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Introduction to the Books of the Bible

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The Letter from James





BOOK : James

Description : A letter by the leader of the Jerusalem church to Christians scattered by persecution.

Author: James, possibly the brother of Jesus

Date written : Probably late 50's, early 60's AD. Possibly one of the earliest letters

Chapters : 5



Brief Synopsis:

•  Reaching out to scattered Christians James gives specific guidance for understanding handling trials an temptations that may come with persecution.
•  Much of the rest of the letter is given over to guidance on how to live as a Christian in the world, holding to God's teaching.
•  The latter part of the final chapter exhorts the Christian to be patient while he or she waits for the lord's return and he finishes with a series of very practical aspects of living the Christian life, that may be seen as acts of faith for the spiritual person.





1:1 Greetings
1:2-18 Handling Trials, Testings and Temptations

1:2-4 Rejoice in trials that build perseverance & maturity

1:5-8 Seek God's wisdom to handle trials

1:9-11 Accept your place in life

1:12 Perseverance will be rewarded

1:13-15 Understand temptation

1:16-18 Realise who you are and receive God's goodness in it all

1:19-5:6 Behavioral Issues for the Christian

1:19-27 Chosen people obey God's teaching

2:1-12 Believers don't show Favoritism

2:14-26 Real Faith is seen in its Deeds

3:1-12 Good acts include our speech

3:13-18 Good acts flow out of godly wisdom

4:1-6 Beware worldly attitudes and behaviour

4:7-10 Getting right with God

4:11-12 Speak well of others

4:13-17 Beware making rash plans

5:1-6 The perils of wealth

5:7-20 Miscellaneous Exhortations

5:7-11 Be patient & steadfast waiting for the Lord

5:12-20 Examples of practical faith as a Christian   



Some Key Verses:


The opening indicator – to scattered Christians

1:1 To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:


Opening directions to a scattered persecuted people

1:2,3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance


A call to obey God's word

1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says


The relationship of faith to deed

2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?


A good life should be obvious

3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom


We include more verses and references in the Conclusion below



Concluding Comments


The letter of James has strong Jewish overtones but is clearly for believers and specifically for those scattered. The opening, “ To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations,” has been taken by some to mean scattered Jews but if they were they were clearly Christian believers. It is more like the simply mean, to all Christians scattered because of the persecutions.

It is strong on faith and strong on action and clearly wants Christians to stand out because of their goodness.


It's teaching is specific and direct and there are a number of similarities with the Sermon on the Mount. Compare

•  Jas 2:5 with Mt 5:3
•  Jas 3:10-12 with Mt 7:15-20;
•  Jas 3:18 with Mt 5:9;
•  Jas 5:2-3 with Mt 6:19-20;
•  Jas 5:12 with Mt 5:33-37


There is an intriguing mix of teaching with deep insight, and very basic straight forward teaching.

Insight passages might include:

•  Good aspects of trials and tests 1:2-4

•  Understanding temptation 1:13-15

•  The need to obey and not merely listen to God's word 1:22-25

•  On not showing favoritism 2:1-9

•  The relationship between faith and deeds 2:14-26

•  On the need to control the tongue 3:3-12

•  On godly wisdom 3:13-18

Simple instructions include:

•  2:1 don't show favoritism (but then goes on with teaching why)

•  4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil (simple spiritual warfare!)

•  4:11 do not slander one another

•  5:9 Don't grumble against each

•  5:12 do not swear (make oaths)

James also has a strong ‘holiness' aspect and an aversion for godless thinking – ‘the world' - very similar to John's thinking in his first letter (see 1Jn 2:15,16) e.g.

1:21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world

4:4 don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.



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