Monday, August 11, 2014


Introduction and Background

This study of the letter of James will be an inductive study. An Inductive Bible Study begins with observations and gathering evidence on whatever topic and then draw conclusions based on the observations. (Start with open observations and allow the text to establish the conclusion.) Using the Bible as a text we will explore how to apply the lessons of James to our daily lives as Christians. By examining the specific subjects James deals with, we will work to reach a conclusion concerning their relevance to our lives and culture.
James has always been a book under a cloud. James was not included as a part of the Scriptures until after 367 AD. At that time Athanasius included the letter of James in his list of books regarded as Holy Writ. Much later many of the Protestant reformers thought James did not belong in the Holy Scriptures. In our day James is a part of the Scriptures, but is often relegated to second class status. Part of the reason for this is the emphasis James appears to place on works. This emphasis seems to be contradictory to the letters of Paul. We will examine this seeming contradiction.

The only requirement for this study is to use your Bible and your brain. Use of commentaries, studies of James, etc., is encouraged, the more input the better. I have used a number of commentaries, translations of the Bible, suggestions from the adult Sunday School classes at a number of churches and Bible studies, friends, and my own thoughts and ideas as the Spirit led. I have not referenced the commentaries I used within the content. (I have included a bibliography at the end.) This is due to the fact that this study is designed as a mixing of ideas and viewpoints with the common end of better serving the Lord in our daily lives. I look forward to having fun learning together.

All Scriptures are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible (Public Domain) unless otherwise noted.

In starting a study of the letter of James, the first question has to be; Who was James? There are at five possible answers to this question. 1) There was James, the father of Judas Iscariot. This person is little more than a name and because the James that wrote the letter was apparently well known to the early church, cannot be the James we are looking for. 2) There was James, the son of Alphaeus, one of the twelve, and brother of Matthew. There is nothing else known of him and, for the reasons stated above, also could not have had any connection with this letter. 3)There was James called the younger. Nothing is known of him and again, for the reason stated above, is eliminated from contention as the author of the letter. 4) There was James the brother of John, one of the sons of Zebedee. In the scriptures he never appears without his brother John. This James was beheaded in 44 A.D. by Herod Agrippa the First. 5) There was James who is the brother of Jesus. Of these five men James the brother of Jesus is the best candidates for authorship of the letter. James the brother of Jesus is considered to be the actual author. (From here on we will be referring to the James the brother of Jesus.)

According to Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55, James was one of the brothers of Jesus (a half-brother, same mother and Joseph as father). Initially, with the exception of Mary the mother of Jesus, the family of Jesus did not believe in Him or sympathize with Him. They actually considered Him an embarrassment and wanted to restrain Him (Mark 3:21, 31-35; Matthew 12:46-50; John 7:3-9). In Acts 1:14 we see a sudden change. Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers are counted among the believers constantly in prayer. What caused this change? From Paul’s writings it is evident Jesus appeared to His brother James and possibly others in the family after His resurrection. I Corinthians 15:3-8 Paul is justifying why he should be considered an apostle. In this passage he relates the facts about the death and resurrection of Christ and His appearance to the earliest believers. Peter, the twelve, and James are all mentioned specifically. There is a number of 500 other believers mentioned. Paul then relates how Jesus appeared to him. Notice that James, like Peter and the twelve, is mentioned specifically and not lumped in with the anonymous 500. James and the others now saw the Resurrection and the person of Jesus the Christ as a fact, not a conjecture or nice idea but a cold hard fact.

There is some question about what the term "brother of Jesus" means. In Galatians 1:19 Paul speaks of James as "the Lord's brother." In Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3, he is named as one of the brothers of Jesus. The problem lies in the meaning of the word brother. There are three theories of the relationship of Jesus to James, they are: the Hieronymian theory, the Epiphanian theory, and the Helvidian theory.

This theory takes it name from Jerome, who in Greek is Hieronymos. The theory declares the persons called the brothers of Jesus were actually His cousins. This theory was put forward by Jerome in A.D. 383 and is the stated, settled, belief of the Roman Catholic Church. The argument is quite complicated and beyond the scope of this study. There are three criticisms that can be brought against the argument. First is the repeated statement in the Bible that James was the brother of Jesus. The word used in each case is adelphos, the normal word for brother. The word can be used as a term of endearment, but when used of kin does not mean cousin. Also, in the context of what was happening in Matthew and Mark, the term was used to describe a family relationship. Remember, at this time, the family of Jesus (except Mary) wanted Him restrained. The use of the term brother in this case was not a term of endearment.

Second, Jerome was incorrect in assuming the term Apostle could be used only of the twelve. As we saw earlier, Paul considered himself an apostle. Many persons consider Paul to be special case, citing his experience on the road to Damascus. The reference in I Corinthians 15 gives evidence that seeing Jesus did not make one an apostle (the 500 anonymous believers who saw Jesus were not called apostles). Ephesians 4:11 states Christ gave the gift of apostle, along with prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The gifts are irrevocable, (Romans 11:29), they are still available to the church.

Third, the church knew nothing of this theory until Jerome produced it in 383 A.D. When Jesus is called the brother of Jesus, the writers meant exactly what they said, James was the brother of Jesus.

This theory holds that the brothers of Jesus were, in fact, His half-brothers, sons of Joseph by a previous marriage. This theory is named after Epiphanius, who although he did not originate it, strongly affirmed the theory in about 370 A.D. The theory existed long before 370 A.D. and may have been the most usual opinion of the early church.

There is no direct evidence for this theory and all the support for it is indirect in nature.
1)         It is asked: would Jesus have committed His mother to John, if she had sons other than Himself?
2)         It is argued that the behavior of Jesus's brother is that of elder brothers to a younger brother.
3)         Joseph may have been older than Mary since he vanishes completely from the Gospel story. He may have died prior to the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee.
4)         This is a theory of Christian tradition.
5)         Anything else is abhorrent to Christian sentiment.
This theory comes from the same origins as the Hieronymian theory. The purpose is to conserve the perpetual virginity of Mary. The is no direct evidence for this theory at all, and it would not have been thought of, except for the desire to think that Mary remained a virgin.

This theory states that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were, in the full sense of the term, his brothers and sisters. They were, to use the technical term, uterine brothers and sisters. This is not to say Joseph was the father of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was. This is to say that Mary had other, natural children, by Joseph subsequent to the birth of Jesus. This theory was espoused by Helvidius in a treatise that Jerome strongly opposed. The reason Jerome opposed it was that the perpetual virginity of Mary was not possible with this theory.

The evidence for this theory is based very strongly on scripture. If the Biblical account of the life of Jesus is read without theological presuppositions of the perpetual virginity of Mary, then the brothers and sisters of Christ are actual brothers and sisters. No rearrangement or explanation of the scriptures is required. What was written was what was intended to be written.

The birth narrative in both Matthew and Luke takes for granted that Mary had other children  Matthew 1:24-25 states that Joseph "took his wife but knew her not until she had borne a son". In other word, Joseph took Mary into his home as his wife but did not have sexual relations with her until after Jesus was born. Luke 2:7  states "She gave birth to her first-born son". This clearly implies that Mary had other children.

Last, Jesus stayed in Nazareth as the village carpenter until the age of thirty, indicating that He was the eldest son with the responsibility to support the family after the death of Joseph. Another indication was that Jesus took on the trade of His father, this was normal practice for the first-born son.

The reason for the other theories appears to be the strong desire to maintain that Mary was a perpetual virgin. This desire seems to have originated in the Gentile community and grew stronger as more Gentiles came into the faith. A possible motive is the mixing of paganism with Christianity. The worship of a perpetual virgin mother has its root in the story of Nimrod and his mother, and continued with the worship of Mithra during early church times. The early Jewish Christians had no problem with the mother of Jesus being a virgin until after His birth, then having other children naturally.

James was the brother of Jesus and a (possibly the) primary leader of the church in Jerusalem. James’ statements were given great weight and even Peter appears to seek the approval of James (Galatians 2:11-13). In Acts 21:18-19, Paul reports to James and the elders.

Notice that James is the only one mentioned by name, at least implying his position in the church. In Acts 12:17, Peter instructs a servant girl to inform James  and the brothers that God had released him from prison. In Galatians 2:9 Paul invokes the names of James, Peter, and John as an affirmation of his ministry. Finally, in Acts 15:19-21, during a rather heated discussion about the Gentiles, James settled the matter with the statement "It is my
judgment, therefore."  He was a man in authority. He was not making a suggestion here, he gave a judgment by the Spirit that was carried out. (Incidentally, this was a pro-Gentile judgment.)

James was a strict Jew who adhered to the Mosaic Law (Galatians 2:12), yet he supported Paul's ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 21:17-26). As we saw in Acts 15, James was against putting unnecessary rules on the Gentiles. He seemed to see a clear definition between what the Mosaic Law required and what Christ required. He was raised under the Law and would remain a strong adherent to the Law, those coming to Christ who were not Jews would have no requirement of the Law invoked. James was martyred in 62 A.D.

James’ letter is a general letter, it has no single destination. It is therefore not clear to whom James was addressing his comments. Were they because of a problem within a particular group of churches? Did he see a trend within the church as a whole? Was this written for us more than for the early church? Was he writing to Jewish Christians in particular? Was he writing to the Jews scattered throughout the world? None of these questions can be adequately answered. There is some thought that he was writing to a group of Gentiles who had a strong attachment to Judaism. Such a group would almost naturally gravitate to Christianity (Acts 10:2,22; 16:14; 18:7). If this is the case it would explain the convergence of Jewish, Greek and Christian elements in the letter.

The letter is addressed to the "twelve tribes scattered among the nation."  This could mean one of three things. 1)         It could mean the all of the Jews outside of Palestine and could encompass virtually millions of persons. 2) It could be the Jewish Christians outside of Palestine. Certainly if anyone was going to write a letter to these Jews it would be James, the acknowledged leader of Jewish Christianity. 3) It could mean the Christian Church at large. To the Christians, the Christian Church was the real Israel.

The letter is an oddity among the New Testament writings. James is more like a book of proverbs. It does not deal with the same themes as most of the New Testament writers. There is no direct mention of the Holy Spirit or reference to the redemptive work or resurrection of Christ. This caused Martin Luther to call it an "epistle of straw." ("History of the Christian Church, book 7, chapter 4") James is intensely practical. It appears James assumes the audience is already Christians and he does not need to lay that foundation again. His purpose is to instruct believers in how to live as Christians.
James is a book of wisdom. It is based solidly on the teachings of Christ and helps the Christian with the practical application of those teachings. It is primarily ethical, not theological. James helps answer the question: How do we live our Christian faith on a day-to-day basis? 

James draws his language, images, and ideals from Judaism, Greek culture and early Christianity. From Christianity he uses the common patterns of Christian ethical instructions which parallel those of Peter and Jesus. From Judaism he draws his insistence on the unity of God, concern for keeping the law, and use of certain Jewish phrases. From Greek culture he uses the language, the source for Old Testament quotations (he uses the Greek translation, not the Hebrew), and the use of some Greek and Latin metaphors (e.g. the horse and ship in 3:3-4).

The letter appears  to ramble in style, but can be arranged under three headings, true religion, false religion, and warnings, exhortations, and instructions. Although there are three central themes, they are intermixed within the letter.

There is no clear delineation as to where one ends and the other begins. This is in keeping with the speaking style of both the Jewish Rabbis and Greek philosophers. This is also the way life is lived, often there is no clear line of demarcation between the many facets of our lives. We live our lives in a constant state of change, the various parts of our lives intrude on each other, so do the parts of the letter of James. In spite of the seeming rambling there is a cohesiveness and continuity to James. The repetition of the three central themes fixes them clearly in the reader's mind and helps assure the wisdom James imparts is understood.

The writings of James and Paul are in great agreement. In his letter James was addressing himself to those who perverted the message of Paul by insisting it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you have faith. James was responding by asserting that works are an outward evidence of an inner faith. (Just as baptism doesn't save a person, but only serves as evidence that a person has been saved.) Works make faith visible to others, so that they might worship God and seek faith themselves. In Romans 12-15, Paul is in agreement with James that faith in Christ has direct implications for how believers live. Paul, when writing to Titus, made the importance of good works the main subject of the letter. This is in total agreement with James. Perhaps the reason people have had a problem with James is the style of writing and his insistence upon our responsibility for our actions. His teachings are totally in keeping with the teachings of Jesus in Luke 10:30-37 and Matthew 25:34-46 or John in I John 40:20.

