James: A Bible Study Guide for Women

The purpose of this study is to give women who desire to learn more about God’s Word helpful information that will aid in a better understanding of the book of James. This is not an in-depth study but rather a look at God’s Word as it applies to our lives as women who are striving to follow Him. One purpose is to provide an outline of applicable Bible truths for women to use in their ladies’ Bible classes. Another purpose of this material is to provide critical-thinking questions that will hopefully be a springboard for further discussion.

    This study over James contains nine lessons. Please use and copy as you see fit. I have also provided some brotherhood websites below that should further aid your study. These are created by brethren and have a plethora of material covering any topic you would like to study further. With online resources today we as Christians have no excuse for being taken off guard by others who criticize or question our belief in the Word. Please use these along with your own Bible study.

    May the information that follows be used as a steppingstone to a deeper study of the Word of God; and may you grow more in love with the Word and with our Almighty Creator.

God bless you as you obey His Word, 

Emily H. Fisher

 

Lesson 1 – Introduction to James

   1.  Human Author

  1. James, the Lord's brother, is most likely the inspired human writer.
    1. Some have argued that a poor Galilean like James would not have written with such high quality Greek as found in the book; but other evidence points to the writer being James, the son of Joseph (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A Carson et al.; Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994, p. 1353).
  2. James did not believe in Jesus until after the resurrection (John 7:2-9; Acts 1:13-14).
  3. James became a leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13-21; 21:18).

 

   2.  Background

  1. The book is written to Christians who were scattered abroad, not to one particular congregation (Acts 8:1-4).
  2. James’ style is one that wastes no words and is down to earth, stern, and often abrupt.
  3. It resembles the Hebrew wisdom books as he draws many spiritual lessons from the Old Testament.
  4. The book of James has been called the “Christian book of Proverbs.”
  5. This book reflects the language of the Sermon on the Mount more than any other book of the New Testament.

 

  3.  Message

  1. Practical Christian living is the theme.
  2. Its central teaching is the life of obedient faith. Faith in God produces life according to the will of God, and life contrary to the will of God denies faith. Faith is shown by it’s works.
  3. He makes a practical appeal to godly living. He shows that just claiming to be religious is not sufficient. Saying we know God but refusing to do His will is deceiving ourselves. James shows we must live what we teach.

 

   4. Key Phrase

  1. Be doers of the word (James 1:22).

 

   5. Outline

James 1:1…………Greeting

James 1:2-27………Testing, prayer, wealth, gifts, and listening and doing

James 2:1-26………Testing through generosity, partiality and love, generosity and faith

James 3:1-4:12…….Testing through the tongue - the source of evil and its cure

James 4:13-5:6…….Testing through wealth

James 5:7-18………Summary on patient endurance, oaths, prayer for health

James 5:19-20……..Purpose statement

 

Some of the major Jewish populations outside Israel in the 1st century.

https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CPn20James.htm

 

 Questions to Discuss

  1. Discuss possible reasons why James, the son of Joseph, did not believe in Jesus during His ministry.
  1. Discuss the importance of the book of James and why the church needs it today just as much as the 1st century church.
  1. Read Acts 8:1-4. Why were the 1st century Christians scattered from Jerusalem? As they moved, what did they do?

 

Lesson 2 – James Chapter 1:1-11 – Trials (Part 1)

 1.  Greeting

  1. James calls himself a “servant of God”, showing his humble attitude.
  2. He does not mention that he is the Lord's brother.
  3. After a simple and short introduction, he addresses the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad”.
  4. This phrase is probably not a reference to Jewish readers but is a way of describing the spiritual Israel (the church) who were scattered due to heavy persecution; they would include Jews and Gentiles (See also Galatians 6:16; 1 Peter 2:9).
    1. These Christians were scattered (dispersed) which can refer to two aspects:
      1. They were not living in Jerusalem anymore (due to persecution)
      2. As Christians, their real home was no longer their native countries, but heaven itself (See also 1 Peter 1:1).

 

