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James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
James begins by telling us who he is, a servant (a slave) to God and to the Lord Jesus Christ. This James is a far cry from the man he was when Jesus was alive. As far as anyone knows, Jesus was not accepted by His brothers and sisters as the promised Messiah. Jesus made the statement that a prophet is without honor in His own house.
And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.
But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
For neither did his brethren believe in him.
In the home where Jesus grew up, we see Joseph, Mary, Jesus, James, Joses, Judas, Simon, and some sisters who are not named. What a family it must have been! The Messiah, rejected by His own brothers and sisters. James was tied to the Jewish faith and customs. Even as head of the church in Jerusalem, he still held to the legalistic traditions and dietary customs of the Jews. What caused James to become a Christian? When Jesus died upon the cross and was placed into the tomb, He rose from the dead, alive again. Jesus then appeared to the twelve, and He was seen of some five hundred at one time. After these appearances, Jesus made a special appearance, and that was to His brother, James. From that day forward, James believed in Jesus as God’s only Son, the Redeemer of mankind.
1 Corinthians 15:5-7
5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
If you wonder why I am going over what I covered in the introduction, we sometimes miss vital information. This is too important to let slip away. As we continued into verse thirteen, we find Jesus’ mother, Mary, James and the rest of Jesus’ brothers assembled in the upper room with the disciples and others.
13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
Jesus appearing to James caused a complete turnaround in James’ life. It is also believed that James is responsible for his brothers coming to accept Jesus as the Lord of their lives. Little is known of their lives except for Judas, better known as Jude. This same Jude is the Jude who wrote the New Testament book of Jude.
We know because as Jude introduces himself, he gives claim to being the brother of James. We can see by looking at James how one person obeying the gospel can and does make a world of difference in the service of the Lord and in this evil world in which we live.
As we look at the times in which James lived (and even-tually became head of the Jerusalem church), we see that in the church’s infancy, most of the Christians were Jews. James, being a Jew, knew the laws of legalistic Judaism, even the dietary ones. This put James in the right place at the right time.
The church was in a time of transition. The Christian church was breaking free of Judaism with its legalistic way of life. As we see James, we know that he did not intend to leave his Jewish upbringing; and even as head of the church he was still very legalistic. We know that Paul had to persuade James that the Gentiles could be saved through the blood of Jesus. Paul also had to persuade the council in Jerusalem as well as James that these Gentiles could live for God by simply living according to the teaching of the gospel. The Gentiles could not serve God if all the legalistic Jewish traditions and the Law of Moses bound them. Their whole lifestyle, their way of living was as different from the Jews as night and day. Paul’s work was toward the Gentiles while James stayed with the Jerusalem church until his death.
The death of James is not recorded in the Bible. However, we do find a record of his death in The Complete Works of Josephus. Here we find that at the death of Festus, the high priest Ananus took upon himself to call a council of the Sanhedrin. He had James brought before it, accused James of breaking the law and condemned him to death. The high priest had James stoned. It is said that James was thrown from the gable of the temple and finally beaten to death with a club. Listed below is Josephus’s account of what happened to James.
The Complete Works of Josephus tells us:
And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judg-ing offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified;
Tradition says that James prayed for those who were casting stones at him, where upon one of them took a fuller’s club and beat James in the head till he died.The book of James was written to the members of the twelve tribes, which were scattered abroad. The people James wrote to were Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, who lived out-side of Israel. Remember on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached to the multitude. There were Jews there from different parts of the known world. Peter called these people brethren, as does James in his epistle.
Each time God brought judgement upon Israel, He scattered the people into foreign lands. There were Jewish com-munities in most of the large cities in the surrounding countries and throughout the then-known world. There were Jews in Alexandria, Egypt, and all the way up to Rome. There were Jews in Cappadocia, Pontus, Pamphylia, Antioch, Corinth, Philippi, Ephesus, Derbe and many more cities—even Babylon.
In the early days of the fledging church, most Christians were Jews, but not all, for God was beginning to bring the Gentiles into the church. The Jews on the other hand were rejecting the Gentile Christians because they did not abide by the Law of Moses or live by the Jewish customs and traditions. Just as today, there were divisions in the church. Some demanded that everyone had to live by Jewish customs and law. Others were leaving the Jewish religion and trying to live by the teachings of the gospel. There was confusion in the church, and some who were not qualified wanted to become leaders and teachers in the church.