Lesson 1

Trials & Temptations (Part 1)    -    James 1:1 - 1:12

1James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.  2My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. 5If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.

9Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. 11For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. 12Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
James begins the letter by giving his title, "servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (some versions translate servant as slave). With the exception of Jude, James is the only New Testament writer to describe himself by that term without any qualification. James is so well known that he needs no further introduction. Jude introduces himself using James "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James." James never uses his title as head of the church in Jerusalem. Paul, on the other hand, often introduces himself as an apostle, thereby asserting his apostolic authority in the matters about which he is writing. James starts off identifying Jesus as Lord and himself as a servant (or slave). This establishes the relationship of himself and all others as servants, slaves, to Jesus. This introduction implies absolute humility, obedience and loyalty to Jesus.

James now addresses an unpleasant subject, but does so in a way that immediately seizes the attention of his audience. James talks about trials. The King James Version translates the Greek word peirasmois as temptations but a better translation is trials. Who can honestly say they find any joy, let alone true joy, in the trials of life?  Who does not, at some point, grow weary of the trials and, if not blaming God, at least question His will?  Everyone has had this experience, certainly the early church did.

This letter is thought to have been written about 45 A.D. This was during the period of history when Christianity was just beginning (approximately 11.5 years after the death and resurrection of the Christ). At this time the Romans considered Christianity a Jewish sect and the Jews considered it heresy. Paul was converted approximately eight years earlier (37 A.D.) and had not yet begun his ministry (46-48 A.D.). The church was going through a tremendous persecution by Herod Agrippa, and James the Just, the brother of John, was put to the sword and killed.

Church members were being harassed on all sides by the Roman and Jewish civil authorities. Added to this were the pressures caused by loss of business, financial resources, and because, they were considered heretics, the support of the believer’s family. Believers were being hunted down, suffering physical abuse, psychological seduction emotional abuse, financial ruin, loss of family and friends and sometimes death. The circumstance for the early Christians was similar to that of Christians today in all parts of the world. As now, Lucifer was fighting Christians and their beliefs in a direct and indirect manner.

With all of this happening James comes saying "Count it pure joy..". This would be ludicrous if he had not been suffering the same as all the other members. James, being an authority in the church, very probably suffered even more. Was he mentally unstable, or did he have an understanding few of us have?  How can we consider the many trials of life as pure joy?  I think the first question we should ask is; what is pure joy?

To consider it pure joy means to respond with a deliberate intelligent appraisal as well as an emotional reaction. The Christian is to look at the trial from God's perspective and recognize it as a method of producing something valuable. Testing produces perseverance, patience, unswerving constancy. Paul addresses this thought in Romans 5:3-5  ("but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character: and character, hope."). Both James and Paul are making the point that the presence of trials in the lives of believers refines their faith so that what is false is stripped away and the genuine part that continues to trust God will develop fully and victoriously. The Christian will become not only mature spiritually but also be able to stand in the day of adversity.

The word used here for trials is the same as that used in the story of the good Samaritan. The Greek word (peripeste) is the term used for the man who fell among thieves. The word is used to denote external experiences. These are not sinful experiences caused by the desires and failings of the flesh (James covers these later), but are things that happen to everyone. Jesus addresses this in Matthew 5:45 "…”He causes His sun to rise on the good and the evil. and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." James is restating what Jesus said. Life happens, good and bad events happen to everyone, the difference to the Christian is their perspective What lesson is there in the trial and how we can grow from the experience? It rains on the righteous and the unrighteous, the problem isn't the rain but if you are one of the righteous. For the Christian there is a purpose to trials. The word used by James implies trials directed toward an end.

Now James begins to speak of wisdom. This is an extension of what James was just discussing. James is answering the questions; What if I can't see the reason for a trial?  What if I can't see anything useful coming out of a particular set of circumstances?  How can I grow if I can't understand? James’ answer is to pray for wisdom. Ask God what is the purpose?  What lesson is there to be learned?  Ask for understanding. It will be given. True wisdom involves moral discernment and comes as a direct result of a person's relationship with Christ. Wisdom is also knowing when and how to use the knowledge and understanding you have. Trials teach lessons, not just for the individual(s) involved, but for those to whom they pass on their lessons.

James clearly sees wisdom as a practical thing, not just some philosophical idea or intellectual abstraction. Wisdom concerns the everyday business of living. Wisdom has been defined as "the supreme and divine quality of the soul whereby man knows and practices righteousness."  True righteousness cannot be practiced apart from Jesus Christ. Christ is central and essential to wisdom. It is by Christ through the Holy Spirit we receive wisdom when we ask.

James does place one condition on asking for wisdom; the seeker must come in faith, believing they will receive. The person who comes in unbelief  is compared to waves of the sea, blown about by the wind with no clear direction. A double minded person is like those waves, and can cause damage to those around them. Doubt permeates all the person's attitudes and actions. They are like a drunk, staggering first here and then there, not knowing where they are going nor where they have been.

The person who goes through the motions of prayer, without belief that anything will happen, might as well save their energy and time. Nothing will happen. James is speaking of the person with divided allegiance. That person is unsettled, vacillating, restless, a cork tossed about on a churning sea of doubt. That person is unstable in all their ways. Without a stable understanding of God and having no firm relationship with God the doubter tends to view themselves as a victim of circumstances, not as a participant in life. They allow circumstances to constantly control them and, learning no lesson from the trials, will repeat them over and over (much like Satan).

Now James seems to ramble on to another subject, the rich and poor among us (vs 9-11). Trials will happen. Finances are thrown into disarray. In the eyes of the world the rich will have more to lose than the poor. This was a culture, much like ours, that put a premium on wealth. Riches were a sign of God's blessings and the individual who put wealth second to their faith was looked down on by society. (Actually, wealth and faith were seen as working together.) The rich member may be required to learn how to be poor, and the already poor can provide spiritual and physical support. Their relative positions could well be reversed, with the rich becoming abased and the poor exalted.

The second part of this passage sets the true priority on wealth. All worldly possessions and riches pass away. They are totally temporary. We come into the world with nothing and leave the world to meet our God with nothing.(Job 1:21) No matter what our earthly position, we are all alike at the end of our temporal lives. Just as the flowers are here for a season and then fade away with the coming of winter, so the rich person fades away, in spite of their wealth. Only what he or she did for Christ and their fellow man continues. This is the lesson of James and the lesson of trials. What a person does with their life amidst trial is what counts. If a person abides in Christ, that person will be crowned with eternal life.

Notice this section is placed before the section on temptations. I believe James put this here to emphasize that trials come to everyone from external sources. A person cannot control circumstances but can control their reaction. The trials spoken of are outward ones that must be endured, rather than spiritual conflicts and enticements of sin that must be resisted. In the next section dealing with temptations, the individual can control the circumstances as well and there is no difference between rich and poor.

1. What does “A servant of God” mean to you?
2. Why is belief so important when dealing with trials and temptations?
3. Where does true wisdom come from?

Lesson 2

Trials & Temptations (Part 2)    -    James 1:13 - 1:18

13Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. 16Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Now James addresses temptations, the trials from within (vs.13-19). The problems of evil thoughts, tendencies to sin, feelings of guilt and discouragement are often more difficult to handle than the trials that come externally. All persons are led astray by their own inappropriate desires. Often we can be much more objective and forgiving about the world than we can ourselves. The problem lies with a dichotomy that is in every man. Paul states "For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within the members of my body. What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:22-23) We want to serve God but our own desires lead us astray.

This tendency to sin is seen at the very beginning of our creation, in the Garden of Eden. The question the Rabbis had was: Where did sin originate?  The answer they came up with was both inaccurate and dangerous. They reasoned that since God created everything, He must have created sin. The logical conclusion of this is that if a person sins it must be God's fault. It is a strange doctrine indeed that claims God, the Holiest of Holiest, is responsible for sin. It is against this reasoning that James is presenting His argument.

When James prohibited the excuse of the temptation coming from God, he is saying it is not enough to merely avoid blaming God for being the direct instigator of some temptation, we must not imply that God is even remotely responsible. God's nature is beyond tempting man by anything evil. God is absolutely and completely Holy. God's activities prove that He never tempts anyone. God may test a person to strengthen their faith, but He is incapable of tempting with evil. The blame for temptation lies within a person themselves.

From the beginning man has attempted to blame others for his own sin. Adam blamed Eve, Eve in turn blamed the serpent. (I wonder if the serpent, Satan, blamed God, claiming God created sin.) There is a clear distinction in the wording used here for temptation from that used for trial earlier. The same word can be used for both, but here in verse 13 the verbal form, which means enticed or lured, is used. There could be no enticement if there wasn't something in person that can either be enticed or, by the grace of God, eliminated.

James is not discussing how sin entered the world, or the role of Satan in that entrance. What James is discussing is the present, the choices we each make every day. We are fond of saying the "devil made me do it" or blaming Adam and Eve, or the next door neighbor. What James brings clearly to our attention is that every day we all have the same choices that Adam and Eve had, and we often make the same decisions. Besides giving in to our evil desires we attempt, as Adam and Eve did, to blame someone else, even if that someone else is God. JAMES BRINGS MAN FACE TO FACE WITH HIS RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS OWN SIN. Satan cannot make us sin. Satan can only tempt us by our own inappropriate desires. (I use the word inappropriate because there are things and actions that are not sin in and of themselves, but can become sin if we place them between us and God.)
Two words describe the method by which a person's desires lead them into sin. The first word is “dragged away”, the second word is “enticed”. Temptation is a bit like fishing. When we fish we must first pull the fish from their places of hiding. We must make them aware that something they want, the bait, is available. After we have awakened the fish to the availability of their desire, we must persuade the fish to take the bait. We entice the fish by using a particular bait for a particular species of fish, and manipulating the bait in such a manner that the fish will bite. When the fish takes the bait it has, in effect, already died, it is just a matter of time. In the same way that the fish is dragged away and enticed, so temptation does to us. A fish who has been caught and has escaped, learns not to rise to the bait, not to be dragged from their hiding place. We, who are saved by Christ, need to learn from the fish. When we recognize the bait (temptation), we must keep within our hiding place (Christ), and not rise to be enticed. To resist the temptation and flee to Christ is the only appropriate response. Only when a person yields to temptation is it a sin, and that sin brings death. Fortunately, when we do yield to temptation, we can come to Christ in true repentance and be restored to our original state in Him.

James uses the term hamartian for sin. This is the most comprehensive term in the New Testament for moral wickedness. It is therefore not possible to determine any particular sin that James had in mind, rather James is talking about all sin. In this context there is no such thing as a little sin. All sin is abhorrent to God and one sin does not outweigh another. All sin must be brought under the redemption of Christ and the sinner must truly repent.

Continuing his train of thought, James refers to the gifts that God gives, they are all good (vs. 16-18). First James calls on the reader not to be misled. This is the same phrasing used in Galatians 6:7, I Corinthians 6:9-10, I Corinthians 15:33 and Luke 21:8. This is a clear call and a delineation between what James has said and what he is about to say. Remember James has just spoken about blaming God for temptations and showing where they really originate. Now James is going to tell us what things do come from God. Every good and perfect gift comes from God. By placing the phrase "Don't be deceived." after the negative statement of what God does not provide, and before the positive of what God does provide, James is stressing the importance of what he is about to say.

There is nothing that comes from God that is not good. James is stressing that God is unchangeable. God is not like the shadows that change with the shifting lights, God remains the same (Hebrews 13:8). This use of the shifting shadows comes from the Jewish morning prayer, "Blessed be the Lord God who has formed the lights." The thought here is that the lights change but the creator of the lights never does. (I wonder if there is also a tie-in to the Morning Star and the Bright Morning Star. Satan was the Morning Star [Isaiah 14:12]? )

Jesus was the Bright Morning Star [Revelation 22:16].) God created the Morning Star (Satan) along with all the angles of light. The Bright Morning Star, Christ, is a part of the Trinity. The Morning Star changed, shifted, became something other that what God created, but the creator, God, never changed. At one time the Morning Stars sang together, they worked in concert to perform the Creator's will. The Bright Morning star was one with the creator. The Morning Star did not understand the relationship, allowed jealousy to lodge within his being, and left his appointed place. The Morning Star, Lucifer (Light Bringer), fell from the family of God and became Satan (adversary). Far from being the bringer of God's light, Satan became a shadow of his former self, constantly shifting, unstable in all of his ways.)

