Commentary on James By Kirk Osgood I. 1:1 The Twelve Tribes A. There were several events in the history of the Jewish people and the early church when circumstances precipitated the leaving of their own country. Some of these times other nations defeated the Jews and deported them to other lands while later many Jewish Christians left because the non- believing Jews were persecuting them for their faith. B. When these being displaced found new homes they often ended up as field laborers, who were poor and dependent on the wealthy landowners for their wages. James does not speak well of these rich landowners, and gives us insight into their selfish and cruel practices of taking advantage of the poor by not paying them for their labors. But James speaks mostly to the disadvantaged and tells them not to complain against the rich or hate (murder) them, but rather to count it all joy, for God means it for your good (this is discussed in further detail below). II. 1:2-4 The Purpose of Trials “Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials. Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.” A. This is one of two primary themes in the book of James, that our trials are purposeful for our growth. This should be kept in mind when interpreting the rest of the letter. The other underlying theme is faith, and goes onto define faith by saying that a so-called “faith” not lived out is dead and is not a “saving faith” at all. And that our trials give us opportunity to live out our faith, and glorify God through them. B. James talks about our trials being a major instrument in producing endurance - to make us perfect and complete. If this is the case, this indicates a loving designer who is involved in instigating our trials from the beginning. This way of looking at our trials, is different from the idea that the devil is the author of our hardships, and then God just comes along afterward and makes it turn out for our good. Romans 8:28 in the Amplified reads, “We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.” So instead of saying that God comes in one step behind Satan and does cleanup, this verse says that God is a partner in their trials, labor. And these trials are part of God’s plan, to fulfill His purpose. We find biblical evidence for this kind of faith in Job. We read how God points out to the devil how righteous a man Job is. I am sure God knew how Satan would respond, so its obvious that God was behind the trials that were inflicted on Job. They were the “Fire of Affliction” to refine Job as silver is refined, in order to mold Job, and make him even more righteous than he already was. This would also bring more glory to God, by Job keeping his faith in God, even in the midst of extreme trials, and, when he proved himself faithful, would result in increased blessing for Job in the end. You can read this in Job 1:6-2:10. After you read this, notice after the first trial, how it said of Job, that he did not blame God. It does not say that God was not responsible for the trials, but instead Job says, “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Then after the second trial he said, “Are we to accept good from God and not accept adversity?” Another example from scripture is in John 9:1-3 And as He (Jesus) passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he should be born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.” This man had been born blind purposely, and it was God’s purpose, for His glory. This means that it was God who purposely created him to be blind when born. God gave this man the honor and privilege of bearing this hardship so that his life could give glory to Him, if he hadn’t been born blind then Jesus would not have been able to heal him. If Jesus had not been able to heal him and others like him, then the scriptures would not have been fulfilled which spoke of the Messiah healing people. If something has a purpose, it has to have a purpos’er, a creator, someone who made it that way to fulfill that purpose. It cannot be arbitrary or accidental. If God only came in after the fact and made something the devil did turn out for good, then it didn’t have a good purpose to begin with. If we cannot love and trust a God who is responsible for such hardships, then that is the limit of our faith, and God gives us opportunities to prove our faith in Him with the intention of our faith maturing as such. God wants us to be like Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego who were told if they didn’t bow down to King Nebechednezzer, that they would be thrown into the blazing hot furnace. To which they replied, “Go ahead throw us in, for our God is able to deliver us, but even if He chooses not to, we still will not bow down to you.” Which part of that statement takes more faith, that God will deliver, or that if God decides to let them burn that it is God’s best and they will continue to trust Him? If God’s purpose is for them to suffer and die in that way then that is the ultimate test of their faith, and will give God glory. Glorifying God is the ultimate purpose for our lives, not our convenience or comfort. It is a weathered statement that, “The chief end of man is to glorify God”. One of the best ways this is achieved is when we, who are of a fallen wretched nature, turn