Lesson Four – Working Out the New Covenant

Working Out the New Covenant

Lesson Text:       James 1:19-27.

A.    Introduction.

The reason it is necessary for God to beget mature people “in Adam” is because mankind is aware of what is good and what is evil.  Children will have developed two very long lists of what is good and what is evil in their formative years before they enter the stage of adolescence.  Parents will pass on their lists to their children during the passive learning stage.  Although very young children have an innate awareness of justice, their values may be modified by the culture into which they were born.  At some point their conscience and mind will have held something that resembles a courtroom scenario (Rom. 2:15).  They take responsibility for their behavior based on their good and evil lists.  Even though they may not possess a true list in their memories, their conscience may still be marked guilty if they believe they did not choose good in particular encounters (Rom. 14:23; Jas. 4:17).

All mature people will become aware they did choose evil in their daily lives.  Their own consciences have become guilt ridden because they failed to choose good at all times.  Developing a child of God with guilt on his or her conscience is impossible; therefore, God begets sinners so He can have the fruit of His creation.  Being begotten is a good and perfect gift all Christians have received by grace.  It was not free from God’s standpoint.  Jesus paid the price for us.  Presently Christians are the potential fruit for God from His creation of mankind.

James began his document with the next phase of Christians’ lives after our spiritual births.  This phase is God’s program to develop mature children for His kingdom.  The faith testing, patience developing, maturing part is the formula for developing children (Jas. 1:2-4).  James’ understanding of faith involved more than a mere study of God’s word.  Faith that fails to produce proper behavior in response to testing will not function in the doctrine of justification (Jas. 2:14-26).  Justification by faith is how Christians, and Christians only, are counted righteous in order for other “good and perfect gifts” to be received from our Father (Rom. 5:21).

Christians’ faith involves our hope for satisfaction of one or more of our innate needs.  For instance, Abraham hoped for something God promised him that would satisfy his need to achieve a desired status.  He also desired to be socially acceptable with God in his achievement.  Achieving a goal and being accepted by others in our achieved position is how people receive glory.  God tested Abraham’s faith.  His faith is what “propped up” his hope.  The Greek word translated substance in Heb. 11:1 is hupostatsis.  It is made up of two words; hupo, under; stasis, standing.  Faith in what Christians hope for provides strength to move toward the thing hoped for with patience and determination (Rom. 8:24, 25).  The success of Abraham’s test was manifested in his behavior.

B.    Lesson. 

1.  Text 1:19-21.  Patience at work:  Quick to listen.  Slow to speak.  Slow to anger.  When our anger begins to “fire off” our patience loses control of its work in our lives (Eph. 4:26).  When patience is developed by God’s discipline of faith testing, the work of patience will be manifested in the “working out” of God’s new covenant within us.  God’s word will be planted in faithful Christians’ hearts and minds.  We will develop the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16).  The righteous life God desires will become our habit.  This is how Christians conform to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29).  We “consider it pure joy” in our “discipline by tribulations” because this is a part of the faith testing program “in Christ.”  Rom. 5:3; II Tim. 3:12-15; Heb. 12:5-7.

The “first fruits” of God’s creation are Christians who love Him because He gives us good and perfect gifts (Jas. 1:12; Rom. 8:28; I Cor. 2:9).  God is holy and His children are holy (I Pet. 1:15, 16).  This means we keep ourselves unspotted from the world by ridding ourselves of all moral filth and evil.  This will be a challenge because we are “in Adam,” thus we have a tendency to lust.  We want to practice the righteous life God desires; therefore, we must deal with our anger (Col. 3:8-10).  This will require the “patience until death” that is being developed in our successful “faith testing” experiences (Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10).

2.  Text: 1:22-25.  Someone has been heard to say, “I read my Bible every day and I attend every meeting of the church, including mid-week Bible study.”  This is a noble statement; however, James cautioned: “Don’t deceive yourselves.”  He did not say assembling with the church and daily Bible reading is a waste of time.  His point was made in the “face in a mirror” simile.  A simile is a figure of speech comparing two unlike things.

People generally look at themselves in a mirror before leaving their residence.  Should they happen upon another mirror, they may take another quick look.  Some ladies carry a mirror with them.  Why?  They want to make sure they look the same as they did when they left home.  James used this scenario in his simile.  How do we know we have “the word implanted” and thereby saved (Jas. 1:21)?  Christians can bear witness with themselves that we are God’s children only when our personal behavior is mobilized by what we read in scripture.  Our behavior is the result of who we are.  Liars lie, thieves steal (Mark 7:20-23).  Sons of God do not lie or steal unless we first give up our identity.

James’ point is our behavior is indicative of the word of God being implanted in our hearts and minds (Matt. 7:24).  The habits we form as a result of the “word implanted” is who we are – it is our identity.  Christians humble ourselves to the “royal law found in scripture” for it is the law of life in the new covenant (Jas. 2:8; I Cor. 9:21; Rom. 8:1; Heb. 8:10).  We are free to live as children of God (I Cor. 7:22; Phil. 2:14-16; I Pet. 2:16).  “The law that gives freedom” is a description of our potential as a human being and the way we function as we mature and become a complete person – a son of God.

It is a law of liberty because it guides us in what is life, as in eternal life and it keeps us free from elements that would take us captive.  It works like the law of nature works for a gardener.  The potential to grow and produce has been designed in the seed and then the plant by God.   Successful gardeners understand the God-given laws of nature and apply them to the plants.  This frees the plant to produce its potential fruit.  James may have been thinking of Jesus’ metaphorical type of parables in Mark 4:26-29 and Luke 13:6-9.

3.    Text: 1:26, 27.  The word religion in this text is translated from the Greek word threskos.  Threskos is found in Acts 26:5 and Col. 2:18.  It relates to the external aspects of the Christian religion.  James may have used this word to emphasize the difference in “deceptive religion” and the religion of a Christian who lives by “perfected faith.”  Jas. 2:22, 23.  In this text it can mean “devotion to God.”  The context in which James has used the word “religion” may be understood by the word “pure.”  This suggests everything religious is not pure.  The statement about the control of our tongue may help establish context for the principle James desired to establish.  There is a relationship between what we say and what we do.  This relationship speaks about the value of a person’s religion to themselves.  The word “pure” found in Jas. 1:27 has been translated from the Greek, katharos.  It means being cleansed.  Undefiled has been translated from the Greek word amiantos.  It means free from contamination.   Amiantos is also found in Heb 13:4.

C.  Please answer the following:

  1. In a word, what kind of behavior does God desire?
  2. In order for Christians to reap the benefit of the work of patience, we need to develop one “quick ” and two “slow” practices.  Please list these three practices.
  3. How does anger work when people are undergoing tribulations?  How is the work of patience different?
  4. Explain how the new covenant is being kept in James 1:21.  See Heb. 8:10-12.
  5. The Greek word translated “blessed” in verse 25 is the same word Jesus used to begin His stating of the eight beatitudes in Matt. 5:3-10.  It could be translated “happy” because it has this meaning.  Describe a happy person from the context in which James used the word “blessed.”
  6. How is the “perfect law that gives freedom” similar to the law of nature?
  7. In relation to the way God created us, how does the perfect law become a law of liberty or freedom?
  8. Explain the similarities between a Christian hearing the word of God “onlyand a person forgetting how they look after viewing his or her face in a mirror?

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