Summary: James is a “Do this! Do that!” book which, taken to heart, will dynamically affect our lives on every level. We will not be the same at the end of this study if we prayerfully ask the Spirit to apply what we learn.
1. James verse 1
James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad, greetings.
a. Half Brother of Christ
James a half-brother, of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospels mention this fact in Matthew 13:55 "Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? He was at first an unbeliever. In John 7:5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
During the forty-day period between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension, Jesus “appeared to James, then to all the apostles” — and James believed 1 Cor. 15:7. James is mentioned as being in the upper room in Jerusalem, praying with his mother and the rest of the disciples Acts 1:13 and was presumably present when the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost.
He could have begun his letter, “James the Just, from the sacred womb of Mary, congenital sibling of Christ his brother, confidant of the Messiah.” But James did not even allude to this status, being content with “servant” In Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
The word servant “doulos” in the Greek means far more than just a servant. Aans a slave totally possessed by the master. A bond-servant bound by law to a master. The slave existed for his master and he had no other reason for existence. He had no personal rights whatsoever. James existed only for Christ. His rights were the rights of Christ only. He was at the master’s disposal any hour of the day. So it was with James: he lived only to serve Christ—hour by hour and day by day. He had
become the leader of the Jerusalem church when Peter was released from prison Acts 12:17. If you observed the beginning of Paul’s epistle, he introduces himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ.
James writes pastorally to “the twelve tribes scattered all over Mesopotamia, around the Mediterranean, and into Asia Minor and Europe. He was writing to beat up Christians who were being persecuted, cheated, suffering trials because of their faith. R.K. Hughes describes these Jewish Christians as “Homeless and disenfranchised, they were robbed of what possessions they had, hauled into court, and subjected to the Gentile elite. They had less standing than slaves.”
2. A Joyful Attitude verse 2
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
After rereading this passage James must have lost his senses? He is writing to beat-up brothers and sisters and he says, “Consider it pure joy,” or as the NEB says, “count yourselves supremely happy.” A letter of encouragement from Pastor Whacko! “Don’t worry be happy!”
We are not just to act joyful, but to be genuinely joyful. It is a matter of will, not of feelings, and should be the conscious, determined commitment of every faithful believer. And because God commands it, it is within the ability, the Spirit’s provides, every true Christian. When we have genuine faith in Jesus Christ, James assures us, even the worst of troubles can and should be cause for thanksgiving and rejoicing.
Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
The more we rejoice in our trials, the more we realize that they are not liabilities but privileges, ultimately beneficial and not harmful, no matter how destructive and painful the immediate experience of them might appear. When we face trials with the attitude that James admonishes, we discover that the greatest part of the joy is drawing closer to the Lord—the Source of all joy—by becoming more sensitive to His presence, His goodness, His love, and His grace. Our prayer life increases, as does our interest in and study of the Word, and in each of those ways our joy increases all the more.
Although he was writing from prison and during great discomfort, frustration, and pain, Paul could say with complete sincerity, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” Phil. 4:11–12. After they were cast into the inner prison in Philippi and had their legs stretched far apart in extremely painful stocks, “about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God” Acts 16:24–25.
Paul was afflicted with “a thorn in the Flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment [him]” 2 Cor. 12:7. Because he “implored the Lord three times that it might leave [him]” (v. 8), we can be sure that it was painful beyond measure, since he had endured many other painful situations of every sort without complaint or request for alleviation. But when the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness,” Paul stopped asking for relief and immediately began rejoicing for the very trial that already had caused him, and would continue to cause him, so much grief (v. 9). Trials became as much a cause for Paul’s joy as his blessings. He knew they drew him closer to the Lord, allowed him the privilege of having fellowship in the Lord’s own suffering Phil. 3:10, and were a divine means for keeping him humble 2 Cor. 12:7.