Tuesday, August 15, 2017


What follows is a Bible study I am leading at Berean Bible Church in Knoxville TN. If you are in Knoxville and do not have a church home, we would love for you to join us.  I will add to this post each week until the study is completed.  I hope it is a blessing to you!  Please feel free to leave comments or questions in the comment section, I enjoy hearing from readers.  God Bless



The book of James is possibly the first New Testament epistle. Many believe the book was written as a rebuttal to Paul's message of hyper-grace and see James as the antithesis of antinomianism, a doctrine mistakenly attributed to the Apostle Paul. Antinomianism is basically the belief that once salvation is secured by faith, believers are exempt from any moral obligations of the law. Paul did not teach this, in fact, Paul clearly taught against this idea: Romans 6:1-2 - What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
This epistle cannot be a rebuttal to the teachings of Paul because in Acts 15 we see the Jeruslem council headed up by James concluding Gentile believers were not required to observe Jewish Law.

Who is James – General consensus is James was the half brother of Jesus. A very small number of people attribute this writing to the Apostle James the son of Zebedee, the brother of the John. This James was martyred early in the life of the church. According to Acts, James the brother of Jesus was the leader of the church in Jerusalem.
Clement, a first century contemporary of Peter and Paul named James the brother of Jesus as the “bishop of bishop's, the bishop over Jerusalem.” We find Clement mentioned by name in the book of Philippians: Philippians 4:3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Jude mentions that he is a brother of James in the opening line of his epistle and we find a list of Jesus' brothers in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, we see a list of Jesus' brothers with both James and Jude mentioned. Interestingly, James' name is realy Jacob, but anglicized by the tranlators of the KJV.

The salutation is written specifically to the 12 tribes of Israel in the dispersion. The dispersion took place shortly after the stoning of Stephen. Acts 8 mentions the scattering of the Jewish believers. Peter's epistles were also directed to the scattered Jewish believers and also dealt with some of the same themes as James. There are some who believe the epistle is written to Tribulation saints due to the mentioning of the 12 tribes. We do not see a complete mentioning of the 12 tribes of Israel after the Babylonian captivity until the 144,000 Jewish evangelists drawn from the 12 tribes found in Revelation. The parallels to Matthew 25 also lead some to this conclusion. We will look at these parallels as we look at James' instructions for taking care of the poor.

Though many misinterprate the purpose of this epistle, the generel purpose is to show how beleivers ought to behave in response to salvation.

  1. V. 1 – As stated above, James is writing specifically to the believing Jews dispersed among the Gentile nations. In the first century, the dispersion was a factor of 2 events. First, the Jews who remained abroad after the Babylonian captivity but maintained their faith and observed the holy days in Jerusalem. On the day of Pentecost, many of these foreign Jews became believers and went back home with their new faith. The other factor of the dispersion was after the stoning of Stephen, many believing Jews fled Jerusalem for fear of the Jewish leaders. I believe this letter is written primarily to the first group while Peter seemed to be writing primarily to the second group.
  1. v. 2-3 – By the nature of these Jews professing faith in Jesus, they became double outcasts in their homeland. Already, they were excluded from much of public life because they were faithful Jews living in pagan cultures and now, upon returning home, they would have no longer been accepted in their Jewish communities. Sadly, much of the persecutions experienced by these new converts would come from friends and family.

As believers, we are living in a world governed by a philosophy opposite of what we are called to live by. We are called to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us and to put others first. Often the others we are called to put first are people who are opposed to what we believe and people who, in a worldly sense, add no value to our lives. By nature of our living in opposition to this world's methodology, we often find ourselves facing hardships that unbelievers do not normally encounter. These hardships serve as trials. What does a trial hope to accomplish – it proves or disproves a matter. In our case, it hopefully proves our faith and as verse 3 indicates, creates steadfastness. The word for trial is pirasmos meaning to put to proof and the word for steadfastness is hupamone meaning hopeful constancy. So the idea we get is that we will suffer hardship as a method of proving our salvation and teaching us a constancy of faithfulness regardless of our circumstances.

When we learn of a man who is able to look over the rail of a ship at the depths where his children lie at the bottom of the ocean and he is able to pen the hymn It Is Well With My Soul we meet a man who has been proven through hardship and found constant in faithfulness. This is the kind of faith we want to find in ourselves.


Last week, we looked at the background on James and his purpose and time of writing. We also looked at the first 3 verses. James is writing to the Jewish believers who are scattered among pagan Gentile nations. James starts off his epistle discussing hardship. Being a stranger in a strange land among those of strange customs can create a plethora of hardships and trials. James encourages these believers to not only expect trials of many kinds but to look at trials as a blessing from God meant to strengthen faith. James continues on this theme as we pick up verse 4.

  1. V.2-4 – The trials we face test our faith and as we are tested, we are strengthened. Trials sometimes seem like they are tearing us down but if we stand firm in our faith through the trial, we will come out on the other side stronger and more equipped to serve.

It is in trials we learn what we are made of and we discover the strength of God. D.L. Moody was a powerful evangelist of his time but it wasn't until he lost everything in the Great Chicago fire that he finaly came to the end of himself and truly learned to rely on God. After losing everything, ministry and home, in the Great Chicago Fire, Moody traveled to New York to attempt to raise money to rebuild. As he walked the streets feeling completely hopeless and abandoned, he sought out God. Many would have given up and pursued a different course of life, maybe even denying God existed. Moody felt an irrisistible desire to seek God in prayer. He hurried to the home of a friend and asked if there was a room he could use to be alone in. The friend led him to a room upstairs and it was there, as Moody sought God without distraction that he felt the overwhelming presence of God. Moody's life was completely transformed from that point on. His ministry focus and effectiveness expanded immensely.

