; 4b) of men: full grown, adult, of full age, mature

The term translated “mature” in NIV is translated “perfect” in every other version I’ve looked at including KJV, NASB, and ESV. Given the context and the definition of the Greek word provided by my online Greek lexicon, “mature” is at least a possible rendering. As such, the study of maturity from the last few days is not completely out of place. In context with the balance of the paragraph and the chapter as a whole, I’m okay with the word mature.

The word “perfect” is also a very acceptable word and is likewise suitable in context. To those of us steeped in the English language, however, the word “perfect” tends to have a different atmosphere to it. Perfection is something unattainable outside of God, therefore it stands to reason we need God in order to even approach perfect. To me, maturity implies seniority. Perfection implies being utterly and completely remade and new, whole, and complete. Is it just me, or does maturity not seem to be something less than perfect?

I then looked up the word translated “complete” (holokleros). This word is translated complete in every version except KJV, which uses the word “entire.” Okay, I’ll buy that. Combined with telios, holokleros adds emphasis to the concept of fullness of being.

Finally, the phrase “lacking in nothing,” or “not lacking anything,” or “wanting nothing” all mean pretty much the same thing. It means you don’t need anything else in order to be complete, whole, mature, or as I like to say: in the fullness of being.

In context with the balance of the passage, James is talking about how God uses the challenges we face to show us how to persevere, which refines us, thus making us whole and complete. When we are made whole, through life experiences walking with God, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, through study of God’s Word, and through the shedding of what is worldly within us, we are purified, perfected, made whole, we lack nothing, and have nothing extra which is unnecessary.

It is this last concept I want to dwell only a moment longer. We talked earlier about the refinement process, how God uses trials and tests to refine us as gold or silver. These elements are found in the earth as ore. Most of the time the ore, while it contains what is pure, also contains a lot of other rock which must be burned away in order to obtain a sample which is only made of the pure elemental substance. Being whole, entire, complete, mature, and perfect all imply that the debris (all the impurities) have been removed. Please do not let this aspect be lost on you when considering what James is telling us.

The perfecting work of God is not only to add all that which is good, but to remove all that which is bad.

1.4.11 Summary of James 1:2-4

James 1:2-4 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (ESV)

James begins his letter by consoling the believers about the difficulties they face. He explains that God uses those difficulties to make us stronger in faith, more mature as believers, and pure. These are things to be happy about in spite of the hardships involved with attaining those qualities. He encourages the reader with a message of joy, even in the face of it all. He lets the reader know that while yes, we are tested, that testing is a good thing and has good results. Steadfastness, perseverance, and patience - whichever word you prefer - are all good an noble qualities, but most importantly they are qualities that make it possible for the believer to endure hardships through the course of life and to be able to lay hold of the eternal life which they’ve hoped for all the while. As for me, I think stubborn might be just as good a word. I want to be stubborn for God.

By examining and comparing different versions we were also lead to study and gain a better understanding of the nature of temptation, trials, discipline, and tests. While these terms seem on the surface to be nearly equivalent, we learned by looking deeper into scripture and seeking a better understanding of both modern English and ancient Greek that there are some very important lessons to be taken from the nuances. Satan is the father of lies and God cannot lie. Satan tempts, God does not. Discernment is needed, and it is a gift from God to be discussed in the study of upcoming verses.

Another fine nuance found in the forth verse is “let.” It is a very important word and one of two direct and specific instructions given in this paragraph. The first is “count.” They are both verbs, both direct, both commands. We must let (i.e. allow, not prevent) the stubbornness (e.g. steadfastness / perseverance / patience) take over. That’s when we are pure. In other words, James is saying we need to stubbornly let the Holy Spirit do its job and we reap the reward of purity and joy.

The question has come up about what appears to be a doctrine of works held forth by James whereas Paul preaches a doctrine of grace by faith. I see no difference. In fact, I see perfect agreement - albeit with complimentary (not counter) instructions. As we progress through the balance of James, particular when we someday get to the part about “faith without works is dead” we will come to understand the deeper meanings and if you stay with us that long, I believe we will together come to a much deeper appreciation of what the Holy Spirit does through us, that we are incapable of doing it ourselves, and that no works of human hands are worthy. The works James speaks of are those performed by the Spirit, not our hands alone. Ah, but I don’t mean to spoil the joy to come...

James 1:5

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” — NIV

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” — KJV

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:5 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
ei [1487] if, whether, that (conditional participle) de [1161] and, but, now… (conjunction) tis [5100] anyone, anything, someone, something, somewhat humon [5216] you, your, yourselves leipo [3007] leave, fail, absent, lack, destitute sophia [4678] wisdom aiteo [0154] ask, beg, crave, desire, require para [3844] near ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) didomi [1325] give theos [2316] God pas [3956] all, whole haplos [0574] bountifully kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too me [3361] not, no, none, never oneidizo [3679] reproach, chide, defame, taunt, revile, upbraid kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too didomi [1325] give autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun)

1.5.0 Introduction to James 1:5

Verse 5 launches a new stream of ideas beginning with wisdom and ending with foolishness. James often uses stark comparisons to make vivid points. This passage is one of many examples. Verse 5 starts with a recommendation to seek wisdom by asking it of God. James assures us God will be generous in his answer to such a request. Verse 5 does not stand alone, however. Verse 6 establishes a specific requirement directed to us. In our study of Verse 5 we will explore wisdom, asking God for things, the nature of prayer and answers to prayer, and giving.

