Our Bridgewater Grace PCA church started the Thursday fellowship Bible study on the book of James a few weeks ago, and I'll catch up on it.
I'll also be using Pak Tong's James (2006, mentioned in Video 39) series as reference.
James coming after Hebrews cannot be arbitrary. Just like Mark (servant) -> Luke (man) -> John (Son of God). Ascending.
Why Hebrews before James?
Faith before works.
Gospel of Matthew is directed towards the Jews
Gospel of John is towards the gentiles.
We understand the Bible as organic living, not systematic. So that we can understand it.
On the other James (the apostle) who didn't write this book, and his brother John, did they became the "left" and the "right"? Yes, but not about on the throne of Christ, but of the martyrdom: James died first, John last, of all apostles.
Who is this author then? The brother of Jesus in Acts 1, 15. Roman Catholic's Perpetual Virginity of Mary is debunked in Matthew 1:25 - Joseph knew her not til she had brought forth her first born. 4 years ago, archeology in Jerusalem found a box with inscription "James, brother of Jesus".
Though brother of Jesus, he never boast about it, not even in the book, after repentance. But before repentance, he didn't even believe his oldest brother was Christ. His is the slave of Christ and God.
v. 1: Who are the twelve tribes? To those the law is given but now all in Christ.
Tong on James 1:1-4 (video 3):
This is the only book in the entire Bible that addresses the 12 tribes. Other books like Hebrews also to the Jews. Universally, the target audience is those who understood the Old Covenant.
The law shows you your sin; boasting about the law is like a man boasting about how great his doctor is in finding cancer in him.
Why no priesthood? Destruction of altar in Jerusalem in 70AD
Why no prophets? God stopped sending messengers
Why no kings? The throne of David was ceased since the captivity (First office to stop is king)
James wrote to the Israel that accepted Christ, not ones that rejected Christ. Thus it begins with temptations and suffering.
Tong Video 4:
v. 3, 4 Patience - must be of a quality one, and not of a useless patience. This is why the dumb often succeed while the clever often fail.
Patience/perseverance is connected to Will. 30 years ago the world was crazy about IQ, then EQ and now Tong shows the biblical WQ - Will Quotient. There's also SQ - Spiritual Quotient.
Marco Polo took the noodle concept in China back to Italy and they called theirs macaroni. Noodle tastes better then more its beaten.
Tong Video 5 (v.3-6):
3 parts in Will Quotient: 1. determination; 2. Consistency; 3. Strife
Faith -> Knowledge -> Do. 信知行。
Sufferings humbles us, admitting our limit in knowledge. It's difficult for a talented person to humble. God baptizes him in suffering. v.5
You are poor when a rich person stands next to you. Paul Tillich: Communism is not enemy of capitalism, they are competitors. One forces the rich to give to the poor for commonality; while the other use taxation on the rich for the same goal. Neither is taught by the Bible.
Bible: those who don't have, more will be taken from him; Communism: take the rich to give to the poor. Bible protects the poor from exploit, but also rebuke the lazy. This applies to wisdom in this passage. Those who are wise but don't feel wise, God will add; those who are not wise but thought they are, God will take away.
When God gives you wisdom, you must use it wisely, or else, God would take away, like in Solomon's case.
Distinguishing wisdom vs. knowledge = knowledge is like the computer with all its virtually limitless information, like trash - emails, junks, etc. Not the same as Wisdom.
Homework: OT wisdom vs. NT wisdom: they are not the same. Jesus in NT is our wisdom. James 3 also talks about wisdom.
Tong Video 6: v.5
Bible is not by systematic, but by organic living understanding. Life has system but system does not necessary have life.
One always think one is confident and talented and need no help or outside wisdom until facing suffering and trials.
Tong Video 7: v.5
Wisdom vs Knowledge: example: having a map (knowledge), but it's not enough to get to the destination, one must figure out where I am (wisdom)...
On Wisdom: Those who said in the end, I did not do what I ought to do...have no wisdom.
On 5 points of the ultimate principle of Wisdom:
- Fear the Lord; 1Jn 2:17 这世界和其上的情欲都要过去，惟独遵行神旨意的，是永远常存。
- shows restrain, content, self-discipline
- attributes of God is the foundation of our virtue/ethics. 以宽和待人，仁慈和平
Righteousness and Truth of God is the restraint of our freedom;
Love and kindness of God is the motive of our action.
