Monday, January 11, 2010

Wait For The Judge: An Introduction and Outline of James

Background

The letter was by "James...to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad..." (1:1 NAS).  Probably the only James in the Bible who would have been in a position to identify himself simply by first name, would have been the half brother of the Lord.  If so, other passages seem to indicate this James was known as an apostle (Gal. 1:9), a "pillar" of the church at Jerusalem (Gal. 2:9), and a spokesman at the church counsel in Jerusalem (Acts 15).  The "twelve tribes" James wrote to, probably refer to Jewish believers who were scattered throughout the Roman empire, perhaps as a result of persecution after Stephen's martyrdom (cf. Acts 8:1-4; 11:19). James may have been one of the first NT letters written.  The leaders of the church are referred to as "teachers" and "elders" (3:1; 5:14), as in the OT, rather than bishops or deacons, as they were later in the church (1 Tim. 3).

Apparently christians were meeting in the synagogue, rather  than homes as at the time of the writing of several other epistles (2:2; cf. Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Phm. 1:2).  Except several similarities to the Sermon on the Mount, the letter seems to preach the OT from a christian view.  At least two different sources indicate James was martyred around A.D. 62.  These and other factors seem to indicate the book was written before other books of the NT, perhaps around A.D. 45). 

Contents

On the surface, James seems to contradict the doctrine of salvation by grace, but actually he compliments it.  The word "justify", can mean to "make", "declare", or "show to be" righteous.  Paul emphasized that a man is only justified in the sense of being made and declared righteous before God by faith, apart from works (Rom. 3-4; Gal.; Gal.; Eph. 2:8-10).  James, on the other hand, stresses that a man is only justified in the sense of showing men he is righteous by doing good works.  Thus James compliments rather than contradicts the doctrine of salvation by grace.

Chapter one seems to give an opening summary of subjects discussed at more detail in the following chapters.  It calls on believers to endure trials and temptation, glory in humility, receive God's word, practice their faith, and bridle their tongue.  Chapter two instructs readers to avoid partiality, and show their faith by doing good works. Chapter three emphasizes the need to control your tongue.  Chapter four generally explains how to humble yourself before God. Chapter five returns to the subject of chapter one: the need to endure, with patience, for the return of the Judge (Lord). Chapter five also instructs us to pray for other believers.

All the practical instructions seem to view the hope, that the Lord will soon return as Judge (2:12; cf. 5:7-9).  Christ is the Judge who will vindicate us on our enemies (James 5:1-11), discern our motives, issue praise (1 Cor. 4:5), or consume our useless works (not us) with fire (1 Cor. 3:10-15; cf. James 2:12).  

Theme: Wait for the Judge

Outline

1) By rejoicing in your trials (1:1-18)
2) By practicing your faith (1:19 - 2:26)
3) By bridling your tongue (3:1-18)
4) By humbling yourself (4)
5) By enduring your suffering (5)


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