Men’s Breakfast group have started studying the letter of James together so I thought it would be good to post a few words about this intriguing book.
The book of James is often misunderstood. Some, like Martin Luther, never accepted that James should be part of the Bible, mainly because the content seems to be opposite to what Paul argues in this letters. However, as future posts will see, there is not really a conflict. Where Paul addresses the root of salvation, James addresses the fruit of salvation. i.e. how the gospel is worked out in our lives, not how we get saved.
The book was written to a group of people who probably had a Jewish background (2:2, 2:19, 5:17) and were a radical mix of socio-economic standings – some dirt farmers (5:1-6), or merchants (4:13-17) and rich (2:1-13). They were immature and failed to practise what they preached (1:22-27). They also show favouritism to the rich (1:22-27) and were grass in speech (3:1-12). In short, the people that James wrote to were a lot like us!
Here’s a quick outline:
- 1:1 – Introduction
- 1:2-18 – Enduring Trials
- 1:19-3:18 – Obedience of faith
- 1:19-27 – Introduction
- 2:1-13 – Partiality vs obedience
- 2:14-26 – Passivity vs obedience
- 3:1-12 – Speech vs obedience
- 3:13-18 – Wisdom of obedience
- 4:1-5:20 – The examples of faith
- 4:1-10 – The faith of Rahab
- 4:11-5:6 – Avoiding Worldly influence
- 5:7-12 – Patience of faith
- 5:13-20 – Prayer of faith
From verse 1 it’s probably safe to assume that the book was written after the Jewish scattering of 44ad when Herod started to persecute the Jews. It’s also safe to argue that it was written before 62ad, because James are martyred in that year. So, here’s a book that is probably written between 12 and 30 years after Jesus died. James uses very Jewish language (note his address in verse 1) and so it’s probable that the letter was written earlier in that time range whilst Christianity was still viewed as a Jewish sect.
The main message of the letter is this: real faith is visible, faithful and obedient faith. Let the world see your faith by being obedient to the call of Christ. Live out your faith in a greenhouse so that all can see it.