Verse 1: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” In this salutation we see James identifying himself plainly. If we accept that this is the fleshly brother of the Lord we can also see that he understood the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 12:46-50. James did not start out his letter by calling himself Reverend as that term applies only to God (Psalms 111:9). He did not call himself Rabbi, Father, or Master but recognized he was a servant (Matthew 23:8-11).
Those addressed are the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad”. The Jews had been scattered among every nation (Acts 2:5 and Acts 11:19). While Jewish Christians are addressed, we must realize that all Christians can fall into the spiritual Israel of now (Matthew 19:27-30, Galatians 3:9-29, Colossians 2:10-14, I Peter 2:9, and Revelation 21:1-2 [cf. Ephesians 5:22-32]). Truly, the Christian’s citizenship is in Heaven (Hebrews 12:22 and Hebrews 13:14).
Verses 2-4: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Here we find that we should be joyful in times of temptation. The Lord said we should even rejoice in persecution (Matthew 5:10-12). The trial of our faith allows us to be saved (I Peter 1:6-9). I have always thought at times of temptations that I must be doing something right if my adversary (I Peter 5:8) is working so hard to get me to fall. Trials of our faith will work to give us patience [endurance]. The more we have been tried the more we can take. Job is the classic example of this.
Verses 5-7: “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. 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. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” Knowledge comes from the word of God (II Peter 1:2-4) as we study it (II Timothy 2:15). What, in the age of miracles, THEY were to pray for here is wisdom. Specifically, in our context we are talking of trials so, the wisdom would be how to handle those trials. if they asked for wisdom they'd receive it (Matthew 7:7-11). One must ask in faith, and if we lack that faith we are not to think that God has done anything towards blessing us through our prayers. We find that God’s ears can be closed to those who lack the faith required to petition Him (Isaiah 59:1-2, John 9:31, and I Peter 3:12). The individual who lacks the required faith is tossed about like a wave. This type would be the imperfect [lacking knowledge] man Paul spoke of (Ephesians 4:13-14).
Verse 8: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” The phrase double minded appears only twice in the Bible. It appears here and then in James 4:8. A double minded person would be a doubter who lacks conviction enough to stand here or there on a given subject or matter.
Verses 9-11: “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.” Here we begin to see a specific type of trial. Poverty is compared to riches. While riches may bring earthly wealth and popularity they surely do nothing for anyone spiritually (Luke 6:20-26). With wealth TYPICALLY comes the love of money more than God (Luke 12:13-31).
Verse 12: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” The reward of our being steadfast and un-moveable is a crown of life (II Timothy 4:6-8 and Revelation 2:10).
Verse 13: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:”God does not try to make us sin by using evil. However, it is certain that He tests our faith (Hebrews 11:17-19). Plainly and clearly here, James is saying DO NOT BLAME GOD WHEN YOU SIN!! God does not use evil things, for God is not evil nor can He be tempted with evil. The next two verses display that it is we who need to accept the blame. God did not make us sin neither does He desire us to sin.
Verses 14-15: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” It is our choice not to follow the things we may lust after. For example: Moses chose to face persecution rather than enjoy sin (Hebrews 11:24-25). It is also great to know that God provides escape for His children so that they are not tempted above that which they are able to overcome (I Corinthians 10:13). Christians must think spiritually to remove the power of physical things that Satan may introduce to us to cause us to sin. We can learn not to allow ourselves to be tempted and sin (Titus 2:11-14).
Verse 16: “Do not err, my beloved brethren.” Plain and simple! Do not err.
Verse 17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” A cap off to what we have learned appears here. God does not give the bad and sinful, but the good and fruitful. Notice James 3:17. God does not deliver that which will destroy us, but that which will aid us. He did not send His Son to this earth so that we can be lost.
Verse 18: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” The word of God gives birth (I Peter 1:22-25). James points out that those he is addressing, including himself, were firstfruits of the Gospel. Once again, we find proof in this verse that this book is addressed to Jewish Christians. The Gospel went first to the Jews and not until Acts 10 did we see it go to the Gentiles. The same statement was made to Stephanas in relation to his house being the first converts of Achaia (I Corinthians 16:15). This statement was also made in relation to Christ’s resurrection (I Corinthians 15:20).