to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, no matter what situation God gives us. We in America have as our privilege and responsibility to glorify and love Him in the midst of affluence, rejecting the pull of the world towards the idolatry of loving earthly riches. Is God not glorified when we continue to trust Him in the midst of any kind of suffering? Are we to tell God that we will only allow certain kinds of trials in our lives and not others? Will God not be glorified when we continue to trust Him even in the midst of sickness, for which we have not yet received a healing for? But He is also glorified when we are healed. So how do you know what to pray? Ask Him how. Tell God your desire. If He says, “no, I have you in this situation for a purpose at this time”. Just like He said to Paul, when he asked for deliverance and God did not at that time deliver him. Then know that it is for His glory and you will receive a much greater blessing in the future, which you will have for eternity, far greater than the suffering, which is but momentary in comparison, that you endure here. God may have a specific time that He has planned for your healing, as the blind man. Or He may simply want you to learn to trust Him more even in hardship. Or He may just be waiting for you to ask and continue asking. The point is we need to seek God for His will and not assume that He always wants us healed immediately. III. 1:5 But If You Lack Wisdom? A. Here the word "But" is a word that connects this verse to the last idea presented, which is that we should rejoice when trials come our way. Because they are meant for our good. And if you lack wisdom or understanding in this area, that you should ask of God who will give you this understanding. See notes for verse 1:2. B. This statement was put here in James to point us to seeking for the understanding that our trials are meant for our good and so we should rejoice. But this statement can stand on it's own apart from it's context. So I believe we can ask God for wisdom in all areas of life, and He will give it to us, if we ask in faith. See note for verse 6 C. What does the word “Wisdom” mean? Wisdom is; knowing what our best response to a particular situation would be. And is based on an understanding of why the situation exists as it does. For instance: What is God trying to accomplish in my life that He has given this situation to me? Do not forget that it is God who is in charge and not the devil. Do not blame all of your problems on the devil as if your problems are your enemy, for this thinking is a lie from the devil. Again, remember it is God who is God and it is He, who is in charge. If we want to put ourselves in the best place for God to accomplish His purposes in and through us. Our understanding why we have a particular trial, will aid us in our submitting to God in the trial, and will help to optimize the benefit God has intended for us by it. So we should not be afraid to ask God, “Why?” Unless we are saying it argumentatively with a whining tone as, “But wwhhyyy do I have toooo?” This is not truly a question but is rather a complaint said with a childish attitude that expresses unbelief in God’s wisdom and good nature concerning the trial. When we ask “why” we need to do it with faith that God is good and has our best at heart and truly knows better than we do. But whether or not He tells us, we need to be willing to do what he asks us to do, fully trusting in His wisdom, for He cares for us, and knows ALL things. A major part of becoming a person of understanding is simply by asking God, “Why”, and then receive the answer in faith without complaining. Or if we do make our complaint known to God, after we tell Him how we feel; put our faith in Him, in His judgement and care for us, and accept His answer. Keep this idea in mind with the comments on the next verse. IV. 1:6-8 Ask in Faith Without Doubting A. Faith is the conduit, pipeline or wire that connects us to God. It is the connection by which we relate to God. It is our belief system through which communication with God flows. Faith or belief is not merely an idea or a thought, but it is whatever system of thoughts we choose to live by, or act on. Faith is choosing to act on a particular system of thought. We may have a number of differing and even conflicting thoughts concerning any one subject. We have to choose our response from many possibilities to any circumstance or situation. When we choose a particular course we are, by the very act of choosing, putting our faith to work in the course of action we choose. Just having other contradicting systems of thought (doubts) resident in our mind does not constitute doubting. For if we are persistent and hold fast to the course of action we have chosen, we are not wavering in faith, we are not giving in to the doubtful thoughts that attack our mind. Just as when temptations may enter our mind and we do not focus on them but choose rather to think on other things, so we have not given in to temptation and have not sinned. In the same way just having doubtful thoughts running through our mind does not constitute doubting. Whatever doubts we focus on and allow to prevail in our mind, especially when we act on those doubts, this is doubting. In this case we should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, seeing