OT wisdom is just about following God, walk in His holiness. Openly welcome forgive others rather than focus on criticizing, is the hidden wisdom in NT. NT wisdom exceeds OT's. 1 Cor 1:30 Christ is our Wisdom...other than Christ's life example and the fruit of the Holy Spirit showing all these, James 3 shall talk about the principle behind this.
Video 7 @15:00:
4. Be owner of our inheritance. Most become slaves of their own property. Enslaved by money, talents, freedom, properties, time. All these are properties given us by God.
5. Timeless accomplishments in limited time and space.
Joh 4:34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
My food = My supplement, need, satisfaction of this life is to accomplish His work and will.
Most important sentence in Economics: Jesus said Mat 16:26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
A church/person should work in a dynamic manner and not a passive one: i.e. you tell a kid you are small; dynamic response would be to reply: I will be bigger than you in the future.
Since God generously gives everyone wisdom (v.5), why some still stupid. Men ruin it, not God. Other than self-confident, over-confident, misconduct, mis-evaluate, mis-calculate, mis-location; we stupefy ourselves. Especially the parents, trying to get kids trained to be a genius at a young age, in order to get people to praise their kids. Parents happy, but the kids carried the cross. In the end the kid becomes stupid. So don't force kids to study too early. Wait for them to be more mature, enjoy the happiness of childhood first. Otherwise, they die early as they graduate. Tong even once struggled to get his son to delay in school one year due to problem in some subjects. Even had to switch school as the young teacher didn't agree to delay. But it doesn't mean you can relax, need to do more work.
We often suppress the wisdom God had given us; not that God did not give us.
v5. God gives generously but do not find fault/without reproach means giving grace yet not showing off the giving, such is the attribute of God.
不食嗟来之食: I will rather not eat of the food that is given with attitude, no matter how hungry I am. Idiom from the Waring States Period of China. Although my stomach is fulfilled my heart is not. Likewise we should not just help materialistically, but also with kind attitude honoring respecting others, such is God's attitude. Some have good attitude but never help materialistically - I'm hungry; Oh may God bless you bye bye! Also not good; best is willing to help others and respecting them.
If you lack knowledge, you can go to university (I guess now we have google/youtube also); If you lack wisdom, you can only go to God.
God's freedom is not absolute, by John Stott. Tong: it's semantic. God's freedom IS absolute!
On v6, prayer/ask: The religion that pray for self and material is the lowest religion.
The Roman Catholics' cross drawing, good meaning but may not be good practice. Comes from Gal 3:1 "the cross of Christ has been drawn before your eyes"
All-voice together prayer (群体祷告) based on what? 1925-1928 Bethel Evangelistic band in China (greatest revival movement in China before communism) which involved John Sung, Andrew Gih (Ji Zhiwen) Nie Zhiying, etc. They did this to encourage and teach everyone to pray without listening to others, one town rejected them for such praying style. But where in the Bible, in the last part of Acts 4. Acts 4:24...
- Recognize that we are limited
- Trusting in the almighty power of God
- From the word of God that produces faith in us. Paul said, whatever you ask…but how can you ask, if you believe not…Use the Lord's prayer rather than Jabesh's. Vision vs. Ambition: many said, my vision…but actually it's "my ambition".
Wrong psychology of prayer:
- not to command God but obey God's commandments. Pray as if God is beside you. Confucius: near God as if God is here
- Not to change God, but ask God to change yourself. The hymn about moving God's hand is mentioned. Jesus wasn't being lazy in the storm as his response was a rebuke. "ye of little faith"
- Not to move God's heart. But God's Holy Sprit dwells in our heart to move us. Using unspoken sighing the Spirit guide us to pray properly. Sighing because our prayers are full of errors without the Spirit.
Video 10: v7-11
Turn what is relative to absolute: make enemies out of brothers
Turn what is absolute to relative: treat brothers out of enemies - letting the wolves in.
Indonesia from 1958-1966 by trying to be independence by themselves rather than being trained by the British for independence like Malaysia, Burma, etc. Sukarno announced that they have kicked out the imperialists. Too early to be independent so nobody knows how to manage the country and the great depreciation of Rupiah currency happened.
Christians should have a stable heart to face the challenges of the changing world, from poor to rich or rich to poor.
Tong's mother 2 quotes:
- your pocket empty doesn't mean you are empty; Your will empty, that is empty;
- The world is unreliable, but God is reliable; Society changes but not God.
