As we read the Bible it’s good to be aware that there are regularly three things it requires of us – something to believe, something to know, and something to do. In Paul’s letters he usually gets to the ‘things to do’ at the end after telling us what to know and believe. James is different. James, the half brother of Jesus (there are four different James’ in the New Testament) writes his letter, telling dispersed Jewish readers what they should be doing because of what they believe already. He writes in about A.D 50 in a unique preaching-type style. As you read it you will notice that it’s very much as if he is talking more than writing. His thoughts wonder and come back as he presses the truth onto the reader more, simply presenting it like a good preacher would.
James’ letter is one of action. From reading the letter it is evident that James knows what the hearers are facing and what problems they have succumbed to. Some of the people are experiencing trials and troubles and they don’t know why or how to cope with them. James tells them that God is maturing them through trouble and then proceeds to tell them in which areas their behaviour is not what it could be. James explains that there is a kind of Christianity that knows an awful lot but fails to live according to what it has heard. The people are evidently in a time free from persecution; relative comfort in life and assimilation with the world is easy for them. One writer calls them ‘respectable backsliders’. James calls on them to hear God afresh if they want to count for God. Change is needed in how they approach trials, the Word of God, the poor and the world.
We too will need to hear James writing to us in our Western, comfortable worldly world. James’ words are as relevant today as ever. May God speak to you as you read.
A more in-depth study of James
Authenticity is a word that is closely associated with the Christian church. Throughout church history there are those who have succeeded and those who have failed to be authentic. What makes someone an authentic Christian? When their salvation shows in how they live.
James is a difficult book to read but, when you study it, is very encouraging. This course is periodically taught at our Equipping Courses (evenings or mornings).
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