THE NEW TESTAMENT
Epistle from James
INTRODUCTION and CHAPTER ONE
The following is taken from the NKJV Personal Study Edition,
Nelson Publishers, 1990,1995.
The Epistle of James is known as one of the General Epistles
of the New Testament. They are called general because they were
written as circular letters to be passed around and read in
AUTHOR AND DATE
The writer identifies himself only as "James, a bondservant
of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (1:1). The author was
probably the same James who led the church in Jerusalem (Acts
15:13). Paul refers to this James as "the Lord's brother," and
includes him among the "apostles" (Gal.1:19). He also
characterizes him as one of the "pillars" of the church (Gal.
This James is mentioned twice in the Gospels (Matt.13:55;
Mark 6:3), both times as one of the brothers of Jesus. Although
he is not called a follower of the Lord until after the
Resurrection, he was probably among those early disciples who
obeyed Jesus' command to wait in the Upper Room, and who were
there filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14; 2:4). When Peter
left Palestine (Acts 12:17), James seems to have become the
leader of the Jerusalem church.
There is no word in the letter that tells us when it was
written. The important point, however, is not the exact year but
the period. James was martyred about A.D.63. Conservative
scholars therefore usually hold to a date somewhere between A.D.
45 and 62.
As leader of the very first church (the church in
Jerusalem), James would feel a responsibility for the spiritual
life of Christ's followers wherever they were. Thus he wrote this
book from pastoral concern to address needs and problems
widespread in the church.
James is a pastoral letter of practical counsel concerning
attitudes and actions affecting the spiritual life of the church.
The themes follow closely Jesus' own teachings in the Sermon on
the Mount. In the epistle we find discussions of the Christian
attitude toward trials and temptations, of the right response to
poverty, and of the right use of riches. James writes about
discrimination, treating others as we would wish to be treated,
Christian use of the tongue, the responsibility of teachers,
godly wisdom, God's plan for a holy people, and His judgment on
selfish persons. The letter concludes with an appeal to the
Christian's hope in the Second Coming of Christ. Meanwhile God's
people are to continue in prayer, praise, and faithful Christian
James's deep concern for the practical outcome of Christian
faith may seem to oppose Paul's emphasis on salvation by faith
alone. James's position, however, is not an attack on salvation
by faith; it is a protest against hypocrisy. He wants the world
to know that faith is a transforming force. Salvation by faith
results in holy living. This does not contradict Paul's teaching
- it complements it. The two emphases are the two facets of a
full-orbed Christian faith-redemption and holy living.
James is sure that serving God makes good sense. If you
believe what Scripture teaches and if you live by its guidelines,
you will come out better than following any alternative. For this
reason the book is often compared with the wisdom literature of
Old Testament: Job, Proverbs, some Psalms, and Ecclesiastes.
The letter was written to encourage Christians who were
suffering cause of their faith. It was addressed "to the twelve
tribes which are scattered abroad (1:1)........
These Christians of the first century, whether Jews or
Gentiles, were always a small minority. They were, therefore,
subject to suspicion and sometimes to persecution James
recognizes these hazards, but encourages Christians to remain
faithful to Christ even when it is difficult or dangerous. He
followed his own counsel by dying as a martyr for the faith
around A.D. 63.
OUTLINE OF JAMES
1. Salutation 1:1
2. Steadfast in the faith 1:2-27
A. Facing tests 1:2-11
B. Overcoming temptation 1:12-18
C. Doers of the word 1:19-27
3. Christian standards of value 2:1-13
4. Works follow true faith 2:14-26
5. Christian speech 3:1-12
6. The wisdom of God 3:13-18
7. A call to Christian holiness 4:1-17
A. Cleansing, the solution to strife 4:1-10
B. Submitting to the law and will of God 4:11-17
8. Judgment on the ungodly rich 5:1-6
9. The Second Coming, a hope for Christians 5:7-12
10. Prayer, faith, and reclamation 5:13-20
James says that he was a "bondservant" of the Lord Jesus,
not just a servant, but the Greek is "bond" servant, or slave
servant, one that is bought for a price. All Christians are
bought for a price, the price was the very blood of Jesus Christ.