Aristotle: Art is the imitation of nature
Leonardo da Vinci: Art is the movement of the heart
Jean Francois Millet: Art is the expression of the common hearts
Tong claimed to be able to recognize Millet's painting anywhere because his paintings of humans are unique, expression of the human nature were easily seen.
other poor famous painters like Vincent Van Gogh mentioned. Van Gogh didn't received anything for his paintings and now the 3 most famous and expensive: Sunflowers, Irises, Doctor Gachet. They even found another duplicates of the paintings and were claimed that the Doctor Gachet originally sold to Japan was fake. These paintings become more and more expensive, whether it's because of the art or because of making money, is another matter. The Japanese who bought Dr. Gachet even claimed that he will never sell his "fake" one and that if he died he will have it cremated with him. Tong: man can buy art but has no right to destroy it because it is not yours to destroy, it is the artifact of the heart of others. Though after fact checking, Ryoei Saito did changed his mind and willed to give it to the Japanese people.
Why talking about art? Because it is the cultural mandate of the reformed theology. Secondly, you see that some people who have a lot but actually nothing; while some are poor but have the most treasured things in life. Tong shared that when he was treated with high class, he felt no depression for his God his Lord of lords; when treated with low class, he felt no pride for his Lord was born in a manger. So face the changing environment with the unchanging God.
During the Great Depression in 1928-29, Empire State building and the Golden Gate were built. So know this history, when you tour there, not just know that it's famous and fun to be taking photos at. Most tourists just look for shopping centers.
NY's Statue of Liberty vs. Kiev's Statue of Freedom:
Very different motive/background story. NY's (including Empire State Building & Golden Gate) reflects hope while Kiev's is a boasting of communism over capitalism, meaningless.
10 tycoons gathered to solve America's Great Depression problem. Many ended up negatively.
Howard Hughes died of hunger despite being rich. A movie coming out in two months (2004) about him (Aviator, by Leonardo DeCaprio) not going to be good because it wouldn't be able to reflect the true spirit of the character, as they only selected a pretty boy to play the character, per Tong.
Bible teaches us, rejoice always whether our brothers go from rich to poor or vice versa.
The goal of James is to the elected Jews of the 12 tribes as they are not used to the suffering of being a Christian.
The process of Christianity: Justification -> Sanctification -> Glorification
v. 12: two times in the Bible mentioned "crown of life". James 1:12; Rev. 2:10
Testimony of a rich folks who often host Tong in their house moved out to smaller home to get their child face challenges of strife in life, as same heart with Tong.
Video 12: v.12 - 15
This is the only place in the Bible that talks about the "origin of evil". All other religions never touched on this as they accepted sin as a fact.
ISAIAH 45:7 ...created evil. There are two kinds of evil: metaphysical evil (imperfections, disasters, etc.) & moral evil.
Arnold Joseph Toynbee in his book A Study of History: 2 possibilities for for why evil exists: He is either not almighty nor all good.
this Either/Or thinking is the paradigm of thinking after the Enlightenment Movement.
Reformed (theology wise) Evangelical (spiritual wise) movement.
On the Problem of Evil:
Reformed doctrine focused on
Augsburg confession by Melanchton: John 8:44, he sinned of himself. Problem solved for origin of evil.
Then why not create a perfect world?
Only man likes to complain about it. Animals don't care. Therefore, very few cats commit suicide.
Leibniz 300 years ago gave best answer:
(The other two great philosophers of the time were Spinoza-pantheism and Descartes-humanist)
Leibniz regretted once why he was born in Germany and not China.
He even tried for missionary to China but failed the test.
Pascal first to invent calculator.
Leibniz was angry after learning that the Chinese had already knew his calculus 3000 years before him.
- If God can create a perfect world, then God can create God.
- 2 types of God, creator and created God. Created can still be God?
- God is not one and also not eternal.
So it's impossible for God to create a perfect world.
Creator is therefore qualitatively greater than the created.
Even after resurrection, there will always be qualitative difference between creator and the created.
The existence of evil is a must. It's a tool of God's trials. God will bring a person victorious through these.
- Perfection of God, absolute perfect eternity.
- Perfection of created image and likeness God originally placed in man.
- Imperfection from the Fall.
- Perfection of lifestyle of the incarnated Son of God.
- Perfection of new life Christians receive after receiving the Son.
- Perfection of ongoing growing process by obedience to the Holy Spirit.
- Being made perfect in the return of Christ in His promise and glory.
Inheritance is not just space and time, but also PROCESS. The experience and process of your struggle is eternal.
God created Adam, any perfection? Yes, created perfection.
Temptations ask me to fall; trials strengthens me.