James Concise Study

James 1:1: James undoubtedly wrote this book to Christians.  He may be referring to the spiritual Israel here, but perhaps he is writing to an audience of churches composed of Jewish Christians outside of Judea.  Regardless, the principles here are intended for all Christians since the same Gospel is sent to both Jews and gentiles with the same promises and requirements.  

The Apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders, who were over a church composed of both Jewish and non-Jewish Christians in Acts 20:20-21: “…I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house,  Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The earliest Christians were ethnic Jews or gentiles who had already converted to Judaism, and James may be the first book in the New Testament in terms of chronology (the first in terms of when it was written).  

1:2: This book’s theme is handling suffering as a Christian, and it gives instruction which is especially useful at such a time, though the things said here generally apply to life overall.

1:4: Those who endure Christian tribulation faithfully, embracing Christian discipline which gets thrust upon them to a high degree in the midst of this, obtain renewed minds and greater faith so that they are much better able to see all of life from  heaven’s perspective and they learn by experience the a sufficiency of God’s grace in a practical way.

James 1:5: God is not cruel.  Those who ask Him for wisdom shouldn’t think that He is up there insulting them and despising them for being so stupid that they would need wisdom concerning the matter.

1:6: He or she shouldn’t doubt God’s willingness to help them, and they need to be ready to cooperate with the wisdom He shows them without their own agenda interfering.  Any true wisdom from the true God is in line with His Word and a basis for it can be found in His Word.

James 1:7: There are Biblical promises which are negative.

James 1:8: Balaam in the Old Testament would be an extreme example of this.  Cain would be another obvious example.  Many examples of this can be found in Scripture.  Those looking for a fresh Bible study topic could consider and study the examples of this in the Bible and the ways such double-mindedness was demonstrated practically.

James 1:9-10: We’re talking about poverty of richness of spirit here, yet verse 11 will show a key theme in this epistle, that echoes the tendency which Jesus so greatly stressed in the Gospels, that riches greatly tend to make people proud before God and to trust in a false security.  Remember too that most in the first world,  now are materially rich by world and historical standards, and are materially better off than many who would have been considered rich in the first century.

Proverbs 18:10-11: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.  The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit (his own imagination).”

1:11: Psalm 62:9-10: “Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.  Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.”

1:12: Note the connection here between loving Him and enduring (not succumbing to) temptation.

1:15: No matter how happy those living in sin are, and no matter how much they are enjoying themselves, and no matter how much you must suffer to not give into sin, sin is never worth it.  Considering the end of sin, I’ll find fun another way thank you or I won’t have any fun at all.  And better to be miserable and/or die an untimely physical death than to deny the Lord and sin. 

A key cross reference which is in line with James 1:12 and James’ purpose in writing these things.  

Revelation 14:9-12: “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand (and the consequence of not doing so will be exclusion from the world economic system which means no buying or selling), The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.  Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”

1:18: This could be said of all authentic Christians, but perhaps James especially does have the earliest Jewish Christians in mind in saying this.  These might be the 144,000 spoken of in Revelation chapters 7 and 14. The Gospel of Christ was preached to Jews first; and those who believed the Gospel in the earliest years of Christianity were the foundation of the Christian church which gentiles were soon added to without even the need to be circumcised and keep the Jewish ceremonial ordinances, Cornelius in Acts chapter ten being the first of these.

James 1:19: “Wherefore” refutes the heresy that God imputes Jesus Christ’s personal righteousness to the Christian.  Christians must walk in the light of God’s Word to be cleansed by Jesus’ blood, exercising a living faith in Jesus Christ unto righteous and godly conduct.  A person’s faith or unbelief do, considering God’s omniscience, demonstrate their faith or unbelief in Jesus Christ.  James will further elaborate on this going forward.

James 1:20: Yet God has delegated His wrath to man in certain circumstances.  James isn’t eliminating the possibility that a Christian could ever exercise righteous wrath.  Those who are quick to speak though, and quick to wrath, will surely cross lines and commit all manner of sin.

James 1:22: Some of the greatest and most subtle deception related to Christianity is rooted in environments where there is a lot of Bible talk- even perhaps where there are constant reminders that we need to not just be hearers of the word but doers.  It is sure to happen when false doctrine prevails, or the leadership is undiscerning, and/or the group has little fellowship outside of church and/or does little ministry together outside of the meeting.  

