(The Epistle of James Chapter 1: 1—8)
The letter begins with a greeting from James.
James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.
It is generally thought that this James is James the Just, the half-brother of Jesus.
Speaking of Jesus.
Mat 13:55 Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
Also, James was the brother of Jude mentioned mentioned above and in
Jud 1:1 Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,
This James is the James that led the church in Jerusalem.
Act 15:13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
When Paul arrives in Jerusalem to deliver the money he raised for the faithful there, it is to James that he speaks, and it is James who insists that Paul ritually cleanse himself at Herod's Temple to prove his faith and deny rumours of teaching rebellion against the Torah.
Act 21:18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.
James, the writer of this letter is the same James who received a special resurrection appearance of Jesus.
1 Corinthians 15:7. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
This was probably the cause of his conversion, because up to that time the brothers of Jesus seemed unsupportive of His message and mission.
John 7:5. For neither did his brethren believe in him.
When James began to follow Jesus, he followed with great devotion. An early history of the church says that James was such a man of prayer that his knees had large and thick calluses, making them look like the knees of a camel. This apparently earned him the nickname “Camel knees”. It also says that James was martyred in Jerusalem by being pushed from a high point of the temple. Yet the fall did not kill him, and on the ground he was beaten to death, even as he prayed for his attackers.
Eusebius the early church father gives three versions of the death of James: one from Clement of Alexandria, one from Hegesippus, and one from Josephus.
James introduces himself.
James could have introduced himself as the brother of Jesus but he
didn’t, he simply said I am a bondservant of God and of the Lord
Jesus Christ: This statement is very significant in that what he was
saying was that Jesus was more than James’ brother; more importantly, Jesus was his Lord.
The word bondservant (greek – dulos) literally means a slave, James was acknowledging that Jesus was his master and Lord, (greek Kurios).
Kurios is the master of the Dulos (slave).
James was professing Jesus as God. The Greek Jews would have
understood exactly what James was saying here because they used the word Kurios as the name for God.
V1. To the twelve tribes: Whilst this epistle is relevant to all Christians, it may initially be addressed to converted Jews, Messianic Jews, who were scattered throughout the known world. It could be possible that this was a very early letter, written before the gentiles came into the church. Or, before the gentiles had joined the church in any significant number.
V1. Which are scattered abroad:
There is also the thought that some of the Apostles were designated as Apostles, specifically to the circumcision (the Jews).
Paul points out in the letter to the Galatians:
Gal 2:8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
Gal 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
Mat 10:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
So, whilst this epistle is relevant to all the church, it is quite clear that James was a pillar of the church and a bishop of Jerusalem and was an Apostle to the Jews (Circumcision).
The Messianic Jews were spread all over.
Josephus, the historian at the time of Christ wrote:
“There is no city, no tribe, whether Greek or barbarian, in which
Jewish law and Jewish customs have not taken root.”
Some would try to use the epistle of James to argue against salvation by faith apart from works, which many did.
Often using the verse “faith without works is dead”.
This is what caused Martin Luther to remark that James is “an epistle of straw”.
However we can see from another quotation by Luther, that shows that he preached exactly the same message as did James.
O it is a living, busy active mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good things incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done this, and is constantly doing them. Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever. He gropes and looks around for faith and good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Yet he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works.
What Luther is saying here is that faith without works is indeed dead but what we need to understand, is that works without faith is
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
James 2:17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
If faith does not produce works, it is a dead faith.
Jesus said in Matt 7:19, Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
How do we recognise new birth? A changed life and a changed life will bring forth fruits of righteousness.
How can we recognise an apple tree? It brings forth apples.
This is how we can examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith.
2 Cor 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
Now this is not to say that an unbeliever cannot do a good work. Of course many unbelievers do good things, working for charities, helping others and living what appears to be a decent life.
However, these works are not bourne out of love for God, they are works of the flesh and receive the reward in the flesh. These are not the works of righteousness.
This is why God says,
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Good works, that proceed from faith are the fruit of righteousness and have their roots in God.
This is proven in the scriptures that say, “salvation is by faith alone and not of works”.
Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
V1. Greetings: The salutation Greetings, was the customary Greek way of opening a letter. Paul never used it; he preferred to salute his readers with the words grace and peace. Here James used this more customary
Jas 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Trials for a Christian are inevitable. Jesus told us this:
As Christians we are never promised an easy life but we can have peace in the world, amidst tribulation.
John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
We can V2. count it all joy in the midst of trials, because trials are used to produce patience.
- And not only [so], but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that
tribulation worketh patience;
How can we learn patience without trial, if we are never tried we will never know what patience is.
It is no good us praying, “Lord give me patience” and then grumbling when trials beset us.
Romans 8:18 - For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
It is interesting the way James writes this, the word “greeting” (Greek - chairein) and “joy” (Greek - charan).
It is as though James is saying “greet various trials with joy”
The KJV says “when ye fall into divers temptations”.
The New King James seems a better translation, when it says “when you fall into trials”
It appears that James is referring to trials or persecution here rather than personal temptation.
V2. When you fall into: The context here seems to be falling into
distress and not falling into sin.
Jas 1:3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
Jas 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Patience: (Greek – hupomone), this does not refer to sitting and waiting but an active endurance.
It means to “remain under”. To stand under trial, to not give up or
V3. Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience: Notice here that testing and trial, does not produce faith but it does produce
Romans 10:17 tells us: So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Faith is produced by the word of God, by the Holy Spirit quickening our hearts through the word.
Our faith is tested by trials so that our faith will be evident to ourselves and to those around us.
It is trials and testing and the standing firm in these, that produces
If we are tried and tested and do not “remain under”, (actively enduring) our trials but receive trial and temptation with unbelief and grumbling, then this can cause discouragement and bitterness.
This does not mean that we are to enjoy our trials, take pleasure in our sufferings.
However what it does mean is that when we come under persecution, tribulation, trials and testing, we should stand firm in our faith, counting it all joy that we suffer for Christ’s sake.
No one enjoys suffering or being tried but we can endure if we realise that God allows the trials for our benefit. We must believe that we will come through the trial and stronger for it.
1Cor 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
V4. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing:
Our great example is Christ Himself.
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This verse could be rendered “Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith”.
Christ set the perfect example of active endurance, enduring the cross, rejecting the shame and completing a perfect work.
Jesus knew that we would have to endure the wiles of the devil, the
persecution from the world and the fight against flesh.
So, He prayed for us:
John 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
The work of patient endurance comes slowly and must be allowed to
develop. Patient endurance is a mark of the person who is perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Sadly, the natural tendency to trials and tribulation is not to deepen our faith but to cause us to grumble and complain. We are very good at
complaining against God when things go wrong. However, this is a lack of faith, a lack of trust in God.
“Trials can prove a wonderful work of God in us. “I have looked back to times of trial with a kind of longing, not to have them return, but to feel the strength of God as I have felt it then, to feel the power of faith, as I have felt it then, to hang upon God’s powerful arm as I hung upon it then, and to see God at work as I saw him then.”
V5. If any of you lacks wisdom:
Vv 5-8 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Jas 1:6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
Jas 1:7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
Jas 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
What is wisdom?
Wisdom is the right application of knowledge.
We all acquire knowledge by reading, listening, watching and experience.
The more we read, watch and listen, the more knowledge we gain.
We can say that someone is very knowledgeable but are they wise?
It is one thing to know the facts about something but can I apply that knowledge.
Wisdom is the ability to rightly use the knowledge that one acquires.
Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing it does not go into a fruit salad.
We need both wisdom and knowledge because having only a book on how to assemble an engine (knowledge), is useless unless you have the wisdom of putting one together and remember that wisdom comes with age. (experience). Usually the older you are, the more trials you have
experienced. We learn from our experiences, we learn from our mistakes and sometimes we can learn from the mistakes of others.
Sadly, the unwise very often repeat the same mistakes.
Job 12:12 “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days”
The Apostle Paul wrote that
1 Cor 8:1 “all of us possess knowledge. This knowledge puffs up” and even if I “understand all mysteries and all knowledge [and] have not love, I am nothing” 1 Cor 13:).