1.5.1 What is wisdom?

The word translated as wisdom in this passage is the Greek word “sophia.”

According to an online Greek Lexicon, “sophia” is found 49 times in the New Testament. According to this lexicon it means: wisdom, broad and full of intelligence; used of the knowledge of very diverse matters

1. the wisdom which belongs to men: a) spec. the varied knowledge of things human and divine, acquired by acuteness and experience, and summed up in maxims and proverbs b) the science and learning c) the act of interpreting dreams and always giving the sagest advice d) the intelligence evinced in discovering the meaning of some mysterious number or vision e) skill in the management of affairs f) devout and proper prudence in intercourse with men not disciples of Christ, skill and discretion in imparting Christian truth, the knowledge and practice of the requisites for godly and upright living

2. supreme intelligence, such as belongs to God a) to Christ b) the wisdom of God as evinced in forming and executing counsels in the formation and government of the world and the scriptures

From an online dictionary, the word “wisdom”:

1. The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight.

2. Common sense; good judgment: “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things” (Henry David Thoreau).

3a) The sum of learning through the ages; knowledge: “In those homely sayings was couched the collective wisdom of generations” (Maya Angelou).

3b) Wise teachings of the ancient sages.

4. A wise outlook, plan, or course of action.

5. Wisdom - Bible. Wisdom of Solomon.

1.5.2 How valuable is wisdom?

Prov 3:13-18 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed. There can be little doubt that wisdom is highly prized, a thing of great value to God, which is why God gives it freely and generously to those who ask.

Prov 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. If the “fear of the Lord” is the beginning of wisdom, then this “fear” must be even more valuable that the wisdom itself. The word translated fear has additional meanings which include reverence, respect, and piety. This verse is much more well known than understood. It is central to the understanding of salvation and salvation is certainly of greater value than wisdom. I say it is central because, if you consider Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus (Jn 3) and again with the woman at the well (Jn 4), in both cases the point Jesus made was that he was in fact Lord. The woman didn’t fully comprehend it in theological terms, but she quickly grasped the concept that the man she encountered had both power and authority and, as a benevolent power, she was more than happy to submit to Jesus’ authority. With regard to Nicodemus, Jesus’ dialog with him was according to what he understood. There was no mistake in either his or the woman’s mind who Jesus claimed to be, nor was there any doubt that Jesus required acknowledgment and submission to that authority.

1.5.3 How do we get wisdom?

Jn 14:14 “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Method 1: Ask for it. As if our feature verse wasn’t enough. Read the context of Jn 14:14 for a full understanding.

Dan 1:17 “As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” Method 2: God knows you need it, so He imparts it whether you seek it or not. In this case, those who received were called by God for a specific purpose and the giving of special insight was necessary for them to carry out the assigned task. I think there are many great examples of this in scripture. Noah comes to mind as another good example. Information was certainly thrust upon all sort of people in the bible. Of course, they were almost always people God was using, people who were seeking God. They found him, all right.

Gen 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise1, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” {(1) or to give insight} Method 3: We get it for ourselves, from sources not intended by God. That’s pretty common. In fact, there’s a lot in the bible about false teachers and false prophets and such. Satan is the father of lies. You don’t have to encounter Satan in person to encounter lies. Of course the tree of knowledge had God’s good fruit on it, but the wisdom Eve came by was the result of listening to a lie. She wasn’t supposed to have it. But when we seek and accept knowledge from sources other than God, we will find lies in place of God’s true wisdom. When we find truth through unintended sources, it’s usually referred to as losing innocence.

Ps 111:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” Method 4: Seek God and you will start the process of obtaining wisdom. Remember Prov 3:18 from the previous question? The key part was “She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her.” Certainly wisdom, at least a form of wisdom, is imparted with true salvation. Wisdom is part of the package deal with the indwelling Holy Spirit. The ultimate fruit? Eternal life.

1.5.4 How much wisdom can we get?

1 Ki 4:29 “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore.” This verse illustrates what is available. The passage in context goes on at length to describe a few areas of Solomon’s expanded wisdom, but suffice it to say God is God, and he can give as much as he sees fit to whom and when he sees fit.

We know there are various ways to acquire wisdom. Since we know there’s plenty to be had, then ask yourself, how much wisdom do you need? Consider Solomon’s life. He enjoy a great gift from God. Still, in his latter years he grew headstrong with his gift, taking about 1000 women as wives and concubines and such, and drifted further and further from the Lord. He was morose and depressed, and his writings expressed these sentiments. As for me, I seek to know what the Lord wants me to know. I seek discernment. I seek to know and to the degree possible understand his will. I seek to share what knowledge and wisdom I receive. I seek to give him the glory for what I receive, and for being that much wiser to know what not to give me. The free gift most valuable of all is the gift of eternal life, and that comes by faith, not wisdom. Wisdom comes from God, to those with faith, and it is not the other way around (Jas 1:6-7).

1.5.5 What do we do with wisdom?

Phil 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Imagination is probably the biggest limitation. That said, some things are more worthwhile than others. Here’s a few I’d suggest:

Mt 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Certainly the most important work we can do in service to our Lord is to share the good news of his gift with other so that they too might share.

1 Pe 3:15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; This is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Every person is unique and every situation is different. Wisdom in necessary in order to adapt to situations and people, to communicate with them in a way they understand, and to demonstrate love in the most meaningful way possible to that individual so that they will open their hearts to receive the good news. For us as individuals this means being prepared with the armor of God and being skilled like a surgeon with your sword, which is the Word of God.

1 Jn 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (Read v1-6 for the full context.) While service to others is the most noble endeavor, and being prepared for the task of sharing the gospel is the most useful application, discernment is also essential for each of us as individuals. We must be able to discern Truth so that we cannot be fooled and lead astray, lost to temptation, or drawn into arguments of circular logic or otherwise drawn away from telling the complete and accurate message of the good news.

I would summarize discernment as a type of wisdom specific to dealing with incoming information, regardless of the form of sensory perception used.

1.5.6 What kind of responsibility does wisdom entail?

Jas 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. It seems one could define wisdom as the opposite of sin. Maybe that’s why wisdom is so important.

1.5.7 To whom is wisdom available?

Referencing our focus verse, the answer seems to lie within. Speaking to the believers scattered about, James says “if any of you…” From this we know at a minimum, believers can receive divine wisdom because that is to whom his letter was addressed. James then instructs us to ask God. So, perhaps it is only to the believers who ask. Well, we know from one of our earlier questions that divine wisdom comes from God for various reasons and in various ways. Requesting it, however, does ensure availability. Next, James says God “gives generously to all.” You might jump on this and say God’s wisdom is then available to anyone, whether they believer or not, only for the asking. I’ve got three problems with such a thought. First, the word “all” modifies the “him” who is asking. “All” does not stand on its own in this sentence. My second problem is derived from the passage in Jn 14:13-14 where Jesus assures the believer that requests made “in his name” would be granted. Third, and most important, is to continue reading James 1:6 and beyond for the full context of these few words we are concentrating on today. James 1:6 says, But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind. This definitely places a bit of a restriction on availability. In fact, it clearly confirms and conforms to the first two issues I brought up.

When we ask God for something, we are communicating with Him. Prayer takes a lot of forms. Making requests is one of those forms. We are given plenty of instructions about how to pray. Jesus said to worship in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24). Jesus also proclaimed he was Truth (Jn14:6). Mt

But that’s not all, folks. James goes on to say “gives generously to all without reproach.” KJV uses the words “giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” Knowing the limitations of “all,” you also need to remember divine wisdom is a gift. Like salvation, it cannot be earned, only requested. The request is valid only when made in true faith. When the request is made in true faith, God does promise to answer in the affirmative such a request. In fact, more than answer yes, we are promised a generous (liberal) share. So, the news only gets better!

The phrase “without reproach” or “upbraideth not” says to me that God not only will say yes, but he is seeking us to make this request. He longs to provide us with divine wisdom, if only we will ask. Certainly, the act of physically making the request is not always required, but the only sure way to get the gift is to ask.

Finally, will notice a subtle change in this lesson. I’ve been referring to “divine wisdom” rather than simply wisdom. I think there are different kinds of wisdom. All have value. Divine wisdom, unlike worldly wisdom or simply acquired information (knowledge), is special because it isn’t something we can lay hold of without supernatural involvement. I wanted to make this very clear because it is easy to be confused.

1.5.8 How does wisdom differ from knowledge?

Knowledge (as defined by Dictionary.com):

1.      The state or fact of knowing.

2.      Familiarity, awareness, or understanding gained through experience or study.

3.      The sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned.

4.      Learning; erudition: teachers of great knowledge.

5.      Specific information about something.

6.      Carnal knowledge.

To me, knowledge means to have a certainty about information.

To me, wisdom is essentially putting information to work by discerning and making the best possible choices based on available information (certain or otherwise).

Prov 1:20-22 Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Godly wisdom cries out for the lost. It begs for the lost to come and know the Lord. If you know the Lord, if you understand salvation, of what value is it if you do not stretch out your hand with your information as a gift to those who need it? They may resist, longing to remain carnal, but the wise will cry out, weeping for the lost, seeking to teach them about the Lord and Savior.

Prov 8:12 I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. Wisdom is seeking. Wisdom not only seeks to share itself with the lost, but to grow and increase itself along the way. There is no way to fully know everything there is to know about God. But, that does not excuse us from making the effort to grow in our knowledge, love and obedient service of him every day.

We’ve looked at wisdom many ways and could surely write a book exploring it, but to what avail? Would it be wise to use so much time learning about wisdom rather than growing our wisdom? I think not.

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