James 1:23: Or, a mirror.

1:24: The fact that he is not wholeheartedly aiming to keep the Word and please God blinds him to his true and constant need before God.

1:25: The Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes one free from the law of sin and death.

John 8:31-36 complements this well.  “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?  Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.  And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

James 1:26: And there is even a time and place when further Bible talk is unnecessary and perhaps even counterproductive.  That’s not saying we can’t quench God’s Spirit and sin by silence- because we can.  Going back to verse five, wisdom is profitable to direct.  

Ecclesiastes 8:5-6: “Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.  Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.”

Because man typically does not take heed to God’s Word and rather goes his own way.

1:27: We need to have this!  Widows and orphans represent any in true need.  And keeping oneself unspotted from the world is multi-faceted.  Going to live out in the wilderness of Alaska won’t do it.  We’re about to get into an example which I think few would consider when they hear that term.

2:4: Though James is using the example of preferring the rich over the poor because that is obviously a common sin people commit, we cannot be respecters of persons at all! 

2:5: This is not saying that all poor people will be saved or it’s not saying that only poor people can be saved.  However, these have the greatest capacity for genuine faith.  Since we must be poor in spirit to be saved, there is a sense in which any who would be saved and enter God’s kingdom must relate to Him as a poor person.

Remember: Proverbs 18:10-11: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.  The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.”

Also consider in relation to man with God.  Proverbs 22:7: “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

And we saw back in 1:27 how exercising pure and undefiled religion before God means visiting the needy in their affliction.  You can’t really do that without identifying with such.

James 2:6-7: Blaspheming His name can be done through professing to love Jesus while serving money.  The rich, especially the ultra-rich, tend to be obsessed with money, power, and the pleasures and cares of life while practically denying the true God- even if they profess to love Him.  James is exhorting the Christians not to regard these as above other people.  The exhortation is no less applicable now.

2:10: Consider the context.  James is indeed saying we need to keep God’s law- as a guide to a living, authentic faith in Christ- not as a means of earning God’s favor or of atoning for our sins.  Those who seek to use the Law in such a manner will find wrath and damnation. When Paul spoke of justification by faith he made it clear that we establish the law by faith, not make it void.  Paul never used the term “justified by faith alone”; that is a Protestant heresy which is no more able to save than the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox sacramental systems.  Biblical justification by faith is something else, and James is explaining it here.

2:11: Isaiah 1:28: “And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed.”

Revelation 22:14-15: “Blessed are they that do his commandments (that is, relating to God as their ultimate authority whom they are indebted to and who need of Christ’s blood to atone for their sins while living in subjection to His commandments as a guide to walking before Him by faith- since we must receive Jesus for all that He is since the Passover Lamb had to be eaten in its entirety) that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.  For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”

1 John 1:6-7: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

James 2:13: Not loving one’s neighbor as themselves through respecting persons, or for whatever reason, is not showing mercy in the way God requires.

Micah 6:8: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” 

Vs 17: Don’t think helping the needy is optional for you- as an individual- with your own money and possessions- not lobbying to enlist the Government to use other people’s money for that.

James 2:18: Only works that show you’ve embraced Christ’s Gospel and Christianity as a package which molds your mind and your conduct.  James’ emphasis here doesn’t negate the other aspects of Christianity.

2:19: Those who defend their unchristian character and behavior with “Hey, I believe in God” or “Hey, I believe in Jesus Christ” are being rebuked.

Vs 20: Again, works demonstrating one embraces Christ and the package of Christian doctrine with their whole being.  Not works which one throws together in a self-made package and thinks God should accept it (like Cain did).

2:23: Abraham’s faith was tested. Having faith previously didn’t guarantee he’d pass this test.  He had to endure in faith; and to do this he had to do something very difficult.  Abraham demonstrated his faith by his works, and there were many, many tests- offering up Isaac is just the most notable one.

2:24: We should look carefully then and pay particularly close attention to these principles.

2:25: I’ve heard it suggested that this word translated as harlot would have been better translated as innkeeper.  Regardless, Rahab surely didn’t remain a harlot if she had indeed been one.

2:26: I That is a very clear and plain illustration to take to heart.