James now establishes our position in the creation, that of a loved creation that God chose to bring to life through the Word of Truth (Christ). We have life (birth, regeneration) by the Word of Truth, not by our own actions. In addition we are made, through that birth, first fruits of creation. To understand this we must go back to the Law of Moses, and even before. The first fruits have always been considered holy, it was that part that went back to God. The first male child was considered holy as were the first born of the flock and the first part of the harvest. (See 2 Chronicles 31;15; Malachi 3;10; Matthew 23:23.) We are that which sanctifies (makes holy) all of creation. This is a matter of choice on God's part, a choice of love, a choice Satan cannot understand. 

Being the first fruits we, as regenerated believers’, are regarded as the first stage of the ultimate restoration of all creation, which since the fall lives under the divine curse. Just as sin's stranglehold has already been broken, triumph over death is assured by resurrection of Christ, and ultimate glorification is guaranteed (Romans 8:30), so removal of the curse will be accomplished for all of creation (Romans 8: 8-23). In Acts 3: 20-21 this ultimate restoration is directly addressed "...and He may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you--even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets."  Remember this statement came after the resurrection of Christ and the word restoration means to bring something back to its original condition. It is a wonderful and marvelous thing to know that God will restore absolutely all of creation to its original condition. It is a humbling and exciting thing to know we have a part in that through Jesus the Christ.

1.    Why is it important to be in constant communication with God when dealing with trials and temptations?
2.    Where do temptations come from? What is the root cause?
3.    Why can we always have trust and confidence in God?

Lesson 3

Listening & Doing    -    -James 1:19 - 1:27

19Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 21Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 26If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. 27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
James goes from speaking of our being the first fruits of creation to how we are to conduct ourselves. Again, this is not the rambling it might appear. If we are to be the first fruits of creation we must be in control of ourselves and be an example to creation. This we cannot do if we constantly speak instead of listen, or anger quickly instead of hearing the end of a matter.(Proverbs 18:13 He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame unto him.) James is still focusing on wisdom and speech. (Matthew 12:36 “But I say unto you that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”)

Notice that James does not forbid speaking or anger. James does, however, caution against responding in anger at every opportunity or perceived slight. An example of this can be seen when Christ whipped the money changers out of the temple. That was not an irrational or spur-of-the-moment act. Jesus knew what he was doing and was filled with a righteous anger against sin. We ought to consider what we are doing, our motivation for doing and how it is perceived by those around us. If we are speaking we are not listening. If we are acting in anger, we are not listening. Anger closes our emotions and minds to other input, input that may possibly prove our anger to be unfounded or misplaced.

Let us disect vs. 19 and 20. James begins by calling special attention to what he is about to say. He addresses the audience as "dear brothers". This leads us to believe he is talking to other Christians. There are four direct commands from James.

1)  Be quick to listen. Most people are quick to speak or quick to be framing a response. Few of us are quick to listen. James is simply repeating what the words of Proverbs 18:13, Nicodemus in John 7:51, and Jesus in Matthew 13:16. The writer of the proverb warns us against answering before listening. Nicodemus raises this same point when he asks the Pharisees if their law condemns a man before hearing him out. The answer of the Pharisees was to launch a personal attack on Nicodemus. Compare this to the word of Jesus in Matthew 13:16 "But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear." We have a blessing because we can truly hear. This includes the hearing of the Gospel to salvation and listening to each other through the Spirit. We are able to hear what is truly being said beyond the words. We have the potential for a much more comprehensive communication than the non-Christian does. When we hear a person curse or use language that is socially/culturally unacceptable we need to realize the words used are not the issue but rather why they were said. What is the root cause of the words?

2) Be slow to speak. Consider your words. What will be their effect? Is the self-satisfaction your words may bring worth the calamity they may cause (Proverbs 21:23)? Have you prayed about your communication? Is the Lord being served by your words?  Have you heard all of what is being said? If your words are judged by the Scriptures, do they come short of the mark? The tongue can destroy. It can destroy people, ideas, and spirits. A word of slander or carelessness can postpone or keep a person from coming to Christ. We must always ask the question: Is the self satisfaction of our words worth their cost? Is our anger Godly anger or anger driven by personal pride and perspectives?

3) Be slow to anger. There is a time and place for anger. All anger is not inappropriate. The questions really are: Is my anger Godly anger? Is my anger due to circumstances that, like Christ with the money changers, serve to denigrate God and the works of God? Is my anger directed at circumstances, things, or persons who try to twist the words and works of God?

Before becoming angry question what Christ would do. Why am I angry? Would Christ become angry in this same situation? Is Christ being attacked, or just my opinion? Am I sure I am right and that anger is the appropriate response for the situation? Is my position so important that I am willing to risk driving someone away from Christ? Every Christian must be careful to avoid wrathful argument when they should be submitting to God's Word. Man's wrath does not achieve the righteousness of God. This is the lesson of verse 20. Is a show of anger going to achieve God's righteousness? If not, getting angry is not the appropriate response.

4) We are now told to get rid of all moral filth and evil. The word translated as rid in the NIV is translated as strip in the KJV. The word used is the word used for stripping off one's clothes. The word used for filth is ruparia, it may be used for the filth that soils both clothing and bodies. The root word is rupos, and, when used in the medical sense, means wax in the ear. It could be that James intends a double meaning here. He could mean both stripping of the evil and filth of the world, and, cleaning our ears that we may hear the Word of God. Both meanings would be consistent with the context of the letter.

Along with cleaning out their ears and stripping off the filth, James admonishes to accept the Word of God planted in us. This Word can save us. The word translated as implanted is emphutos and can have one of two meanings. 1) Inborn in the sense of innate as opposed to acquired. This is the same meaning Romans 2:14,15 and Deuteronomy 30:14. In both cases the law is spoken of as something that is in man by nature. 2) Inborn in the sense of implanted, as a seed is implanted in the ground. This meaning is the same as that used in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-8. Through the prophets and teacher, and especially through Jesus the Christ, God sows (implants) the Word in our hearts.

This Word of God is able to save our souls. Obviously James did not believe in a salvation by works, that is inconsistent with what he already said. James does believe in a salvation by the Word, which God has planted in our hearts. James' concept of salvation was not limited to the initial moment of regeneration, but included all aspects of salvation from sin. In this Paul totally agrees. In Colossians 3:1-10 Paul tells the Colossians to put to death whatever belongs to the earthly nature and put on the new self. This is exactly what James is saying. Belief in the Word of God Jesus, is what saves us. The Holy Spirit resides in us after salvation. We are to listen to Him, not argue against or about it. We are not to run our mouths against the Word. The Word in us is what keeps us in times of trials and temptations. Through the Word in us we have wisdom that comes from God.

We now come to the part of James’ letter with which Luther and others have had a very hard time. A cursory reading could lead a person to think James was saying we had to have works to be saved. A closer reading, however shows quite the opposite to be true. James used two visualizations to bring his point home to us.
First James speaks of the man who only listens to the Word and does not act on it. This is the person who goes to church, or a worship experience, or hears the Word in some way, but takes no action. The listening alone does no good. No matter what the person thinks action must be taken in order for salvation to occur. That action is acceptance of Christ as personal savior. James might well be discussing the church in our day. Many people go to church on a regular basis without ever making a commitment to Christ and yet believe they are right with God. This because they are taught such from earliest childhood that church attendance is all that is needed.

Second, James relates the story of the man who looks in the mirror, sees what he looks like, departs, and promptly forgets what he saw. The point of this story is that the man did nothing to correct the blemishes he saw in the mirror. His looking in the mirror was useless. He might as well have saved his time and energy.

A word of explanation is in order here. The mirrors in that time period were not what we know of mirrors. Their mirrors were highly polished pieces of metal. No matter how highly polished they were, their mirrors always had a great deal of distortion. The distortion was noticeable and the person using the mirror knew they were seeing an imperfect image. James uses this to make his point. Looking at the law of Moses was like looking at a mirror of their time, imperfect and unsatisfactory, but it was what they had. But the perfect law is like a mirror without distortion. A person could see what they really look like. This gives freedom to the individual, they have a real view of themselves and the world.

The question is: What is this perfect law?  It could not be the law of sacrifice, the Mosaic law, perfection could not come through the Mosaic law. All Jews recognized that the Mosaic law was imperfect, that was why they were waiting for the coming of the Messiah. James was speaking of something other than the Mosaic law here. He was speaking of the Law of Christ, the Law of Love.

Francis Schaeffer in True Spirituality writes:
"We do not come to true spirituality or the true Christian life by keeping a list, neither do we come to it merely by rejecting a list and then shrugging our shoulders and living a looser life. If we are considering outward things to true spirituality, we are face to face not with some small list, but with the whole Ten Commandments and all of God's other commands. In other words, if I see the list as a screen, and I say this small  list is trite, dead, and cheap, and I take a hold of the screen and lift it away, then I am not face to face with a looser thing, I am face to face with the whole Ten Commandments and all that is included in them. I am also face to face with what we might call the Law of Love, the fact that I am to love God and I am to love my fellow man."
Here is the essence of what James is saying. We are to look at ourselves as God looks at us. We must see that the Mosaic law of sacrifice is not enough. We must see that our lists and traditions are not enough. We must comprehend that we are incapable of fulfilling the law of sacrifice, and can only begin to fulfill the perfect law, the Law of Love, the Law of Christ, through Christ. We are capable, through Jesus the Christ, of looking deeply into that perfect mirror, seeing what we truly are, and doing something about it through Christ and the Holy Spirit. "27Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law."  (Romans 3:27-28) "31Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." (Romans 3:31)  Paul understood very well what James was saying and what the perfect law is all about.
James’ comment concerning remembering what we have heard and doing is not addressing performing the duties of the Mosaic Law. James is speaking of listening to what God, is telling us through the Holy Spirit and taking action on what we are told. Our blessings are in following Christ, not in keeping some set of rules. Far from being legalistic, James is urging freedom through Christ. The freedom to love God, each other, and ourselves. James sees no excuse for not acting on what the Spirit has told us. Not to act is the worst possible condition. (See the Laodicean church in Revelation)
Paul addresses this same subject in Romans 14:15 and I Corinthians 8:9-12. I Corinthians 8:9-12 states "9But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 10For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ." This is an imperative. Paul is not saying that we are saved by not eating meat. Paul is giving a direct command from God on how we are to act. We must look at ourselves and act accordingly. Because we do not measure up does not mean we are not saved. We are saved by grace, not actions.
We find, as we mature as Christians, that we may very well keep particular rules, but for a totally different reason. We now want to keep particular rules because we recognize the good that comes from that obedience, not because of social pressures. Just as temptations come from within, so keeping the perfect law of love comes from within.

James now deals with true worship. James is speaking of worship, not religion. There is an important distinction. His warning here is to those who become so involved with religious activities that they fail to develop a deep spiritual commitment. This is the same as, although opposite from, the person who is so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. James is talking about the persons who deceive themselves by performing religious act and supposing that this is what being a doer of the Word means.

James is returning to his theme of the perfect law. True worship is to look after each other, to love one another and to take actions based on that love (i.e. feed the needy, visit those in prison, etc.). Paul's writings in Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 mirror and expand on this theme. The worship experience is not to be confined within the wall of the church building. The greater part of true worship takes place outside the church walls.

Notice that true worship involves keeping a reign on the tongue. It is interesting that James returns to this subject. True worship is not endless disputations over some point of theology, opinion or perspective. True worship does not involve angry exchanges over who is correct in any given disagreement. True worship involves loving Christ and each other, helping each other to grow and mature in Christ. James was addressing those very problems in the early church. Paul addressed those same problems later, and we are still addressing them today. The endless list of Christian denominations proves that. Our lists are inadequate. Our works are not enough. Our ability to love, simply to love, is woefully lacking. James is addressing these concerns. James is trying to open the ears and eyes of the believer to what is truly important. The Law of Love. Love for Christ and love for our fellow man.