The problem was spiritual immaturity in the church. To gain respect we must be what we profess to be. Our lives must show that we are mature enough to handle ourselves wisely, knowing what must be done. Therein lies the problem of the local churches. Not many were mature enough (or grounded enough) in the gospel message to lead the flock of God. There was a big difference between wanting to be a leader or teacher and being mature enough in wisdom and judgement to be that leader.
We know that whom the Lord calls, He also qualifies. There were times in my first pastorate that I questioned if God knew what He was doing when He called me to pastor a church. I had to trust him and spend time on my knees and in the Word. Today we continue to deal with spiritual immaturity in the church. Too often we associate maturity with age, and in the natural world this is usually the case. Yet, in the spiritual, this rule does not necessarily apply. Spiritual growth varies with each individual. A person can be older in years and be spiritually very immature; or younger in years but very mature in the spiritual realm with God. Spiritual growth has nothing to do with natural age. There must be a continual growing of the spiritual man or we fail God.
The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: NT states:
Spiritual maturity is one of the greatest needs in churches today. Too many churches are playpens for babies instead of workshops for adults. The members are not mature enough to eat the solid spiritual food that they need, so they have to be fed on milk (Heb.5:11-14). Just look at the problems James dealt with and you can see that each of them is characteristic of little children:
Impatience in difficulties – 1:1-4
Talking but not living the truth – 2:14ff
No control of the tongue – 3:1ff
Fighting and coveting – 4:1ff
Collecting material “toys” – 5:1ff
The purpose of the church is to reach the lost for Christ. To complete the task that is set before us, we must first learn some very important lessons.
We must learn how to get along together without in-fighting among ourselves. The battle, the fight, is not inside the church (or it should not be). The battle is outside of the church in the world where sin has complete control over hearts and lives. We must learn that to be a good leader, we must first learn how to be a good follower. One example is to look at Joshua. He was a great leader, but to get to that place he had to follow Moses for over forty years. The disciples became the great apostles, but to reach their calling they had to sit and learn at Jesus’ feet for three and one-half years. We cannot become spiritual giants overnight.
Even Paul had to get away and be taught of the Lord. After Paul’s sight was restored, he preached Christ to the Jews in Damascus where he was rejected of them. Paul declares that he left Damascus and went into Arabia for three years.
17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
What Paul did in Arabia we can only guess. However, it stands to reason that the time was spent in prayer and study; and that he was under instruction by the Lord as to what he was to preach and teach and to whom he was to carry the Lord’s message of the gospel. We must learn patience with people if we are to reach them for Christ. We must always show forth the love of Christ. Always tell the truth to those we meet. Never lie to people. Never be two-faced. Always be what we profess to be.
James’ desire was to help the Jews that were scattered over the known world. As Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, thousands were saved. As they left Jerusalem and went back to their homes, they took the message of Christ with them, where they started local assemblies or churches.
It is to these Christians that James is writing. He desires to help them solve some of their problems in their service of the Lord. Remember that to be a good teacher, we must first be a good student.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
James begins by addressing the saints as brethren. This included both Jews and Gentiles. The nationality or origin of a person makes no difference to the Lord. The Lord looks at the soul of a person, not the land of their birth. Before Jesus came and began to establish the New Testament or New Covenant with man, God looked at national Israel as His sole people. The only hope the outsider or Gentile had was to be proselyted into the Jewish faith.
After the birth of Jesus, when He began His ministry, Jesus did not look at a man or woman’s nationality but at their soul, at their faith. We are all the sheep of God’s pastures. We are all called of God to salvation, to whosoever will. The decision is ours to make. As the body of Christ, as the church, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are a spiritual family.
James goes on to encourage the church, the body of believers, by telling them to “count it all joy” when they fall into temptations. Temptations do a work within us for our good. As crazy as it sounds, temptations will build our spiritual faith in God. We need a spiritual boost from time to time. Every battle that we fight and win encourages us to trust in Jesus more and more. Each victory helps us to stand on our faith in God.
The trials of life push us out of our comfort zone. Just like the eagle has to stir up her nest to make the young eagles leave it, so must God stir up our lives to cause us to step out in faith, to trust and believe. In this life, we will go through many kinds of trials and tests. We must remember that we are not alone. The Lord walks close by our sides. Tests are designed by the Lord to build us up in different areas of our spiritual lives.
