James is the first of seven “General” epistles.
The others 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, 3 John, and Jude.
They are “General” in that they are not addressed to any particular church or person.
Apart from John’s epistles they all were probably written before the fall of Jerusalem A.D. 70.
The writer: James a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He could not have been James one of the original disciples. He was beheaded by Herod (Acts 12).
There were others known as James, but the logical choice seems to be “James, the Lord’s brother.” Gal 1:19
During Christ’s earthly ministry, James was an unbeliever (John 7:5).
However he is see at the Jerusalem prayer meeting as a believer, Acts 1:16.
When Peter left Jerusalem, James assumed the leadership of the church there, Acts 12:17.
Acts 15:13-29 and Gal 2:9 would mark him as “a pillar of the church.”
His final appearance in the N. T. is Acts 21:18.
Traditions says that he was martyred by the Jews in Jerusalem in A.D. 62.
This is probably one of the earliest of N.T. writings. The time of writing is placed at between 44-50 A.D. by the best of commentaries.
This explains much of the teaching in the epistles.
1. There is a very slight line of difference between Judaism and Christianity.
2. There is an absence of definite Christian phraseology.
3. The mention of Christian doctrine is rare.
4. The non-reference to Gentile Christianity.
All these suggestions indicate the epistle’s early date.
Many depict James being at variance with Paul, especially regarding faith and works. (Ch 2)
When James wrote his epistle Paul’s epistles were not yet written.
“The twelve tribes scattered abroad.” v. 1
These people in becoming Christians had not ceased to be Jews.
Those representatives of the fifteen nations present at Pentecost must have carried home little more than the fact that Jesus was the Messiah and the barest rudiments of Christianity.
The Gospel preached by those “who were scattered abroad upon the persecutions which arose about Stephen” would be a little fuller, but very incomplete. Whatever they preached was preached, “to the Jews only.”
So Christian communities were founded in the Jewish quarters of the cities. But it was a long time before they ceased to be “Jews” and to become disengaged from the synagogue.
See Heb 13:13 “Let us go forth to Him without the camp.” These were the people whom James had in mind when he wrote to “the twelve tribes scattered abroad.”
The Theme: Faith Producing Works
James’ argument is that true Christian faith most expresses itself in practical goodness. That is why he has so much to say about “good works.” The epistle is more ethical than doctrinal. Note the absence of reference to the birth-crucifixion-resurrection or ascension of the Lord. Notice now the emphasis on patience, love, peacefulness, humility, prayer.
The proofs of faith
1. Endurance of temptation
2. The right reaction to temptation
3. The origin of temptation
4. The Best antidote to temptation
James is writing to those Jews who were suffering for the faith, both from fellow Jews and also Gentiles. He says “Considering yourselves happy or honored to be tried in this way.”
v. 3 The testing of one’s faith, if accepted and used, produces stability and Christian fortitude. Rom 5:3-4
v. 4 This God sent disciples – makes us strong – it increases our endurances – it helps us towards Christian maturity lacking in nothing.
v. 5 “lack wisdom” the great deficiency of the average Christian.
Keeping this in context it would read “If any of you want wisdom – the wisdom where by we may count it all joy when we fall into severe testings.” v. 3
“Ask” see Ch 6:2
God gives “liberally” graciously – generously and does not keep reminding us of our past failings.
v. 6 “Ask in faith” with confidence, never doubting.
Wavereth between belief and unbelief.
The Israelites – Abraham “staggered not there unbelief”
Christians wavering are likened to the waver.
Driven by the wind – of adversity – from without and tossed about from within because of the lack of stability.
v. 7 This “wavered” – double-minded person. v. 8 should not expect to get anything from God.
How have we to react in trial?
1. The brothers in humble, circumstances has to rejoice in his exalted position in Christ.
2. The rich brother or sister is to rejoice in his reduced circumstances. Acts 4:32-37.
v. 13 “Happy is the man that remains (perseveres) streadfast under trial.”
For when he has been proved or shown to have stood the test he shall receive the “crown of life.”
1 Cor 9:25 Incorruptible crown.
2 Timothy 4:8 Cr. of righteousness
1 Pt 5:6 Crown of glory
The origin of temptation
v. 13 Temptation to do evil is near from God – Satan. God cannot be tempted to do wrong and does not tempt anyone to do wrong.
v. 14 Temptation comes when we allow inward desire or lust to draw us away.
v. 15 is the end result of such a course. “Spiritual death.”
v. 17 only “good and perfect” things come from God. Described as “The Father of light” no variableness, i.e. “The unchanging and unswerving God.”
The antidote for temptation.
v. 18 We have been born of God – brought forth by the word of truth.
v. 19 Therefore, every man should be: (1) Swift to hear, (2) Slow to speak, (3) Slow to wrath.
v. 21 Lay aside … Receive … the engrafted word which is able to save your souls.
v. 22 Be ye doers of the word not hearers only.
v. 25 But he who looketh in the Word and continueth therein this man shall be blessed in his obedience.