A good example of wise application is the old adages: “He who hesitates is lost,” this can be true, but so is the idea that “haste makes waste.”
Which principle to use depends on the context. Those with wisdom know what actions to take next. They do the right thing in the given situation. In contrast, there are many who have great knowledge and understanding but who consistently do the wrong thing.
There are times in our lives when we have all the information and facts but what do we do with them, how do we apply them.
In trials, we need wisdom a lot more than we need knowledge.
Knowledge is raw information but wisdom knows how to use it.
In times of trial, it is imperative that we seek God.
V5 Let him ask of God: To receive wisdom, we simply ask of God – who gives wisdom generously (liberally), and without despising our request (without reproach).
Sometimes we will go anywhere before we will go to God, books,
magazines, the internet, our friends, our pastor or elder, or priest.
“We are all so ready to go to books, to go to men, to go to ceremonies, to anything except to God. . . . Consequently, the text does not say, ‘Let him ask books,’ nor ‘ask priests,’ but, ‘let him ask of God.'”
God knows best.
Jeremiah 29:11"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope."
God Knows Best by Helen Steiner Rice
Our Father knows what's best for us,
So why should we complain--
We always want the sunshine,
But He knows there must be rain--
We love the sound of laughter
And the merriment of cheer,
But our hearts would lose their tenderness
If we never shed a tear…
Our Father tests us often
With suffering and with sorrow,
He tests us, not to punish us,
But to help us meet tomorrow…
For growing trees are strengthened
When they withstand the storm,
And the sharp cut of a chisel
Gives the marble grace and form...
God never hurts us needlessly,
And He never wastes our pain
For every loss He send to us
Is followed by rich gain…
And when we count the blessings
That God has so freely sent,
We will find no cause for murmuring
And no time to lament...
For our Father loves His children,
And to Him all things are plain,
So He never sends us pleasure
When the soul's deep need is pain...
So whenever we are troubled,
And when everything goes wrong,
It is just God working in us
To make our spirit strong.
Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Who else can we go to when we need wisdom?
My dad used to say in his best Lancashire dialect. “If’n tha dun’t ax, tha dun’t get”. (If you don’t ask, you don’t get).
James 4:2 Ye lust, and have not; ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain. Ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
Joh 16:24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
If we ask for nothing , God will give us what we want…..Nothing!
However James 1: 5 tells us: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God,
If we ask, God will give to us. James 1:5 giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not;
V5. Upbraideth not: (Greek – Oneidezo) Without reproach:
“This is added, lest anyone should fear to come too often to God . . . for he is ready ever to add new blessings to former ones, without any end or limitation.”
Why would God resent us asking for wisdom? Our God is a generous God and knowing this, it should encourage us to ask Him often.
Notice, it is asking, not buying, not earning, not demanding, it is God that gives, it is us that receives.
V6. But let him ask in faith:
There is no point in approaching God with a request if we do not
approach in faith believing. God has said if we ask He will give. We know God can do it, so why wouldn’t He.
We must approach in faith but also, we must ask in faith.
V6. With no doubting . . . Our faith should be on a firm foundation of trust and reliance.
In contrast, one who doubts is not on a firm foundation but is like:
V6. Like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind:
A fitting description.
A wave has no rest. Just like the doubter.
A wave is unstable. Just like the doubter.
A wave is tossed about by the wind. So is the doubter.
A wave is capable of destruction. So is the doubter.
V7. let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord:
As was said earlier. If we ask for nothing, God will give us our
Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
We approach in faith, we ask in faith, we must also receive by faith.
V8. Double minded and Unstable in all his ways.
Double minded is saying, I believe but I don’t trust, I believe but I have no confidence in God.
If we did not have faith, we would never ask, if we did not believe we would not doubt.
So if we have faith, then we must come in faith, not doubting.
If we are in the middle, between faith and doubt, it is then that we are double minded and unstable in our ways.
We need to pray as the man did in Mark 9:24: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief .”
“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.'”