The early years of the Church are covered in Acts 3-10. This is where the Church takes form as three thousand new members are added after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem. Miracles continue to occur as God confirms his word. Strong believers rise up but there are also issues as the Apostles learn to deal with the needs of these people. Then, there is persecution, the Apostles are warned that they should not preach that name, the name of Jesus but they continue. Persecution becomes severe, Stephen is stoned and many believers flee. The Apostles maintain their base in Jerusalem, Peter ministers in the surrounding cities and is summoned to Caesarea. It is the house of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. It is not lawful for Peter to enter, but God had prepared him. Peter presents the gospel and the Holy Spirit falls also on them. They are all are saved and it is clear that the gospel is for the whole world, not just the Jews.
James Writes A Pastoral Letter
The “Tradition of the early church fathers universally ascribes the letter to James, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem”.1
James is now seasoned by years as leader of the Church in Jerusalem. He now understands what it means to live this Christian life and offers practical wisdom to, in James 1:1 “the twelve tribes in the dispersion”. There were people of many nations in Jerusalem in Acts when the Holy Spirit fell because they heard them speaking in their native tongues. But many of those that had accepted Christ in these first years in Jerusalem were Jews, as James says here of “the twelve tribes”. But James is not writing to them about the law of Moses or their natural lineage to Abraham. James writes to them about their faith, about endurance, about mercy as in
James 3:17–18 (LEB) But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, obedient, full of mercy and good fruits, nonjudgmental, without hypocrisy, 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace among those who make peace.
Trials and Temptation
Consider It All Joy
Jesus said in John 16:33 “In the world you have affliction, but have courage! I have conquered the world.” and James takes it a step farther as he says “Consider it joy … when you encounter trials”. Jesus says have courage, James says, let your faith be tested in James 1:4 “so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing”.
There is a truth that we sometimes forget, we don’t know anything when we are born, we must learn as we go. And where does wisdom come from? James says in James 1:5-6 “from God, who gives to all without reservation and not reproaching … But let him ask for it in faith”. God will teach us. God will give us the answer. It is a tribulation for us because we don’t know what the outcome will be yet. Are we able to believe that God is working for our good? Are we able to believe that
James 1:17 (LEB) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of change.
It isn’t the affliction or the trial that is the end of our story, it is wisdom and maturity. Jesus gave us the best example in
Hebrews 12:2 (LEB) fixing our eyes on Jesus, the originator and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Be Doers of the Message and Not Hearers Only
I think it is easy for us to agree with this in James 1:20 “human anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God”. But it doesn’t seem so easy for us to control that anger. And here is the key, in
James 1:21 (LEB) Therefore, putting aside all moral uncleanness and wicked excess, welcome with humility the implanted message which is able to save your souls.
There is something we must stop doing so that we can begin doing “the implanted message”. Some might misunderstand here, James is not saying that you must clean yourself up so you can come to God. He is saying, you that have come to God, that have been born again, that now have “the implanted message”, that now have been sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit, now be a doer of that word. Welcome the transformation. No longer living in human anger and frustration and bitternes but not living as described in
James 1:27 (LEB) Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our* God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Mercy Triumphs Over Judgement
When we judge people by position or wealth, James 2:4 says we “become judges with evil thoughts”. Why are we preferring someone that is wealthy? Are we expecting some gain or influence from them? Why have we, in James 2:5 “dishonored the poor”? Is it because they may have a need and we want to hold on to what we have? How will hoarding what you have help you? But here is the way, in
James 2:8 (LEB) However, if you carry out the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.
And Love is not seeking gain from someone else or withholding what you have from someones need. Love is not judging them as better or worse than you. This is the new law for us, in James 2:12 “the law of liberty”.
I Will Show My Faith by My Works
Works can’t make us right with God, but believing God, having faith in God, causes action, and action produces results that confirm what we believe. It was Abraham’s action that demonstrated that he believed God. He believed first, then offered his son.
James 2:26 (LEB) For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
The Tongue is a Fire
Man has been given dominion over all the earth. We have tamed the animals in James 3:7 and we now how to produce and to harvest the fruit of the earth, everything after its kind in James 3:12.
But our own tongue is an unruly member because it speaks from the heart. And without God, no one need tell that the heart is desperately wicked “There are proofs from personal experience. Every man has them in his own heart. The sin of every man is there written, as with the point of a diamond. Every man knows that by nature “his heart is not right in the sight of God:” that it is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jer. 17:1, 9.)”2 As he says in
James 3:10 (LEB) From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so!
- James 1:1 James Writes A Pastoral Letter
- James 1:1–18 Consider It All Joy
- James 3:1–12 The Tongue is a Fire
- James 1:1-27
- James 2:1-26
- James 3:1-12
- 1. Patterson, P. (2003). James, Letter From. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 867). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
- 2. Summers, T. O., & Tigert, J. J. (1888). Systematic Theology: A Complete Body of Wesleyan Arminian Divinity Consisting of Lectures on the Twenty-Five Articles of Religion (Vol. 2, p. 56). Nashville, TN: Publishing House of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.