You may ask in what areas. Some tests are to mature us, to instill wisdom and knowledge in us that we may be a help to those who are around us. It is hard to help someone going through a trial or test if we have not been through it ourselves. We read in verse four of this chapter:
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
To be of any use to the Lord, we must, let me repeat it again, we must become spiritually mature. We must let every test, trial, and temptation become a steppingstone on our journey to perfection in Christ Jesus. The saved, born-again Christian is called by the spirit of God to become a member of God’s holy family. As part of this family, it becomes our job, our goal to reach the lost with the gospel. We cannot make people accept the Lord; all we can do is to give them the opportunity. It becomes their responsibility before God what they choose to do with the gospel message.
As Christians, we are to remember that we are a part of God’s scattered people, not God’s sheltered people. Each trial and temptation is for our benefit to make us stronger in the Lord. As long as we walk close to God and trust in Him, we can overcome everything this world can throw at us. We can have peace and joy in the face of trials because Jesus is with us. Always remember that you are not alone. For “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.”
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
As Christians, our lives are going to be watched by the world. You may think that nobody is watching and that nobody is listening to what you are saying. However, I can assure you that you are very much mistaken. People are judging your life every day. They watch you to see how you handle yourself in the everyday trials and troubles that come your way.
Too many times I have seen how people judge others. I worked with a man some years ago who claimed to be a good Christian. He talked much about going to church and told people how good he was. Then one day, some things happened at work that concerned him. He got extremely mad and used ungodly language. He carried on and on about the situation. While this was taking place, I had different ones come to me and say, “I thought he was a Christian.” All I could do was to say, “Well, he claims to be a Christian.” Their answers to me were, “Well, he does not act like it,” and there was not much I could say.
Our lives should be lived as if they are an open book without anything to hide. We need to live the way Jesus lived, to be open before others. We know the world is going to condemn us. We do not need to give them any ammunition to use against us. We are going to face enough trials without us causing more.
There are several different reasons why our faith is tried and tested. When our faith is put to the test, it is for our own good, our benefit. I know it is hard to see any good in trials and temptations, but I can assure you that God knows what He is doing. Trust Him.
One reason is that the trying of your faith teaches you patience. The only way to gain patience is by going through trials and temptations. So, if you are praying for God to give you more patience, then be prepared for trials and temptations to come your way.
Multiplied trials and tests are hard as we go through them. However, with every victory, our faith and patience grows. This learning process is sometimes grievous, but although we weep in the night, victory and joy comes in the morning. Patience is learning to wait upon the Lord.
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
There is an old saying and I find it to be very true. It goes like this: “God is never early, but He is never late. He is always just in time.” I do not know who first said these words, but they are oh, so true. God always comes through just in time.
I remember part of the words to a song about Lazarus being dead. When Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus, he had been dead four days, the chorus to the song says, “. . . four days late but just in time.” The Lord will always come to your aid just in time. Never fear, only believe.
To live this Christian life we must learn to have patience. We must learn to wait. Never, ever think that we can fix our problems and trials; be assured that trying to fix them ourselves is a certain way to make them worse. To win the victory we must “Trust and obey for there is no other way.”
A second way that trials are good for us is because they help mature us spiritually. If you are unstable in your Christian life, you are not dependable to God. God is seeking men and women who will be willing to stand in the gap and make up the hedge regardless of the cost we must pay.
Our faith in God is the most important part of our Christian walk. We read in I Peter where Peter wrote, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you.”
1 Peter 4:12-13
12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
Brothers and sisters, trials are a part of the believer’s life. They mold and make us into what God desires for us to be. A mature Christian is an asset to God and His work here on earth. Immature Christians are impatient and rush ahead without using wisdom and understanding.
Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are distin-guishing traits of a mature child of God. They come by going through the trials of life. We can read all the books written on how to live an overcoming life, how to gain patience, how to have faith, but as good as some of them may be, the only way to have patience and build faith is by going through trials and temp-tations.
While I am talking about books, I recommend that you read books by Smith Wigglesworth such as Ever Increasing Faith and On the Power of Scripture. I have found Wigglesworth’s writings very inspirational in my life. Always remember that God will not put more on us than we are able to bear. In addition, with every temptation, God will make a way to escape.
1 Corinthians 10:13
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: NT tells us:
The only way the Lord can develop patience and character in our lives is through trials. Endurance cannot be attained by reading a book (even this one), listening to a sermon, or even praying a prayer. We must go through the diffi-culties of life, trust God, and obey Him. The result will be patience and character. Knowing this, we can face trials joyfully. We know what trials will do in us and for us, and we know that the end result will bring glory to God.