that we are double-minded (cannot make up our mind about a matter) and unstable in our ways. Back to the conduit, pipeline or wire that faith is. This is our "link up" to God. If we begin to focus on doubting that God is real, and good, is there for us, has our best at heart, and is able to do above all that we can ask or think, then we turn that valve off through which we were communicating with God. If this is the case, we will not be able to hear from God, unless He mercifully and graciously intervenes, as there are accounts of in the bible. An example is Paul's encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road. Paul was not walking in faith in God, but rather in his own ways. But God graciously captured Paul, and revealed Himself to Him. But without faith we cannot expect to receive anything from the Lord, we may, as in the example above with Paul. But we shouldn’t expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double minded and unstable in all our ways. God may intervene if He so chooses, but we cannot expect to. An example of doubting - Lets say a person is asking God for wisdom concerning a certain situation, and before he gets his answer he begins to and continues to focus on thoughts that say that God isn't going to come through for Him. This is a choice of thoughts and is of itself an action; it is an action of thinking, for the very movement of energy in our minds is action. And so because he is choosing to think on these doubtful thoughts, he is exercising doubt, and is disbelieving in God. Whereby he has cut himself off from relating with God and hearing from Him. V. 1:9-11 Brother of Humble Circumstances (So consider it all joy) “But let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position.” A. James speaks of a person who does not have much in worldly resources, as having a high position in God’s economy, and in the kingdom of God, he would be considered to be “rich in faith”. So again we see, that wisdom from God, would reveal our trials to be a blessing from God. VI. 1:12 Persevering Under Trial Brings the Crown of Life (So consider it all joy) “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the lord has promised to those who love him” A. The crown of life is simply eternal life which one who has “persevered under trial” will have displayed on his head as his reward, as is the “Helmet of Salvation”, and will proclaim his victory over sin because of love for his God. REV 2:10 “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” VII. 1:13-17 God Himself is Not Tempting You - Your Own Lust is A. When we are put in a situation where our own desires may tempt us to sin. The act of God placing us in this situation is not tempting us, but rather it is giving us the opportunity to build our strength of love for Him; and so glorify Him, as Job did. God was the one behind Job being put in the trials. God Himself did not tempt him to sin. He didn’t tell Job to curse God and die, that came from another person, and his own flesh may have desired death, but Job kept his trust in God and waited for God’s deliverance or response. B. There is a difference between a temptation and a trial or test. 1. A trial or test is where God puts us in a situation where something is difficult or even impossible for us to do on our own. 2. A temptation is when some one or our own desires, tell us or entice us to do something contrary to God’s desires. So God may bring us close to something that the devil or our own desires may tempt us to do, this is a trial or test. But God Himself never tells or tempts us to sin. MAT 4:1 “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Here God’s Holy Spirit led Jesus in the wilderness to be tempted. 3. “Do not be deceived…every good thing bestowed is from above” but God Himself doesn’t tempt us (He does not tell us to sin), but He does give us situations (trials) where we may be tempted. This way He is entrusting to us a gift, by trusting us to make the righteous choice and give Him glory, with the result of us receiving the crown of life for it. VIII. 1:25 & 2:12 “The Law of Liberty” and similarly in 2:8 “the Royal Law” A. When the bible talks of the Law you must discern whether it is speaking of God’s moral law, which teaches us between right and wrong, or the ceremonial law, which gives us a picture of Christ’s atoning death and other imagery. We are not, any longer, to make blood sacrifices for our sins, for that would be a slap in Jesus’ face. But certainly God expects us to live moral, just and loving lives by abiding in Christ, and walking by His Spirit, thus fulfilling the righteousness required by the law, Romans 8:4. Jesus finished and fulfilled the requirements for the ceremonial law. Jesus also fulfilled God’s moral law and lived the righteous life, but not so that we wouldn’t have to. But rather He showed us how to live by faith in God and how His Spirit will give us the ability to follow Jesus and continue in righteousness as His body. If we continue in His righteousness, will we not also fulfill the righteousness that the moral law, the law of love shows us? Of course. Let’s see, how would the kids say it? Oh yea, “Well Duh”. B. The Law of Liberty has a two in one meaning. Both of these explanations fit and even work together. It is explained