Going through a terrible trial led to complete surrender and receiving supernatural strength. It is when we realize how much we need God that we tap into our greatest source of strength.

  1. V.5-8 – This passage has a double application: first, God wants to bless us with wisdom. God wants to bless us with wisdom. Wisdom is freely given to us with only one condition, which is the second application of this passage – we must belive what we pray for! If we ask God for wisdom, we have to believe that He can give it to us.

Where we need to be careful with a passage like this is that we cannot go beyond what is stated and apply this to whatever we ask God for. This is one of the passages that the prosperity preachers use to destroy people's faith. This passage is speaking about asking specifically for wisdom, not health, wealth or prosperity. God will tell us no when we ask for things outside His will – not because we did not exercise enough faith or because we did not believe enough.

Notice also the danger of doubting God – it leads to instability. We deonstrate unbelief when we choose to ignore His commands and choose to live according to our own desires. Saying I am a believer but living like an atheist makes for a very unstable life.

Tying this into the first verses, we can see that when we are going through a trial, it is good to ask God for wisdom on how to handle whatever it is we are going through. Whether it is someone you trusted coming against you or a financial setback or a health issue, God wants us to go to Him first, not as a last resort.

  1. V. 9-11 – whatever state you are in will not remain forever. The lowly will be exalted in resurrection and the wealthy who rely on wealth in this life will be brought not have any of that wealth at the judgment. This life, in the grand scheme of things, is fleeting. Even in the sense of human history – 6000 years of recorded history, what percentage of that is the human lifespan? Average life expectancy is 76 -81 years, depending if you are a man or woman. We only live just over 1% of history, now imagine what that looks like compared to eternity...

The point is if you are of low estate, you should not despair because, as a believer you will be exalted and glorified at the resurrection. If you are wealthy you must be careful to not fall into the trap of the rich young ruler who could not follow Christ because of his love of his wealth.

  1. V. 12 – this ties everything previously to trials. The weak will be exalted in the Lord and the wealthy had better not rely on or trust their wealth to get them through a trial.

By coming through a trial, having trusted God, we find our faith, having been tested, genuine and therefore, we know we will one day receive the crown of life. The word for trial, or temptation, depending on your translation, is pirasmos meaning proving through adversity.

Our faith is not tested during good times, it is easy to trust God when life is good. It is in times of adversity and trouble that we truly get a glimpse of what someone has inside.

  1. V. 13-15 – This passage deals specifically with the depravity of man. We do not need any external prodding to sin. Yes, scripture is clear that we do come under spiritual attack from the enemy. Jesus was tempted by Satan and part of the armor of God is the shield of faith used to ward off the fiery darts of the enemy.

During the millennial reign of Christ, there will be no Satan to tempt mankind into sinning, yet there will be sin because of man's sin nature. Isaiah 65:20 There shall be nor more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the transgressor being an hundred years old shall be accursed.

Isaiah 60:12 For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.

Not only will there be personal sin, but national sin as well. In fact, the nations that do not come to worship in Jerusalem will receive no rain: Zechariah 14:17 And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, Yahweh of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain


James 1:16-27

    1. v. 16-17 – This passage contrasts our sinful nature with the goodness and consistency of God. As we saw in the previous verses, win is something that comes from within ourselves. From us, comes evil and sin, while from God comes everything good. Even the good we do, we do by the empowerment of God.

The second part of this passage is one of my favorite descriptions of God – no variation or shadow due to change, in the KJV it says, no variableness nor shadow of turning. This means God is consistently good. There is no shadow or hidden dark places when dealing with God. God is light and his light illuminates darkness and no darkness emanates from Him. We can trust fully in God's goodness and love and in His unchanging quality. God does not change His mind or waver in His promises. We can trust Him all the way into martyrdom if necessary.

  1. V. 18 – First fruits – Jesus, according to 1 Corinthians 15:23, is The First Fruits. This is demonstrated by the resurrection itself. The third day after Passover, the Israelites were required to observe the festival of First Fruits where the very first harvest of the barely was brought to the Temple as an offering to the Lord.

In fact, the first month of the year was delayed if the Barley was not ready to harvest. Because the Jewish year is on a lunar cycle, they do not have a leap day but a leap month. When the Barley crop is harvest able, the New Moon is declared the first month and 15 days later, Passover is observed. 3 days after Passover, the first of the Barley harvest is brought to the Temple and dedicated to the Lord.

On the third day after Passover, Jesus rose from the dead and became a literal First Fruit offering in anticipation of our resurrection and being gathered in to heaven.

God does the work in our redemption.

  1. V. 19-20 – We are to be very careful how we respond to others. It's been said we have 2 ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as much as we speak. Even in criticism, we should be slow to respond. I remember reading about a minister who used criticism as an opportunity to evaluate himself. If he found some truth in the criticism he would act on it and if not, he would disregard it. This minister always thanked the criticizer for causing introspection.

None of us are perfect and sometimes it is good for us to receive loving instruction. Pride causes us to get our dander up.

