The General Epistle of James
The General Epistle of James
I. The epistle is authored by James, whose identity is difficult to determine.
A. There were definitely two of the original twelve apostles named James. MAT 10:2-4.
B. James, the son of Zebedee (and sibling of John) was slain by Herod. ACT 12:1-2.
1. Jesus surnamed them Boanerges (the sons of thunder). MAR 3:17.
2. They were zealous for Christ's honor. LUK 9:52-54.
3. They both drank of Jesus' cup of tribulation. MAR 10:35-39.
C. James, the Lord's brother, was an apostle,...
III. James has much to say against the deceitfulness and corrupting influence of riches.
JAM 1:9-10; 2:1-6; 4:13-16; 5:1-6.
A. An indicator of genuine conversion and faith for the Jewish believers was abandoning their traditional notions of redemption with money. 1PE 1:18-19.
B. James essentially continues the historic teaching of the Jewish prophets which set in contrast vain trust in riches with vital trust in a Redeemer. PSA 49:6-17.
C. The gospel of wealth versus the gospel of grace was the cause of...
D. James begins with how to properly respond to stress, which all believers face. vs. 2-4.
1. Until we are fully delivered from the general curse of Adam, we will groan in pain.
ROM 8:22-23 c/w REV 22:3.
2. James speaks of temptations that are to be received with joy and borne patiently.
a. Our tendency is to react to such temptations with passion, panic or paralysis.
b. Our attitude has much to do with our success or failure as maturing believers.
3. tempt: I. To try, make trial of, put to the test o...
A. Having encouraged the believers to expect and bear patiently the pressures that might challenge their stedfastness of faith, James points them to wisdom.
1. wisdom: Capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct; soundness of
judgment in the choice of means and ends; sometimes, less strictly, sound sense, esp. in
2. Obviously, strength is needed to bear something. NEH 4:10; ROM 15:1.
3. Wisdom accords with and increases strength. PRO 24:5; ECC 7:19.
A. These verses set forth the practical outworking of LUK 1:52, the denial of class superiority or privilege among the true servants of God. Set forth here are the rich poor and the poor rich.
1. The “brother of low degree” is a poor man by virtue of his contrast with “the rich.”
(c/w 1CH 17:17). Mind, though, that he is “a BROTHER.”
2. Rich and poor are “...altogether lighter than vanity...” (PSA 62:9-10).
3. One has not more holiness or claim on God because of riches or poverty.
a. There i...
A. James pronounces blessing upon those who endure temptation.
1. bless: To declare to be supernaturally favoured; to pronounce or make happy. To
pronounce words that confer (or are held to confer) supernatural favour and well-being.
2. Mind the verb tense, “Blessed IS...” Though there is a future promised crown, the
blessedness is current.
a. Compare this with MAT 5:3-12.
b. Note especially MAT 5:10-12. Those who are tried because of righteousness are
blessed now and have expectation of futur...
A. Having just made clear that God is not the origin of temptation and sin (evil), James presents God as being the origin of “Every good gift and every perfect gift...” (v. 17).
1. Adam gave us sin, death, shame, sorrow and the curse (GEN 3; ROM 5:12-19), hardly
what could be called good and perfect gifts. Those are evil gifts from below, not above.
2. From God above comes every good gift and every perfect gift.
a. That there are good gifts implies that they please God and benefit us.
d. Mind that the Biblical classification of creatures is everything “...after his kind...” (GEN 1).
(1) Collectively, humanity is mankind. JAM 3:7.
(2) The distinction between the elect and the non-elect is described as a
separation of kinds at Christ's Second Coming which is the general
resurrection. MAT 13:47-50 c/w JOH 5:28-29.
(3) The elect are of the same kind as Christ “...the firstfruits of them that slept”
(1CO 15:20), being begotten by God out of death in sin with him
(COL 2:13) Who is “...t...
A. James escalates from the importance of hearing the word (vs. 19-21) to the next level of doing the word.
1. This theme is enlarged upon in the next chapter where he rebukes the vain man for the absence of good works. JAM 2:20.
2. It is addressed again later where he shows that the absence of good works in the face of knowledge is sin. JAM 4:17.
3. He further shows in JAM 4-5 that there was not only an absence of good works among the professing believers, there was an abundance of evil work...
A. James here contrasts vain religion and pure religion. From these verses, we observe:
1. 2. 3.
B. This is 1.
One may seem to be religious but not truly religious.
An unbridled tongue “vanitizes” religion; it makes for a defiled religion.
Pure religion is more about godly benevolence and godly living than outward show or words.
Benevolence is not the sole definition of pure religion.
a. One may give goods to the poor but not have true charity. 1CO 13:3.
b. One ...
Chapter 2 vs. 1-7.
A. James here rebukes the sin of having respect of persons in the church.
1. Solomon said that respect of persons sets one up to commit sin. PRO 28:21.
2. James makes clear that respect of persons is sin against the second great commandment.
B. As noted earlier, the word “assembly” (v. 2) translates the Greek word “sunagogue” which is the
basis of the word “synagogue.”
1. This is the only clear occurrence of “sunagogue” in a Christian context.
2. As the Christian system...
A. James continues with his rebuke of their partiality to the rich which was:
1. a matter of “...having men's persons in admiration because of advantage” (JUDE 1:16).
2. a disregard of the low estate of the Lord Jesus Christ while on earth.
3. a disregard of the equality of brethren in Christ.
4. a disregard of the fact that the rich oppressed them.
5. a disregard of the fact that the rich blasphemed Christ.
6. a despising of their poorer brethren.
7. sin. v. 9.
