A Sobering Conviction - James 2:8 (Part 2)
By AJ Sherrill
June 3, 2009
let us now move into a most fascinating perspective, that I do believe is fresh and inspiring—
εἰ μέντοι νόμον τελεῖτε βασιλικὸν (If you really fulfill the “royal law”)
I want to look at this term: “basilikon nomon.” Basilikon is in the accusative meaning royal/kingly; Nomon is in the accusative meaning law. The obvious rendering is “royal law.” This can be thought of in a few directions. The first two are quite obvious, while the third, I trust, is quite refreshing. They are as follows ...
In case you missed last week’s post on the “Royal Law,” here is a synopsis:
The first word of the passage (“ei” - mirroring the exact wording of the Septuagint), is translated “if” in the English. However, we can be so bold to translate it as “since” or “because.” This is because it is followed by an indicative verb (teleite) meaning this is not an optional command of possibility, but an imminent command of inevitability. So, it takes love from being an ideal and places it in the realm of reality. Therefore, this command must take precedence in the life of the God-follower.
Expanding from the first word, let us now move into a most fascinating perspective, that I do believe is fresh and inspiring—
εἰ μέντοι νόμον τελεῖτε βασιλικὸν (If you really fulfill the “royal law”)I want to look at this term: “basilikon nomon.” Basilikon is in the accusative meaning royal/kingly; Nomon is in the accusative meaning law. The obvious rendering is “royal law.” This can be thought of in a few directions. The first two are quite obvious, while the third, I trust, is quite refreshing. They are as follows:
1. Royal Law — This law (of love) is thought to be royal simply because it is kingly in character and excellence. In this paradigm, one may understand this law carries utmost importance. This is not a law to obey when one feels ready, but is imminent. Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians 5:14, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.’" Paul’s understanding of the royal law here is similar to this understanding. Better put, by following the royal command to love your neighbor as most excellent, most kingly, most eminent, one simultaneously fulfills the law completely.
2. Royal Law — Another possible interpretation for the word basilikon would be “that which belongs to the King” (e.g. roads, officers, clothing, commandments). This perspective is valuable because to reminds the reader that all things belong to the King . So, when we love our neighbors as ourselves, we are valuing what rightfully belongs to the King since He created all things and all things find their origin in Him.
The final example provided below is one I find most fascination around and believe has utmost potential to impact our Western church culture, which is presently apathetic and bored to a large extent.
- Royal Law — Basilikon may also mean “royal custom” simply because it is of the King in His practice. This translation is useful in that it establishes an understanding that to be diligent in upholding the royal law is to represent and imitate the King Himself—namely, Jesus. I find this translation most helpful because it demonstrates that the law is an instruction that comes from within the nature of God (the King) that He is already performing.
Therefore, the invitation to follow the law is an invitation of imitation rather than a mere arbitrary requirement. Although God would be just in mandating the law, it is foremost covenantal, based in relationship. Secondly, it is a return not only back to the garden (the way things were), but is eschatological in nature (the way things will be). Again, to join God, who is always fulfilling this law Himself, is an invitation not merely to keep a command, but to become like Him! It is an invitation of imitation and what being Christian primarily consists of.
This is the perspective I find most refreshing due to its gravity. It promotes humanity to our rightful place, straining toward the image of God. Simultaneously, it is this framework that the world at large is waiting to experience as it validates what God is already doing and accurately represents Him through His people, the Church. Now, before I come off as giving this whole thing a gross oversimplification, I need to admit that this conversation is one that beckons supreme attention. I intend to post more next week, but do believe this is some food for thought. Please feel free join in with greater specificity. As this series continues, my intention is to give greater clarity missiologically, as leaving this passage in the realm of the academy would be tragic.
 James 2:8
 Leviticus 19:18b
 See Luke Timothy Johnson’s commentary, The Letter of James. Pg. 231.