"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."

James 1:22

The book of James was probably among the first New Testament books written. Its author was known as James the Just. He was the half brother of Jesus. It addresses one of the earliest problems in the church: faith versus works. He repeatedly quotes from the Old Testament, especially Proverbs. He strongly emphasises the need for works. Because of this, some early church leaders questioned whether the book of James should be included in the canon (ie., regarded as a God inspired book). Even as late as Martin Luther, who also questioned its right to be in the Bible, people have challenged its canonicity. The early church did however recognise its inspiration and include it in the canon. By the second century it was included in the most reputable lists of New Testament books. It was accepted in the final recognition of the canon by the fourth century.






Paul was largely fighting against legalism throughout his ministry


James is largely fighting against antinomianism (no regard for laws)

James was not only writing to the church in Jerusalem, but to all the twelve tribes scattered among the nations (vs. 1). While it deals with specific problems that occurred in the Jerusalem church, it touches on issues that were affecting the whole church community.


James 1

"Let no-one say when he is tempted, ĎI am being tempted by Godí, for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone."

James 1:13

There is a difference between being tried and being tempted. God does allow us to go through trying circumstances, but it is not God who tempts us to sin. Perhaps some believers were falling into sin and claiming that God had tested them with a temptation to sin. James strongly refutes this.

1. According to James 1:2, what were they instructed to do during a trial?


2. What would the trying of their faith produce? (1:3)


3. What happens to a person who perseveres under trial? (1:12)


4. Who should we immediately blame for our sin?

a) The devil

b) Ourselves

c) Our pastor

There is a dangerous chain of events that take place before the act of sin is outwardly committed. Doubt (vs. 6), double-mindedness (vs. 8), and then- desire (vs. 14). This leads to death (vs. 15). We should not try to overcome temptation. Instead we should avoid it (Matt. 6:13).

5. What does 1 Corinthians 10:13, and 2 Peter 2:9 teach us?


6. What would be better for people to do who cause others to stumble?
(Lk. 17:2)


James is about to give some of the most practical instructions of any Biblical book to believers. He strikes right at the very heart of the believerís conduct. He emphasised that a knowledge of Godís Word is not enough- it must be applying what we know. This is the same as looking in a mirror and discovering some removable blemish. A man who merely has a knowledge of it without washing his face is a fool (vs. 23).


James 2

"For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead"

James 2:26

7. What did John the Baptist say was necessary for repentance? (Luke 3:8)


Our faith in Christ will be evident by our deeds. If our conduct doesnít reflect Christ in us, then some could rightfully question the genuineness our salvation. Christianity is extremely practical. Note the practical nature of Christís teaching about the good Samaritan, the Sower and the seed, the Shepherd searching for lost sheep, giving a person money or possessions if they are in need and going the extra mile for another person.

8. According to James 2:8, what Law now covers Christian conduct?


Grace taken to an extreme is called antinomianism. This brand of heresy taught that Christians were no longer under any law. It confused the four aspects of the Mosaic Law and assumed that they were all done away with. The four categories of the Mosaic Law include-

1. Food Laws, 2. Civil Laws, 3. Ceremonial Laws, 4. Moral Laws.

The Moral Law (the Ten Commandments) of God is an eternal Law. It has always been Godís standard. There has never been, and never will be a time when, for example, stealing was legal. This moral Law can be condensed into just Laws according to Jesus~ love God and love others. James says that when we are saved we have a desire to live a life that pleases God. This is a life of love. This the Royal Law.


James 3

"And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell"

James 3:6

9. What is the stern warning in Matthew 12:36?


10. Based on Ephesians 4:29, what shouldnít we do?


The Royal Law covers our speech as well. Lying, boasting, gossip, slandering and course language are incompatible with Christianity. The tongue should be used to speak words of healing and life, not pain and death.

11. Based on James 3:13, is wisdom seen in or heard from a person?


Jesus said that the things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart (Mtt. 15:18). You can tell what a person is really is like by the way they talk. You can tell what is Christian is really like by the way they pray.

12. Why are some prayers not answered? (James 4:3)


Learning to trust God is a difficult life-long lesson for the believer. There are so many things that choke our relationship with God. Learning to trust means that we accept God will rather than demand that He grant us ours. It means that we accept His timing, instead of insisting on ours. It means that weíre not trusting that God will perform our prayer requests, but that He will perform that which is best for us- even if we donít agree with it. Perhaps this is why some prayers are not answered. We pray with pride and covetousness.


James 4

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up"

James 4:10

The most common and persistent sin is pride. It is so subtle. It creeps in and justifies its existence. It causes us to focus our attention on ourself. Whether is does this through arrogance, or self pity (often called low self esteem or depression) is irrelevant.

13. Privately check through this list of considerations of "pride-indicators"-


Do I expect others to do things for me?


Do I refuse to admit that I am wrong?


Do I expect others to make me feel good/welcome/happy?


Do I struggle to apologise?


Am I prone to showing off?


Do I do things to seek sympathy from others?


Do I blame others for my mistakes?


Do I refuse help when it is offered?


Do I take all the credit?


Do I promote myself?


Do I try to control others?


Do I do things simply to be noticed?


Do I make my own destiny regardless of the will of God?

After all of James practical considerations of the Christian life, he draws on some more "spiritual" aspects. He reminds the wealthy that their riches wonít last, and that they too will have to be judged. He urges the believers to make prayer a natural part of their lives and to persevere. He charges the terminally sick to call for the elders of the church to receive prayer. His conclusion is that wayward Christians should be gently brought back to full faith in Christ. May we learn also to be strong in our trust of Christ, and to reflect this in our actions.



Next Study

New Testament Survey

© 2001 Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania