Summary: In this introductory sermon for a series on the Book of James, we explore two questions: who is the author and who are the recipients. The sermon also drives home the point that we must be doers of the Word of God and not hearers only.
A. One day, a couple of weeks before Christmas in the mid1980s, I was driving on the back roads of Arkansas from El Dorado, Arkansas to Memphis, TN.
1. I was on my way to take my graduate class finals and I was running late.
2. I set the cruise control about 8 miles over the speed limit and was holding the note cards I prepared for the exams in my fingers at the top of the steering wheel; reading them as I drove.
3. I glanced up from the cards just as a police car approached from the opposite direction and when we were about to pass by each other, the flashing lights on top of his car came on.
4. He immediately turned around to pursue me and I pulled over.
5. After taking my license and registration, he asked, “Where are you going in such a hurry?”
6. I replied, “I’m on my way to take my graduate school final exams and am running a little late.”
7. Then the officer asked, “And what subject are you studying in graduate school?”
8. I sheepishly replied, “Biblical studies.”
9. Then the police officer asked, “Do you know what Romans 13 says?”
10. “Yes, sir,” I replied, “It says to obey the governing authorities.”
11. I will never forget what he said next, “If you know what it says, then why aren’t you doing it?”
12. I said, “I am running late, but that is not a good excuse.”
13. He graciously gave me a warning, saying, “It’s almost Christmas, and my brother-in-law is a minister, and I know ministers don’t have much money, so just slow down a little.”
B. James, the writer of the New Testament book of James would have liked that police officer’s question: “If you know what it says, then why aren’t you doing it?”
1. That’s basically what James says in chapter 1, verse 22 (which was included in our Scripture Reading for today): “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
2. We will spend more time with that verse and that section of James 1 in a few sermons down the road, but for today, I want it to be the launching point for our new sermon series from James.
3. Perhaps with the exception of Proverbs, there is no more practical book in all the Bible than the letter of James.
4. As a tribute to the inspiration of God, it remains as practical for the 21st century as it was for the first century when it was written.
a. Do people still have trials and temptations to deal with?
b. Are the obstacles of prejudice and discrimination still present and active in our society and even in the church?
c. Do some people want only to profess faith without actually living it?
d. Is worldliness ever found among the people of God?
5. As long as there are human beings living on this planet, problems such as these will exist.
6. And for that reason the book of James will always be necessary because it addresses all of these hindrances to spiritual maturity and godliness.
C. I have titled this sermon series on the book of James “A Faith that Works.”
1. I chose that phrase because it is a play on words.
2. We need a faith that works, right?
a. We don’t want a faith that doesn’t work! We don’t want one that isn’t effective, do we?
3. James wants us to know that the only kind of faith that works is a faith that works – a faith that is active – a faith that is obedient to God’s word and puts God’s word into practice.
a. Any other kind of faith isn’t really a faith at all, and it certainly doesn’t work!
4. Ultimately, our faith must make a difference in the way we live each day.
5. Throughout this series from the book of James, we will see how James makes that clear.
6. As we begin this study of James, let’s ask two basic, yet important questions.
I. Question #1: Who Is the Author of this Letter?
A. The final author of every word in the Bible is the Holy Spirit. Right?
1. The communicating of the will of God in both the Old and New Testaments was accomplished as “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet.1:21).
2. Therefore, it is our responsibility to receive the Bible “not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).
B. Nevertheless, the fact remains that this inspired, complete, an authoritative revelation of truth was delivered to us through men.