Archive for May, 2008

June 1st, 2008 – James 1:1-12

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

The Book of James
Living with a Faith Perspective
James 1:1-12

Introduction

The Author

James, referred to in church history as “James the Just,” is the eldest of the four sons of Joseph and Mary: James, Joseph, Simon, Judas (Jude)(see Matt. 13:55; Mk. 6:3). There were also at least three sisters cf. “all His sisters” (Matt. 13:56), bringing the total to at least seven brothers and sisters.

He was raised in a godly home, but did not believe that his older brother, Jesus, was the Messiah (cf. Matt. 12:46; Mk. 3:20, 21, 31, 32; Jn. 2:12; 7:3, 5, 10), until after Jesus’ resurrection (1 Cor. 15:7).

Being a half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ and a personal eyewitness of His resurrection elevated him to a place of far reaching influence in the early church. (cf. Acts. 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 2:9, 12; James 1:1; Jude 1). He was in Jerusalem as a key leader in the Church three years after Paul’s conversion (Gal. 1:19).

The Audience and Date of Writing

The Book of James is perhaps the earliest of the New Testament books – most likely early to mid-40’s AD. The epistle reflects no knowledge of the existence of Gentile Christians. And although containing only five direct quotes from the Old Testament (1:11; 2:8, 11, 23; 4:6), the atmosphere of the Old Testament dominates the book. James refers to his readers as either “brethren” or “beloved brethren” nineteen times [1:2, 9, 16, 19; 2:1, 5, 14, 15; 3:1, 10, 12; 4:11 (3X); 5:7, 9, 10, 12, 19]. Additionally, he addresses the matter of their mutual “faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (2:1). James’ readers, therefore, are Jewish Christians: “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (1:1).

The theological perspective of James was that which had been developed from the teachings of Christ as He set forth the true righteousness of the kingdom – particularly in the Sermon on the Mount.

JAMES SERMON ON THE MOUNT
James 1:2 Matthew 5:10-12
James 1:4 Matthew 5:48
James 1:5; 5:15 Matthew 7:7-12
James 1:9 Matthew 5:3
James 1:20 Matthew 5:22
James 2:13 Matthew 5:7; 6:14-15
James 2:14-16 Matthew 7:21-23
James 3:17-18 Matthew 5:9
James 4:4 Matthew 6:24
James 4:10 Matthew 5:3-5
James 4:11 Matthew 7:1-2
James 5:2 Matthew 6:19
James 5:10 Matthew 5:12
James 5:12 Matthew 5:33-37

The Theme

The commentary tradition is in total agreement that the Book of James is not a book about how a person may be saved; rather, it is a book about how those who are saved are to live. It could, perhaps, be best described as a handbook on Christian living. Here is a sampling of what some of the commentators have said:

“To give directions concerning the living of the Christian life.” Curtis Vaughn, A Commentary on James.

“Many…have thought they detected contradictory teaching in the letter of James, to that of Paul as set forth in Romans and Galatians; but careful examination of these letters will show that they were treating of altogether different subjects. Paul was dwelling on justification before God; James on justification before men.” H. A. Ironside, Expository Notes on the Epistles of James and Peter.

“The book is concerned with the practical aspects of Christian conduct; it tells how faith works in everyday life.” C. C. Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible.

“…to exhort the early believers to Christian maturity and holiness of life.” J. Ronald Blue, The Bible Knowledge Commentary.

In sum, we have a serious task ahead of us: namely, to properly interpret the intended meaning of James within the grammatical-historical context in which he wrote. We cannot read back into it the developed doctrines of the Pauline epistles, but must understand it within the framework of doctrine as it had developed during the early years of a Jewish Christian Church.

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE MEANING OF TRIALS (1:3-4).
    1. Trials are not the same as temptations.

      [Compare 1:2 with 1:13-15. Also, Heb. 2:18; 4:14-16]

    2. Trials are essential to our growth.

      We are to consider life’s trials (pop quizzes and exams) as a totally joyful experience. Why? Because God expects us to have a correct interpretation of reality!

    3. Read Heb. 12:1-3, 5-11.

      What is the intended product of trials? Endurance!

    4. The endurance developed by trials results in growth.

      The apostle Paul addressed the same process in Romans 5:1-5.

