James epistle

There are more references to the discourses of Jesus in the epistle of James than in all the others put together. There were three James relevant to the New Testament, two of them were among the twelve disciples and the other was the brother of the Lord who was the Bishop of Jerusalem, James the Just, this is written by him. James is the most relevant book of the Bible for these last days and the most instructive. We are not sure when the book was written, some say as early as the year 45, which would make it the oldest book in the New Testament. Others feel that James may have written the book after a 30 year pastorate of the Jerusalem Church, placing the date to about AD 60-61, near the close of James' life. The letter was probably written in Jerusalem.

The epistle is addressed to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. It seems like a book of Christian proverbs about a number of subjects and bearing on the practical duties of Christian life. The book of James is more of an ancient sermon and a fiery prophetic oration than a letter, the general tone of appeal is much more like that of John the Baptist than that of St. Paul, Peter or John. James wanted to make the Christians better Christians, to teach them a truer wisdom, a purer morality; the moral exhortation of one to whom the law means the rule of life as Jesus had taught it. Its interest in democracy, his noble advocacy of the rights of labor, philanthropy, and the social gospel strikes a responsive chord in our time, especially in a materialistic America. Paul's teaching as to faith was different only in its perspective and not as to points of truth.

James the Just was a Jew of Nazareth and his native language would be Aramaic, as was the custom, Hebrew would also be taught in the local school. As Nazareth lay on a thronged trade route, it may be assumed that most Nazarenes would pick up more or less Greek of some sort or another. He would use Hebrew or Aramaic in his use of the Old Testament. We could we think of James in his mature life as learning to write the Greek of this epistle - an epistle cast in the Hellenistic and non-Semitic form of prose, using the equally Hellenistic and non-Semitic diatribe. He would cite the Old Testament in the Septuagint which is quite unlike the Hebrew.

In James, the Christian preacher tells his hearers that life's trials, vicissitudes, and temptations will perfect character if they are met in dependence upon God. They must learn to respect the poor, and to feed and clothe the needy - their faith must show itself in works. For James, the only real faith is that which shows itself in good deeds. They must not be too eager to teach and direct one another.. Pre-figuring the Babylon of today, their rich oppressors are doomed to punishment; only they must be patient; the whole emphasis is practical. James was troubled that too many Christians were not living holy and righteous lives. Too many of them had not truly repented and they returned to the old behavior after becoming believers. James would say at this point that faith was not enough, if it was not accompanied by action, that faith was dead. Martin Luther thought that the book of James should be stricken from the New Testament, calling it "an Epistle of straw," because of the importance that James stressed on works. Luther with his justification by faith alone brought him to a misunderstanding of the true element of true faith. James wrote that "You see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only?" This would sound like the devil's advocate to Luther but James was making the point that without a changed life, your faith is dead, being by itself.

Jesus reminds us that if we did not clothe the naked and feed the hungry then we are not known by Him. It is not faith, look at the faith of a Mormon or a Jehovah's witness, they have faith but it is misplaced upon the doctrines of demons concerning the true nature of Jesus. Look at the Oneness people with their dangerous heresies, they have faith in God and call upon the Lord and think they have the Holy Ghost more than anybody, but it is transferred into hateful and exclusive doctrines, if you come out of the baptismal font a hatemonger, you have not been raised in newness of life no matter how much faith you have. "The devils also believe, and tremble." Faith is not just an idle grace, it must bring forth fruit in works. "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." The faith that James speaks of is the faith that is "made perfect" by our actions, it is faith that has been proven, not by words but by repentance and good deeds. James is not speaking of legalism here for he writes that "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." He knew that it was faith and grace that justifies us but if you cannot walk the walk, then it is a hypocrite that talks the talk. "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."

The book of James is so much more because it stresses not just faith but faith in practice. "...the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." Listen to what James says about the rich man and the poor man:

Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falls, and the grace of the fashion of it perishes: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways... Hearken, my beloved brethren, Has not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to them that love him? But you have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which you are called?... Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. You have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, cries: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. You have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; you have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and killed the just; and he does not resist you. Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

[315, 338, 339, 359, 374]

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