B. Their respect of person...
A. James sets forth the doctrine of justification by works.
1. This seems to contradict Paul's teaching. ROM 3:20; GAL 2:16.
2. Martin Luther once condemned this epistle because of this seeming contradiction.
3. There are no contradictions in God's word. 2PE 1:20.
B. These verses expand the theme of how to have the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 1) and not be guilty of vain religion. v. 20.
1. They should not have it with respect of persons. v. 1.
2. They should not have it without wor...
A. This chapter has the most concentrated discourse in Scripture on the government of the tongue.
B. Outside of this chapter, this epistle addresses speech issues many times (1:6; 1:13; 1:19; 1:26;
2:3; 2:7; 2:12; 2:16; 2:18; 4:3; 4:11; 4:13; 4:15; 4:16; 5:12; 5:13; 5:14; 5:15; 5:16; 5:17; 5:18).
C. James is continuing his warning against vain religion, the tongue being very central to that.
JAM 1:19, 26.
D. James continues his theme about worthless superficialities in religion.
1. Hearing ...
A. James continues his discourse on the government of the tongue by rich illustrations of observable things and phenomena.
1. The controlled tongue means a controlled body. JAM 3:2.
2. The uncontrolled tongue defiles the whole body. v. 6 c/w ECC 5:6; MAT 15:17-20.
a. Sinful passions of the heart when vented by the tongue can empower bodily sins.
b. (1CO 15:33) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
3. What is said here about the tongue's influence upon man's natural body ...
A. James continues with his warnings against inconsistency of source and product, setting in contrast again the different sources of good and evil. c/w JAM 1:13-17.
1. Expressed wisdom and knowledge may be born of envy and strife, sourced from below.
2. Expressed wisdom and knowledge may be born of meekness and purity, sourced from
3. If a man be born from above (JAM 1:18), his expressed wisdom and knowledge should
accord with that and NOT be “...earthly, sensual, devilish” (v. 15).
A. Consider the dynamics which James addressed in this epistle relative to class differential.
1. There were rich of high degree and poor of low degree. JAM 1:9-10.
2. Partiality was being shown to the rich. JAM 2:1-4.
3. The wicked rich were oppressing the poor at law and in employment. JAM 2:6; 5:4-6.
4. The worldly-wise were given to envy and strife. JAM 3:14-16.
5. The worldly-wise who were not rich wanted a bigger slice of life but rather than acquire it by godly means like p...
A. Set forth here is the antidote to this world and an escape from the corruption that is in it through lusts (2PE 1:4).
1. Mind that Jesus did not pray that disciples should be prematurely taken out of this world as an antidote (JOH 17:15). We are rather to occupy till He comes.
LUK 19:13 c/w JAM 5:7.
2. Neither are we to deem lawful things as unlawful and defiling, including lawful diets, relationships or efforts in personal advancement in life. 1TI 4:1-3; LUK 16:9.
3. Neither are we to p...
A. Instruction is given again about speech. Brethren are commanded to not speak evil of one another.
1. Evil speaking consists of such things as false witness, false accusation, slander, whispering,
backbiting, talebearing, cursing, deceit (which were noted previously).
2. Given the ambitious materialism and envy which was afoot, it is likely that defamatory
speech had been a major issue in the exploitation of their own brethren. JAM 5:6.
3. Such evil speaking is commensurate with the earth...
A. James here rebukes the ungodly rich who oppress.
1. Such as these drew the poor brethren before the judgment seats. JAM 2:6.
2. Such as these were given preferential treatment in the assembly. JAM 2:1-4.
3. Such as these blasphemed the name of Christ. JAM 2:7.
4. Such as these exploited their brethren for financial gain. JAM 5:4.
5. Such as these were defined by pleasure and voluptuousness. JAM 5:5.
6. Such as these were responsible for the death of just brethren. JAM 5:6.
A. James here sets forth the proper reaction to the injustices of life that might provoke the believer to fret, do something foolish, or abandon faith. ECC 5:8 c/w PSA 37:1-8.
1. The Psalmist admitted that he had almost slipped when he saw the prosperity of the
a. What saved him was the “big picture” of God's rewards to the righteous and to the
b. Jesus taught that God intends to bear long with His elect before He avenges them of
injustices in this wo...
A. James gives warning against swearing.
1. swear: To make a solemn declaration or statement with an appeal to God or a superhuman
being, or to some sacred object, in confirmation of what is said; to take an oath.
2. James' words are what Jesus taught. MAT 5:33-37.
3. Part of the Holy Ghost's work in the apostles was to “...bring all things to your
remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (JOH 14:26) so they could fulfill their
commission from Christ. MAT 28:20.
B. “But above all things....
A. Against all the errant uses of the tongue that James has addressed, the epistle closes by setting forth godly uses of the tongue in afflictions, merriness, sickness, faults and errors.
B. v. 13 instructs believers as to how to respond to affliction or merriness.
1. This world is for us a mixture of affliction and joy. ECC 3:4; 7:14.
a. Constant affliction discourages hope and hearing. EXO 6:9.
b. Constant mirth stifles our development. ECC 7:2-6.
2. afflicted: Cast down, depressed, oppre...
A. James here encourages brethren to vigilance and mutual accountability to the truth, i.e., “...the truth of the gospel” (COL 1:5), not scientific, political, historical or philosophical “truth.”
1. These instructions contrast Cain's attitude, “...Am I my brother's keeper?” (GEN 4:9).
2. We are accountable to God for deliberately ignoring the destructive pathway of an erring
brother. PRO 24:11-12; EZE 3:18.
￼3. It is an a.
c. d. e.
act of hatred to willingly suffer sin upon a brother....