Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Epistle of James


Epistle of James - Word Cloud
James was the oldest half-brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55). He was the full brother of Jude who wrote the Book of Jude.
James was an unbeliever prior to the resurrection of Christ (John 7:3-10)
Christ then appeared to him (First Corinthians 15:7). He later appears in the Upper Room awaiting Pentecost (Acts 1:14)
He became the first pastor of the Jerusalem Church (Acts 12:17; 15:13, Galatians 2:1, 9-12)
His Epistle is perhaps the earliest in the New Testament, dated around AD 45. The Synagogue is mentioned as the place of meeting, rather than the Church (2:2). It was thus written when the Church was still in the circle of Judaism.
He presided over the meeting of The Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, which set the guidelines for the admission of the Gentiles into the Church.
It is the most Jewish Book in the New Testament. M. F. Unger, a Bible Commentator writes: “If the several passages referring to Christ were eliminated, the whole Epistle would be as proper in the Canon of the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament. In fact, the Epistle could be described as an interpretation of the Old Testament Law and the Sermon on the Mount in the light of the Gospel of Christ.” It may be considered as the Proverbs of the New Testament.

James was known as an unusually good man, and was surnamed “the Just” by his countryman. It is said that he spent so much time on his knees in prayer that they became hard and calloused like a camel’s knees. He is thought to have been married (First Corinthians 9:5)
Like Jude, James does not “pull his rank” by pointing out the physical relationship between himself and Christ. He simply refers to himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1)
The Greek language of James is of the highest quality
There are only four Old Testament direct quotes, but at least fifty-three Old Testament references in the Epistle.
James, like Jesus, loved to use Old Testament characters and the realm of nature as illustrations Note: Abraham (2:21); Isaac (2:21); Rehab (2:25); Job (5:11); Elijah (5:17); these were all Old Testament Characters. Then realms of Nature: Wind – tossed waves of the sea (1:6); withering grass and fading flowers (1:10-11); fire (1:5); Fountains of water (3:11); figs and olives (3:12); Sowing and harvesting (3:18); Early and latter rains (5:7); Drought (5:17).
Some have imagined a contradiction between James and Paul especially if you compare James 2:24 and Ephesians 2:8-9; but there is no contradiction. Whereas Paul was talking of Justification before God, James described justification before man. We are justified by faith says Paul. We are justified for works says James. Paul is interested in the root of justification. James is concerned about the fruit of justification. At one occasion Paul stressed works (First Timothy 6:18; Titus 3:8; Ephesians 2:10), while James emphasized faith (James 2:5)
James met Paul during Paul’s first trip to Jerusalem after his Damascus Road conversion (Galatians 1:18-19)
James also conferred with Paul during the Apostle’s last trip to Jerusalem (Acts 21:18-25)
Tradition says that shortly before Jerusalem was destroyed, when many Jews were accepting Christ, Annas the High Priest assembled the Sanhedrin and commanded James publicly to renounce Christ as Israel’s Messiah. Upon his refusal, he was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple and stoned to death, as he was dying from the fall.
The word perfect is found a number of times in the Book of James. It is from the Greek word teleios, meaning mature. This word is used to develop the outline of this Epistle.


  • The Source of suffering: (cf 1:2,  1:12) These two verses speak of two kinds of suffering:
    • Trial Suffering: these come from God and are sent to bring out the best in us. See also Genesis 22: 1-2; Hebrews 11:17; Deuteronomy 8:2-3; Exodus 20:20; Luke 22:28 and First Peter 1:6.
    • Temptation Sufferings: These come from the devil using the world and the flesh and are sent to bring out the worst in us. See James 1:13-14, Genesis 3:1-6; Matthew 4:1; Second Corinthians 11:3-4.
In conclusion, it may be said that both trials and temptations are often the opposite sides of the same coin. This is to say that both God and Satan may be working in the life of a believer through the same event, one to purify him, the other to pervert him. See Job 1-2
  • The Characteristics of Suffering (1:2)
    • They are often sudden (1:2)
    • They are certain – James says when you fall not if you fall.
  • The Purpose of Suffering: Why does God allow suffering?
    • It produces endurance (1:3-4)
    • It promises reward up there (1:12)
  • The attitude in Suffering: How is the believer to respond to trials and suffering:
    • Count it all Joy (1:2) See also Matthew 5:12; First Peter 1:6; 4:12-14.

There are four precious truths in these verses
  • The Father has given us the Old book (1:17)
  • The Old Book has given us the New Birth (1:18, 21)
  • The Believer is therefore to READ it carefully (1:25)
  • The Believer is to HEED it carefully

  • The ROOT of Insincerity (2:1-8)
  • The FRUIT of Insincerity (2:9-13)


The Problem: These verses, as has already been pointed out in the introduction have caused some undue concern among many Christians. Does James really contradict Paul here in matters of justification? Is this his goal? It would be difficult for him to do this, for at the time James wrote, Paul had yet to finish the first line of his many Epistles. The Holy Spirit will not contradict Himself!

What Then Is The Proof? (2:14, 17-20, 24) These verses are not meant to be saving texts - they are not talking of how to be saved. They are sign texts – showing us how to recognize those who are really saved. The only acid test of a man’s salvation is through his works. A silent believer may be indeed considered a saint before God, but he remains a sinner before man until he walks the talk and talks the talk of Christian service.

