Summary: The last 2 verses of James (Material adapted from Steve Shepherd at: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/if-one-should-wander-from-the-truth-steve-shepherd-sermon-on-evangelism-the-lost-168446.asp and other Sermon Central sermons and Alger Fitch)
I’ve enjoyed fishing over the years but I don’t do much fishing. Why? Not because it’s a bad thing to do. The main reason why I don’t fish much is because I believe I can use my time more wisely doing something for the Lord. Get a group of buddies together and go fishing, that seems like the best use of my time. To go fishing alone, while nothing wrong with that, what kind of witness will I be?
Everyone has their favorite thing to do in life, but what is the best of the best? Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.
God desire is for all people to come to a knowledge of the truth of Christ. God wants all men to be saved and brought into a right relationship with Him.
One of the great things about the Great Commission is its great concern for follow up. “Go and make disciples.. baptized them” is only the beginning. Jesus Christ never encouraged the idea that once a person is baptized then the work is accomplished.
We can read of a missionary going to a remote region and preaching the gospel and many respond. That warms our hearts! However, how many times does that same missionary a week later leave and go to another remote region? What about “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you?”
Follow up is more than teaching them to obey some of Christ’s commands. The new Christian is to learn “everything” Christ commanded. The task of follow up is not through until the baptized “obey” each instruction. Men like Peter, Paul, James or John can and do move to new fields to plant the gospel there, but a congregation must be established where new Christians can continue under the supervision of elders qualified to shepherd the flock.
This brings us to letters like James and Hebrews that especially relate to the evangelism of the Jews. Not exclusively to Jews because we get much from them today, but when written the target audience was Jewish Christians. These Christians were brought to faith in Jesus Christ, but now some drifting or falling away is beginning to occur. The importance of keeping the sheep in the fold is as basic as winning them to the fold in the first place. Have many leaving through the back door! Important because salvation is at stake. Once saved always saved is not taught in the Bible.
We have been following Paul’s letters in chronological order. He wrote letters from 49 AD to about 67 AD. Not sure when James wrote his letter, difficult to give an exact date. Some say 49 AD while others say 62-63 AD. That seems to be a good time frame. Had to be after 49 AD because the dispute about the issues Paul discusses in Galatians were resolved when Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem in 49 AD. Had to be before 63 AD because James the half brother of Jesus was martyred in that year. Best guess is that this letter was written 12 to 15 years after the founding of the church.
The author James is Jesus’ half brother, to whom Christ made a special resurrection appearance. “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,” 1 Corinthians 15:7, NIV. With his earlier doubts about Jesus removed (he did not believe in Jesus according to John 7:5), James became one of the “pillars” (Galatians 2:9) of the first Christian church at Jerusalem. The number of Christians, from Pentecost AD 30 on, kept growing from the original 3,000. The progress of the gospel was threatened at the stoning of Stephen. “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Acts 8:1, 4
After many years of leaving Jerusalem, many of them had grown lax and were in need of “teaching, rebuking correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15).
To hear this letter is to hear echoes of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount. Was James there? Good chance. This letter reflects more of Christ’s words than all the other NT letters. Some can identify 23 recollections of Jesus’ hillside message as told by Matthew (chapters 5-7). James’ style of teaching radiates the influence his half brother had on him. The work can correctly be title, “Common Sense Christianity.” Read 5 passages from the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount and have someone read the cross reference in James
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:10-11, NIV. Read James 1:2