He addresses his epistle to "the twelve tribes scattered
abroad." This is not some fanciful idea (put forth by some modern
scholars) of Jewish and maybe Gentile Christians here and there,
but it means what he said it to mean .... the TWELVE TRIBES OF
ISRAEL, scattered abroad. And they were indeed. The TEN TRIBES en
mass had not returned to Palestine after being deported from
Samaria by the Assyrians in 1745-718 B.C. Nor had many of the
Jews returned to Palestine after the 70 year captivity in
Babylon, which started about 604 B.C. Truly the twelve tribes of
Israel were scattered abroad in the Roman Empire.
A good percentage of the people he was writing to, were very
carnal in their nature, they had wars and fightings among
themselves (chapter 4). What religion they had was shallow
indeed, mixed up in some theological matters, and needed some
major over hauling. Some had only a form a godliness, but lacked
spiritual depth. All this would hold true that he was writing to
a far flung people that had traces of Christianity and God, but
needed much help to guide them into true deep roots of what
Christianity and being a child of God REALLY meant.
He wanted them to know that having trials and tests, was a
good thing, from time to time, for it produced patient endurance,
and letting patient endurance produce spiritual muscle, they
would become mature and complete, and would lack nothing in
fighting the spiritual battle against sin, the world, and the
Devil (verses 1-4).
Certainly no one wants trials, and tests, and troubles, to
be a daily way of life. Hopefully, for most, that will not be the
case. Paul had his times of trials and testings, but as he said,
he also had times of fullness and plenty. He just learnt to be
content with whichever way it was. Jesus taught us to pray (in
what is known as the Lord's Prayer) that the Father wound not
"lead us into (temptation) trials." Which means by looking at
the whole Bible, that we will be guidable, teachable, correctable
people, so God does not have to deal with us in a disciplinarian
manner. But sometimes the Lord allows certain trials and tests to
come our way. If we endure through them, we will build spiritual
muscle and have the mental and emotional tools to endure to the
end in our Christian walk.
If we need WISDOM, we are to ask for it, but we are to ask
in FAITH, not doubting that we shall have it. A doubting person
is like a wave of the sea, just tossed about by the wind. A
doubting or double-minded man is unstable in many of his ways,
and such a person should not deceive themselves into thinking God
can answer and give them what they desire. A person must have
FAITH that God will give them wisdom if they lack it and ask to
have it (verses 5-8).
The books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, are looked
upon as the WISDOM books. They contain great truths to make one
wise, then again all the Bible gives us great wisdom as to how to
live pleasing to God. Many examples of wisdom and the lack of
wisdom are presented to us throughout the Bible. We need to read
and meditate on all of it.
The Bible is not the sum total of all that can be thought of
as "wisdom." Our lives may cover many aspects of where wisdom is
needed to be used. There are people who specialize in various
skills of knowledge and wisdom. Going to the right school, taking
the right courses for your abilities and aptitudes, marrying the
right mate, buying a home, correctly managing your finances,
correctly rearing your children, getting correct advice on
plumbing, electrical, car repairs, dog training (if you decide to
have one) etc. etc.
It is a wise move to seek out wise and knowledgable people
on things that you may have little knowledge about. That is an
all important point in being wise, to acknowledge you are not the
sum total of wisdom, and that others have wisdom in different
areas of life that you need to gather from them.
Wisdom is a somewhat LARGE topic and certainly a large part
of what you will need in life as you live as a Christian and walk
through the day to day world. But the basic points above are your
overall outline of being a person of wisdom.
The lowly person in material wealth is to rejoice that God
has called them, that they are loved and precious in the sight of
the Lord. They have a calling that is FAR greater than what any
physical material wealth in this life can offer them. It is a
calling that truly blows your mind, when you know the truth about
the end result of that calling. The Christian's destiny is beyond
what the human mind can really comprehend. I have written about
it on this Website in a study called "A Christian's Destiny." It
will give you the technical truth of the matter, but to fully
understand what this means we shall have to wait till our
resurrection. Yet the technical truth God does want us to
understand and to know.
The physical rich person in this life, needs to know that
physical riches are not the important thing, they will fade away,
will go someday. That day may not be until your death, but as
they say, "You can't take it with you" - your physical riches
that is. This human life is relatively short, in terms of
eternity, somewhat like a blade of grass, it rises, the sun beams
down, and it is burnt up, gone. If your physical riches are your
whole life and mind, then your life will soon be over and you
will fade away.
The point is: if you are physically rich, use it to the
glory of God, serve others with it, and do not let those riches
dominate your life, remember that serving God IS the most
important of all. Some of God's children have been physically
wealthy in the past ages, but they first had their mind on God
and His way of life, and then they used their riches to help and
serve others (verses 9-11).