To spout off in anger is a dangerous thing. How many times have you had to apologize to someone saying, “I did not mean it, I was angry.” the only problem with that is scripture tells us in Luke 6:45 – Out of the abundance of the heart, a man speaks So, what we say in anger is often something we have been thinking.

Being slow to anger also spares us much grief. A hothead will have a very difficult time bearing a good witness. The Bible has harsh words for those who get angry easily: Ecclesiastes 7:9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.

Jesus had plenty to get angry about in His earthly ministry. Only 2 times do we see Jesus act in anger. Once when He drove out the money changers from the Temple and once when He cursed the fig tree for not bearing fruit. Both of those events made a powerful spiritual statement and both of those stand out because they were rare occurrences. Had Jesus been a hothead, running around angry all the time, the lesson in both of those events would have been lost and He would have been disregarded.

We must choose our battles and overlook offence. Many times what we perceive as an offence was not meant that way. Better to go to someone and discuss an issue rather than blow up.

  1. V. 21 – Remember, the society many of those James was writing to was overrun by paganism. Paganism lends itself to debaucherous behavior. As Jews living in pagan lands, most would not have been participating in sinful behavior but younger generations may have drifted from the faith of their parents. We see that generally happen, when a group emigrates to another land, the next generation will assimilate to the culture. When the English Separatists fled England for Holland in the 1600's, the assimilation of the younger generation into the sinful culture of led many of the Separatists to leave for the New World on the Mayflower.

We live in a very sinful culture and unfortunately, the culture seems to shape the church far more than the church shapes the culture. Though we may not actively participate in the sin, we inadvertently support and promote it with our entertainment dollars. When scripture tells us to put away those things, I believe we are also being cautioned about our choices of books, movies and television shows.

  1. V. 22-25 – This is all for nothing if we just read the word, see areas of our lives that need worked and then go about life as if nothing is amiss. The biggest problem with the witness of the church today is millions of people calling themselves Christian and living like atheists. I wonder how many in churches on Sunday morning would like to give testimony about what they were doing on Saturday night.

We cannot continue to ignore God's word and expect to have any relevancy in the world around us. We cannot continue sowing to the flesh and expecting to reap the fruit of the Spirit. So often people who are living outside God's will ask why life is a struggle. Things cannot go well spiritually if we are busy serving ourselves and ignoring God's instruction and leading in our lives.

We cannot continue doing the same foolish things over and over and expect a different outcome.

We have to be in the Word, we have to learn the Word and we have to do the Word. If we are not in it, we cannot learn it and if we do not learn it we cannot do it.
  1. V. 26 – this ties in with the verse about anger, being slow to speak. If we cannot learn to control our tongue we will be terrible witnesses. Thinking about the impact your words will have should help you decide if those words are worth saying. If you want people to respect you and your faith, you cannot foolishly utter every word that pops into your head. Proverbs 17:28 says even fools appear wise when they are silent.

  1. V. 27 – serving others and living obediently towards God is the marks of our faith. This seems pretty simple and yet, we like to come up with all these proofs and evidences that allow us to be able to determine if someone is really saved.

Serving those who have no voice or power. This places us in a place to receive no reward here on earth because the poorest and the weakest do not have a means to reward you or benefit you. We need to be willing to serve in ways that are not noticed or beneficial to ourselves.

Widows and orphans are among the most forgotten. The Jewish leaders of the time were very flashy and flamboyant in their service to God and did what benefited them and built up their prestige. James is telling the followers of Christ to be the opposite of that.

Also, serving God does not give us a license to sin or entitle us to indulge our flesh. The more you serve properly, the easier it becomes to crucify the flesh. Galatians 5:24-25 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.


JAMES 2:1-13

  1. V. 1-7 - As we look at this passage, we recognize that partiality is sin. Remember, this letter was written to Jewish believers who were dispersed among foreign pagans and non believing Jews. The wealthy in those cities would almost certainly be pagans or Jews who were able to assimilate well into the society. The believing Jews this was written to would most likely be economically challenged. There is a human tendency to be infatuated with wealth and power. James is warning these believers to not give in to that natural tendency but to remember who the wealthy really are and how they got their money.

By showing partiality based on economic or social status is foolishness. A person should be measured, as Martin Luther King said, by the content of their character. I have met jerks who are rich and jerks who are poor. I have met super nice rich people and super nice poor people. I have met some really down to earth famous people and I have met famous people who expected to be treated special. If we begin to judge people by the clothes they wear or their social status we will miss out on meeting some good people and we will waste time catering to people who will waste your time and cast you aside.

The language used by James describing the rich is culturally specific. We, in the West do not experience this type of situation. This may be something experienced in some Middle Eastern countries. Here the rich and powerful may disparage Christianity more and more but we do not see the level of malevolence experienced by those to whom James is writing.

  1. V. 8-11 - If the law for us is to love our neighbor and we mistreat someone because they are poor or offer no value to our lives, we are violating the law. We do not have the liberty to sin in some areas and not others. We cannot pick and choose what things we obey. If we are to live under the OT law, we must keep it all.

When we meet those who insist we keep the Sabbath or dietary laws, remind them that they must also not cut the hair on the sides of their heads and that they must also keep the Sabbath years and Jubilee years. If you want to live under the Law you have to keep it all or as soon as you violate one point, you have violated it all.

One question I constantly get is about my tattoos being against the Bible. I begin to go through the list of forbidden foods and hair on the sides of the head being cut and this opens the opportunity to share the Gospel.

