The letter of James is one of the earliest books in the New Testament. It is a practical letter with a Jewish flavor. James writing style resembles the Old Testament prophets. The initial church was consisted of Jewish believers. The emphasis of the letter is Christian living. James does not contradict Paul’s teaching on the doctrine of justification by faith. He argues that true faith will manifest itself in works. Mental assent to truth is insufficient for salvation. Genuine faith will face trials head on and they are inevitable in Christian life. They are allowed to produce produce godly character and maturity. Faith gives strength to have victory over temptations. True faith hates prejudice and favoritism. Faith is more than knowledge and will be demonstrated by obedience. It rejects earthly wisdom and chose heavenly wisdom. Faith waits patiently for the coming of Christ. James gives encouragement and instructions to believers who are undergoing adversity (1:19). Christ’s name is found only twice in this letter. The author identifies himself as “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). Four men in the New Testament are known as James. They are the father of Judas, James the son of Alphaeus, James the brother of John, lastly the half brother of Jesus (Luke 6:16; Matt 10:3; Matt 4:21; Matt 13:55). James did not believe in Jesus initially (John 7:5). After the resurrection , Jesus graciously appeared to James and led him to saving faith (1 Cor 15:7). James had a prominent position in the Jerusalem church. Scholars suggest that James wrote his letter between AD 45-50. James points out that obedience is the purpose of hearing the word of God. Be doers of the Word and not hearers only (1:22).
Greetings from James: 1:1, 2.
The author identifies himself as James a bond salve of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. This speaks of his deep humility. Once he refused to believe but he became the inspired writer of this epistle (Mark 3:21). This demonstrates the grace of God. This epistle is addressed to the twelve tribes in the dispersion. They were scattered from Jerusalem by persecution. James was a leader of the Jerusalem Church and a brother of Jude (Matt 13:55). James wrote this letter to encourage and to instruct the Jewish Christians who are persecuted (Act 8:1).
The Test of Faith and Endurance: 1:3- 4.
There is an endearment in James address. Christians are dear brothers and sisters in Christ. They belong to the family of God. James recognizes that Christians will face trials of various kinds. Troubles and trials are inescapable facts in this fallen world (John 16:33; Phil 1:29; 2 Tim 3:12). God permits trials for our good to bring maturity in the Christian life. Our natural tendency is to avoid trials in life. It can make us either better or bitter. So whenever trials come, we should welcome them as friends with joy because they help us to grow spiritually. True faith will be tested. Those who patiently endure them will grow and become strong in character for God’s use. Why God allows trials in Christian life? It is to prove the validity of our faith and to wean us from the things we love in this world. They also help us to become mature and complete lacking nothing (2 Cor 1:4). Trials and sufferings help us to live in hope of heaven (2 Cor 4:17, 18; Rom 5:3). In our sufferings, God promises his grace and presence to us (2 Cor 12:9). God will not allow trials beyond our ability to endure and he will provide the way of escape (1 Cor 10:13). Let patient have her perfect work. This must be our attitude when we face trials. Perfection in the absolute sense is reserved for the life to come.
We need wisdom to understand God’s purpose behind our trials: 1:5-11.
God does not want us to face trials and temptations alone. He promises wisdom to understand the purpose of trials in life. We must ask God for wisdom because he is the source of wisdom (Pro 2:6). Every good and perfect gift comes from above (1:17). God gives wisdom generously and without rebuke to all those who seek wisdom. But we must ask in faith without wavering knowing that He is the only source. Wavering people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They are double minded and are unstable in everything they do. To have wisdom we must have the knowledge of Christ and eternal perspective. Christians should rejoice not because of earthly status but for their salvation. God is eager to help us and has no intention of shaming his children. Our reproach has been removed forever by Christ's death and resurrection. Wealth cannot save anyone. Those who repent of sin and trust in Christ will be saved (John 1:12). All material things and achievements in the world are like a flower that fades. But God blesses those who patiently endure trials and testing. Therefore Christians should make their request known to God with confidence in his goodness.
How to Face Temptations? 1: 12-18.
Temptations are inescapable in Christian life. Someone has said "We can resist anything but temptations" God permits trials in life to strengthen us. Scholars suggest that for trials and temptation the same word is used in the Greek language. God never tempts anyone with evil. But he may permit Satan to test us (James 1:13; Job 1:12). Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matt 4). Satan tempts us to destroy but God test us to strengthen us for his service. Christ is our example to face temptations in life. We are tempted because we are imperfect people and living in a fallen world. In temptation, wrong thing seems to be right. The actual source of temptation is our lust and evil desire inherent in us (James 1:14). Paul says "Nothing good dwells in our sinful nature" (Rom 7:18; Jeremiah 17: 9). Sinful desires give birth to sinful actions. When we allow it to grow, it brings forth death. Someone has said "Lust is the grandmother of death". Enticement leads to entrapment and entrapment into endorsement and finally to enslavement. So when we are tempted, acknowledge the reality of it. It is not an event but a process. Satan is the source of doubts, denial and deception. We must not be ignorant of Satan's strategy. Remember that God’s gifts are always good and perfect. His word never changes. We are regenerate us by His Word (1:18). Christians should anticipate temptations and assume responsibility for failure. Be strong in the faith and do not place confidence in ourselves. Spend time in the Word of God and meditate on it (Psalms 119:11; Matt 4:1-11). Take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor 10:5). Be wise doing good and stay innocent as to what is evil (Rom 16:19). Only believers are tempted. Satan does not care about unsaved. When we fail in temptations do not get discouraged. The believers are the forgiven people. If we confess our sins to God, he will forgive and cleans us from all our sins (1 John 1:9). Victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings. Those who patiently endure trials will receive the crown of life. Someone has said "Crown is the ability to enjoy heavenly blessing eternally and fully".
Hearing and Doing: 1:19-27.
The purpose of hearing the word of God is to make it part of our day-to-day life. It reveals what is true and not true. Also it helps us to do what is right. We must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Christians are desperately in need of God's word. The word of God is able to save our souls. We should hear the word of God with the intention of obeying. It has the power to transform our life. To overcome trials we must receive the word of God with meekness. It has inherent power to transform life. Mere hearing will not profit anybody. Many people hear the Word to feel good and to find temporary comfort in their conscience. It is like a man looking at his face in the mirror and forgetting what he looks like. Those who love the Word of God and obey them will be blessed. Mere external religion is worthless. Our uncontrolled speech exposes our wickedness and yields no result (Matt 7:22, 23). True worship is not outward religious service but it is showing compassion to people and keeping us unstained from the corruptions of this world. If a person is not seeking to obey Christ in life, he is not truly saved. Simply going through religious rituals and motion will be proved empty and meaningless in life (2 Cor 5:15). Pray that God would strengthen you in your trails by his grace.