We come now to another pearl in the book of James. James reminds us that it is not enough to hear and know what God’s word teaches. James exhorts us to “be a doer of the word, not just hearers only, deceiving yourself” (James 1:22). Later in his epistle, James, our Lord’s brother and the leader of the church in Jerusalem, tells us that “faith without works is dead” and it is not only a dead faith, it is not true faith at all. James tells us that the evidence that you have true faith will be seen by your works (James 2:14,17,24,26). It is here that some get confused over the age-old controversy of “faith” verses “works.” This is because most people approach the Scriptures with a Greek-Western mindset. However, according to the Hebraic mindset there is no contradiction in faith and works, because one inevitably flows from the other. If we attach the Greek mindset to what is meant by works, we would rush out to try to do as much good as we can and fill our calendar with things that we think would show we love God. According to the Hebraic mindset, this would be the wrong thing to do. We might wind up like Maratha trying to serve Jesus lunches He never ordered. Let’s ponder the scriptures to see what James means by works.
Comparing the Difference – Greek verses Hebraic Mindset
Because most of us have been schooled in the Greek-Western way of learning, it is easy for us to approach the study of the scriptures using this method. The Greek mindset instructs us to bring our own reason to bear on a text and wrestle with that text to try to understand its meaning.
When we read something, we bring our own word associations to the text, our own experiences and preconceived ideas.We tend to impose our own concepts on the text according to our previous teachings. There is nothing in either the Old or New Covenants that supports this Greek way of learning. Spiritual truth cannot be understood by human reasoning but must come by a revelation of God.
Paul was deeply grounded in the foundations of Hebraic thought about the Scriptures and made this very clear to the Greek church at Corinth. Paul explained to the Greeks that no man can understand the thoughts of God through human reasoning. Spiritual things must be revealed to the human heart by the Holy Spirit. He explains, “And God has actually given us His Spirit, not the world’s spirit, so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you this, we do not use words of human wisdom. We speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths” (1 Cor. 2 :12-13).
Paul points out that in order to understand Scriptural concepts, it is important that we understand the spiritual meaning of the words and ideas that we encounter in the Scriptures. It is important that we do not impose our own definition on Biblical words and thoughts or redefine them to suit ourselves or our preconceived ideas. We must let the Bible interpret its own symbols and words. We must search out their true meanings from Scripture by comparing scripture with scripture and spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. This is the way the Holy Spirit teaches.
Doctrines verses a Living Relationship – Bible Study James
The Greek-Western mindset approaches learning in a totally different manner. It seeks to try to understand spiritual things and relate to God through a set of doctrines and correct beliefs. Of course as a Christian whatever we believe about truth has its basis in the word of God. If what we believe is contrary on every hand to the word of God, then this is not truth. However, if you have a Greek mindset, and someone presents an idea or understanding of Scripture that is different from your set of doctrines, or something that you have not considered before, your faith may be shaken. This is because the Greek mindset teaches us to trust and rest in what we know, instead of in Who we know. The Greek mindset wants to trust in a set of doctrines or beliefs to understand the world. This concept is foreign to the Hebrew way of thinking. God’s written word is the measure of all Truth, but the Living God does not call people to a creed or doctrinal statement – He calls them to a life of interaction with Him. He seeks people who will be set apart for Him, who He can communicate with in a personal relationship. He seeks those who will love Him, obey Him, and do His will.
This was the case with Abraham who became known as God’s friend. This was the case in God’s call on Israel of old. He said to them, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:4-6).
Jesus reiterated the ancient call when He revealed His mission to the woman at the well explaining, “I have come because My Father is seeking worshipers.” He promised a well of Living Water within, if all those who are thirsty would come to Him. He called His disciples to follow Him, “so that they might be with Him.” He promised that He would send His Spirit into their hearts and would be with them always through the end of time.
The Apostles repeated the invitation of God’s call to be united with His people, calling the Church the Bride of Christ. John ends his great Revelation of Jesus Christ, not with an invitation to understand
correct doctrine, but with an invitation for spiritual union with the Living God: “The Spirit and the Bride say come. Let all those who are thirsty come and drink of the waters of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).
Foundation of the Hebrew Mindset – Faith as “Action”
When James calls us to “be doers of the word and not hearers only,” he reveals the foundation of the Hebraic mindset. For the Hebraic mind, history was not a cycle of events. It was going somewhere, and God had called His people to be actors in the great drama of history. Their love for God and each other is related to “action.” Through Moses, God instituted His Covenant of blessings and told Israel their part in that covenant: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again… If you fully obey the Lord your God by keeping all the commands I am giving you today, the Lord your God will exalt you above all the nations of the world. The Lord your God will make you successful in everything you do. He will give you many children and numerous livestock, and your fields will produce abundant harvests, for the Lord will delight in being good to you” (Deut.6: 4-5; 28:1, 30).
New Covenant of Blessing – Bible Study James
Jesus reaffirmed this Hebraic foundation of faith as action. He told his disciples, “If you love Me, obey My commandments. Those who obey My commandments are the ones who love Me. And because they love Me, my Father will love them, and I will love them. And I will reveal Myself to each one of them” (John 14:15-21). Peter demonstrated the Hebraic mindset of covenantal blessing based on the action of faith. “Lord,” Peter said, “We have left all to follow you, what shall be ours?”
Jesus answered, “I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return, a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property–with persecutions. And in the world to come they will have eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). Jesus affirmed the Hebraic concept of the covenant of blessing, not to those who just say they believe in Him, but to those who have demonstrated their faith by their actions. Blessing is based not on mental assent to truth, but is the result of action – and that action is following Him.
To the Hebraic mind, true religion is not a system of creeds, ideology, or theology. These are all inaccurate descriptions of Scriptural thought. It is walking through life with a deep friendship with Jesus, to love Him, and do His will in His path of peace, righteousness, joy. Because of this, the early church called themselves “followers of the Way” (Acts 9:2, 19:9, and 22:4). And the great glory of the New Covenant is this, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of ourselves.” Paul explains what the position should be of all those who follow Christ: “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who lives. Christ now lives in me and the life that I now life in the flesh, I live by the power of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for Me” (2 Cor.4:11, Gal.2:20).
So go ahead. Jump into our study of James, How to Live a Life of Excellence. Immerse yourself in the Hebraic mindset as taught in the Scriptures. Compare spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. Ask for the revelation of the Holy Spirit and be transformed by the renewing of your mind.