Verses 19-20: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” This verse sets up a theme we will see from here to James ch. 4. Hearing the word (1:19-27), speaking (3:1ff.), and wrath (4:1-12).The Bible teaches us to be careful how we hear (Luke 8:18). James says to hear swiftly (quickly). We need to be ready to listen. We need to learn from what the Lord says (Proverbs 2:6). While we must be quick to listen, we must be slow to speak (Proverbs 15:28; 21:23). Verse 20 summarizes the point made here. Wrath is something that we should contain. Wrath is intense anger. Notice the following passages: (Proverbs 14:17, Proverbs 15:1, and Colossians 3:8). When anger does occur we need to take note of what Paul said: Ephesians 4:26-27. These things all serve as to how we need to hear and respond to the Gospel.
Verse 21: “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” Here we learn to put aside all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness that we may be able to receive the word of God. A good heart and the word of God naturally come to equal the reception of the word resulting in salvation (Luke 8:11; 15).
Verse 22: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Hearing the word of God is not enough. Action is required in our obedience to God. Faith is not only felt it is shown (Hebrews Chapter 11). True faith produces action (Acts 2:37-41). In James chapter two we will talk more of works.
Verses 23-24: “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” Here we have the example of one who hears the word of God but takes no action. They forget what they have found just like someone who looks into a mirror, walks away, and forgets what they saw. The word of God will cut us through and expose us for what we are (Hebrews 4:12). However, if we fail to accept and act upon what we find we walk away forgetters instead of doers.
Verse 25: “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” Here is the result of one who sees and does. The Law of the Lord is complete. The Law of the Lord furnishes us unto all good works (II Timothy 3:16-17). From hearing and doing we become blessed eternally with our reward for obedience (Matthew 7:21).
Verses 26-27: “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” What we have here is the definition of pure and undefiled religion. We are talking about “this man’s religion” in reference to us an individual saints. We are talking about “any man among you” not the church collective (v.26). These two passages are often misused to suggest that the local church should support from its treasury any and all needy widows and fatherless children. Many fail to notice that the local church is not what is discussed in our context. The context is discussing hearers and doers of the word (individual saints). However, even if that point is missed, any student of the Bible will realize that God places restrictions on what widows the local church can support of out her treasury (I Timothy 5:3-16). Many scholars like the noted Guy N. Woods places much argument around the word “visit”.
The Greek word here is “episkeptomai” (which
is Strongs’ # 1980). Thayer defines this word as:
“1) to look upon or after, to inspect, examine with the eyes
Finally, can the local church be “unspotted from the world” if it does not aid non-Christian orphans and widows from her treasury? Again, the basic premise of the question is wrong. The church is by her nature and existence unspotted by the world. The church is pure (Ephesians 5:27).
The true lesson here is the same as in Matthew 25:31ff and Galatians 6:10. We need to help folks in need as individual Christians as we as individual Christians have opportunity. The only plurality is that we all have this responsibility. It is our individual work. We need to carry it out and thus, practice pure and undefiled religion through our unselfish aiding of those in need. For much more see: http://www.wordsoftruth.net/workofthentchurchorphanhomes.htm
James Chapter 1 Study Questions
1. To whom is the book of James addressed?
2. Which James of the N.T. is the likely
penman of this book? Why?
3. According to James, what should our reaction
be in times of temptation?
4. Will God answer our prayers for wisdom
by giving us more Bible knowledge?
5. Should we pray with the expectation that
God will answer our prayers?
6. What does it mean to be "double minded"?
7. How does financial status fit into our
8. Does God try to make us sin?
9. Whose fault is it when we sin?
10. To whom, or what does the "firstfruits"
refer to in verse eighteen?
11. What do we learn from verses 19-20?
12. Does obedience take more than merely
hearing the word of God?
13. What context do verses 26-27 belong to
and to whom do they apply?
2003 by Brian A. Yeager may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.