III. V. 12-13 – The Law of Mercy is what we are now under in the age of grace. If we do not exercise mercy, we will not receive mercy. Remember the parable Jesus told about the man who was forgiven a large debt yet imprisoned the one who owed him money. It did not go well for the man who was initially forgiven. If we truly understand the grace and mercy we have received, we will extend that to others as well.


Chapter 2:14-26

Last week we looked at showing partiality and obedience to the law. This week we will look at one of the most difficult passages in scripture, balancing salvation by faith alone with the need to bear fruit as a believer. It is in this passage that we must be very careful to not place the cart before the horse. It is this passage, along with the greeting in chapter 1, that has led some to believe this is written to the Tribulation saints – specifically the 144,000 Jewish evangelists found in the book of Revelation.

  1. V. 14 – Taken alone, this verse would lead us down a very dangerous path. Scripture is subject to interpretation by scripture.
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
"I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

If we take the James passage to mean that works are necessary to salvation, we will find ourselves in direct contradiction to the Apostle Paul who said specifically salvation is not of works. It cannot be both, it has to be one or the other. So, if scripture clearly teaches that we cannot be saved by works and faith in Christ alone is sufficient for salvation – what do we do with a verse like James 2:14?
We look at it in context.

  1. V. 15-18 – What James is saying is that our faith will bear fruit and be demonstrated by service to God if it is genuine. If I claim to believe something but never act on that belief, what good is my belief.

I may believe the food in my refrigerator can sustain me but if I do not act on that belief and starve to death, what kind of faith is that?

There are people who believe Jesus is the son of God, yet they choose to serve the enemy or reject God outright.

Misotheism is hatred for God born out of the belief that God is apathetic to evil and that though all powerful and therefore able to end suffering, allows suffering, proving He is not good but necessarily evil. Though the Misotheism anthem Dear God by the band XTC claims to not believe in God, it condemns Him for allowing suffering and war. You cannot very well condemn someone you do not believe in. The song is heartbreaking on many levels.

I do not believe in Santa Claus but I do not attack him as evil or address him in any fasion because he is not real.
The point James is making here is that if you have real, saving faith, you will have works, you will have compassion for others that moves you to help them. You will live a lifestyle that attests to what you claim to believe. Brennan Manning said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today
Is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips
Then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.
That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

To claim faith and then to live like there is no God nor personal responsibility to growth is to deny the very God you claim to serve.
  1. V. 19 – can one believe in God and even name Christ and still be lost? Yes
Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin are two very good examples of what we would refer to as Deists. They believed in God and the prinicples of the Bible but did not have faith in Jesus Christ. Thomas Jefferson edited the Bible to remove all references to the deity of christ and all miracles. Ben Franklin, at the age of 84, just prior to his death, stated he doubted the divinity of Christ. These men acknowledged God and even worshipped him, acknowledged the historical truth of a man named Jesus, yet, denied the Gospel.
Simply believing doctrine does not save, unless that faith is applied to yourself.

  1. V. 20-24 – Faith not acted upon is not faith at all. We do people a great diservice by telling them to come say a prayer and that they are good to go. A prayer said after an emotional play is worthless if it is not followed up with discipleship.
In order to get the true understanding of this passage, discipleship, not hit and run evangelism must be employed.
Romans 4:2-5 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

Romans seems to directly contradict James. Remember, James is writing to believers. James is calling his readers to test their faith by the works they demonstrate. These beleivers are in a precarious perdicament.

The believers James is writing to are stuck between two opposing cultures, both of which oppose them. The temptation would be to align themselves with the rich and well to do so as not to be ostracized. To do this at the expense of the poor would indicate a lack of faith and trust. If we do not do what is right because we are afraid of how we will be perceived we demonstrate a lack of faith. If we mistreat those who it is in vogue to mistreat, we are telling God that we do not trust Him to deliver us from the consequences of serving Him. Even if we face death, we must trust God - Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

So, as I stated earlier, we cannot place the cart before the horse – we must have faith in Christ in order to be saved and then works will be the demonstration of that faith. The lack of works will be a demonstration of a lack of faith. Hebrews 11:6 – without faith it is impossible to please God

V. V. 25-26 – Rahab did not only claim to believe in the God of creation, she acted on that faith. Just as our bodies are the bearers of our spirit so our faith is the bearer of our works of service. While faith without works is dead, it is impossible to perform works without faith. One day, we will no longer need faith as we will stand face to face with Christ and what we know today by faith we will know by experience. I do not have faith in a chair I am sitting in, I have faith before I sit in it. Once I am sitting in it I am experiencing the ability of the chair to bear me. The body is temporal but necessary in this world and our faith is temporal but necessary in this world.  


Chapter 3

This chapter deals with learning how to tame our tongues! How many times have you wished you could take words spoken back? Like trying to put toothpaste back into a tube, trying to take back ill spoken words can cause a bigger mess than the original words.

It seems like a pretty simple and common sense issue, yet James spends about a tenth of his letter speaking on the topic.

  1. V. 1-2 – First James warns us against being a teacher. If we teach, presumably, we know what is right and wrong, therefore we are held more accountable for the information. If I am teaching, chances are I took the time to really understand the topic as opposed to someone who may have been day dreaming during reading a passage of not paying attention as a passage is taught by someone else.

