An overview of James

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by: Pastor David Huffstutler

05/09/2021

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Though a brother to Jesus (Matthew 10:55; Galatians

1:19), James was not an apostle or even a believer

when Jesus traveled with His disciples (John 7:5).

Perhaps he was converted when Jesus appeared to

him after being raised from the dead (1 Corinthians

15:7). James eventually became the primary elder in

Jerusalem and was a pillar in the church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18;

Galatians 2:9, 12).

Many give the book of James the overall theme “Tests of a Living Faith.”

In a central passage, James states repeatedly that a faith without works is

dead (James 2:14, 17, 20, 26), and one might view the rest of James as

defining what these works might be. Each passage thus presents a “test”

whereby we see whether or not we have faith. A living faith perseveres

under trial (James 1:2–18); both hears and does the Word (James

1:19–27); does not show partiality (James 2:1–13); shows its genuineness

through works (James 2:14–26); controls the tongue (James 3:1–12);

shows wisdom through peace and not jealousy and ambition (James

3:13–18); shows humility before God and does not quarrel and fight

(James 4:1–12); acknowledges God’s sovereignty over the future (James

4:13–17); does not defraud others for gain (James 5:1–6); patiently suffers

while waiting for the Lord’s return (5:7–12); prays for those who are sick

(James 5:13–18); and brings the wayward brother back from sin (James

5:19–20).

A lesser theme is how James speaks of the rich and poor. James

repeatedly admonishes his readers not to overlook the poor and not to

show partiality to the rich (James 1:9–11, 26–27; 2:1–7, 15–16; 5:1–6).

One can be a rich Christian (cf. James 1:10), but the rich are usually

unbelievers who oppress Christians (James 2:6b–7; 5:1–6). The rich plan

for more riches and fail to acknowledge God (James 4:13).

James is also known for his imagery from nature. He speaks of a wind and

the sea (James 1:6), flowers and grass (James 1:11), stars in the heavens

(James 1:17), and a man with a mirror (James 1:23–24). Speaking of the

tongue, he compares it to a horse’s bridle, a ship’s udder, and a fire that

sets a forest ablaze (James 3:1–5). He speaks of animals, fountains, figs,

olives, and grapes (James 3:11). He speaks of fruit and harvest (James

3:18), a vanishing mist (James 4:14), and a farmer who waits for his crops

(James 5:7).

James is also a book of imperatives. There is about one command for

every other verse. James forcefully tells his readers exactly what they

should do. James also extols wisdom. One should pray for it (James 1:5)

and show it in his conduct towards others (James 3:13–18). In fact, James

itself is often call the New Testament’s “wisdom book,” much like

Proverbs in the Old Testament.

More could be said, but there’s at least a quick overview of James!

All quotes ESV. Articles by Pastor Huffstutler are at davidhuffstutler.com.

Though a brother to Jesus (Matthew 10:55; Galatians

1:19), James was not an apostle or even a believer

when Jesus traveled with His disciples (John 7:5).

Perhaps he was converted when Jesus appeared to

him after being raised from the dead (1 Corinthians

15:7). James eventually became the primary elder in

Jerusalem and was a pillar in the church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18;

Galatians 2:9, 12).

Many give the book of James the overall theme “Tests of a Living Faith.”

In a central passage, James states repeatedly that a faith without works is

dead (James 2:14, 17, 20, 26), and one might view the rest of James as

defining what these works might be. Each passage thus presents a “test”

whereby we see whether or not we have faith. A living faith perseveres

under trial (James 1:2–18); both hears and does the Word (James

1:19–27); does not show partiality (James 2:1–13); shows its genuineness

through works (James 2:14–26); controls the tongue (James 3:1–12);

shows wisdom through peace and not jealousy and ambition (James

3:13–18); shows humility before God and does not quarrel and fight

(James 4:1–12); acknowledges God’s sovereignty over the future (James

4:13–17); does not defraud others for gain (James 5:1–6); patiently suffers

while waiting for the Lord’s return (5:7–12); prays for those who are sick

(James 5:13–18); and brings the wayward brother back from sin (James

5:19–20).

A lesser theme is how James speaks of the rich and poor. James

repeatedly admonishes his readers not to overlook the poor and not to

show partiality to the rich (James 1:9–11, 26–27; 2:1–7, 15–16; 5:1–6).

One can be a rich Christian (cf. James 1:10), but the rich are usually

unbelievers who oppress Christians (James 2:6b–7; 5:1–6). The rich plan

for more riches and fail to acknowledge God (James 4:13).

James is also known for his imagery from nature. He speaks of a wind and

the sea (James 1:6), flowers and grass (James 1:11), stars in the heavens

(James 1:17), and a man with a mirror (James 1:23–24). Speaking of the

tongue, he compares it to a horse’s bridle, a ship’s udder, and a fire that

sets a forest ablaze (James 3:1–5). He speaks of animals, fountains, figs,

olives, and grapes (James 3:11). He speaks of fruit and harvest (James

3:18), a vanishing mist (James 4:14), and a farmer who waits for his crops

(James 5:7).

James is also a book of imperatives. There is about one command for

every other verse. James forcefully tells his readers exactly what they

should do. James also extols wisdom. One should pray for it (James 1:5)

and show it in his conduct towards others (James 3:13–18). In fact, James

itself is often call the New Testament’s “wisdom book,” much like

Proverbs in the Old Testament.

More could be said, but there’s at least a quick overview of James!

All quotes ESV. Articles by Pastor Huffstutler are at davidhuffstutler.com.

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