1. What is this perfect law and how does it apply to us in a practical sense?
2. What is the difference between the Mosaic law and the perfect law?
3. What is the practical application to us?
4. What is the difference between true worship of God and religion?
5. When does (should) true worship happen?
6. What lists do I follow in my life? Where do they come from? Are they biblical?

Lesson 4

Favoritism Forbidden    =    James 2:1 - 2:13

1My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

6But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 8If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
 (vs. 1-4)
James continues speaking of true worship, but becomes more specific. Once again he addresses the audience as brothers. James is acknowledging they were Christians. James now addresses the problem of Christians showing favoritism to the wealthy, especially during the worship service or in church settings. The grammar James uses here is the usage that commonly ordered the cessation of an activity already in progress. James was not warning them against a possible failure, he was ordering them to stop what they were already doing.

Notice that this directly follows the previous exhortation of what is true worship. True worship does not show favoritism. True worship does not rest on works. True worship is an act of love toward God and our fellow man. The church was not practicing true worship. James uses the same formula in this section. First James tells the audience what true religion is not, then he relates what is true religion. After James has everyone going the same direction, and probably nodding in agreement with him, he informs them that they are guilty of not practicing true worship. They can see themselves in his words. In order that they do not miss the point, James illustrates. The man with rings and fine clothes is obviously rich. In the time of James wealth was denoted by rings, the more rings a person had the wealthier they were. Some people would rent rings for special occasions in order to make an impression. This is very similar to actors renting jewelry for parties, something we now see quite often.

The person in shabby clothes was a beggar. The words translated as shabby clothes denote a beggar, not a poor workman. Both of the persons are visitors in the worship service, and are treated quite differently. The rich man is give a seat of honor, perhaps someone was made to get up in order to give the rich man a seat. The poor man was seated on the floor, perhaps in the back of the room. The ushers and worshippers stated by their actions that the rich man (because of his wealth) was of more worth than the poor man. The fact that they were both visitors clearly indicates that the judgment was made on appearances alone. This is not in accordance with either the Spirit of Christ or the Law of Moses. What is not in accordance with the Holy Spirit is evil.

This event could easily have happened in the early church. This was a time when social structures were changing, divisions between segments of society were being attacked and diffused. The slave owner who became a Christian might go to a worship service and find one of their slaves leading the service. The person they were masters over during the normal course of events were the same persons they might receive the sacrament from during the service. This was a difficult adjustment for all concerned. James is warning the reader to beware of addressing that problem without the Spirit.

(vs 5-7)
James now speaks of the importance of the poor. It is important to the listener that what James is saying be truly understood. James addresses them as "dear brothers". This is the second time he uses the term brothers, this time it is with the added "dear." James is telling them that they are servants of Christ just as he is. They serve the same God and are saved by the same savior. They need to listen to the Spirit in this matter and grow.

The poor are important, they understand the message of the Gospel. They do not have the care of riches or self importance to blind them to the message of Christ. They are important to the work of the Kingdom. James asks " Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? "  The framing of this question lets us know the answer is YES!

These VIP's (the poor and needy) have been insulted by us, other worshippers. Those who seem to matter to no one matter intensely to God. They have been ignored and made to feel less than welcome. They are told, by our actions, they have little to contribute and have little value. The actions of the worshippers are made even more ludicrous because these same wealthy people the members are catering to are the ones that exploit them. These are the moneylenders, the ones who charge high interest and pay low wages. The wealthy persons are the ones who keep the majority of the population suppressed. These are the people who arrest the believers on the streets, sue them in court, dispossess them, and some cases cause their families to be sold into servitude to pay off debts. These are the people to whom the worshippers are showing favoritism.

To add insult to injury, these are the same people slandering the name of the Lord, the Messiah who saves. Let us return to a previous comment. Social and class distinctions were being muddied. Servants were finding a new freedom in Christ. Fear of earthly punishment was giving way to hope in Christ. The wealthy were losing their hold on their servants and slaves. The wealthy had a vested interest in eliminating this belief in Christ, yet these were the same persons being shown favoritism. Not only were the actions of the believers not Christian, they were not logical, or even in their own best interest. James is telling them to THINK about what they were doing.

Verse 7 deserves special mention. The words used here are the words used for a wife taking her husband's name in marriage or a child being called after their father. We belong to Christ as a husband and wife belong to each other. We would not treat someone with favoritism who insulted our spouse, why do we do so with those who insult Christ?

(vs. 8-10)
James now employees the if word. "If you really keep the royal law found in the scripture, "love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. In other words, if your actions are truly based on love and treating everyone equally, you are doing right. James does not attempt to judge each case. Whether an individual's motives are scriptural or not is between that individual and Christ. James simply admonishes them to perform their actions with the right motives. It is just as wrong to show favoritism to a poor person because they are poor as it is to show favoritism to a rich person because of their wealth. Once again it is the state of the heart that is more important. Why are we doing what we are doing.

Now James addresses a touchy subject. Any sin, no matter how small (or “white”) it is, makes a person a sinner. Motives don't count, sin is sin and must be repented of. People have a hard time with this. James is not into situational ethics. A person who steals goes to jail just as surely as person who murders. Stealing a loaf of bread can lead to judgment as can stealing an expensive car. Nowhere does the Bible speak of degrees of sin. All sin must be brought under the blood of Christ.

God's law is a unity, the expressed will of one Lawgiver. Violating God's will at any point means that the offender has disobeyed God and therefore has disobeyed in all points. The result of this establishes that all people require the Blood of Christ, since no one is guiltless. We all fail at some point.
(vs. 12-13)
James sounds like he is restating Matthew 7:1-2. We are all going to be judged by the Scripture. We are all judged by the Law of Freedom, the love of Christ. We must do the same for others. If we require more than the Scriptures, more than Christ, more than the Law of Love, the Law of Freedom, those same requirements will be applied to us. Love requires mercy, helping, leading, actions of love and caring. If we cannot give these, they will not be given to us.

The practice of showing favoritism continues to our day. Until recently many churches in the U.S., sold the best pews. Different minority groups, or undesirables, have been kept out of churches. This continues to the present time as well as the reverse where those who are part of a minority are more favorably treated. We still, by our actions, let visitors know if they are welcome or not, for whatever reason. Things have not changed. Our hearts have not changed.

1. What is the “royal law?”
2. How do we judge?
3. How do we treat people who come into our worship, or our lives, who do not conform to our norm?
4. How will we be judged?
5. What is sin? What does the answer mean to us in a practical way?
6. How does truly loving your neighbor as yourself affect how you live?

Lesson 5

Living Your Faith    -    James 2:14 - 2:26

14What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

19Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
The burden of the letter of James is to show that true faith is alive and active. Biblical faith is not a detached acceptance of an orthodox creed. Neither is it one-half of the requirement for salvation, the other half of which is works. Rather than proclaiming a doctrine of faith plus works, James was arguing for a different kind of faith, a faith that is alive and shows its vitality by its actions. If a person just states they have faith but does nothing that evidences that faith how can anyone else see that faith in action and come to accept Christ as savior.

It is truly amazing that people can agree with Paul that we are justified by faith, cite as examples various great persons of God, and then say James disagrees with Paul and is advocating keeping the Law of Moses. The reason I am amazed is that the examples chosen are always chosen because of, not despite, their works of faith. I am also amazed that people can read James 2:1-14; where following the perfect law of love and mercy are stressed and favoritism is condemned; and say that James is legalistic. James’ emphasis on mercy, love and true worship is inconsistent with claiming he is advocating following the law of Moses.

This section must be read as a whole in order to be understood. James is still discussing true worship. He has just written concerning what true worship is not, and is now continuing his discourse on what is true worship. We have already seen that true worship does not show favoritism, does not act differently based on a person's social position and, by extension, is not obtained by socially correct acts. (The actions of the early church that James was speaking out against were socially correct in that culture, and were not in disagreement with the Law of Moses.)

James stresses keeping the Royal Law, the law of love, to love your neighbor as yourself. These things were not only socially correct at the time but they also did not disagree with the Law of Moses. But the emphasis with James has been acts of love, doing love, not just saying love. This is a shift from the Law of Moses (as interpreted by the many generations of Rabbis). Under the Law, if a son wanted to avoid spending his money to care for his parents in their old age, he could give all of their money to the Temple. This gift was temporary and the son would receive money back later (minus a percentage), after the parents died. This arrangement was not only perfectly acceptable under the Law but was considered a blessing and a gift to God. For many people the purpose of doing this was to avoid caring for the parents, to evade an action that was loving, responsible, and required under the Law of Moses and much more importantly the 10 Commandments. The interpreters of that law came up with a loop hole to avoid the consequences of that law. This type of thing is what Jesus spoke out against in Matthew 15:3 and James condemns here.

The emphasis of James is a continuation of the teaching of John the Baptist and then Jesus. The message is amazingly consistent. In Matthew 3:8 and Luke 3:8 John the Baptist preached that men should prove the reality of their repentance by the excellence of their deeds. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus taught that people should live in such a way that others see their good works and glorify God. In neither place is salvation dependent on works. In both places repentance (faith) is first and works follow because of faith. In Matthew 7:15-21 Christ cautions us to beware of wolves in sheep's clothing. How can we know these persons?  By their works. Jesus instruct us to love our enemies and to do them good (Matthew 6:35). This commands action, works, but works based on a saving faith. The fact that Christianity must be ethically demonstrated is an essential part of our Christian faith. What is essential here is the motive for the actions. Are our actions based on some thought that by being good persons we will be saved from coming judgment, or are works based on love for the One whom we have already accepted as our salvation? If our answer is the first, we might as well quit doing the works, they are useless for the ends we wish to obtain. If, on the other hand, we do works because we are saved and are acting upon the love of Christ in our hearts, that is not only appropriate but required.

(vs. 14-17)
James begins by showing an empty faith is the same as no faith at all. This kind of faith is only the acceptance of a fact, without that acceptance having any influence on a person's life, or on their dealings with others. The example used is relevant in the time of James and in our times (especially now). Nothing in the context of the example suggests that the person is attempting to deceive anyone, They claim to have true faith and are sincere about that claim. But what good is the faith?  What difference has it made? How has it changed the individual?  How has it affected the lives around the individual? How has the person's faith allowed other to see God and glorify God? The answer to these questions is that person's faith is a useless faith. The person has an intellectual affirmation that God is God and Jesus is Savior, but has done nothing more. There has been no commitment to follow Christ. There has been not salvation experience. How do we know this. There are no fruits, no actions, no evidence of things not seen or substance of things hoped for. (In a sense we are the definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1. Our lives show the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen to those who have not accepted Christ.) The faith this man had was dead. Notice that there is a circle here. Faith that produces no works is dead, and dead faith cannot produce works. The man's faith was like a corpse. A corpse has all of the right configuration and dimensions of a person and a corpse can be made up to look alive, but a corpse cannot be a person regardless of how they look, there are no signs of life. There is no action. No matter how much we might say that the corpse is the person, it is not. It is simply a hollow shell of the real thing. So is faith without works. John Calvin wrote "It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone."

Some excellent examples of faith that produces works are the Reformation’s early preachers. John Calvin, John Huss, Menno Simons, John Foxe, John Wesley, Charles Wesley, Francis Asbury, Martin Luther, etc. are all men who put feet to the faith. They DID something. Along with these and many other early ministers were the people who supported them and gave them shelter. There names may not be known but they put actions to their faith. Look around at those here with you. Everyone here, by being here, has put their faith into action. As we take the actions to learn more of God’s Word we  become a bright lighthouse on a hill drawing people to Christ. We do not do this to be saved; we do this because we are saved.

