Tuesday, June 17, 2008

James: The Call to Perfection (Week 2)

The Call To Perfection (James 1)

Teleios means perfect, whole, occurs in James 1: 4, 17, 25. We are called to perfection meaning wholeness - spiritual wholeness. The Biblical understanding of perfection is very different from the prevailing Greco-Roman view of the same with its cultic usage (perfect sacrifices - no blemishes) and other meanings such as logical progression towards some goal, in the future. James draws on John 4: 16 (God is love) and 1 John 4: 18, 21 (Perfect love casts out fear) to flesh out perfection-wholeness for us. Biblical perfection means nothing is lacking from this aspect of wholeness, God initiates a communion bond of love and we choose to follow and remain in fellowship with this love, and this is expressed in a love that follows God's commands. James is calling his readers to embrace a particular way of life that sets them apart from the wider society. A new social order in the community of James (his audience) and at the heart of this new social order is a call to embrace a way of integrity, authenticity, perfection.

1) Perfection (wholeness) is the goal of a life of faith that expresses itself in action.
2) Intellectual faith is not enough – it is not faith.
3) Faith must be demonstrated by a lifestyle led in conformity with God's will.
4) Wisdom and the law enable the believers to lead the life that God wants of them.
5) The opposite of the perfect or whole person is the divided person and this person lacks wisdom. The person is double-minded because they doubt (doubt, discouragement, and deception are from the devil).
6) Our whole allegiance should be to God and we must be careful of self-deception.

v. 2-18: The pursuit of spiritual wholeness: the opportunity afforded to us by trials
2-3 encourages us to respond positively to trials
5-8 exhorts us to ask in faith for wisdom
9-11 comforts the poor and warns the rich
12 is a blessing on those who endure trials
13-15 warns us not to blame God for temptations
16-18 reminds us that all good gifts, including the new birth, come from God

v. 19 – 2: 26: The evidence of spiritual wholeness: obedience to the Word
19-20 warns us about sins of speech
21-25 exhorts us to be obedient to the word we have received
26-27 reminds us of the essence of “true religion”

James 1: 21 – 27 - Obedience to the word is the mark of the true Christian
Put on a new suit of clothes – the righteous living to which Jesus calls us
Accept or receive the influence of God's word implanted in us is the main focus

Charein (greetings) in v.1 picked up by charan (joy) in v.2
Leipomenoi (lacking) in v.4b is picked up by leipetai (lacks) in v. 5
Peirasmon (trial) in v. 12 is picked up by peirazomenos (when tempted) in v. 13
Teleios (perfect, whole) occurs in vv. 4, 17, 25
Deceived (deception) occurs in vv. 16, 22, 26

Individual Activities (for 6 days a week): Choose browsing through the Old Testament or doing Lectio Divina of a single verse in James.

Days 1 - 6:
Browse through the Torah - the Five books of Moses - this is Bible law aka Mosiac Law, Divine Law - the Law James is talking about in his letter:
1) Genesis
2) Exodus
3) Leviticus
4) Numbers
5) Deuteronomy
As you browse, try to get an idea of the number of laws and the categories (food, worship, aliens, women, slaves, purification, sacrifice, etc.) they cover.

Days 1 - 6:
Practice daily lectio (passage of your choice from James 1 or use James 1:4.

Group Discussion Questions:
1. What is your definition of perfection. Do you think you're perfect? If yes, why? If no, why not?

2.How does James describe perfection?

3.Define deception.

4.What is the pattern of deception about which James warns?