This fact explains why studying the Bible helps us grow in patience (Rom. 15:4). As we read about Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, and even our Lord, we realize that God has a purpose in trials. God fulfills His purpose as we trust Him. There is no substitute for an understanding mind. Satan can defeat the ignorant believer, but he cannot overcome the Christian who knows his Bible and understands the purposes of God.
In verse four, James begins by saying to “let patience have her perfect work.” What is he really saying? He is saying that through patience we become perfect in the sight of Almighty God. Here we see that it is God’s desire that we be perfect before Him. Yes, I know some people say that no one can be perfect. However, I believe what the Bible says when it tells us to be perfect. What is perfect?
Webster’s New World College Dictionary gives this definition:
In a condition of complete excellence, as in skill or quantity; faultless; most excellent, sometimes used comparatively; “to create a more perfect union”
I believe that God intends for us to live a perfect life in His sight. We do this by living an overcoming life before God. The problem most people have is that they do not know the differ-ence between temptation and sin. I know that I repeat this over and over; however, you need to get it settled in your mind. It is not a sin to be tempted; sin only comes in when we yield to the temptation. Most people believe that when they are tempted, they have already sinned, and this is not true. Sin only comes when we do what the devil has tempted us to do.
Now as for being perfect in the sight of God, I can name at least four men in the Bible, besides Jesus, that were perfect. Adam and Eve were perfect before they fell to the devil’s lies and sinned. We find also in Genesis that Noah was perfect in his generation. In the book of Job, scripture states that Job was a perfect and upright man in the sight of the Lord. Enoch and Elijah were perfect because God took them into heaven without having died. The scriptures tell us that no sin can enter into heaven, so it must make sense that they had to be perfect in God’s sight. Just as these men were perfect, before God, we are expected to be perfect, also.
The scripture ends with this, “that ye may be perfect and entire wanting nothing.” Wanting nothing implies being complete or fully developed, not immature and not a novice. We also find Jesus telling us to be perfect. Therefore, if no one can be perfect as many proclaim, why does our Lord tell us to be perfect?
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Paul, as with James, weighs in and tells the Christians to be perfect in the sight of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 13:11
Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
Why do people, teachers and even ministers try to explain away the scriptures?
James also speaks of patience, meaning to wait calmly. You will find many things in this life that demand patience or waiting. Raised on a farm, when our crops were planted, all we could do was wait upon God to give the harvest. Patience is a virtue that every Christian should have and must have to please God. So, as we face trials and temptations, we are to do it joyfully and with patience, knowing that our Heavenly Father loves us, is perfecting us and getting us ready to join Him in heaven.
Praise God, the rapture is soon to take place. Jesus is coming after His Bride and we are going home to the place that has been prepared for us. As the Word says, where Jesus is, there we shall be also, forever with the Lord.
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
In these four verses there is one main thought presented. But we need to take a close look at these verses individually, because in them, there is a wealth of information that we need to glean. Too many times, we seem to overlook important facts that can help us in understanding the full meaning of God’s Word. This fifth verse is such a verse. It begins: “If any of you lack wisdom.”
We must first ask, “What is wisdom?”
The answer can be confusing. We often think of wisdom and knowledge as being the same thing; however, I can assure you otherwise. Knowledge is the ability to take something apart, and wisdom is the ability to put it back together. This may seem funny, but all too often this is the case. It does not take wisdom to take something apart, because anyone can do that. Wisdom, however, is figuring out how to reassemble it so that it works.
Knowledge is learning about all manner of things. There are books full of knowledge. I had a cousin who read the encyclopedia at home; he enjoyed learning about the world and the things in it. As far as book learning, he was very knowledge-able. I have seen and known men with degrees hanging on their walls, smart men, their hearts full of knowledge. Yet, they had no idea how to put what they knew into practical application.
Wisdom is practical application, knowing how to take your knowledge and make it work for you. I worked with an engineer once who could draw up plans on paper, and when we took those plans, we could build it perfectly. However, although he could draw it, he could not build what he had drawn. Wisdom is far more than the intelligent acquisition of knowledge; it is putting into practice what we have learned.
James is giving the saints of his day and the saints of today some very important advice. If you lack wisdom, then go before God and ask for the wisdom that comes from above. God’s wis-dom helps as we go through the trials of life. A man or woman of God will use this wisdom to take the opportunity to learn from every trial they face. James tells us that if we will ask God for wisdom, God will give it to us liberally. What does the scripture say? “Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you, ask and it shall be given unto you.” To go along with this, the scriptures also teach that “ye have not because ye ask not.”
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
To receive, we must believe what the Word teaches. Without believing there will be no receiving ...
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