  2. IF ANYONE IS DEFICIENT IN WISDOM, HE SHOULD ASK GOD (1:5-8).
    1. Wisdom has to do with the practical skills necessary to live and enjoy life. It is the application of those skills in dealing with life’s trials that brings about growth and maturity.
    2. God is the source of the wisdom we need (cf. human wisdom in 3:13-18) – and we must come to him for it!
    3. God gives generously to his children who ask in faith.
    4. Humility before God is represented here! The opposite is self-sufficiency and arrogance!

      A double-minded man is one whose devotion to God is less than total. His attention is divided between God and other things, and as a consequence he is unstable and therefore unable to receive from God.

  3. GOD’S STRUCTURE OF SOCIETY (1:9-11).

    Every person has been assigned a station in life – some with wealth, some with poverty, and many in between. Our spheres of ministry, therefore, differ because our life is our ministry. And our resources are provided by God as support for our ministries. The management of our resources is designed to equip us for future responsibilities:

    “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 11:16)

    How we see ourselves in our particular station of life will play an important role in how we progress in the maturity process.

    1. The Person of Humble Means (1:9)

      He is to take pride in his high position: he is a child of God (1 Jn. 5:1); he is a citizen of heaven (Phil. 3:20); he is an heir of God (Rom. 8:12-17); his maturity is not hindered by his station in life (Eph. 3:16-19)

      The point: Those who are of humble means are to understand that they have been assigned their station by God, and their station is in no way a reflection of who they are as a person.

    2. The Person Who Is Rich (1:10-11)

      He is to take pride in his humiliation (a metaphor for spiritual abasement). How? By considering his wealth as transitory and uncertain. The wealthy don’t have status in heaven (it doesn’t transfer!) His station in life is designed by God as a test of his faith. Riches are as transitory and uncertain as the life of flowers and grass.

      Point: Having wealth does not mean that you know how to skillfully handle money (many rich people go broke because of this); further, when wealth fails, many wealthy people have a very difficult time in making lifestyle adjustments – usually because of arrogance and pride (save face, etc.).
      The spiritually mature rich person is one who has come to believe that the pursuit and retention of wealth is no longer his primary consideration – faithfulness and Christ-likeness is!

  4. BLESSED IS THE ONE WHO ENDURES TESTING (1:12).
    1. Blessed is the Greek word makarios which means blessed, fortunate, happy – usually in the sense of one being the recipient of divine favor.
    2. Endures is the verb hupomone, (v. 3) – steadfast endurance; and testing is the term peirasmos (see v. 3) – the normal tests and trials of life.
    3. We have already learned that proper biblical responses to the tests of our faith show the proven character of our faith. It is faith that characteristically produces godly responses to life that results in endurance – which is essential to growing up!
    4. He will receive the crown of life.

      “Because” introduces us to the reason why he is blessed: “. . . because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

      A crown is a symbol of victory, honor, or distinction. Therefore, to crown someone is to confer upon them honor, dignity, or reward.

      There are four crowns that are mentioned in the New Testament:

      Crown of righteousness. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day– and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

      Crown of glory and honor. “You made him [man] a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor” (Heb. 2:7; cf. 2:9).

      Crown of glory. “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers– not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Pet. 5:1-4).

      Crown of life. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12; cf. Rev. 2:10). The term life is an adjective used to describe the crown. In this case is likely refers to the deliverance of a believer’s life into eternity via rewards at the judgment seat of Christ (we will discuss this in detail when we get to verse 21).

  5. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Think critically about what’s going on in your life.
    • View the trials and afflictions of your life as the hand of Gold molding you into His
    • Consider how you can help those around you to grow. Prayerful interaction with them, etc.
    • If you have a tendency to blame others for your unhappiness, or if you are looking for others to provide you with what will (in your own thinking) make you happy, you are not thinking biblically about life.
    • Work very hard – in the power of the Spirit – to make personal change in your life.
    • Take responsibility for your own stuff!!

Starting Next Week..

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Starting the week of May 26th, 2008, we’ll be publishing a weekly overview of the next Sunday school lesson. You can subscribe to the feed by using the link on the right. You can also signup to have the lessons emailed to you each week.