Just sitting in church, there is no guarantee that you understand what is being taught, there is no guarantee that you are even paying attention so you may or may not be aware of the information. But the teacher – he has read and re-read, he has planned what he wants to say and he has hopefully mastered the information enough to be able to explain it to someone else.

I may be able to control my behavior, especially when someone is looking but my mouth... James contends if you can control your mouth, you could live in perfection.

You may think, “hey, I don't cuss, I don't say hurtful things to people, I don't even raise my voice.” Gossip, criticism, sarcasm, all of that falls into this category.

Solomon deals with this inadvertantly in Ecclesiastes: Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.

Solomon just throws it out there that everyone curses others sometimes. It could be laced with vulgarity or be something as simple as thinking someone is a jerk.

  1. V. 3-6 – though a very small part of our body, our tongue wields great power. Our lives can be steered in a good direction or a bad direction by our words. The answers to questions in a job interview or even in a courtroom could change the whole course of your life.

The right words said to the right person in the right way may lead to a lifetime of companionship and the wrong words could lead to the loss of love.

Words are very powerful and must be considered before spoken.

  1. V. 7-8 – we have learned how to train gorillas to communicate through sign language, we can get elephants to give rides to children and we can get a lion to jump through a ring of fire, but we cannot seem to find a way to control the garbage that comes out of our mouths. We say all kinds of nonsense without thinking. We laugh at inappropriate jokes, we tell inappropriate jokes, we curse other drivers, we mock people who seem different or weird to us, and we brag and boast about ourselves.

How many times have you or someone you know reached a level of tolerance and then just unloaded on someone? That is everything to do with self control.

  1. V. 9-12 – now, taken alone, this passage would lead us to believe that as believers, we are expected to be perfect in everything we say and if we speak wrongly, we cannot be a believer. Just like other passages in this letter, taken alone, we can build some pretty tough false doctrines. But in the first part of this passage, James admits that no man can control his tongue. So should we conclude that noone is actually a believer? No, rather, we should conclude that as believers, we need to be mindful of what comes out of our mouths and if we are in the habit of continually speaking filth and hate, we may want to evaluate our relationship with God.

James is writing to people who are mature in the Lord as they have been raised in Judaism. These are not new converts from Paganism that Paul is dealing with, these people are expected to know certain things already.

If your boss tells you to never disturb him during lunch, you know that if a real emergency takes place or if the building is on fire he expects to be disturbed. You know this already because you are familiar with your boss. These people are familiar with God and understand about sin and redemption.

What we should be seeing is a change in the way we speak to and about others.

  1. V. 13 – James shifts gears from words to actions. A mark of Christian maturity is behavior that honors God.

  1. V. 14-16 – bitterness, jealousy and selfish ambition are our natural state and the way of the world. Take what you want, even McDonald's says you deserve a break today. James could not condemn this behavior any more strongly, calling it downright demonic.

What is inside will dictate our behavior. Bitterness will cause you to distrust others and treat them as if they have already wronged you. Selfishness will cause you to dislike others for fear they may get something you think you deserve, whether it be a material gain or just attention or affection. Selfish ambition will cause you to see others as either a means to your goal and cause you to use them or as a hindrance to your goal and cause you to mistreat or discredit them.

People who are governed by these passions seem to beget chaos. There can be everyone getting along just great until a selfish or jealous person shows up and begins to whip up a whirlwind. There are certain people who we try to avoid or not invite to things because they will inadvertently stir up controversy or dissension because they are afraid of being mistreated in some way.

  1. V. 17-18 – here is the opposite of bitterness, selfishness and jealousy, here we see what should be the marks of a believer and the definition of a believers life. This is what we should be maturing into.

When we submit our lives to the authority of Christ, we will begin to see these traits manifest themselves and as we submit to the Holy Spirit in sanctification, these traits will begin go define us.

How many people do you know who are open to reason? So many times, we believe that our ideas and methods are the best and there is no room for argument.

Even when it comes to the churches we attend, we think our church is superior to almost every other. Why do we think that? If you go to the First Church of What's Happening Now, you will think that this is the best church. If you have a falling out at that church and begin to go to Holy Roller Church you will believe this to be the superior church in town. What is the one factor that both churches had when you thought it was the best – YOU! This is immature Christianity.

When we are strong in the Lord, we will recognize that our church has some flaws and the church down the street has some good points. We are open to the fact that God is working in the lives of others apart from the ministry we are involved in.

impartiality is another big one we seem to struggle with. We all have preferences. We like certain types of people and we dislike or distrust other types of people. Do we automatically treat people with whom we identify better than those with whom we do not? Again, our preference often dictates our view of someone and their behavior. We will tend ot overlook some pretty bad behavior of someone who we want to be associated with and will be hyper critical of those with whom we dislike or distrust.
We see this in politics every day. Bill Clinton has been accused of some pretty horrible things, yet his supporters were quick to criticize Trump for a video that came out during the election. And likewise, Trump's supporters who spent the last 16 years attacking Clinton for his behavior towards women found a way to forgive and excuse Trump.

Michael Jackson was accused harming children, yet people still shell out millions of dollars for his music. I fear what would have happened if Adolph Hitler would have been a more talented artist or Charles Manson a better musician. Would their crimes be forgiven by the masses who would want to be entertained by them?

The Beatles made false religion and drug use mainstream to an entire generation yet we embrace them because we love their music. I wonder if a derelict showed up at your door touting TM and LSD if you would spend money to bring them in and introduce them to your children?