James says it is a blessing for a person to endure
temptation and trials. When he so endures a crown of life will be
given. Jesus said in the Gospels, "He that shall endure to the
end shall be saved." There is no such teaching in the Bible as
"once saved always saved." The Bible and certainly the New
Testament, teaches over and over again, that you must remain
faithful in your Christian walk right to the end of your life. We
have covered this basic and foundational truth many times in this
NT story, and in a number of in-depth articles I have written on
that subject. God has promised a crown of life to those who love
Him. What loving God means is certainly covered in a clear and
plain manner by the apostle John in all the books that bear his
When trials and tests come, we must not think that God is
tempting us to do evil or sin. Now, sure, it is possible to sin
when such trials and tests come our way. But those trials and
tests are not sent or allowed by God to come upon us in order for
us to be tempted to sin. God is not sitting down in heaven,
scratching His head, meditating in deep thought, as to how to
tempt us to sin and do evil. God is not calling Jesus in, and all
the 24 elders around the His throne, and maybe some of the arch
angels, to figure out ways to get us to do evil or sin. In
sending or allowing trials and tests to come our way, God is not
wanting us to sin, He desires us not to sin. He allows those
trials and tests for another purpose altogether, and certainly
does not have in mind that we sin as we go through and face those
trials and tests. Trials and tests are to help us develop
stronger spiritual muscles, so we can have good strong godly
strength to endure to the end, no matter what life may throw at
us. As some have said, "Bad things can and do happen to good
people." As is written in the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes,
"Time and chance happen to all." God NEVER wants or intends us to
do evil or sin, when trials and tests come our way.
If during those times of trials and testing we do sin, it is
not anything that God can be blamed for. God is there to give us
the power, the strength, through His Holy Spirit to overcome sin
and evil, just as Jesus did when tempted by the Devil after
fasting for 40 days, and at other times tempted as we are, as
Paul wrote to the Hebrews, yet did not sin.
We are led into sin, when we meditate on sin, when we
dwell on it, when we allow it to stick around in our minds, when
we allow our own desires and lusts of carnal nature to entice us
to keep meditating on evil and sin. Then when desire has festered
in our minds, it finally gives birth to sin, and when sin has
developed itself, made growth, then spiritual death comes forth -
we have then sinned.
An example is always the best to illustrate this truth. God
made the physical body of a grown woman a thing of beauty to the
male mind. There is nothing sinful about the lovely body of a
lovely lady. You are perhaps on the beach, on a hot sunny day,
and there are many lovely bodied ladies on that beach also. True
enough some should not be wearing what they are wearing, the
least amount of swim wear you can without having the police take
them of the beach. You as a male, can see what is certainly a
lovely well formed figure of a lady. You can admit she is lovely
in form all over, a contender for the Miss Universe contest, for
sure. There is nothing so far wrong with this. But if you allow
your eyes and mind to dwell on her body, allow your mind to
wander into sexual lust, allow sexual fantasy to stick around and
grow, then sin has given birth and you have been drawn away by
your own desires and lusts and enticed to sin.
Now, I do not want to just pick on the male, I understand
from what females have told me, that the above example can work
just as well for the female if she sees on the beach some great
physical muscular hulk of a man. Sin knows no discrimination.
So it goes, there are all kinds of examples one could think
about, where it is not sin initially, but if the mind is allowed
to be enticed into wrong thoughts and then maybe wrong actions,
sin has been born and spiritual death has given birth (verses 12-
No evil comes from God. He is not up there thinking about
ways to bring evil and sin to you or the world. Trials and tests
He may send or allow to come, but evil and sin, does not come
from Him. Only good is from God. He wants to give good and
perfect gifts to you and the world. He is the Father of LIGHT,
not darkness. He has no turning or clouding over of His light.
His light is always light, pure holy righteous truth and light.
It was His will to bring forth children to Himself, by and
through the WORD of TRUTH! We, His children, are FIRSTFRUITS to
His plan of salvation for all mankind. We, today, called to be
His children, are the FIRST of all those born in the past,
present, and future ages of mankind. I have covered this
wonderful truth in past chapters of this NT Bible Story and in
articles of study I have written on the subjects of being called
and chosen and having salvation, as well as the studies on the
overall PLAN of salvation for mankind.
