James 1:5-8


Bible Study Notes
Introduction to James
James 1:1


The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.

James 1:1

The Book of James is classified with 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, and Jude as "catholic" or "general" epistles because they are not addressed to a particular individual or church. It is a book that has been -- and continues to be -- beset by controversy. In early church history it was one of the last books accepted into the canon of Scripture. However, after it was accepted by the early church councils there was no challenge to the epistle until the time of the Reformation.

Martin Luther did not value James as highly as the works of other New Testament writers. His opinion has been widely quoted:

In sum: the gospels and the first epistle of St. John, St. Paul's epistles, especially those to the Romans, Galatians and Ephesians, and St. Peter's first epistle, are the books which show Christ to you. They teach everything you need to know for your salvation, even if you were never to see or hear any other teaching. In comparison with these the epistle of James is an epistle full of straw, because it contains nothing evangelical.

He also commented on this letter:

I think highly of the epistle of James, and regard it as valuable although it was rejected in early days. It does not expound human doctrines, but lays much emphasis on God's law. Yet to give my own opinion, without prejudice to that of anyone else, I do not hold it to be of apostolic authorship.

Luther's views appear to be a result of the seeming disparity between James and Paul on the question of justification.

We can appreciate the battle in which Luther was engaged in defending the biblical teaching of justification by faith which caused him to fail to appreciate the emphasis of James.

The position of Bible-believing Christians since the decision of the early church councils has been that James is indeed part of the inspired Word of God. Our study will demonstrate that it does manifest the characteristics that we expect of God's Word and is in perfect harmony with the rest of Scripture.

The place to begin is with the opening verses which give us the necessary background to the letter. Three matters of importance are dealt with in the first verse:

I. The Writer
II. The Recipients
III. The Greeting

I. The Writer

It was the question of authorship rather than content that caused the delay in the acceptance of James into the canon of Scripture.

  1. His Name - James

    This leaves several possibilities:

    1. An unknown James

      1. Since the name is so common, it is strange that he did not further identify himself.

      2. The writer had to be someone with a measure of authority.

    2. James of Alphaeus--Mark 3:18

      1. A brother of Matthew

      2. Doesn't claim apostleship

    3. James, the father of Judas--Luke 6:16 He appears only as a name and has never been seriously considered as the author.

    4. James of Zebedee--Matthew 4:21

      1. Again, the writer doesn't claim apostleship.

      2. Beheaded early in A.D. 44 by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:2).

      3. Always further identified in Scripture as the brother of John.

    5. James, the brother of Jesus--Galatians 1:19

      1. This James is constantly referred to by his personal name (Gal. 2:9,12: Jude 1; Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18).

      2. The language of the epistle of James agrees with speeches made by him in Acts (cf. "greetings," 15:23).

      3. Headship of the Jerusalem church made him very prominent.

      4. This has been the solid tradition of the church.

  2. His Life

    1. Half-brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55).

    2. Moved with Jesus and family to Capernaum (John 2:12).

    3. Sought interview with Jesus (Matt. 12:46).

    4. Unbelieving at John 7:5, seven months before the crucifixion.

    5. Recipient of special post-resurrection appearance (1 Cor. 15:7). This may have brought about his conversion.

    6. Waited for Spirit in upper room (Acts 1:14).

    7. Visited by Paul on first post-conversion trip to Jerusalem (Gal. 198,19).

    8. Leader in council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:13).

    9. Leader in Jerusalem church at Paul's last visit (Acts 21:18).

  3. His Position

    a bond servant (doulos) - This word emphasizes that the master has complete control of the slave who is totally submissive to him. James' honor and authority is based upon the fact that he is the slave of the Lord. William Barclay draws the following implications of being a slave:

    1. Implies absolute obedience - A slave has no rights of his own, whatsoever. He is bound to give absolute and unquestioning obedience to his master.

    2. Implies absolute humility - It is the word of a man who thinks not of his privileges but of his duties; not of his rights but of his obligations.

    3. Implies absolute loyalty - A slave has no interests of his own, but is utterly pledged to God. His own preference and profit do not enter into his calculations.

    4. Implies a certain pride - Your position as a slave is largely dependent upon whose slave you are. This was the title of some of the greatest servants of the Old Testament:

      1. Moses (1 Kings 8:53); Joshua (Josh. 2:8); Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Deut. 9:27).

      2. This is distinctly the title by which the prophets were known (Isa. 20:3; Amos 3:7; Zech. 1:6; Jer. 7:25).

    5. Implies absolute dependence - A slave does not have the worries that free men do, no worries about his clothes, lodging, or food. These are all the master's concerns. The only greatness to which the Christian can ever aspire is the greatness of being the slave of God (cf. 1 Cor. 6:20). of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ--God the Father and Christ are put on the same level. We have the obligation to serve the Son as we do the Father (cf. John 5:23). The term Lord (hurios) is used 14 times in this epistle a:1,7,12; 2:1; 4:10,15; 5:4,7,8,10,11 [twice],14,15). It is usually not clear whether Christ or the Father is in view.

II. The Recipients

the twelve tribes - This is a reference to Jews as a whole (cf. Matt. 19:28; Acts 26:7). who are dispersed abroad - The dispersion (Diaspora) referred to the Jews living outside of Palestine.

The immediate cause of this scattering was probably the persecution that occurred after the martyrdom of Stephen (cf. Acts 8:1; 11:19), James now writes to them as the head of the home church in Jerusalem.

He writes with authority, using 54 imperatives in the 108 verses of the letter. It is the most Jewish of all the New Testament letters. It is clear from the letter that these Jews are professing believers.

III. The Greeting

- This word has the basic meaning of rejoice and is related to the word "joy" in verse 2. This was a normal greeting in Greek letters, but is never used by Paul.

The Theme

The thrust of James' letter is that faith must be alive and working, He does not concentrate on the doctrinal content of faith, but is concerned with the ethical demands of faith.

The key verse which clearly expresses this theme is 2:17: "Faith, if it has no works, is dead." Evidently there was a laxness among these Jews in the area of living their faith. James writes firmly to correct this error. One writer noted: "As long as there are professed Christians who are prone to separate profession and practice, the message of James will continue to be relevant" (Hiebert).

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
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