The difference between the philosophy of the world and the wisdom that comes from above is consistency over chaos. The wisdom of the world leads to double standards, where we are left to guess about everything base on subjective criteria. In the wisdom from above, we are governed by objective criteria based on the simple principles of right and wrong. This is what we need to pursue in our Christian lives, peace and consistency found in the wisdom from above.


James 4:1-6

As we look at chapter 4 of James, we will see some practical commands that should be common sense and would be if we were not infected with the disease of self. Living for ourselves, on the surface, sounds like the path to fulfillment. After all, if you are focused on your own best interests, would not your own best interests be met?

Not likely. Being concerned with your own best interests often leads to frustration and anger. Who does not like to get their way? Unfortunately, life does not work like that and pursuing your own best will often leave you frustrated angry and unfulfilled.

  1. V. 1 – When you are serving self, and you view someone as the hindrance to your getting what you want in life, you will have animosity toward that person and this will manifest itself in hostility. This is most common in a family dynamic whether it be a sibling or a spouse. It happens in business and, sadly it happens in ministry. Churches have split because of selfish ambition that has given itself to open hostility.

I remember sitting at a youth minister's conference and listening to a former youth pastor recount how he had been cursed at and belittled, on a regular basis, by the senior pastor of the church he served. How could that happen? The senior pastor had an agenda, the youth pastor was viewed as a hindrance to the agenda and became a whipping boy.

If you are openly hostile toward someone, you need to examine the reason. Not all hostility is born of selfishness but much if it is.

  1. V. 2 – often we want something that is out of our grasp. You may feel entitled to something or feel as if you have put in a satisfactory effort to achieve a goal and it is out of reach. Rather than recognizing that this is something God does not have for you or something that God wants you to acknowledge came from Him when you get it, you begin to blame others for your failure to achieve or attain.

Left unchecked, that blame can blossom into hate and hate can lead to murder. Jealousy and self righteousness often leads to dissension and arguing.

If you want something, ask God for it. He is your Father and He loves you and He wants to give good things to His children.

When you leave it to God, you no longer view others as your enemy or the reason you cannot have something. If you have a healthy faith, you will recognize that when you do not get what you ask God for, it is for your best, look at verse 3.

  1. V. 3 – Oftentimes we ask for things that are ultimately harmful to us or would work against God's agenda for our lives. It's not that God tells us no even though He loves us, He tells us no because He loves us and knows that the not everything we think we need will help us.

If my young child asks for a pocket knife, I must evaluate the request according to their maturity, responsibility, and need. If they are pretty responsible but not quite mature enough for me to feel confident about them having unfettered access to a knife, I may say no. But, no may not always be no. As time goes on, they may ask again and at that point they may be ready and I say yes.

God deal with us the same way. No may be no forever, as in the case of Moses wanting to enter the promised land or it may be no for now. David wanted to build the temple, God said not now, your son will do it. David still got to plan and direct much of what would be built, but construction did not start until David died.

As we grow and mature in our faith, as we make better use of the resources, opportunities and talents God has already give, He may begin to grant things we have asked for but were not ready for at first. Never stop asking unless God clearly tells you to stop.

  1. V. 4-5 – unfortunately, much of what we crave or ask for has nothing to do with bringing glory to God. We see the things this world has to offer and we want those things. At one time or another, we have wanted that dream job or ideal relationship or a specific vehicle or home in a specific neighborhood. We get caught up with the allure of worldly values.

This is one of the quickest ways to derail your ministry and relationship with God. As the church, we are the Bride of Christ. As His bride, we must be about His business, not seeking our own pleasure and status. To chase that which the world calls valuable is to spiritually cheat on God. God offers to provide all our NEEDS, to fulfill us, to grant us peace love and joy, and to never leave us nor forsake us. In return, we chase that which society tells us has value even though much of it is in direct opposition to God.

The more we try to please or look like the world around us, the more we will work against God's agenda, not only in our lives, but the lives of others. I met a guy a few months ago on the streets. He was homeless and drunk at 8 in the morning. This man told me he had been a minister but he traded serving God for a sinful relationship with a woman. It only lasted a short time and the consequences have lasted years. This man went from being God's servant to being God's enemy. God will not be mocked.

God has filled us with His spirit and that is the influence He desires us to follow. We are surrounded by a world of sinful influence. We are inundated by ads telling us what we deserve and what we should want and what we should work for. When we follow the influence of the evil one rather than the influence of the Holy Spirit within us, God is jealous for our allegiance.

God promises us life abundant, Satan promises us misery and destruction. How do you think it makes God feel when he sees us playing the fool for Satan while Satan laughs at us? This is not something to be taken lightly.

  1. V. 6 – God wants to bestow grace to us. God wants to bless us with what we need to serve Him effectively. God wants to grant us our desires as those desires line up with His calling in our lives. It is when we rise up in our hearts and feel as if we are entitled to something or feel as if we have earned something that somehow God owes us, that God opposes us and makes our path difficult.

God does not bless us in order that we may have a cake life, He blesses us that we might serve Him effectively. As we seek His sanctification, as we utilize the time, talent and treasure He has already given, we are given more. This is what it means to be blessed, this is what it means to have grace bestowed upon us.

If you have two people who report to you and one is belligerent and rebellious and the other is compliant and desires to please you, which will you be more lenient with if they make a mistake? When our pride causes us to fall outside God's will, we may face a far more costly consequence than someone who overall is trying to please God and live in humility.

