1241.) James 1

James 1

(J.B. Phillips New Testament)

“Luther was specially severe on James, and the adverse judgment of a great man on any book can be a millstone round that book’s neck forever.  It is in the concluding paragraph of his Preface to the New Testament that there stands Luther’s famous verdict on James:

In sum:  the gospel and the first epistle of St. John, St. Paul’s epistles, especially those to the Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians; and 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 book or hear any other teaching.  In comparison with these the epistle of James is an epistle full of straw, because it contains nothing evangelical.”

–William Barclay

But Luther’s remark should be understood in its context. He was sometimes frustrated because those who wanted to promote salvation by works quoted certain verses from James against him. His intention was to observe that there was little or nothing in James that preached the gospel of justification by faith alone. In another place Luther wrote regarding James, “I think highly of the epistle of James, and regard it as valuable . . . It does not expound human doctrines, but lays much emphasis on God’s law.”

–David Guzik

I think we will find James a practical and helpful book, one that puts in black  and white how a believer ought to behave.  For this reason, I am pointing out in our studies the many parts of James which echo the voice of Jesus Christ.

1 James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, sends greetings to the twelve dispersed tribes.

Which James?

Several different men named James are mentioned in the Bible, but tradition has long held that the author of this letter is James, the brother of Jesus.  This James, who was a leader of the Jerusalem church and who presided at the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), is identified in Galatians 1:19 as “the Lord’s brother.”  The early church historian Hegesippus called him “James the Just,” noting his extraordinary godliness, his zeal for obedience to the law of God, and his singular devotion to prayer.  It was said that James’ knees became so calloused from kneeling in prayer that they resembled the knees of camels.  Church tradition also has that James was martyred in AD 62, thrown down from the pinnacle of the temple.

The Christian can even welcome trouble

2-8When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!

“Welcome them as friends!”

Many years ago when I was a student at Wheaton College (IL), I heard Elisabeth Elliot give a chapel message based on this verse, to welcome trials “as friends.”  She spoke with great credibility of some of the trials she had endured, particularly the killing of her first husband, Jim Elliot, speared to death while bringing the Gospel to the Auca Indians in Ecuador.  She described these things with tenderness and, at the same time, a matter-of-fact-ness — that the words of Scripture are true, and that God does work all things together for good.  This verse is a call to understand suffering from the vantage point of confidence in God’s sovereignty and goodness.  Such an understanding does not come lightly, but to know the truth of that is to experience the joy of heaven on earth.  I have never forgotten the peace that was clearly shining on her face.

Psalm 66:8-9 (New Living Translation)

Let the whole world bless our God
      and loudly sing his praises.
Our lives are in his hands,
      and he keeps our feet from stumbling.

Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance.

Faith is not produced by trials; it is tested by them.  So how then do we gain faith?  Romans 10:17 tells us: So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Supernaturally, faith is built in us as we hear, understand, and trust in God’s word.

–David Guzik

But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 5:48 (New International Version)

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 7:7 (New International Version)

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether he really wants God’s help or not. The man who trusts God, but with inward reservations, is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from God, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn.

Do you believe that God can give you wisdom, and that he will do so if you ask him? Then, go at once to him, and say, “Lord, this is what I need.” Specify your wants, state your exact condition, lay the whole case before God with as much orderliness as if you were telling your story to an intelligent friend who was willing to hear it, and prepared to help you; and then say, “Lord, this is specifically what I think I want; and I ask this of thee believing that thou canst give it to me.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

9 The brother who is poor may be glad because God has called him to the true riches. 10-11 The rich may be glad that God has shown him his spiritual poverty. For the rich man, as such, will wither away as surely as summer flowers. One day the sunrise brings a scorching wind; the grass withers at once and so do all the flowers—all that lovely sight is destroyed. Just as surely will the rich man and all his extravagant ways fall into the blight of decay.

No temptation comes from God, only highest good

12The man who patiently endures the temptations and trials that come to him is the truly happy man. For once his testing is complete he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to all who love him. 13-16 A man must not say when he is tempted, “God is tempting me.” For God has no dealings with evil, and does not himself tempt anyone.

My mother used to say, “Satan tempts.  God tries.”  One is working for your defeat, the other for your victory.

No, a man’s temptation is due to the pull of his own inward desires, which can be enormously attractive. His own desire takes hold of him, and that produces sin. And sin in the long run means death—make no mistake about that, brothers of mine!

17-18 But every good endowment that we possess and every complete gift that we have received must come from above, from the Father of all lights, with whom there is never the slightest variation or shadow of inconsistency.

By his own wish he made us his own sons through the Word of truth that we might be, so to speak, the first specimens of his new creation.

Hear God’s Word and put it into practice: that is real religion

19-20In view of what he has made us then, dear brothers, let every man be quick to listen but slow to use his tongue,

Yes, you have two ears but only one mouth for a reason!

and slow to lose his temper. For man’s temper is never the means of achieving God’s true goodness. 21-25 Have done, then, with impurity and every other evil which touches the lives of others, and humbly accept the message that God has sown in your hearts, and which can save your souls. Don’t I beg you, only hear the message, but put it into practice; otherwise you are merely deluding yourselves.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 7:21 (New International Version)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

The man who simply hears and does nothing about it is like a man catching the reflection of his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, it is true, but he goes on with whatever he was doing without the slightest recollection of what sort of person he saw in the mirror. But the man who looks into the perfect mirror of God’s law, the law of liberty (or freedom), and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who sees and forgets. He puts that law into practice and he wins true happiness.

26 If anyone appears to be “religious” but cannot control his tongue, he deceives himself and we may be sure that his religion is useless.

27 Religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father will show itself by such things as visiting orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 25:35-36 (New International Version)

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

_________________________

Music:

A cry to be pure and genuine in the sight of God, by serving others — “Give Me Your Eyes”  by Brandon Heath.  Lyrics follow.

Looked down from a broken sky
Traced out by the city lights
My world from a mile high
Best seat in the house tonight
Touched down on the cold black top
Hold on for the sudden stop
Breath in the familiar shock
Of confusion and chaos
All those people going somewhere,
Why have I never cared?

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see
yeah
yeah

Step out on a busy street
See a girl and our eyes meet
Does her best to smile at me
To hide whats underneath
There’s a man just to her right
Black suit and a bright red tie
Too ashamed to tell his wife
He’s out of work
He’s buying time
All those people going somewhere
Why have I never cared?

I’ve Been there a million times
A couple of million eyes
Just moving past me by
I swear I never thought that I was wrong
Well I want a second glance
So give me a second chance
To see the way you see the people all along

_________________________

J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins

Images courtesy of:
Count it all joy.   http://oneyearbibleimages.com/james1.jpg
Hello, friend.  http://www.sodahead.com/fun/heres-your-sign-blockers-paradise/question-1516115/?page=4&link=ibaf&q=&imgurl=http://images.sodahead.com/profiles/0/0/0/4/9/3/3/4/2/Hello-Friend-37820539132.jpeg
Jesus.  http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_y2-pBuandlc/ReHTZens_-I/AAAAAAAAABo/aPEcnG40o7s/s320/Jesus.jpg
Doxology.    http://www.freehymnal.com/png/doxology.png
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2 Responses to 1241.) James 1

  1. Sue says:

    Really a rich reflection on James 1, Rebecca – thank you!

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