Study # 40
Thesis: The idolatrous pursuit of security apart from God often produces a hyper-religious delusion that pits self-righteous performance against the conviction of sin in order to maintain the pursuit of the idolatry.
Introduction: In our study of chapter 2 of James, we have noted that the issue of the chapter is dealing with the temptation to seek security in possessions. Security is one of the three legs of God's definition of life for man. As such, it finds its only real root in the God of the life. There are at least three ways to see this definition: 1) in terms of the divine provisions (intermediate agents) for sustaining the life [land of plenty, persons of good will, and power to do important things;] and 2) in terms of the actual results of the provisions [a humming physical body, a soul rejoicing in security, and a spirit exulting in exaltation] and 3) in terms of the roots of the results [the Spirit of God as the Energizer of the Body, the Son of God as the Guarantor of Security, and the Father as the Lover Who grants Significance]. It is at the level of roots that true godliness or idolatry are revealed.
In James 2, James has surfaced the fact of idolatry in the larger issue of the soul's joyful rest. He has claimed that the lust for material possessions is present and obvious by reason of the actions of the readers.
However, there are always deep-seated defenses in sinful human hearts that attempt to come to the rescue when the person is being accused of sin. James addresses one of the most deceptive in 2:8-11: self-righteous relativism.
June 10, 1998
- I. James' Deliberate Protasis.
- A. James deliberately appeals to the most powerful argument he can.
- 1. He invokes the telos of the royal law.
- a. The telos of the royal law is the mutual experience of the depth of joy by all participants.
- b. This telos is the ultimate objective of God in creation.
- 2. He describes the issue involved as "law".
- a. This means that it is an inviolable principle that will stand when everything else crumbles.
- b. This inviolability makes James' argument as powerful as it can be.
- 3. He characterizes the law as "royal".
- a. This means that it is suitable for the King's use and points directly at the ultimate promise of the Kingdom.
- b. As such, its stature is raised in direct proportion to the significance of the Kingdom in the eyes of the readers.
- 4. He characterizes the pursuit of the telos of this royal law as in harmony with "the Scripture".
- a. This raises the issue of "law" to the power of indisputability because it comes out of the mouth of the omniscient God.
- b. Man-discovered "laws" are subject to question and revision, but revelation is not subject to either.
- 5. He defines the law as genuine love.
- II. James' Deceptively Smooth Apodosis.
- A. The "ye are doing well" is rather anticlimactic.
- B. The anticlimax allows the readers to relax a bit in smug self-satisfaction and throws them completely off guard.
- 1. They have justified their treatment of the rich man as "loving"--i.e., treating him just as they wish to be treated.
- 2. This allows them to deceive themselves into continuing the pursuit of the telos without the proper root.
- III. James' Confrontation.
- A. Centers upon their treatment of the poor man.
- B. Focuses upon the sham of the "love" claims.
- C. Brings the royal law into the fray as convictor rather than comforter.