God opposes the proud. We can bow before Him of our own accord or we can bow by God's coercion, either way, we will bow. Far more grace comes by bowing to God's will of our own accord.  




As we come to the final chapter of James' epistle, the wealthy are placed on notice concerning the treachery of repressing the poor for personal gain. As stated at the beginning of this study, there are two prominent views concerning the audience of this epistle. Some believe it was written to the new Jewish converts living in foreign lands after the day of Pentecost and others believe it is written to the Tribulation saints, namely, the 144,000 Jewish evangelists found in Revelation. This chapter, more than any other, lends credibility to latter view. The warnings to the rich about the misery that is coming upon them mirrors that found in Ezekiel 7:9 - They cast their silver into the streets, and their gold is like an unclean thing. Their silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD. They cannot satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it. For it was the stumbling block of their iniquity.

Also the call for endurance as the return of the Lord is at hand lends credibility to the view of this being written to the tribulation saints. As we study through these remaining verses, we will keep both views in mind and allow each to make his own judgment on the matter.

  1. V. 1-3 – This is clearly a warning to the wealthy who have trusted in their silver and gold rather than God and found that they have bet on the wrong horse. Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Though this phrase was a local colloquialism, the idea behind it is just as meaningful as our understanding of an eye of a needle. When the rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked what he must do to be saved, Jesus told him to sell all he owned and give it to the poor and then come follow Him. This was not Jesus making a doctrine of poverty, it was Jesus demonstrating to this particular man that his wealth was his God in the sense it was what he was relying on to take care of him.

When we read the whole account of the rich young ruler, we first see him telling Jesus that he has obeyed the law all of his life. Jesus, knowing the man's heart tells him to sell all he has and give it away as a way of showing him that he has not even been able to keep the very first commandment, YOU SHALL HAVE NO GODS BEFORE ME. This man was not trusting God, but his wealth.

Wealth can be dangerous because it can lead to a feeling of self sufficiency. We may lose the sense of reiance on God, until the bottom falls out and all the money in the world cannot help us.

If this is, indeed, written to the tribulation saints, this passage would be a direct link to the sheep and goats judgment found in Matthew 25. In Matthew 25, we find Jesus condemning those who claimed faith yet did not demonstrate faith by caring for the poor and downtrodden. It would appear the goats of Matthew 25 cared for themselves and were not interested in helping others, demonstrating a lack of belief in Christ.

Of special note is the reference to last days at the end of verse 3.

Wealth, in and of itself is not evil. Many wealthy people have been very philanthropic and have used their wealth to promote the kingdom. Money is a tool which we can use for good or evil. Often misquoted is I Timothy 6:10 which does not say “money is the root of all evil”, but “the LOVE of money is the root of all evil.”

  1. V. 4-6 – Here is the charges against those who trusted in wealth rather than God. These are not condemned for possessing wealth, these are condemned for the treachery done in the name of wealth. Money and materialism was their god, and they served their god by doing what was required to gain and maintain.

Our God calls us to love and serve others, the god of materialism calls us to serve ourselves regardless of who we hurt. The motto of the Satanic church, “do as thou wilt is the whole of the law” is the same motto of materialism. Look out for number one. Take care of yourself, no one else will. Do unto others before they do unto your. These are all popular catch phrases we have all heard at one time or another. Lest we forget the lyrics from Ricky Nelson's Garden Party: “But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well, you see ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.”

Much of this sentiment took root with the Me Generation of the 1970s. We may not hear people actually speak these things, but we sure see evidence of it in practice. Corruption just seems to be the norm and we expect our leaders and politicians to have some level of corruption.

God does not take this sort of thing lightly, and neither should we in the church. We need to root out corruption in the church and not allow it to fester.

  1. V. 7-8 – Here the reader is assured that the Lord's return is at hand. We can take that as meaning we are living in the last dispensation before Christ returns to establish His kingdom or we can take it to mean James is speaking literally to those in the tribulation. Either way, we are told to wait as a farmer must wait for God to send rain and for the harvest to develop.

The point here is that we want to be in a place where we have done all that we are called to do and if things do not work out as we planned, we know that God will work it out in His time and we must wait as a farmer must wait to reap the fruit of his labor.

Oftentimes, we find ourselves going through a trial and wonder what we did wrong to have brought it upon ourselves. This is especially difficult when we have been striving towards obedience and we expect blessing and get trials instead. We are all familiar with the concept of reaping and sowing: do good things and good things happen – right? Tell that to the millions of missionary martyrs and persecuted Christians in Muslim countries. They did good things and disaster happened. Disaster in a worldy sense. These sowed good seed but did not reap in this life, but I imagine the reward they reap in eternity will be amazing.

Jesus lived His life perfectly and was betrayed by a friend, humilated, beaten and nailed to a cross. In the short term, Jesus did not receive blessing for obedience, but in the long term, His reward is everything!
Psalm 110:1 – The LORD said to my Lord, “sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”
Did Jesus see that take place in His eathly ministry, no, but He will reap a harvest of the Kingdom. We will also reap according to what we have sown, but it may not be in this lifetime.

Many believers become discouraged and broken over unmet expectations. We have to be so careful about how we present the Gospel. We cannot promise people an easy life if only the come to Christ. In fact, if we are honest, sometimes becoming a believer makes life more challenging. Trusting in God's promises are the key to endurance. We cannot know God's promises unless we read the Word.


