Summary of James
It seems that the most reasonable author of James is Jesus’ brother, James. The most rational time for the writing of this book is probably around A.D. 46-48.
The theme of James seems to be that of tying faith and works together. Apparently there were some who thought that if they had faith then they were good to go and didn’t need to do anything else. Then there were some who did good works yet, they had no faith. James wants to make it clear that faith and good works must go together. If you truly do have faith in Christ Jesus, then your good works will prove it and vise versa.
A. What is the author telling me in James 1:1?
This letter begins with an introduction of who the author is and who he is writing to. James is a bondservant of God. He is writing to the twelve tribes scattered abroad.
B. How should I respond to James1:1?
Because I am God’s bondservant, I need to serve Him in everything. James clearly enjoys being a servant of God because he calls himself that. I also should rejoice to be God’s servant.
A. James 1:2-18
James instructs us to rejoice in our trials, and to ask God for wisdom in faith. He warns us that those who do doubt are like a wave of the sea tossed about. He warns us that the rich man although he may have plenty of wealth now will eventually wither away, along with his possessions. He exhorts us to endure temptation, for such a man shall be blessed. He also instructs them not to blame it on God when they fall into temptation, because God is not tempted nor does He tempt others. He explains that when we are tempted it is because we have been drawn away by our own desires instead of the desires of the Lord.
When I am lacking in wisdom I should ask God for it, yet, I must ask in faith. One who doubts God is a double-minded man and I do not want to be such a man (woman). When I am tempted, it is because I am being drawn away by my own desires. My faith is built up in the fact that God is not the one who tempts me, but rather, will help me to overcome temptation if I ask Him.
A. James 1:19-2:26
James encourages us to be slow to speak, slow to wrath, but quick to hear. He exhorts us, though, to not only be a hearer, but a doer as well. For we are not just to hear God’s Word preached to us, but we are also to obey and do God’s Word. He commands them to have no partiality with anyone, for example, not to esteem a rich man better than the poor, thus, giving him the better seat at a gathering. James goes on to say that faith and works go hand and hand together. You can’t have one without the other. For if you have faith, but no works, how then can you show that you really do believe, because your faith is proved by your works.
Most of the time, it will be more important for me to listen and not speak. Why else did God give me two ears, but only one mouth? Yet, I should not just listen to God’s Word, but I also need to obey God’s Word, therefore, I need to be a doer and not just a hearer. I should not show partiality with people, but esteem each one precious and important, just as Christ does. I cannot have faith without works or vise versa, because my faith is proved by my works.
A. James 3:1-4:12
James warns us about our tongue. He says it is an unruly evil full of deadly poison. With our tongue we bless God and with our tongue we curse men, who are made in the image of God. He also warns us against worldly wisdom which is self seeking and bitter; rather we should seek wisdom from God, which is good and peaceable. Where do wars come from? James says they come out of a desire for pleasure and to have what we do not have. He says we either do not ask at all or ask but do not receive because we are asking for the wrong things. If we are to be friends with the world then we must be at enmity with Christ. He exhorts us to turn from our double-mindedness and pride. Instead we should be humble and submit to God. We are not to speak evil of or judge anyone, because in so doing we judge the law, which makes us a judge of the law not a doer of the law.
I need to watch my tongue carefully because it is unruly. I should desire true wisdom which is from God and not from this world. The wisdom of this world is seeking my own glory, but the wisdom of God is seeking His glory and living in good conduct and peaceably. To live for this world is to be an enemy of Christ. I do not want to be His enemy; therefore, I need to submit to Him in all humility. It is not my business to judge others for what they do, but rather leave that to God, who is Judge over all.
A. James 4:13-5:11
James warns us against boasting about tomorrow when we do not even know if we will have a tomorrow. The rich have had their pleasures and treasures, but the day will come when they will be weeping, and gnashing their teeth. We are encouraged to persevere and be patient with one another; not grumble or complain towards each other.
My time on this earth is only a fleeting moment. I am not in control of how long I live, thus, why should I boast about what I am going to do in the future when I do not even know if I will be here still? Rather, I should say if the Lord wills then I shall do such and such a thing. I should live with all people in peace and without grumbling or complaining. I need to persevere till I reach the prize.
A. James 5:12-20
We are told to pray for those who are suffering, and to rejoice and sing with those who are happy. If someone is sick we are to pray for them in faith, so that they might be healed. He encourages us to pray earnestly in faith for it avails much. We are also to confess our trespasses to each other. He, who turns a wayward soul back to the truth, saves a soul and covers a multitude of sins.
I should be praying in faith for those who are suffering or are sick. Yet, I also should rejoice and sing praises to the Lord with those who rejoice. I, as part of the body of Christ, need to be confessing my sin and repenting with them.
James says, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James is basically saying right here, that you can’t just have one or the other, but you must have evidence. You must show your faith by your works. It takes a step of faith to do that which Christ calls us to do.