James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:1-4 (NIV)
Read: James 1:1-27
Consider: Having looked at the letter written by Jesus’ brother, Jude, we’ll turn our attention to the letter written by James, another of Jesus’ brothers. James was a leader in the church in Jerusalem and was respected for his wise counsel and advice. An example of this can be found in Acts 15:12-21 where James helped the early church to agree on how Gentile believers should be welcomed into the church. Evidence of his esteem is also found in Galatians 2:9 where he is associated with Cephas (Peter) and John and all three are described as ‘… those esteemed as pillars …’
Similarly to Jude, James speaks with authority, not because he is related to Jesus by birth, but because he is related to him by rebirth. He uses similar words to Jude, speaking of himself as ‘… a servant … of the Lord Jesus Christ’.
James’ letter is written primarily to a Jewish audience and is much longer than that written by Jude. Although it starts as a traditional letter with the usual greeting, its content is unlike other letters as it consists of several short sections containing advice on practical issues facing Christians in living out their faith day-by-day. Although the letter was written before 62AD, when James was martyred, it is still relevant today. The manner of his martyrdom is not clear, but it is likely that he was stoned to death (after being thrown down from the temple parapet?). It is the fact that James was willing to die for his faith that is significant, particularly as it is likely that he only became a follower of Jesus after his crucifixion and resurrection.
Turning to James 1 this part of the letter may be broken down into two main sections:
- 1:2-18 deals with perseverance when under trials and temptations. The key verses in this section are 1:2-4 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
- 1:19-27 deals with encouraging believers to not just read the Bible, but to put it into practice in their lives. The key verses are 1:22-25 – Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.
Pray: Father, may we persevere even when faced with real opposition to the truth. As we read and study the Bible, help us to put what we learn into practice in our lives. Amen
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