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Introducing James (James 1:1)
Sermon Notes
Sunday, 19 January 2014 00:00

Last Sunday we began a series on the book of James, entitled “Introducing James.”
1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.
We noted that while we know the writer as “James,” the actual name of the person who wrote the epistle was “Jacob.” So why do English translations refer to him as “James?” It is because the translators of the King James Version (1611) decided to pick a name and rename that person as “James” in honor of King James of England who had financed and authorized the translation. So they decided that every time the name “Jacob” was used in the New Testament (unless it was referring to the Old Testament Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham) that they would rename him “James.”

The readers of the letter were Jewish believers. James 1:1 makes it clear that the recipients of this letter were Jews (the twelve tribes). James throughout the letter refers to his readers as “brethren.” We noted James referred to his readers as “beloved brethren” in 1:16 and 1:19. Then in 1:18 (our memory verse this week) we noted that James includes himself (“us”) amongst those who are born from above, brought forth by the word of truth: 18 Of His own will He brought us forth (a term of procreation, of giving birth, 1:15 ~ (sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death) by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

So then, in James 1:16, 19 “brethren,” is defined by James in 1:17-18 (“brought us forth”) as those who have been brought forth by the word of truth, born from above as a gift from the Father: 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above (anothen, John 3:3 ~ “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”), and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

BOTTOM LINE:
If God is Father of both James and of his readers, then how are James and his readers related? They are spiritual brothers with the same heavenly Father through spiritual birth: brethren!
A key for interpreting this book is to understand and keep in mind that James is writing to Christians, to people who have already received the gift of eternal life through their simple faith (without works) in God’s promise.

James was probably the earliest book in the New Testament, written before Cornelius’ was born again (Acts 10), which is why James could refer to all the believers to whom he was writing as being Jews. There were not yet any Gentiles in the church. That this was very early, and thus before Gentiles were in the church, is also suggested by James’ reference to their “assembly” with the word “synagogue” (2:2). This letter was probably written around AD 37-38.
We suggested that the writer needs to give no credentials because he was well-known to the readers and thus the writer was probably the half-brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55). Since the James who was the brother of John (son of Zebedee) was martyred early on (Acts 12:2) by Herod, this suggests that the author of this book was James, the brother of our Lord, who became a pastor and was considered an “apostle” (Galatians 1:19) and a “pillar” (Galatians 2:9) of the church at Jerusalem. He would definitely have been well-known to these Jewish believers.

Next we noted that the readers have been dispersed (“scattered abroad”) as a result of the persecution resulting from Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 8:1). These difficult circumstances explain James’ purpose for writing to these Christians who had been scattered, driven by persecution away from their homes in Jerusalem. They were displaced and living in a zip code where they’d rather not be living. Life had become difficult in the extreme. James writes to encourage the behavior these ‘transplanted’ believers needed in order to triumph in times of trial.

I related this to Psalm 1 and how God “transplants” believers according to His will.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle with God’s will. But those are the times when I am encouraged by what we studied three weeks ago in Psalm 1:3 where the Psalmist tells us that the blessed believer will be like a tree ‘transplanted’ near the dug irrigation ditches = rivers of water so that I may be productive and fruitful in my life. But if we’re honest, I think that sometimes we may question whether or not the divine Arborist/Tree Farmer has chosen the right place to “transplant” me! I liked it there in the nursery where it was warm and comfortable along with all the other saplings! Now here I am in the earth, out in the harsh conditions of the weather, having to stand alone and send my roots down into new, unfamiliar soil. It is easy to complain and become concerned (worry) about whether or not this was such a good idea!

As we have seen, this was the case for the readers of this letter from James. They had been so comfortable in Jerusalem that they had ignored Acts 1:8. So the Lord used persecution and its attendant trials and temptations (Acts 8:1) to ‘transplant’ them (scattered abroad) to where He knew they really needed to be in order to accomplish His will and to grow in the grace and knowledge of Him.

We noted that the outline of James is found in James 1:19-20.
19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man
[1] be swift to hear, (1:21-2:26)
[2] slow to speak, (3:1-18)
[3] slow to wrath (4:1-5:6)

Finally, we considered some of the upcoming issues in the book of James, which we will study in detail in the weeks ahead. In which section is the “faith-without-works” passage? (2:14-26)
To whom did James address 2:14-26? (my brethren).
So this is addressing believers who have been saved through faith alone from eternal perishing! But James tells us that faith alone will not deliver believers from the consequences of sin in their lives.

Two possible meanings of “faith without works (2:20, 26)

Subtraction Model - Addition Model

Faith (drawing of a bicycle) - Faith (drawing of a bicycle)

– Works (frame of bicycle) - + (0 x Works) + Cyclist on the bicycle

= Only the wheels are left - = the bicycle (without a rider)


This sees works as an integral part of faith - This maintains the biblical distinction between
so that if one subtracts works from faith - faith and works by demonstrating that faith
then what remains is not real faith. - (bicycle) without works (rider) is still faith (bicycle)

Faith (a bicycle) is still faith (a real bicycle) even if there is no rider (works), but you won’t make much progress in your Christian life if you are not applying God’s truth to your life (works)


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What does James mean by “saving your souls?” (1:21); “Can faith save him?” (2:14)
When we see the word “saved,” we always need to ask the following question:
Whom/what? ______ saves whom? ______ from whom/what? _____

In the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, Yahweh saved David from his enemies.
Simple faith (no works) saves unbelievers from eternal death in the lake of fire.
James will teach us as believers that only ~
Applied truth (obedience/ work) saves believers from the death-dealing consequences of sin.

So in James, whenever we see the word “salvation,” we should always think “deliverance,” and when we see the word “saved” should always think “deliver.”
If a Christian believes that stealing is sin, but steals anyway, has his/her faith delivered him/her?
As we will see, the issue in James is the profitability of our faith in daily living as a child of God.
God will use the trials in our lives to develop rewardability in our lives for the coming day when we will stand before our Judge at the judgment seat of Christ (5:8-9).

Stay tuned! More to come …..

 

 

 

 

 

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