3:1: Or, teachers.

3:2a: He’s speaking about a tendency; not a guarantee.  The rest of the verse proves this.  

3:2b: He is still on the topics of enduring temptation, being doers of the Word, keeping oneself unspotted from the world, and walking in an authentic faith in Christ.  Those who hear these studies regularly know I emphasize a lot that there are no chapter breaks in the original text.  I probably sound like a broken record and a little ridiculous, but nevertheless, it is important to know this so we don’t read anything in the Bible disconnected from its proper context.

3:6: This doesn’t change for introverted, typically quiet people or even disabled people who have to communicate without using their voice.  The quality of one’s speech is derived from one’s heart, and that is the main point here.  At the same time, much sin can easily come by speaking many words and losing control of one’s tongue.  That is a key way one can sin and overall be a destructive influence.  And Proverbs 17:27-28 says: “He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.  Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”

3:8: James principally means apart from the grace of God, though people who are not converted to Jesus Christ can sometimes put Christians to shame in this area.  I think it is important to understand that James is speaking of this as a general rule, emphasizing that taming the tongue is a whole other level of difficulty for mankind than taming animals and controlling things like ships.

3:9: Or, image of God.  All people are made in the image of God.  Being fallen in sin does not change that.  Yet God’s image in a fallen person along the lines of a damaged product or a torn painting.  A true Christian abiding in Jesus Chtrist is authentically being restored to God’s original intention.  There is still the image of God still in every person which we must honor.

3:11: The blessings towards God which any person speaks are bitter if there is cursing in them which is contrary to God’s Law towards any person.

3:14: And one’s words are virtually certain to prove this.  Many don’t care though and many are too quick to disregard evidence against themselves.  Even fewer will embrace God’s remedy by dying to sin with Christ in order to live to God through Him in newness of life.

3:17: First, pure.  That must be taken into account with what follows lest we condemn Jesus cleansing the Temple.  We’ve already heard a lot about being without partiality and without hypocrisy.  People who are regularly angry and prone to outbursts are virtually certain to be filled with partiality and hypocrisy.

3:18: Consider here:

Proverbs 18:8: “He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail.”

Proverbs 29:22: “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.”

These sure apply to all who generally operate in anger and all who don’t control their anger.  

4:1: The topic hasn’t changed.

4:3: This defines the Prosperity Gospel people and the healing in the atonement teachers, that is what they entice their audience to,and besides that they are liars.

4:4: Going back to chapter one verse 27.

4:5: I have to say that I am not sure whether verse five is referring to the fact that God is a jealous God or whether this is a reference to the constant pull in our flesh to seek gratification by forbidden means. I think it’s profitable to consider this verse from both perspectives since they are both true though I am nearly sure James had one of these specifically in mind in writing this.

4:6-7: Receiving God’s grace involves submitting to Him.  We are told in Hebrews to look diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God.  It is not bestowed upon a person unconditionally.

4:11a: It seems that James has been building up to this point, in no way negating how the things he has previously said apply in many other ways.  He is warning the Christians who are facing tribulation not to turn one another and not to vilify one another as adversity and frustrating circumstances can easily push us to.  

4:11b: Proving that Christians are under the moral law of God in the New Covenant.  And it proves that the negative speaking he is coming against is negative speaking which is contrary to God’s Law.  Like many things, killing and divorce and for example, there are narrow circumstances where such things are actually righteous, and it would be sin not to do them.  A man must put away a truly morally corrupt wife defiling his home, but not put away his wife otherwise; convicted murderers and those convicted of certain other heinous crimes should be killed and those who are an imminent threat to life might need to be killed, but killing humans is murder otherwise.  There are times when righteousness demands a person be witnessed against or called by an unpleasant term, but not of one’s own accord.  

4:13: James isn’t violating the counsel which he had just given by giving a rebuke to those who are presumptuous about life, perhaps now turning to those at ease who perhaps aren’t tempted much to speak evil of their brother but are nevertheless not adequately concerned with doing the good before God which they ought to do.  This counsel couldn’t even be regarded as hostile unless someone had a highly inflated perspective about their own life.