Now James carries on a dialog with himself. He is addressing the stance of many that faith and works are separate. One man does not necessarily possess both. This was (and is) a belief held by a number of people, James disagrees.  James makes the point they are both manifestations of true Christianity. It is not a case of either/or, it is a case of both. From a position of pure logic, James makes his case. James can "prove" his faith by his works. His faith is alive, vibrant, with the presence and working of the Holy Spirit evident. The faith of James can be seen and glorifies God. This is verified by the fact that James was, and is, known by the name "James the Just." The person who claims works are not needed or relevant to the Christian experience cannot verify or show his or her faith in any way. There is no life, no breath, no way to glorify God and bring others to Christ. Remember, this is based on mercy and following the Law of Love. These works come because James was justified through Christ. As works did not justify James, so works do not justify us, Jesus has saved and justified us.

In verse 19 we come to perhaps the central part of this section. "You believe that there is one God. Good!  Even the demons believe that - and shudder."  So much for an intellectual acceptance of the fact of Jesus. What is the reader going to do about it. Mere acceptance that God and Christ exist is useless. Knowing that God exists and Jesus is Savior, and not making a decision one way or the other is worse than useless. Actually a person in this position is in worse condition than the demons. The demons are at least touched in their emotions, they tremble. The person with intellectual faith has only head knowledge, it touches no other part of their being. It is entirely tragic. A person in this position is like the church at Laodicea, lukewarm. In the case of this church, they are told that they will be spewed out of the mouth of God. They are a bad taste and are good for nothing, not even a bad example (Revelation 3:14-16).

Saul was totally opposed to the early Church, but because he was honest and believed in his heart what he was doing was right, God could effect a change. Paul could, and did, become very useful to the work of Christ. Paul was useful even before his conversion experience. His harassment of the church helped disperse the church and bring others to a saving knowledge of Christ. Paul was an intellectual, but he had much more than an intellectual belief. His belief was in his heart. Paul knew, with his whole being who Jesus was and acted on that belief.

(vs. 20-26)
James continues his dialog. He assumes the opponent wants proof of what he has said. James uses two very familiar stories. The first story concerns Abraham and the second Rahab. The use of these stories really answered the rhetorical question twice. By telling the stories, James is showing that true faith brings works of faith with it. A second implication here is that the audience is already aware of these two figures as  persons of faith. How is the audience aware of them? The audience is aware of them by the stories passed down through history concerning their works of faith. The examples were good examples because of their faith and their willingness to act upon that faith. "You foolish man" is literally "O empty man." This address is used to show the person is devoid of understanding. It could also show the person is like the corpse, empty of life, a hollow shell only. This a person who has the similitude of a believer, but no breath.

James uses Abraham as an illustration first. Note that Abraham is remembered because of his faith. His faith was shown by his willingness to sacrifice his son. His faith was known by his works. I believe that James uses this as an example because of the sacrifice God made of His Son for us. God put actions to his words, Abraham did the same. Abraham was willing to perform the action and actually started to. The actual sacrifice of Isaac was not required, an animal was provided by God instead, but Abraham was willing. Note also that Isaac was old enough to carry the wood for the sacrifice up the mountain, this implies he was old enough to know what was going on and was willing to be sacrificed at God's command.

The second example was Rahab. Rahab was a prostitute and a citizen of Jericho. She hid the Israelite spies and made sure they escaped. For this action she and her family were spared during the destruction of the town. In addition to this Rahab became part of the lineage of Christ. James used these two examples for a reason. On the one hand we have Abraham, considered the father of Faith. Abraham  was respected and revered by all, a well known historical and religious figure. A man everyone would know. On the other hand we have Rahab, a prostitute, not part of the nation of Israel, and a woman. Rahab may not have been as well know as Abraham, but her faith is considered no less for that. Her faith was a saving faith (physically) just as was Abraham's. James’ point here is not only that true faith involves action, but also that true faith and the resultant action does not respect a person's position on earth. This is consistent with the teachings of Christ and the previous comments of James.

1. What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?
2. How do we recognize faith in a person?
3. Are deeds part of true worship (or can they be)?
4. Why does a Christian do works? What difference does the “why” make in my life?
5. If works do not justify us why do them?
6. Are Abraham and Rahab worlds apart or similar people? Why?

Lesson 6

Controlling the Tongue    -    James 3:1 - 3:12

1My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 2For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. 3Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 5Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

9Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
 (vs 1-2)
James now moves to the importance of teaching and the responsibilities that teachers carry. Teaching was and is of primary importance. The apostles and prophets were constantly on the move. The entire church was their community and responsibility. On the other hand teachers stayed in one place for long periods of time. They worked within a particular congregation/community and helped the new Christian establish a foundation for their belief and life. The teacher was able to put their stamp on the new Christian. If they were not led of the Spirit, teachers could do great harm.

Since teaching was so highly respected, many people wanted to be, and claimed to be, teachers. James is warning that teaching carries a great responsibility. Teachers must live holy lives. The teacher will be examined by the pupil and society more strictly. Teachers must teach by example and by word.
Teaching is a dangerous occupation. The teacher's stock in trade is words, words that convey truths. Any time words abound there is opportunity for offense and misunderstanding. The teacher in particular can become so wrapped up in themselves that they start to think to highly of their knowledge and then fall into error and sin. The teacher must take extreme care that what they teach is of the Lord and His truth, not the teacher's opinion or prejudices. Paul warns Timothy in I Timothy 6:3-4 "3If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,." In I Timothy 4:11-13 Paul also tells Timothy "11These things command and teach. 12Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine."
James and Paul echo each other. Teaching is critical to the growth of the individual believer and the church. We all stumble, we all say things we would like to take back. The teacher is no exception to this, but the teacher will be judged more strictly, especially by the world and church community. The word judgment (krima) does not necessarily mean an adverse judgment. Not all judgment is negative. If the subject being judged is positive, the judgment is positive. So it is with teaching. If the teaching is in accordance with the Word of Truth, the judgment is positive. If the teacher is not living in accordance with the Word of Truth, their teaching is automatically suspect. Teachers, by their own choice, have entered into a special work. Because of this, they are under a greater condemnation if they do not live what they teach. Teaching the Word is a great privilege, but carries a great responsibility.

(vs 2)
There is no one in this life who does not sin. If no one is beyond fault, including teachers, then no one will escape God's judgment. If teachers are to be judged more strictly, then no one should aspire to be a teacher unless they are called by God to be such and are prepared to live a life consistent with their teaching. The teacher must keep in constant communication with the Spirit and constantly examine their own lives against the teaching of Christ.
The last, and perhaps most important, thing James says here is that the tongue is the easiest way to sin. Since a teacher's stock in trade is words, and words lead to sin faster than anything else, the teacher must be constantly vigilant concerning their words and their impact. This is returning to James’ thoughts in 1:19-20 and 26. "19Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath20For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." "26If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."
(vs 3--4)
James uses two simple illustrations to make his point about the tongue. The first concerns the use of bits to control a horse. The horses the readers of James would have been familiar with would have been the spirited war horses. Horses that pranced about, were high strung and hard to control. Plow horses were not used yet and the stolid horse we see now was not a common sight. So James' audience would visualize a powerful, spirited, war-horse being controlled by a tiny bit in its mouth. If the person controlling the bit was not very expert, the horse was uncontrollable. We can still see this if we watch the Amish in their buggies. The actions of the horse tell you if the driver is not very good using the reigns, or the horse has not been trained to the bit. If you are driving behind one of these buggies, you stay out of their way, they are dangerous. If you see a Christian who cannot control their tongue, who does not let the Spirit reign in their words they can be dangerous.

The next illustration James uses is that of a ship. A ship is a large object that, without a rudder, would be impossible to control. Again, if the steersman of a craft were not expert at their craft, the improper use of the rudder could cause destruction of the ship. So it is with the tongue. Improper use of the tongue can cause destruction of the speaker, or almost anyone else. Words without the Love of Christ are destructive. Words spoken in the love of Christ are healing and fruitful.

(vs 5-6)
How many times have our words promised what our bodies can't deliver? How many times have we spoken words that ruined relationships, parted friends, killed promising talent, or brought disgrace on ourselves? How many times have we considered ourselves to be living truly Christian lives, and our words let us know just how un-Christ like we are? We always promise what we cannot deliver. We promise God that if He will only take care of this one (latest) problem, we will serve Him and never go astray. We then promptly forget the promise and/or immediately go astray. This is why Christ said "let your yes be yes, and your no, no". Don't promise what you cannot deliver or cannot be sure you can deliver.  In case someone thinks James is spending to much time on such a small part of the body, James uses the illustration of a forest fire. This illustration works even better in the present. A tiny spark from a cigarette can start a fire that destroys thousands of acres of forest, and the person who caused the spark is long gone. We see this quite often in forested areas that have high tourist activity. Many of the massive fires are started by a careless tourist tossing away a cigarette.  Just as that spark can start a huge fire, so can one idle word ruin a life, or start a war, long after the person who spoke it is gone.

The tongue is the doorway of the soul. What is in a man comes out through their tongue. (Matt. 12:34) If a person is only pretending to be a Christian, sooner or later their words will tell what they are. This is not to say that Christians never make mistakes. It is to say that Christians will keep Christ first and will repent of the evil they might speak. If a Christian is caught up in speaking evil of other Christians, they will go to the other person and apologize. Nothing will be done in secret or in the dark. "It is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of a man."

James is suggesting in verse 6 that all of life is connected, and nothing can be done without affecting other parts of life. An unkind remark cannot be made about any brother or sister without it affecting all of us. There have been many splits in churches due to gossip and backbiting. People decide they don't like something and start talking about "the situation" or others in the family of believers, and soon the fellowship is poisoned and bitterness fills the void. This can be seen a number of times this has happened in a number of different denominations. The result is always the same. A broken church, fractured relationships, and arrested spiritual growth. Perhaps the saddest victim is the newer Christian who leaves their faith because of the hate and evil they see. In these cases the tongue has truly corrupted the whole person, the whole church. It has set a fire that became uncontrollable (as soon as it was set).

(vs. 7-8)
James is rather direct here. He shows that we have tamed all of the animals (he includes all animal types here) but cannot control the tongue. Notice that he say "no man" can control the tongue, this does not mean that the tongue cannot be controlled by Christ. Our job is to turn our tongue over to Christ.

(vs. 9-12)
James now sets opposites next to each other. With the same tongue we praise God and curse man. Can a spring give both sweet and bitter water?  Of course not!  Can a natural tree bear two totally different kinds of fruit?  Of course not!  How then can the tongue that curses man, praise God?  Something is false here.  The incongruity of the situation makes the speaker suspect. And if the speaker is suspect, their message is suspect. Do we want our message of the love of Christ to be suspect because of our actions and words?  Absolutely not.

Just as spring cannot produce both salt and fresh water, and a tree cannot produce two kinds of fruit, so the true Christian cannot both bless God and curse their fellow man. The true Christian cannot engage in backbiting, gossip, verbal assaults, or other actions of that type without repenting of those actions and making them right with the offended parties. Just as with nature, duplicity cannot be found within a Christian. Being doubleminded has no place in the Christian. Words that do not contain the love of Christ and/or do not promote His work and Kingdom should not to be part of a Christian's vocabulary.

Once again, what is the motive for the words spoken? Are they of Christ or of man? What do the words say about our Christian experience and walk? What do the words say about our love for our brothers and sisters, both Christian and non-Christian? What is the state of our heart?

1. What is a Holy life?
2. Why is it important teachers live holy lives?
3. What relationship does what we say have with what we truly believe?
4. Why is it important for all Christians to take care with what they say?
5. What does being double minded mean in practice?

Lesson 7

Two Kinds of Wisdom    -    James 3:13 - 3:18

13Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
(vs. 13-14)
James continues his discussion of, and warning to teachers and would be teachers. James sounds like he is challenging those listeners who claim to have wisdom and understanding, but whose lives do not necessarily reflect their boast. Once again James ties words with actions. He is contending that the truly wise will be known by their fruits. An assertion echoed by Paul. What are the long term effects of their wisdom? How has their wisdom and understanding affected their lives? What difference has their wisdom and understanding made? All are reasonable questions.

If their wisdom is from God, Godly fruits will be evident. Again, the primary question this section poses is, what is the foundation of a person’s wisdom? Is it from God or is it from man? Does it glorify God and bring people to Christ or simply a large body of knowledge passing as wisdom? Does their wisdom go beyond an abundance of facts? 