in vs. 2:13 as the law of love, and says that it does the opposite of judging with condemnation. So here the Law of Liberty judges with mercy, and liberates the offender from condemnation. The 2nd way of viewing the “Law of Liberty” is, when you walk by the Holy Spirit you will fulfill the “Law of Love” and this sets you free from the flesh. Walking by the flesh brings the curse of the law, death, but the Law of Liberty liberates you from the curse of the law. The Law of Liberty is the “Law of life and love” that liberates you from death. Note that the whole law is fulfilled through love. So the whole law (God’s Moral Law, the Law of Moses) is the Royal Law in action. God’s moral law portrays what you will look like if you walk motivated by God’s Holy Spirit. IX. 2:14-26 Paul says “Faith alone” James says, “Faith plus works” 2:14 “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” 2:24 You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. A. Faith - In James there are a number of statements, which seem to contradict what Paul has taught that it is by faith alone and not by works through which we are saved. When James and Paul speak of faith they are speaking to two different mindsets. When Paul spoke of faith, he did not speak of it as a mere thought, for a key element of faith is that you use it as a reference point to live by. If you believe that God is good and is all He says He is, then you come to God by submitting yourself to Him. This coming to Him is an action in life. Faith always requires some type of response appropriate to the particular belief. If there is no such appropriate response then the so- called belief is only a mere thought, not actually believed in yet. It is just a fancy. The act of responding is believing. This is giving life to faith. If you say that you trust your teenager with your car, and yet you don’t ever let him or her use it when they ask; are you really trusting them? God has given each person a gift of faith in himself, but it is the one who uses that faith, by putting himself into God’s hands and trusting Him, that is saved. Having faith in your teenager will do nothing until you activate that faith by giving them the keys and it is then that the faith relationship is activated. When we give up being the master of our own lives, and turn from trusting in our own way, and begin following God by trusting Him; it is then that we have put our faith in God to use, and our faith relationship with God begins. So here when Paul talked of faith he spoke from the Jewish mind, that what you believe is what you will automatically do, and this is how Paul was brought up. While James is speaking to the Greek mind. The Greek mindset sees things from an entirely different perspective. Such a person can hold differing, even contradictory philosophies all at the same time. This Greek way of thinking defines faith as a philosophical idea, and may not have anything to do with how one behaves. This may leave the so-called “believer” thinking that this is what Paul is talking about when he uses the word faith. So here James says that a faith that is not being lived out is not a real faith at all, but rather is dead, and has no power or promise from God to save. He is more carefully defining faith saying that if you do not live out this faith, that it is not saving faith at all. If this so-called “belief”, that you say is faith, does not change your life, if there is no difference between you and the world, your faith is dead. Paul agrees with this when he writes, EPH 5:5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. James and Paul are in agreement, but at first glance it may appear that their use of the word faith is different. But Paul’s writings do explain that it is only a “living” or lived-out faith that is real for he states in Galatians, “those who practice such things…(sin, walking by the flesh) will not inherit the kingdom of God,” and James says, “faith without works is dead.” B. Now concerning the word “works”. When Paul speaks against salvation by works, he is referring to works that are based on faith in oneself, a belief that says, “I am”, “I am able,” a faith in one’s own ability to fulfill God’s requirements for righteous living. Before he was saved Paul thought he could be good on his own, independent of Gods Spirit. He thought if he just knew the right thing to do, by knowing the Law, “he” could do it, and so be accepted by God. This is “works” salvation, the belief that unjust man could become acceptable in God’s sight by trying to keep up with God’s standard, which is revealed by the Law. But after Paul’s revelation that God alone is good. And that it is through our faith in His goodness, that He offers to intimately abide in us and so impart His righteousness into us, it is by this participation that we have salvation. In fact He abiding in us “is” our salvation. After Paul came to this understanding and received God’s invitation of an indwelling salvation by faith, Paul went out to set the rest of His compatriots in Judaism straight on the fallacy of man trying to establish his own righteousness based on keeping the Law. After Paul was saved, in his New Testament writings, he taught against the idea of our becoming good by trying to keep the Law out of our own ability. He taught against