4:14-17: Many people die well before old age.  Every old person who dies was once a younger person, was once my age or your age, at least regarding those of us who are not elderly yet.  Think of the span of 1200 to 1300 AD.  What is the span of 1200 to 1300 AD to us now?  Just a brief period in the history books besides the fact that God will deal with what happened then according to His Word on Judgment Day and measure out eternal consequences for.  Yet people then thought their lives were something.  Man is on earth a short time- even the longest living.  And what happens under the sun which is not ancient history will surely be such eventually.  Consider how relevant this mild rebuke is in its context.

James 5:1: In speaking to rich men directly, though he might have counted on some rich men reading this, he is teaching the Christians not to overestimate the benefit of riches nor regard the rich too highly.  Many now need the same lesson.  Look at how many Instagram followers many celebrities have.  Don’t think this lesson is any less relevant now.

James 5:3: It is almost like James foresaw people collecting cars and other expensive stuff that they rarely or never actually use at all.

James 5:4: Or Lord of hosts or armies.

James 5:5: Think of cows getting fattened up before they’re slaughtered.  That is whom James is comparing the rich who live in pleasure to.

James 5:6: Because he cannot resist.  This is not teaching pacifism.  Look to the Law of God to consider when force is necessary or permitted.  Paul made use of the Roman Army in Acts chapter 23 to protect him from a plot of unbelieving Jews to kill him.  Yet Paul was often beaten by the local authorities or didn’t receive help from the authorities, and he was probably eventually beheaded by the Romans when they directly turned against him.  When the authorities do turn against Christians, there are often powerful rich men behind that.  If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?  

James 5:7-8: This proves, especially considering the beginning of the epistle, that this epistle is at least principally intended to renew the minds and perspective of the Christians in adverse circumstances whom James is writing to.  Yet the truths given in establishing this perspective are instructions which everyone in whatever circumstance ought to heed.

5:7-8: James is also emphasizing here that God is being patient with those not converted to Christ and with backslidden Christians in hope that they will come to repentance and be saved.  This is a key consideration as we wonder why God does not intervene and deal with wickedness like He will when Christ returns.

James 5:11: Having the testimony of God’s Word on a matter should be regarded as certain regarding what God’s Word teaches about it.  James is taking it for granted that his readers know about the Book of Job and the Old Testament.  Whatever is in the Bible that we’re not familiar with, we need to get familiar with it.

5:12: God commanded oaths under narrow circumstances in His Law, and we have the example of Apostles making oaths.  James, speaking in line with what Jesus said in the Gospels, obviously means not taking it upon oneself to make an oath when that is not legally necessary and/or when one really does not know that what they are saying is certain.  Tribulation and adversity could especially push one to do such a thing.  Consider this in the following verses.

James 5:13: It’s not right to try to get someone to act merry when they’re afflicted.  I’ve seen that happen in certain churches.

James 5:14-16: It’s especially important to consider verses 14 to 16 together.  James is particularly dealing with a Christian who has strayed and has been made sick as a judgmental chastening from God (like 1 Corinthians chapter 11 talks about).  Christians can be sick for other reasons and God may not necessarily heal them (see Paul’s own testimony in 2 Corinthians 12, Timothy had often infirmities though there was no sick Paul rebuked him for in his epistles to Timothy, and Paul wrote about how he left Trophimus at Miletus sick in 2 Timothy chapter 4).  A bedridden Christian should still follow these instructions the best they are able, clear their conscience before God, and trust that if God does not heal them that His grace is sufficient, and He has lessons He wants them to learn in their affliction.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man still avails much, but God is not a slave to any person and our happiness is not His highest priority though He cares for us.

James 5:17-18: Elijah obviously was in tune with God and discerned this would glorify Him and serve an important righteous purpose.  

James 5:19-20: Like we see in 1 John 5, James is commending the potential power of prayer in order that Christians would have their priorities established and understand that nothing is more important than saving a straying Christian brother or sister.  Those who believe in unconditional eternal security and Calvinistic perseverance cannot receive this while holding to their doctrine.  Related to being doers of the Word, and not hearers only, we ought to live this out practically and not just contend for its doctrinal implications.  We also get a reminder here of the magnitude of the consequences at stake regarding the salvation of a soul.  And this also should remind us of the great price which Christ paid to give His soul as an offering for sin to purchase the possibility of redemption for us.

Aaron’s email is: [email protected]