The teacher is under two major temptations. The first is arrogance. The rabbis were prone to arrogance. We are prone to arrogance. We feel that others must see the wisdom in our words and accept that wisdom. A wise man once gave this advise: "It rests with thy colleagues to choose whether they will adopt thy opinion: it is not for thee to force it upon them."  One of the true freedoms we have in Christ is to be able to judge words by the Spirit, to see from where they come. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit never force themselves on us. Satan always attempts to force his words and false wisdom on us. It is up to us to choose. It is also up to us not to force our opinion, but rather to allow the Spirit leads our listeners. Perhaps we may even be corrected in an error.

The second temptation the teacher is subjected to is bitterness. A person who feels strongly about something is usually passionate. With passion comes the danger of not watching our words and wounding rather than teaching. This relates back to the early part of this chapter. It is extremely difficult to discuss without passion and often can be difficult without wounding another. Many times it is made even more difficult because of the burden we have for the victim of our "learned discussion." Sometimes the importance and urgency of our message leads us to not consider our words and actions as carefully as we ought to, and that can lead to them have the opposite effect of what we desire.

Notice the term "zeal that is bitter." Zeal is not “bad.” Caring deeply and zeal are appropriate, especially as concerns the Gospel and the unsaved. There is however a zeal that is based solely on reward. Truely caring for a cause is not the basis for this zeal. There is a zeal that is self centered and when things get tough that zeal turns to bitterness. If there is no foundation in God for zeal, the zeal is only a sham.

There is the danger of starting without the proper basis and attitude and later seeing this zeal turn to bitterness. This can happen when we lose the proper focus, when we focus on the words we are speaking, not the message God wants delivered. When we look to ourselves not Christ, when we do not understand that Christ has a multitude of ways to bring people to Him, other than us, we become bitter that we are not recognized as the spiritual leaders we obviously think we are. This is the zeal James warns against.

All through the letter of James, and especially this chapter, we are instructed that true wisdom and understanding only come through a right relationship with God. "To be a successful preacher the first requirement is to have something to say." This statement was made by a theologian and teacher of student ministers. (From experience I would add to be a successful preacher the second requirement is to know when to quit talking. To know that is to be sensitive the leading of the Holy Spirit.) Even more important is that what we have to say comes from God. We must have an understanding of Biblical truth, and that understanding only comes from the Holy Spirit. What Francis Schaeffer, Paul Tillich and other theologians have to say is interesting, instructive and adds value, but will not save. What Christ said and did saves. We should not discontinue the studying of the works of great men of God, but we must put their words, our words, and the words of others in their right perspective in relationship to the Bible, the Word of God.

James is bringing out the misuse of the tongue in rivalries and contentions between aspiring teachers. Theirs was a bitter and fanatical zeal, a selfish ambition to get ahead, to be the foremost among the teachers. This led them to view teaching as almost a combat, not with Satan or the purveyors of false teachings, but with each other. No matter how correct their teaching might be, it was negated by their attitudes and lives. Once again the victim was the Christian, especially the new Christian who did not know where to turn.

(vs. 15-16)
James now directly addresses the two kinds of wisdom. He summarizes the wisdom that is bitter zeal, individual oriented, and contentious, as earthly. Its standards and sources are earthly. It measures success in earthly terms. Its end purpose is earthly. Christ and His message of salvation has nothing to do with this wisdom.

This wisdom is typical of "natural man." This wisdom is no more than an animal kind of wisdom, a survival of the fittest wisdom, a temporal wisdom. It is the wisdom man acquired at the fall. A wisdom based on incomplete knowledge, inaccurate world view, and voluntary blindness to the greater reality of God. This wisdom is the wisdom of persons whose minds are devoid of the Holy Spirit or do not to listen to the Holy Spirit. James calls this wisdom devilish, absolutely the antithesis of God's wisdom. This is the wisdom prompted by evil spirits, a wisdom of deception that leads to hell, not to God. This wisdom causes disorder, confusion, jealousy, hate, all of the fruits of unrighteousness. False wisdom also produces fruit, fruit to destruction.

(vs. 17-18)
James juxtapositions true wisdom against the false wisdom he just described. James immediately states true wisdom comes from above. He then speaks of the fruit of true wisdom. Elihu makes this same point in Job 32:7-9 "I said, days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom. But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty giveth them understanding. It is not the great that are wise, nor the aged that understand justice." James understood what Elihu was saying to Job. True wisdom comes from God and is revealed by His Spirit, not by years of study, nor by age, nor by worldly recognition. This is not to say we should not study, or listen, or learn from experience (ours or others), but we are to let he Spirit of God teach us what we are to gain out of each experience and study. We are to let the Spirit open the words and the knowledge to us. We must allow the Spirit teach us how to use the knowledge. Our job is to lead people to Christ and help them grow, not to amaze them, or beat them into submission with our knowledge or supposed wisdom. If we try the latter it proves we do not have true wisdom. True wisdom is not dependent on academic education or intellect. True wisdom evaluates all things in their true relationship to God's Word and purpose giving emphasis to spiritual issues. True and false wisdom both have intellectual qualities, but true wisdom goes much further and has moral and spiritual qualities. True wisdom always brings man closer to God and to one another. Heavenly wisdom is pure, this inherent quality governs everything else related to it. This is the beginnings of the fruits of true wisdom. True wisdom is peaceable, it does not cause strife, it promotes harmony among people.

True wisdom is gentle, considerate of others, takes the feelings, weaknesses and needs of others into account. True wisdom is not stubborn or rigid but willing to listen. True wisdom is full of mercy and good fruits without variance. True wisdom does not accept false teachings but corrects and withstands them through the Holy Spirit and Love from God. We can see the workings of true wisdom in lives.

In Christian thought the word eleos (full of mercy) means mercy for the person in trouble, even if that trouble is of their own making. This word coupled with the term good fruits implies that true wisdom is practical. Not only will the person with true wisdom have mercy on the person in trouble, but will lend practical help to them. This wisdom is undivided, unwavering, without partiality, consistent. It is not just for appearances. The person who has true wisdom is consistent in their words and actions, they are not like a spring with both bitter and sweet water. Last, true peace is without hypocrisy. It does not deal in deception, it is open, honest, it is consistent with the character of God. True wisdom does not have hidden agendas.

Last James discusses the fruit of righteousness. This could mean the fruit that comes from righteousness, produces righteousness or the fruit which is righteousness. James was not advocating peace at the expense of truth. This would not be consistent with God's character. James was advocating the exercise of a peacemaking spirit. William Barclay commented "we are all trying to reap the harvest which a good life brings. But the seeds which bring the rich harvest can never flourish in any atmosphere other than one of right relationships between man and man. And the only people who can sow these seeds and reap the reward are those whose life work it has been to produce such relationships." 

1. What is your definition of wisdom?
2. What was Elihu’s practical point in Job 32:7-9? How does it apply to my life?
3. What is the difference between worldly wisdom and Godly wisdom? How does it apply to my life?
4. What is mercy? What is the connection between wisdom and mercy?
5. Can a Christian be full of self pride and Godly wisdom at the same time? Explain.

Lesson 8

Submission    -    James 4:1 - 4:10

1From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 4Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 5Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 6But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
(vs 1-3)
James has discussed trials and temptations, where they come from and how to handle them through the Spirit. James has stressed the importance of truly listening and acting upon God's Word. The active favoritism shown to the rich and powerful is condemned and forbidden. Again, the interrelationship of faith and deeds (putting action to your beliefs) is addressed. He has instructed the believers in control of the tongue and what true wisdom is. James now addresses the problem of the church(s) directly.

James begins by asking a question. "What causes the fights and quarrels among you?" Now the answer from the audience would probably involve a particular action, comment or insult (real or imagined) from another person. This is not the answer from James. James is going far beyond the apparent cause of fights and quarrels. He is looking past the particular actions of people. James is performing a spiritual root cause analysis. He is looking at the true cause of the symptoms.

James answers his own question. The problems come from within the believers. Just as with temptations, there is no need to look elsewhere. Do not blame your neighbor. Do not blame the economy. Do not blame the church. Do not blame anything other than your own desires. This is a repetition of the theme James has been repeating throughout the letter. If your brother harms you, and you do not respond in kind but rather in Christian love, there is no quarrel. If your brother seeks a higher position, and you let them have it, there is no quarrel. If the believer truly acts as a servant of Jesus Christ, and prefers their fellow believer before themselves, there can be no quarrel. The fights and quarrels stem from the ungodly desires that lie within each person. Those areas of our lives that we have not surrendered to God provide the fertilizer for the rampant growth of those ungodly desires, desires that bear the fruit of fights, quarrels, envy, selfish ambition, disorder and evil practices.

The term desires has its root in the Greek word hedone. This is also the root of our English term hedonism. The New Testament uses hedone consistently to mean sinful pleasures or the desire for them. James uses the term to mean the sinful desire for self satisfaction, which is self seeking and causes those who yield to it to strive with one another to get their own way. This ties directly back to what James has already written.

Verse two states the quandary in which the self centered believers find themselves. They earnestly desire a particular thing but do not get what they want. They then plot and scheme how to get what they want. This goes back to the truth that what comes out of a person is evil, not what goes into them. The evil desires for selfish ends produce evil fruits to obtain those ends. The believers fight with each other to obtain their ends. These ends may have been a position of responsibility in the church, recognition as a teacher or leader, or other position or thing. The problem is not the position or responsibility desired, or the desiring to do a work for God. The problem is the motivation for desiring that position.

In short, believers fall into seeking the wisdom of the world system and not the wisdom of the Spirit. They were not looking at what was the Will of God, but what was socially acceptable and what would make them leaders in the eyes of society. James and John had the same problem in Mark 10:35-45. Rather than being first among the believers, the true disciple must be a servant of all. Instead of fighting and quarreling for the best seat, the greatest position, the true servant allows the master to raise them to that position. James and John were not the only disciples to have a problem with position. In Matthew 18:3-4 Jesus tells his followers they must become as little children. This is the wisdom of God. The last shall be first and the first last. The believer, acting in love, does not attempt to have their own way at all costs, but will help raise the fellow believer above themselves. Theirs is a recognition that positions and responsibilities are God's to give, not ours to take.

James tells the reader that they do not have because they do not ask God for what they want. James immediately anticipates the response: But we have asked and we still didn't receive. James' answer to this is that they asked for all the wrong reasons. They asked with impure motives. They did not care about God's will, they only wanted their will done. These believers are not in touch with the Spirit. There is a craving for pleasure and position that starts the individual on a road to destruction that is predictable and terrible.

The steps of the process are simple.
A believer allows themselves to desire something.
That desire begins to dominate their thoughts.
The thoughts interrupt the believer's life, both day and night.
The desire becomes so strong the believer no longer asks, or cares, if obtaining
the desire is God's will or not.
The desire becomes a passion that rules the person.
Imaginary schemes are formed to obtain the desire.
Finally, the desire becomes so strong the person puts a scheme into action
to obtain the desire, no matter what the cost to anyone else.

Finally, the believer has stopped believing in God or Christ. How can I say this?  How can so bold a statement be made? Why can't the person still believe in God and Christ?  Can a person believe and still fail?  The answer is, "Yes they can!"  Believers still fall into sin. What we am talking about here is a different matter, it is premeditated sin. Sins that have been planted, nurtured, grown strong and harvested. The fruits of this are the fruits of unrighteousness, the fruits of discord, evil and chaos. This is the same problem David had with Bathsheba. This premeditated harvest of evil puts the believer at war with God, a war the believer started. Like all sin, this sin must be repented of and confessed, or it may well destroy the person and cause damage to the body of believers. The problem is that the believer erected a wall between themselves and God while they were preparing to commit the sin. This wall is erected by the believer, not God, and causes the believer to have great difficulty asking for forgiveness. James saw this very clearly. Prayer that is aimed toward the satisfaction of selfish pleasures is improper prayer and cannot be granted by God. This kind of prayer is diametrically opposed to the Spirit of God.