God has a FIRST-fruits to salvation, and He has a SECOND-
fruits to His salvation. The firstfruits will be in the FIRST
resurrection at the coming of Christ in glory to establish the
Kingdom of God on earth. The others, the second-fruits to
salvation will be AFTER that first resurrection of the first-
fruits (verses 16-18).
With all this in mind, James tells us to be swift to hear,
slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work
the righteousness of God (verse 19).
Oh, indeed, what the anger of man has done to bring evil and
sin upon himself and others. Think of the anger that led to
September 11th 2001 and the World Trade Centre. Think of the
anger that led to School and University killings of the past
(remember Virginia Tech. - April 2007).
Paul was inspired to say, "Be angry and SIN NOT." There is a
time for righteous anger (Jesus was angry at times), but NEVER
for SIN in that anger. The un-righteous anger of man does NOT
produce the righteousness of God (verse 20).
We are to lay aside all filthiness and wickedness, and with
meekness receive the implanted word of God, live by every word of
God, which will then save our lives (verse 21).
We are to not ONLY be HEARERS of the word, but DOERS of the
word. If we only hear but do not obey the word, it is like a man
looking at himself in the mirror, saying to himself, "Why, what a
dirty unshaved, grime looking face I have," but goes away
forgetting what he's looking like.
But he who looks into the LAW OF LIBERTY and CONTINUES
therein, and is not a forgetful hearer, but a DOER of the word,
he will be blessed in his doing (verses 22-25).
Ah, God's law is not evil, hard, something to hate,
something to avoid like the plague! It is a law of LIBERTY. Mark
that in your Bible! Color it yellow! God's law is LIBERTY, it
brings wonderful blessings to those who obey it. LOOK AT IT, read
Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5. If the whole world was obeying those
Ten Commandments, what a great place it would be. It would be a
place unrecognizable. Let your mind wander on how this world would
be if all nations and all people were obeying the Ten Commandments.
Frankly, the negative things you've heard from some parts of the
Christian religious world concerning the Ten Commandments, is
ONLY because of the FOURTH commandment! Those people just do not
want to observe the weekly Sabbath day! They have no problem with
the other nine, but they will not give up wanting to do their own
thing on the weekly 7th day Sabbath.
But even the Sabbath day command is a law of LIBERTY, and to
those who observe it, indeed what liberty it brings. There is
great liberty in putting the world, and our work and business to
one side for a whole day, and saturate ourselves in the word and
fellowship of the Lord. Without that command, many of us would
work 7 days a week, week after week, and month after month.
God's LAW is a law of LIBERTY!
Our tongue, what comes out of our mouth in words is more
important than many Christians think. James tells us that if we
do not bridle our words, our tongue, watch what we say in our
conversation with others, we deceive our own hearts and mind, our
religion is then useless and vain.
As I got older in the church I grew up in, and entered more
and more the adult world of those adults in my church, I was
shocked to find how their language was way different (in a bad
way) outside of the two hour church service. Our language and the
tone of our voice belays the depth of our Christianity. If we do
not control our tongue our religion is vain and useless (verse
There are many things in the Bible that define for us what
true Christ-likeness and following God is all about. Here in
verse 27, James gives us two things that govern our spiritual
thermometer. I suspect these two criterion would not be the first
to come to a Christian's mind if asked what makes a true
Christian. James says to visit the orphans and widows in their
trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world, is pure
and undefiled religion before God the Father.
The Lord gave many laws to Israel under the Old Covenant
that regulated how orphans and widows would to be helped and
served. There are many prophetic warnings to Israel in the books
of the prophets, that condemn Israel for NOT looking after the
orphans and widows as they should have.
It is no light thing to God to forsake caring for the
orphans and widows. You should mediate on how you can serve the
orphans and widows in your community or inner circle of life.
To keep oneself unspotted from the world - well maybe that
would come to a Christina's mind when thinking about what is a
true Christian. But let me tell you it is way more than what some
religions say it is. It is way more than not playing cards,
entering a movie theatre, not dancing, not wearing make-up. Sure,
all of the aforementioned could entail sin in them, if used
wrongly. But being unspotted from the world is far more than JUST
some physical things, that some religions thinks is worldliness.
If you are following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ,
reading all the Bible, meditating on all the lives of all those
in the Bible who were godly, yes, seeing their mistakes and sins,
but also seeing their righteousness before God. If you are
studying to see WHAT and HOW our heavenly Father wants you to
live, if you are allowing the mind of Christ to be in your mind,
you will come to know what being unspotted from the world is all
Written April 2007