Title: INTRODUCTION TO THE EPISTLE OF JAMES
The theme of James is faith. Faith without expression cannot be called faith. As James puts it, faith without works is dead. A dead faith is the same as no faith at all. Faith is useless unless it is visible and producing. Verbal faith is not enough…mental faith won’t cut it…so it must inspire action.
Throughout his epistle to Jewish believers, James integrates our faith with everyday practical expression by stressing that our faith is shown by action.
Faith endures trials. It withstands temptations. Faith obeys the Word of God. Faith controls the tongue. Faith produces wisdom. Faith produces humility. Faith produces dependence on God. Faith is patient for the return of Christ. Faith prays for the afflicted. And faith confronts a sinning brother.
There are four James named in the Bible. The one believed to have written this book is James, the half-brother of the Lord. Matt. 13:55; Gal. 1:18-19 He was one of the pillars of the church in Jerusalem. Acts 15:13-21; Acts 21:18; Gal. 2:7-9-12
If you recall, James originally did not accept Jesus’ claims that He was the Son of God until after the resurrection. 1 Cor. 15:6-7 James and his brothers were among the believers who waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:14 It wasn’t long before he became a recognized leader in the Jerusalem church. Acts 12:17
According to Josepheus, James was martyred in a violent death in AD 62.
The shortness of the epistle and its limited doctrinal emphasis kept this book from wide circulation. By the time it became know in the church as a whole, it grew in recognition that it was written by the Lord’s brother and led to its acceptance as a book of the canon.
The Book of James is addressed “to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad (1:1), referring to Hebrew Christians outside of Palestine. The Jewish believers were plagued with problems that were testing their faith, and James was concerned that they were becoming impatient, bitter, spiritually apathetic, materialistic and were lacking unity. He felt a responsibility as a leader to encourage them in their struggles of faith.
1. It’s obvious that faith was an important matter to James in his letter to Christians scattered abroad. How important is faith to your everyday life? Are you learning new areas to apply your faith? Explain.
2. What insight can you share on the fact that faith without expression is dead? (A genuine faith will produce real changes in a person’s conduct and character; and the absence of change is a symptom of dead faith.)
3. Do you think the faith of those who go through trials and persecution is stronger than those who do not? Explain.
4. There were several issues that prompted James’ letter: trials, impatience, bitterness, materialism, a loose tongue, disunity and spiritual apathy. Which of these are pertinent to your life? What are you looking forward to James speaking something in particular to your heart?
5. What would you suggest to a Christian who is struggling with their faith?
6. Is it a sign of weakness for a Christian to struggle with their faith at some point of their life?
7. What advise could you give to a Christian that thinks God is placing more upon them than they can endure?
8. What do you think turned James from a non-believer into a believer?