(vs. 4-6)
Now James calls the recipients of his letter "an adulterous people."  There are numerous places in the Bible where the Church is called the Bride of Christ. As a woman leaves her home and cleaves to her husband, so we left the fallen world system and hold onto Christ. Just as a wife is taken into the home of the husband, loved, protected, and taken care of, so are we, the Church, taken in by Christ. This analogy is a bit more difficult to understand in our time due to the displacement of the husband as head of the house. In the time of Christ it was the duty of the husband to take care of and provide for the wife. There are many arguments about the Romans and others who felt it was perfectly acceptable for the husband to cheat on the wife. This was not the case with the Jewish people. The husband was the head of the house and was responsible for the care of the family and was forbidden to cheat on the wife. It is in this context we must understand the analogy. Christ is our head. He protects and loves us. He is absolutely true to us. He was willing to die for us. We in turn must be true to Him.

The question is, "How do we commit spiritual adultery?" The answer is by friendship with the world. This is not saying we must never make friends with non-Christians. "World" spoken of there is the world system, the philosophical and ethical basis of the world system. These are enemies of the Gospel. The wisdom of the world is at war with God. Being friends with the world system puts us at war with God. If we partake of evil we have committed spiritual adultery. We are in the position of the wife who has taken a lover other than her husband. To disobey God is like breaking the marriage vow. It means that all sin is sin against God and His love. Matthew 6:24 states that man cannot serve two masters. James is making the same point here. (Notice that spiritual adultery, just as physical adultery, come from inside a person, not from outside a person.)

James now takes the listener to the scripture (Old Testament to us) and reminds them that God says He is a jealous God. James does not appear to be quoting a particular passage (although there are a number of passages that state God is a jealous God) but rather, is summing up in one sentence the sense of the scriptures.

There is much disagreement what this means. Some scholars say that the word jealous carries too many negative connotations and is inappropriate to God. The root word for jealous is the Greek zelos which has the idea of burning zeal. This carries the idea that God loves man with such a burning zeal that He cannot bear any other love within the heart of man. God wants our full allegiance, anything less is spiritual adultery.

The question I have not seen dealt with is, "Why?" Why does God jealously love us? Why is God so adamant about there being no other? Why is friendship with the world system spiritual adultery and war with God? God is God and nothing we do can affect that. I believe the answer to the question of why can be found in Matthew 6:24. Man cannot serve two masters. A way to illustrate this is that no individual can truly love more than one person at a time. If I love my wife with all of my heart, I have no time to love anyone else as I do my wife. I not only have no time, I have no inclination. All of my attention is taken up with pleasing my wife. If this is the case, how could I truly please another?I cannot. I am not created that way.

If we keep this in mind we can easily see that we cannot love both God and the world. If our time is spent pleasing God we have no time left to please the world. Any time we spend pleasing the world is time stolen from God. This leads us to realize that God is a jealous God for our sakes. God created us and knows our capabilities. God also knows Satan. God realizes that if we curry friendship with the world, Satan will steal our hearts and souls. We will progress from a simple friendship to the point that we take the world as a lover and abandon God.

It is for our sake that God is a jealous God, it is because He truly loves us and seeks to protect us. God also knows that if we are proud, we set ourselves up for failure. We are not capable of beating Satan on our own, we must have God's help. A proud spirit will not ask for God's help, and will eventually be defeated. A humble spirit recognizes the need for God and will be victorious through God's grace.

(vs. 7-10)
James now repeats his theme of submission. This is the theme he started with when he started the letter  "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ."  Submit to God, not the world, Resist the devil through God. If we submit to God and resist Satan through the Spirit of God, Satan will run. The word submit implies more than obey, it indicates surrender of the will to the leadership of another. Resist implies a defensive action. The Christian does not need to find ways to attack Satan, if the Christian is doing God's will, Satan will attack them. It is our job to be sold out to God and to resist Satan through use of the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6: 10-20).

James returns to his earlier statement that the readers were not asking correctly. James says that if they will come to God, He will come to them. This is a tremendous thing. God will meet us. After we have committed spiritual adultery we can repent and return to God and God will come to meet us. The only condition is that we must truly repent. This is not a merely an expression of apology or mild regret. We must recognize the seriousness of our actions and truly repent. Repent with our whole beings. The repentance must include a single-minded determination to submit to God, a spiritual and intellectual cleansing. We cannot keep a small part of the world in us and continue to worship God 

To mourn implies an inward act, a true sorrow of the spirit, while weep implies an outward act, an act of contrition (dare I say confession to God and those we sinned against) that is seen. Can this be an act that tells the world that the stray is again one with God and Christ, as baptism did at the beginning of the Christian walk?Again James returns to a repeated theme. If we humble ourselves, God will lift us up. If we seek His will first, if we are a servant first, God will place us in our proper position in His work.

1. What is the root cause of fights and quarrels?
2. What is the problem with pride?
3. What does the word submission mean to you?
4. Are there any immediate feelings triggered by the word? What are they? What is their root cause?
5. How does this section on submission apply to James 1:1?
6. Am I a slave to Christ? Do I truly submit to His word and direction?

Lesson 9

I Guarantee My Success    -    James 4:11 - 5:6

11Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. 12There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? 13Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. 17Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

James 5

1Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. 2Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. 3Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. 4Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

5Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. 6Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

(v 4:11-12)
James completes his discourse on quarrels and their cause by issuing a warning and a general call to repentance. The direct audience are those who not only judge their fellow believers but then slander them. The term slander means both false accusation and harsh (even if accurate) criticism.

The term used for slander is normally used with the word gossip. It is the act of gathering to pass on confidential pieces of information (usually incomplete and possibly inaccurate) that destroys the good name and reputation of those who are not there to defend themselves. This is an act done in secret, it is not an act which is done before the congregation or the accused. Peter in I Peter 2:1 soundly condemns this practice and the Law of Moses forbids it  (Leviticus 19:18). Gossipers set themselves up as judge, jury and executioner. They use the Law of Moses as a basis for their judgments and subsequent actions. James states unequivocally that their actions show they are ignorant of the true Law.

A person cannot love their neighbor as themselves if they destroy them in secret. The people sitting in judgment of others claimed to know the law. They used the law as a basis for their actions. James makes very clear that the same law they claimed to know condemned their actions. They were in fact setting themselves above the law and as such would be judged more harshly. Only God can judge, our judgments mean nothing.

(v 13-17)
James continues his theme of living outside the will of God. He moves to the tendency of people, especially rich and important people, to make plans excluding God. Christians are as prone to this as non-Christians, but Christians should know better. The scenario is one that would be familiar to many of James' readers. The Jews were the great traders of the ancient world and that world provided a wealth of opportunity for their ventures. It would not be unusual at all for business men to plan their trading trips through at least a few years. James did not see this as a concern. What James did see as a concern was the failure of those people to include God in their plans. It was the epitome of arrogance to make the assumption that they were able to control their future.

James makes the point that we are not able to see the future, let alone control it. Our all important lives are extremely brief and until we recognize that we cannot act in a responsible manner. Until we recognize the omnipotence of God and our position in His creation, we cannot correctly prioritize our lives and actions. The people James wrote to, and we, should recognize that we live by God's grace. Our plans will reach successful completion by God's grace. Our intellectual abilities and prowess in business cannot gain us one day of life and all of our plans for success and wealth will die with us. If we recognize God as the primary priority in our lives we will be much better able to act in a manner consistent with our professed beliefs.

Verse 17 is especially worthy of note. "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." James’ use of this phrase here is a direct condemnation of the actions of the merchants and all people. It was not that they were stealing or cheating, that would be clear active sin, they were failing to do what they knew they should. James has already defined the "good" acts a person should do as acts of charity to those in need. There is a sin of omission as well as commission, a sin of failing to do the will of God as well as actively violating the will of God.

The root cause of the problem appears to be friendship with the world. Becoming friends with the world's philosophical and ethical system blinds a person to the requirements of God's will. A person who is worldly does not see the necessity or requirement to, be charitable to the needy. This blindness can take many forms. There may be the withholding of love, time, money, caring, etc. The drive for success can overshadow the needs of others, including the immediate family. The person in this position has indeed made the world their first love and excluded all others. They know the good they ought to do, but due to business or other pressures don't do it. That is sin.

(v. 5:1-6)
James places the importance of wealth in it's proper position to eternity. Wealth means nothing when compared to eternity and the will of God. James may be calling for repentance here but the structure seems to indicate that the audience has already made their decision and must now live with it. James says the appropriate response for these people is tears. In fact James goes well beyond tears. He writes that these people who ignore God's will should weep and wail. Shriek with the terror of the coming judgment for their actions. James does not preclude repentance by the rich persons he is speaking of, he does seem to feel repentance will be much more difficult for them since they place their trust in wealth, not God. They have erected a wall of material objects between themselves and God and no longer see God or the need to repent.

In the time of James there was a great difference between the rich and poor. There was no real middle class and the rich were very  rich and the poor were very poor. Many laborers received only one denarius a day in wages while the rich would spend over 400 denarii a day on luxuries. There were three types of wealth in the days of the Old Testament, they were: a) garments, b) grain, and c) gold and silver. James shows the grain will rot, gold and silver will become corrupted, and garments be eaten by moths.

The statement that the silver and gold would become corrupted has caused some problems for scholars. Gold and silver do not seem to rust away. It is generally accepted that James was speaking metaphorically about the gold and silver. With the advances in science since the time of James we have learned that given a long enough time everything changes its molecular structure, even diamonds, gold and silver. Perhaps James knew more through the Spirit than we think he did.

This passage is a direct continuation of James' comment on the sin of omission. Not only will the riches of the people not help them, this same wealth will actually testify against the holder. That they had this wealth and didn't use it for the benefit of all God's creation condemns them. The holders were selfish and refused to comply with God's Law. The rich (especially Jews) knew they should help the poor, but instead ignored them. Worse than ignoring the poor the rich stole from them to increase their wealth.

James is now specific as he details how the wealth was accumulated. They kept the wages that were due the laborers who worked their fields. The Law of Moses required that a laborer be paid at the end of each day so they could buy food for their family. If the laborer was not paid the family did not eat. Knowing this the landowners would refuse to pay the laborer and the laborer had little or no recourse. The courts were arranged so that the rich person could afford a good attorney while the poor could afford no attorney. In this situation the poor man almost always lost. Not only would the poor man lose but they might be in even worse shape for having brought the legal action.

James informs the rich oppressors that the poor do have a champion. That champion is the Lord God who hears their cries and will require restitution by the rich oppressor. James uses the picture of cattle being fattened for slaughter when describing the rich. They are blissfully going about their business, getting fatter and fatter at the expense of others, not realizing they are being led to slaughter. And the sad part is they are doing this to themselves.

Last James calls them murderers of innocent people. People who were not their enemies. The objects of James' wrath would not only disagree with him but would not really understand his accusation. When had they murdered anyone?  James would answer that when they withheld wages, caused a son or daughter to be sold into slavery, or just refused to help the poor, they were murderers.

The final verse brings up a question. “Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.” Could the term “he” used here refer to Jesus the Christ? This would make sense since the leaders, the rich, condemned and crucified Christ.

Notice that throughout this whole section James is repeating an ongoing theme of the Scriptures. That theme is the love of money is the root of evil and that the true believer must have a social conscience. These themes are clearly seen in Amos 5:11, Amos 8:4-7, Isaiah 5:8 and continued in Luke 6:24 and 1 Timothy 6:9-10. Jeremiah 22:13 clearly condemns this who build their wealth by taking advantage of others. There is no room here for cheating and calling it good sharp business practice. Stealing is sin and is called such by the scripture. Once again this is a continuation of James' warning not to be partakers of the world system if you are a believer. The practices mentioned above are condoned by the world but are not by God and must not be by the believer.

1. Is there anything wrong with making short and long range plans?
2. Can we slander without really thinking it is slander?
3. Can planning indicate friendship with the world’s philosophy?
4. Must it always indicate that friendship? How can planning be Godly?
5. As Christians do we live in two worlds at the same time, the physical world and the spiritual world?
6. How does this affect my life?

Lesson 10

The Power of Patience & Prayer of Faith    -    James 5:7 - 5:20

7Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. 10Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 11Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. 12But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation. 13Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 14Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 17Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. 19Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; 20Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
(vs. 7-9)

James now summarizes and closes his letter. He addresses patience, as he did at the beginning of the letter. We must note that many of the early Christians expected the second coming of Christ within their normal life span. They were obviously incorrect. This error does not make the wisdom of James any less valid than it does Paul, John, or any of the other disciples. The words used for patience in this instance stresses the idea of non-retaliation. It means to hold your temper, to keep your spirit in check. The external acts of others cannot cause the Christian to become bitter, to hate, or to despair. This is a repetition of James 1:2-12. In order to clarify what he is driving at James uses an analogy that would be familiar to all of the audience of his time, that of a farmer.