anything that sounded like it. But Paul also taught that our lives must change for salvation to be real. ACTS 26:20 “but (Paul) kept declaring…that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” He taught we must be on a course of turning from sin to God. We must be in a process of separating ourselves from sin and pursuing a life lived by God’s Spirit, and it is then that we will fulfill the righteousness required by God’s moral law, which Paul states in Romans 8:3&4. So in essence Paul and James are in agreement that works appropriate to our faith must accompany salvation or our faith is dead and will not save us. X. 3:1-18 Too Many Teachers = Stricter Judgement A. We are a generation that worships knowledge. We are always wanting to hear something new, but we see little real change in our lives. Do we look much more like Jesus than we did 5 years ago? Before we go off to learn more, we need to be sure we are faithful to the knowledge we already have. 4:17 “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.” The more we know, the more we are responsible for. We need to have as our priority, obedience to what we already know. To be doers of the word and not merely hearers. Otherwise, because we have knowledge, we will think ourselves to be rich, but we will in fact be miserably poor and blind and naked. For faith without works is dead and dead faith has no power to save. B. Who do you think was more faithful to God, Samson or Solomon? Samson was a man who knew very little about following the Lord, for the only instruction he was given was that he should be a Nazarite from birth and not let a razor come upon his head. It was his mother that was told not to drink any wine or strong drink, or eat anything unclean while she was pregnant with Samson. Remember the Israelites had been quite negligent in their following the Lord and may have no longer had any idea of what the requirements for a Nazaritic Vow were. If this is sound reasoning, then Samson was doing what God had instructed him to do. He may have been foolish in revealing to Delilah wherein his strength did lie, but this too was by God’s design, and ended up bringing the more complete destruction of the enemy. This made Samson a type of Christ when he brought more deliverance for God’s people and more destruction on his enemies through his death than while he was living. So Samson was very faithful to follow what God had told him to do. Solomon however, who had so much wisdom from God and knowledge of the ways of God, ended up not following God’s wisdom or His commandments. And so serves to teach us through his example of what Not to do. ROM 2:13 for not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. Is it foolishness to seek for wisdom, knowledge and understanding? Of course not. Wisdom and understanding are good. The key is to earnestly endeavor to be faithful with the wisdom, knowledge and understanding we already have, before we continue in our press to acquire more. For then we will prove ourselves to be His disciples Jn 15:8. Otherwise like Solomon, we will think ourselves to be rich (because of our knowledge) but we will actually be, as is quoted from Revelation 3:17, wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. JAM 3:13 “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.” XI. 3:2-18 The Tongue and Bitter Jealousy A. Here the Author is telling these who are being financially abused by their employers to not use their tongues to curse them. He even speaks of these unrighteous rich as being made in the likeness of God. B. James speaks of wisdom as being pure, peaceable, gentle reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering , without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness, which contains no bitterness or selfish ambition, is sown peaceably by those who set their hearts on responding to abuse with mercy, out of hearts full of God’s grace. He is instructing them to be like Joseph, who did not hold the sin of his brothers against them, when they, out of jealousy, had sold him into slavery. Joseph did not allow his heart to harbor any bitterness or jealousy towards his brothers, but mercifully and graciously forgave them and did good to them in return. XII. 4:1-10 Our Need to Cleanse Our Hearts From the Adulterous Desire for Other Things and the Deceitfulness of Riches. A. 4:1 This chapter continues the idea from the previous chapter that it is our jealous desire for what we don’t have that is the source of our conflicts and quarrels. We are instructed in scripture, to have intimacy with God as the treasure we should continually be seeking. For if the people in the world or the things of the world are what we regard as treasure to fill the emptiness of our hearts, then those are what will be our god, and we will be considered to have adulterous, idolatrous hearts. Note: We will focus this discussion on not loving st the things in this world. My commentary on 1 John discusses how we are to love people, and yet not be idolatrous in our love of people. XIII. 5:1-7 Impending Judgement of Those Who Get Rich by Taking Unfair Advantage of the Poor. 5:1 Come now you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 5:4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. A.
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