The Pattern: James names two Old Testament people to illustrate his Point.
  • Abraham: (2:21): The chronology of Abraham’s life is important to note. He was justified before God at the age of 85 (Genesis 15:6, 16:16) He was justified before man at the age of 137 (Genesis 22:1-14; 23:1)
  • Rahab: (2:25) Rahab’s salvation is recorded in Joshua 2: 1-14, and the service in 2:15-16. 
Unproductive faith cannot save, because it is not genuine faith. Faith and works are like a two-coupon ticket to heaven. The coupon of works is not good for passage, and the coupon of faith is not valid if detached from works. (See Ryrie Study Bible P.421)

  • The Importance of Tongue: (3:2) Taken in proper context, this is one of the most profound and far reaching statements in the entire Bible: “Watch Your Tongue!”
  • The Illustration of the Tongue: (3:3-4)
    • Our tongues direct us as a horse is guided by the bit in its mouth.
    • Our tongues direct us as a ship is guided by a small rudder.
    • It has been suggested that the body is the congregation and the tongue is its teacher.
  • The Iniquity Of The Tongue: (3:5-6) Fire usually starts small, perhaps with a spark. Its effect is unimaginable. We are told that the  tremendous destructive power of the tongue comes from hell itself (See 3:14-16)
  • The Incorrigibility Of The Tongue: (3:7-8) cf Romans 3:13-14): Humanly speaking, the tongue simply cannot be changed. Only eternity will reveal the frustration and agony caused by careless and hateful words spoken by the tongue.
  • The Inconsistency Of The Tongue: (3:9-12) An Egyptian King named Amasis once sent a sacrifice to his god and requested the priest to send back the best and worst part of the animal. The priest sent back the tongue, which organ he said, represented both demands. It has been said that the Christian should so live that he would not hesitate to sell his talking parrot to the town gossip.
  • The Instruction Of The Tongue: (3:13, 17-18)

Submit yourselves, therefore to God. (4:7)
  • We Are To Do This That We Might Escape:
    • The Flesh (4:1-3)
    • The World (4:4-5)
    • The Devil (4:6-7)
  • We Are To Do This That We Might Enjoy:
    • God’s grace (4:6)
    • God’s Guidance (4:13-15)
    • God’s Goodness (4:10)

SOBRIETY MAKES A MATURE MAN (5:1-6) Riches do not make a mature man.

  • An Example From The Past (5:10-11)
  • An Example From The Present (5:7)
  • An Example From The Future (5:8-9)

Verses 14-16: What is meant by the anointing of a sick person with oil?
  1. This is not a reference to extreme unction, a Roman Catholic dogma which prepares a dying person for death. The practice in these verses is to restore the sick not to bury them!
  2. This does not give sanction to the modern faith healers! We note several elders of the Church are to be involved here, and not an emotional sweating faith healer with a bottle of oil.

  1. The men involved: “the Elders of the Church” (5:14) As we have already stated, these were the Spiritual leaders of the Church
  2. The Medicine Involved: “Anointing him with oil” (5:14) The Greek word here is a reference to Olive oil, used as a common medicinal remedy in the ancient East. (See Isaiah 1:6; Luke 10:34). In this book, “The Game of Life” Roy Roberts says: “In brief, oil did have therapeutic value in ancient times as well as today, but it is best to understand it here as a symbol of God’s miraculous works in healing. That it had good medicinal effect is clear. It possessed soothing and curative value for animals, like sheep (Psalms 23:5), and men (Isaiah 1:6). The Good Samaritan in Christ’s parable applied oil to the wounds of the man he helped (Luke 19:34) But it is not the meaning of James for various reasons. Though it was therapeutic in some cases, it would not be a cure in all sicknesses in general. Further, James does not say in verse 15 that the oil will cure the sick or even that the oil plus the prayer will make him well. Specifically, he does say that “the prayer of faith shall save the sick” and makes no claim for the oil. It is not the oil, but the Lord who “shall raise him up”. It is more adequate to say that the anointing is for the purpose of symbolizing tangibly the setting apart of the man to the miraculous healing work of God. It would be an aid to his faith by prompting a sense of expectancy. Christ Himself applied saliva to men at times evidently to symbolize by physical contact, the healing that God would effect. (Mark 7:33, 8:23) There is Old Testament support for the idea that the anointing could signify the setting apart of the man to God, for His will and operation. There are numerous applications of oil, not to cure but to set apart or identify things or persons with God in some sense. Jacob anointed the stone at Bethel to identify it as symbolizing the “house of God” in which he had been a guest (Genesis 28:18; 31:13). When he poured the oil upon it, it was not to make it well; it was a ceremonial custom later to anoint priests (Exodus 18:41; 29:7; Leviticus 8:12; prophets (First Kings 19:16) ; and kings (First Samuel 9:10; 10:1; First Kings 19:15). This was to symbolize that they were set apart to and identified with God for His will. When Jesus sent out the Twelve Disciples, they “anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them” (Mark 6:13)

Will All Sick People Be Automatically Healed By This action? Or If I should reframe the Question: Is It ever God’s Will For Believers to experience Prolonged Illness?  Contrary to the loud claims of materialistic faith healers, it is sometimes not God’s will to heal sick Christians. Suffering if rightly understood and endured by the believer can bring about the glory of God. See Exodus 4:11; First Timothy 5:23; Second Timothy 4:20; Second Corinthians 12:1; John 9:1-3) Sometimes sickness is a penalty for sin (John 5:14)

What Is involved in The Confession of 5:16? This does not support the Roman Catholic rite of Confession to a priest. James says: we are to confess our faults one to another. As we have already noted, there are times when unconfessed sins do bring suffering. If a sick believer had wronged another Christian, in the Church, he was now encouraged to confess this that God might be able to bless him both spiritually and physically
James then says “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (5:16). The righteous man spoken of here may refer either to the elder who prays for the sick believer or the believer himself who, having been restored to fellowship through confession, can now pray effectively. James mentioned Elijah as an Old Testament example of effective prayer (5:17 cf First Kings 17 & 18)

SOUL WINNING MAKES A MATURE MAN (5:19-20) See also Proverbs 11:30.

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