The farmer plants his seed, works the ground, and must then wait for external conditions to assure his harvest. The two rains spoken of are the rains of October/November, which soften the ground after the hot summer, and the rains of April/May that allow the grain to ripen. If either of these two rains fail to come, the crop will be small or non-existent. The farmer has no control over the rains, but must wait patiently for the harvest. Impatience will not bring the rains any sooner, nor help the harvest, it only upsets the farmer. So we also must learn to wait in patience for the harvest of the Lord. Our impatience will not hurry that day at all, it may, in fact, cause part of the harvest to be lost through our hasty actions. The believer who is facing trial must wait for redress from the Lord rather than taking retaliatory actions on their own.

James reminds us that the Lord's coming is near. As stated earlier many of the early Christians expected the second coming of Christ within their life times. This did not happen. There is a tendency to rationalize the second coming by saying none of us know when we will be taken so the actual time of the second coming is immaterial. I agree that none of us know when they will die, and we ought to live each moment as if it were our last, but James is going well beyond this. Although James may have had the timing wrong, he was correct in recognizing that the prophetic clock had started with the first coming of Christ. James and the others were correct in living their lives as if Christ would return at any second, we should do the same. (If you are interested in looking more into the matter of the second coming of Christ I suggest you start your study with Acts 3:21.)

Verse 9 is also a restatement of James 1:9. We are not to envy others, we are not to grumble or cause dissension, we are to remember we are brothers. This includes the inner sighing and complaining that we are so prone to. Not only are we not to cause dissension, or retaliate against real or imagined oppression, we are not even to complain internally. Why is this the case? Why are we told to restrain our inner tempers? The answer to this is found in James 1:14-15. What is internalized, and is meditated on, becomes an external act, and can lead to sin. Jesus tells us this in Mark 7:14-23.

(vs. 10-11)
James now gives examples of how a Christian should handle hostility. The examples he uses are the prophets and Job. Both of these examples would have been familiar to the reader. Most of the prophets were severely persecuted for their faith and their message. (Isaiah was placed in a hollow log and sawn in pieces.) In spite of all of the hostility they faced these prophets did not rail against their persecutors but rather continued to speak the message they were given by God. The prophets accepted their treatment and did not abandon their faith in God or their ministry. Their proclamation of God's message did not exempt them from, suffering, why do we think we will be exempt?

James now mentions Job in particular. The sufferings of Job are so well known his name has become synonymous with suffering, especially undeserved suffering, and the handling that suffering with grace and faith. Job was just as well known in the time of James. There is a subtle change of thought here from the previous. The prophets were examples of patience as a non-retaliatory spirit, Job is an example of patience as steadfast endurance.

Job was beset by external circumstances that were horrendous. Job lost everything he had, except his wife, who seemed more of a trial than a blessing. In spite of all the circumstance his faith in God did not waver. That is not to say Job was free from complaint, but he refused to blame God. I believe Job had a firm grasp of what Jesus was telling us in Matthew 5:45. Notice that last thing said here is that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Job had everything that was taken restored twofold, he was not left destitute. As Job was blessed at the end, so will we be because the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

This short paragraph seems to have been inserted by James very much out of context. Given the way James starts it off ("Above all") suggests otherwise. Perhaps he was referring to the habit of indiscriminate oath taking during a hostile confrontation to reinforce a person's position. The use of an oath was common among the surrounding pagan society. People would swear by one god or another in order to lend veracity to their statements. The Christian is not to do this. The very nature of using an oath casts doubts upon the honesty and integrity of the oath taker. The Christian is to be honest at all times and therefore there is no need of an oath. I believe there is a second reason for this prohibition. The surrounding society swore by false god's, deities that did not exist and therefore had no power to bind or loose anything. The Christian would swear by the Living God, a truly holy personality who they could not control. The swearing of an oath by a Christian showed their lack of understanding of who God is and the individual's place in His creation. James was echoing the words of Christ in Matthew 5:33-37.
In addition oaths were often used when swearing revenge on a person or group. These oaths may be calling the wrath of a god or the one true God on a person. A person may also swear by their own life to get revenge on another. In any case we have no power or authority call upon any of these. In the case of gods, they do not exist. In the case of the one true God we cannot control His actions. In the case of our lives we cannot even guarantee we will be alive the next second. Swearing by the one true God is the worst of these.

There is a lot of disagreement about just what James intended with this admonition against oath taking. Some people feel this deals with the habitual daily use of an oath as a verbal strategy, some feel it cover all oaths except legal oaths and others feel it covers all oaths, including legal oaths. James does not provide examples, but his words are unambiguous. If we accept his words at face value we will swear no oaths at all, even legal oaths. Whether to take a legal oath is up to each Christian, and their decision should not be condemned by other Christians. It is a matter between the individual and God. (Acts 23:12-24)

(VS. 13-18)
Pray!  This is a summation of much of what James has said throughout his letter. James means much more than asking God to fill a need, or to deliver us from trouble, James is talking about on-going communication. His intentions are clear from the juxtapositioning of "Is anyone in trouble?", "Is anyone happy?" and "Is anyone sick?". James is making the point that God desires to share in every facet of our lives and that we should invite Him in.

A special note should be made of verses 14 and 15. This is one of the most neglected admonitions of the Bible. The practice of the Elders praying for the sick has almost disappeared (they are to run the business of the church) and the idea of anointing with oil is considered primitive among many mainline denominations. There are churches that practice anointing the sick with oil and having the Elders pray for them.

The use of oil for anointing was common to the Jews, and other peoples of that time. The oil used was olive oil and was a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Olive oil was widely used for many purposes, including as a healing agent for certain types of diseases. The important thing here is to remember that it is God who heals, not the oil, not the elders and not the sick person. God hears the faith in the prayer and answers. We must also remember that not all the sick were healed by the disciples. Many times either their lack of faith, or the lack of faith of their listeners, or just circumstance, restrained the actions of the Spirit. Matthew 13:58 suggests that even Jesus was restrained by the lack of faith of people.

Partially due to the de-emphasis on the Elders of a church praying for the sick, a number of ministers with healing ministries has risen to provide for the need. These persons are also denigrated by the more mainline denominations, and unfortunately with some justification. But the reason for the rise in the number of these types of ministries should probably be laid at the feet of the churches that no longer practice praying for the sick by the Elders.

One of the complaints with the various healing ministries is their implication that if a person is not healed, that person obviously has a lack of faith. Verse 15 puts a bit of a different light on that subject. James seems to indicate that it is the faith of the Elders and the person prayed for that is effective. The spiritual position of both are important. This is why James moves right into confessing our sins one to another. Verse 16 is a direct reference to Matthew 5:23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, leave you gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."

Notice that neither Jesus in Matthew, nor James, is advocating confessing either to the minister of the church only, or the indiscriminate baring of the soul to anyone and everyone. We are not to have a contest to see who sins and confesses the most. Both Jesus and James are stressing confession of sin to those persons affected by the sin. Sin that is public and has tainted the whole church must be confessed to the church as a whole. Immediately after speaking of confessing our sins to each other James tells us that we should pray for each other. Again this is a continuation of his earlier remarks. How can we truly pray for each other if we have hate or bitterness for each other in our hearts. Our quarrels must be resolved, then we pray.

(vs. 17-20)
Now James takes away all of our excuses for our lack of faith or the works that go with faith. To do this James uses Elijah as an example. Elijah was a hero to the Jews. His faith was legendary and his works the basis of legends. The Jews looked on Elijah much as we look upon the early apostles and church leaders. No one could equal Elijah, he was special, a man made of different stuff than the rest of us. James sounds a resounding NOT SO!  Elijah was no different than anyone else. He was just a man, but a man who had complete faith in God. The only difference in Elijah is his level of commitment. Elijah made the will of God his first priority. Elijah recognized what is truly important. Most importantly, Elijah believed God. Elijah believed that God would do what He said. External circumstances did not matter, opposition did not matter, appearances did not matter, Elijah knew who God is and that God would do what He promised.

Elijah was just like us, and his prayers were answered to the extent that a three year plus drought occurred. After the 3-1/2 years of drought he prayed again and it rained. Just as Elijah was no different from us so the early church leaders are no different. They doubted, stumbled, quarreled, prayed and believed. We cannot use the excuse that things are different now, that these early leaders were different, that they had a special dispensation. We and they are the same. We can believe and perform the same works as they and even greater. This is only echoing Jesus in Matthew 14:12-14.

James now ends with the exhortation to help those who have wandered from the truth to return. This is a problem for many people. Does this mean that a Christian can cease being a Christian?  Can we leave the love of Christ? Can we return to our previous state of being lost? The point has been argued for years with scripture quoted by both sides and no agreement forthcoming. The point James is making is that we should do all possible to help anyone who has stopped living for Christ to turn their lives around and commit to Christ. The emphasis here is on love, not condemnation. We work with the unsaved because of love. We try to help people turn to Christ because of love. We suffer opposition, embarrassment and ostracism because of love, the love of Christ. The letters of James and Peter (I Peter 4:8) are in agreement here. The death spoken of is spiritual death. The person who accepts Christ is saved from that. In addition all of the sin of the individual has been forgiven and forgotten. This means forgiven and forgotten by both God and other believers. We do not have the privilege of resurrecting past sins. Christ was resurrected sinless, perfect. When we become Christians we are born in His image. When others become Christians they also are born in His image. We cannot and must not bring up past failures and sins after they have been forgiven. This also includes the brother or sister in the church who we forgive, or who has forgiven us.

1. What is patience, perseverance? How do they differ? How are they similar?
2. Do we blame God for the trials and temptations we all go through?
3. Why is prayer important? When praying, is it important to listen as well as speak?
4. How do we interact with those who left their faith in Christ? What should we do?
5. Why does James tell us not to swear an oath? Is he repeating the words of Christ?

A final question on James and this study.
1. What one thing made the most impact on you and how will it affect your life?


Now that we have completed our study of the letter of James I hope we understand how it fits in with the rest of scripture. Much of his letter is an expansion on Matthew 5 and practical examples of Christian living. Exactly who James was may never be answered to the full satisfaction of everyone, the answer does not affect the importance and timeliness of the letter. The charge that James is works oriented and disagrees with Paul is false and indicates the person(s) making the charge misunderstand James and Paul.

There is a cohesiveness to the letter that is not apparent upon a first or cursory study. Although James skips around, his central themes remain constant. The primary goal is to help the reader to live a consistent Christian life by teaching the faith-works relationship and providing examples for modeling.

As previously mentioned the failure of James to mention the Holy Spirit has caused some censure of his letter. Although James does in fact not mention the Holy Spirit by name his letter is filled with calls to prayer and a consistent Christian life style. The Holy Spirit is there by example and implication. James understood his audience and wrote for them. Those who insist on an emphasis on the Holy Spirit forget that the Holy Spirit is one third of the Trinity, James just emphasizes a different part.

I hope this study has helped prepare you to be a better servant of the Lord. There could be no higher compliment for James than being called a slave of the Lord, and there should be no higher compliment for us. 
Tony Smith


History of the Christian Church, book 7, chapter 4
e-Sword, Version 10.2.1 Copyright 2000-2013, Rick Meyers
Thomas Manton — James (Geneva Series Commentaries, 1968)
The Interpreter’s Bible Nashville, Tennessee Copyright renewal 1980 by Abingdon Press
Wycliffe Bible Copyright © 2001 by Terence P. Noble
The Letters of James and Peter, William Barclay  THE WESTMINSTER PRESS PHILADELPHIA
King James Version of the Holy Bible, Public Domain
New International Version of the Holy Bible, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
BAPTISTWAY PRESS® Adult Online Bible Commentary By Dr. Jim Denison, Studies in The Letters of James and John: Real Faith

True Spirituality, Francis Schaeffer, Tyndale House Publishers Inc, Copyright 1971

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