Summary: The differences between trials, temptations and tests are important so that we can respond properly when faced with problems and difficulties.
1:1a James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
There is a version of this verse which says:
James, a servant of Jesus Christ, who is God and Lord.
James was the half brother of Jesus.
When Jesus was ministering at Nazareth some did not want to hear Him because they were familiar with Him. They knew His family: “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?” (Matthew 13:55)
Some would tell you that Jesus did not have brothers because Mary remained a virgin all her life. This word is translated brothers, and they are named. Jesus even had sisters although they remain anonymous.
He was one of those who had not believed on Jesus when He was ministering. John 7:3-5 says, “His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. "For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.’’ For even His brothers did not believe in Him.”
They had actually travelled with Jesus early in His ministry, but they did not believe in Him: “After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.” (John 2:12)
After the resurrection they did believe on Him: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” (Acts 1:14)
James did not use his position of being a close physical relative of Jesus to his advantage. He humbly calls himself a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although the Father knows James as being His son, James puts himself on the same level as all of us.
How different from some of us today. We love our titles and positions. We like to be Reverend or Father. We want to show off the degrees we did not earn. We will align ourselves to a particular ministry for no other reason than the reflected glory it might give to us.
He was later called one of the three pillars of the Church (Gal. 2:9). And Paul said this of him: “But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.” (Galatians 1:19)
The object of James was to enforce the practical duties of the Christian life. He does this by continuously stressing the importance of speech. He speaks of words, confession and prayer and how we should guard against abusing these things.
Some have believed that James was writing in opposition to the Apostle Paul. This is highly unlikely because it appears to most of us that it was written long before Paul’s letter concerning justification by faith. Unless he was writing because he had heard Paul’s preaching this would be ridiculous. Anyway the argument is fatuous because there is no contradiction. Justification by works, which James contends for, is justification before man, the justification of our profession of faith by a consistent life. Paul contends for the doctrine of justification by faith; but that is justification before God, a being regarded and accepted as just by virtue of the righteousness of Christ, which is received by faith.
To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad:
The twelve tribes are the Hebrew people scattered throughout the known world. It is called the dispersion. Although James is writing to Christians he is especially thinking of those converted out of Judaism.
It may seem obvious, but to greet somebody is to make them feel comfortable. James is going to say some difficult things so he wants to let the readers know that his epistle to them is written in love.
James says, “My brethren” fifteen times. He constantly reminds us that we are all one big family.
THE TRIAL OF YOUR FAITH
count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
It does not say that it is joy when we encounter trials. It says we are to count it as joy. The Amplified Bible says, “Consider it wholly joyful.” We are to look at trials and say that we will learn and grow from the experience.
We need to know the difference between trials, temptations and tests. They are not the same although sometimes the translators have mixed them up.
Temptation is from the devil when he uses something you have an interest in so that you try to attain it illegally or immorally.
A trial is like a court case. There is an accusing counsel. Then there is a judge, jury, and defender. This trial is heavily biased in our favour.