James 5:9-20
Last week, in class, we had a good discussion on obedience and rewards. This week, we will look at how we intereact with others, as believers and the power of prayer. As james is wrapping up this letter, he seems to be relaying things as they come to him, some last points he wants to address before he signs off.

    I. V. 9 – How are we to relate to one another? – in love. When we complain about one another, we are in essence, judging each other's heart and motives. If I complain about someone's behavior, I am really questioning the motive behind the behavior. “Can you believe what so and so did?” is really an indictment against their heart. When we say “what were they thinking?” are we not questioning someone's motives?

If your brother offends you, scripture tells you to go to him and work it out. No where in scripture does it instruct us to establish a coalition or create a faction by complaining about one another. In fact, scripture clearly forbids us from doing this. How many church splits and broken ministries and destroyed relationships could have been avoided if we were obedient to the Word and did not engage in this kind of behavior.

When discussing someone, a good rule of thumb is if it is not something you would be comfortable having them hear you say, do not say it. This goes back to the whole taming of the tongue thing we looked at in chapter 3.

  1. V. 10-11 – Steadfastness in the face of suffering is one of the most difficult things for us to do. When things go wrong, discouragment can set in and cause us to fail or give up. Job is given as an example of what it looks like to remain steadfast in suffering.
Job's wife told him to curse God and die. Instead, Job continued to glorify the Lord. Yes, he questioned and he did not understand everything that was happening to him. There is no shame in asking why when the bottom falls out. There is no shame in feeling bad when bad things happen. In all his questioning and all his sadness, Job did not dishonor God. We do not have to always be happy. When the Bible says “give thanks in all things” it does not necessarily mean we are to be thankful for tragedy. We are to be thankful for God's presence and provision. There is a difference.

The bottom line is, we must remain steadfast in our faith in the midst of suffering as steadfastness is a mark of our faith. Those who fall away in adversity fail the test of faith. Jesus spoke of those when he talked about the parable of the sower. Matthew 13:20-21 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.

This is a person who has been tested and failed.

  1. V. 12 – Throughout the old Testament, we are instructed on how to swear by the Name of the Lord. Jer 4:2 and if you swear, 'As the LORD lives,' in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory."
Lev 19:12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.
Even God swears by Himself in Genesis: Gen 22:16 and said, "By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,

James is not contradicting scripture, he is letting us know that we are to be people of our word. We should not have to swear by anything when we say yes or no, our word, as believers should be good enough.

  1. V. 13-16 – We are not called to stifle our emotions, we are not called to ignore how we feel and we are not called to just suffer in silence. If you are sad, acknowledge that and pray – if you are happy, give praise.

If you are sick, seek prayer from the leadership of your church. Notice how sin and sickness are tied together here. We must be careful that we do not run ahead of scripture and declare that all illness is a result of personal sin. Jesus clearly dealt with this when he was asked about a blind man as his blindness related to his or his parent's sin. Jesus clearly stated that the man was not blind because of personal sin. If we are going to build such a doctrine, we would have to demonstrate that personal sin is always directly responsible for illness. What we must understand is that there are times when illness MAY be a result of personal sin. The Greek word for sick is astheneo which can mean weak or feeble.

Just as not every storm on the sea is a result of the sin of a passenger on a boat, there can be times when a Jonah is responsible for rough seas. The same with illness, there are times when illness may be a direct result of personal sin that God is dealing with in our lives.

It has been said that confession is good for the soul, it may very well be good for the body as well!

We are made righteous in Christ and as we pursue that righteousness our prayers are effective. I may not fully understand how our prayers work together with God's sovereignty and foreknowledge, but the scripture says it does and so it is something I must take on faith and trust that when I experience God in His fullness and I am able to traverse dimensions of time and space, dimensions I am only able to speculate about now, I will understand it.

  1. V. 17-18 – Elijah had no super powers, yet his prayers changed his environment. Did Elijah just one day decide to stop rain? No, he was in sync with God's plan and purpose and Elijah knew his prayer would be answered. Just as Moses was in sync with God's plan and purpose and he was able to call forth plagues. God did not need Elijah to pray for rain, nor was God enslaved by Elijah's prayers.
We want to come to a place in our walk with the Lord that we can sense His leading and prompting through the Holy Spirit. When we pray for a miracle, when we pray for healing, when we pray for a supernatural manifestation of God's power, we need to be sure we are walking closely with God. I have had people speak prophcey over me. Some were right on and others were way off. Revently someone spoke a prophecy over me concerning a certain time frame. The numbe of weeks came and went and guess what, nothing happened. God is not beholden to our prayers nor does He need our prayers to move. God desires our prayers so we are in communication with Him. God desires our prayers because He loves us and wants to spend time with us. Prayer is not always “can I have” or “thank you for”. Sometimes, prayer is telling God how you feel or wondering why something is a certain way.

Somehow, prayer accomplishes things.

  1. V. 19-20 – Part of bringing back a lost sinner is prayer. Prayer for guidance, prayer for influence, and wisdom. We need to be concerned about one another. We need to be involved in the lives of others. If you do not know what to say or do, pray. God will guide you. Remeber, the person you are praying for is loved by God.

This concludes the study of James. I hope it was educational and enlightening. Feel free to comment or leave questions in the comment section. God Bless!