  2. James 1:2-11: Testing, prayer, and wealth

  1. As is common among Greek letters, James introduces the main themes first and then explains them in more detail afterward.
  2. His concern is for their maturity, their perfection or wholeness.
  3. These Christians were facing trials of many kinds.
    1. Most likely these trials were less severe forms of persecution such as economic struggles and social rejection.
  4. To have a stable faith, Christians need to maintain a godly attitude towards potential stumbling blocks.
    1. He commands his brethren (term of endearment) to have a joyful attitude.
    2. What is unique about this command is it applies to a situation in which a joyful reaction would be unnatural –that is, when you encounter trials.
  5. The word “testing”refers to the process by which silver or gold is refined by fire.
    1. James’meaning probably is that suffering is a means by which faith, tested in the fires of trials and suffering, can be purified and thus strengthened.
    2. Suffering does not produce faith but rather can fortify the faith already present.
  6. The reason Christians can rejoice is that the testing will produce patience.
    1. Perseverance or patience is not a passive submission to circumstances, but an active, challenging response, which when practiced, produces mature Christians.
    2. This virtue is mentioned often in the Scriptures: Luke 8:15, 21:19; Matthew 10:22; Romans 5:3-4, 8:25; 2 Corinthians 6:4.
  7. The word for “mature”is translated “perfect”in many versions.
    1. The meaning is having the character of God (Matthew 5:48).
    2. As one suffers through trials, the impurities will be “burned off”and the result will be something to rejoice about: a whole, complete Christian (See also 1 Peter 1:6-7).
  8. James does not change the subject beginning in verse five. He is pointing out that if anyone lacks wisdom concerning these trials they are facing, then they need to pray to God for a better understanding of their sufferings.
    1. Wisdom is needed so that believers can rejoice and endure their testing.
    2. Perhaps James has in mind Jesus' promise: “Ask, and it will be given you”(Matthew 7:7). Also, like Jesus, James bases his confidence in God’s response on the character of God.
  9. To receive wisdom one must have faith (Hebrews 11:4).
    1. Faith means more than a belief that God will give what we ask; it includes confident, unwavering commitment to God.
    2. The doubter to whomJames refers is the person who “plays it safe”by praying to God. This person seeks only self-advancement and is not whole-heartedly committed to God.
    3. Like the surface of the sea, never having the same appearance from moment to moment, moving according to the strength of the wind, the “double-minded”person has no fixed beliefs and direction.
    4. The Old Testament condemns people with a “divided heart” and pronounces a blessing on those who pursue God with “a whole heart” (Psalms 12:1-2; Deuteronomy 6:5).
  10. In verse nine, James gives an example of the person with single-minded devotion to God and who rejoices in testing.
    1. A Christian in “lowly”(poor) circumstances is in reality rich from God’s perspective; thus, he can glory in his situation.
    2. In contrast, the wealthy should remember (humbly) the fact that his life passes by like a flower.
    3. The rich were often linked to godless oppressors who trusted in their wealth.
    4. Drawing from Isaiah 40:6-8, James, then, is pointing to the fact that the humble will be exalted by God and the prideful will be brought down (James 4:6).

 Questions to Discuss

  1. What does it mean to be a “servant of God”?
  1. In what ways are we pilgrims on this earth?
  1. Read Matthew 5:10-12. Why are we to be happy (“blessed”) or “count it all joy”when we are persecuted?
  1. How can a Christian be “perfect”?
  1. What kind of giver is God?
  1. What do we need in order to please God in prayer?
  1. How does God look at a “double-minded”man?
  1. Discuss the illustration used to point out the needed quality of humility.

 

Lesson 3 – James Chapter 1:12-27 – Trials (Part 2)

  1. James 1:12-27: Testing, gifts, listening, and doing 
    1. He begins to discuss the main themes again but in detail.
    2. James begins with trials this time giving a promise to those who endure.
    3. “Blessed”(happy) are Christians who do not give into temptation.
    4. The “crown”is a reference to the laurel wreath given to the victorious athlete.
      1. It is the emblem of spiritual success, given by the King of the universe to those who “keep their faith” in the midst of suffering and temptation (See Revelation 2:10).
    5. These hardships can have a harmful effect if met with the wrong attitude.
      1. One such wrong attitude, James states, is to blame God: “God is tempting me.”
      2. The words: “test”, “trial”, and “tempt”are all the same word in Greek.
      3. The Old Testament makes clear that God does test his people, in the sense that he brings them into situations where their willingness to obey him is tested (Genesis 22:15-18; Job 1:6-12).
      4. This is not temptation, however (since God cannot tempt –James 1:13).
      5. God desires us to “pass the test”.
    6. He gives two related reasons why one ought not to blame God for temptation:
      1. He cannot be tempted with evil.
      2. He does not tempt anyone. 
    7. We know that the devil is the real tempter, yet James does not mention him here. (He refers to him in James 4:7).
      1. He points out in these verses that each of us individually are responsible for our temptations.
      2. Desire (lust) in itselfis not sin
      3. It is when a person, acts upon that desire that sin results.
      4. Death results for those who allow desire to run its course.
      5. These are serious consequences involved in the Christian’s struggle with trials.
    8. Claiming God tempts people to sin is a serious matter.
      1. James does not want his readers to be deceived about this (James 1:16).
    9. Far from enticing to sin, God is the source of every good gift.
    10. The description of God as “the Father of lights”is unique in Scripture.
      1. The “lights”most likely refer to the heavenly bodies, probably including sun, moon and stars.
      2. Scripture often alludes to the heavenly firmament as evidence of God’s creative handiwork and His continuing exercise of power (Psalms 19:1; Nehemiah 9:6).
      3. James’ intention is to remind us of the benevolent power of God that He has manifested in His “good”creation (Genesis 1:31).
      4. God’s benevolent character is unchangeable (“no shadow of turning”).
    11. As an example of God’s good gifts, James cites the fact that God has “brought us forth by the word of truth”.
      1. James appeals to the spiritual “new birth”of Christians as a particularly striking illustration of the good things God gives.
      2. And the purpose of this is that Christians should be the “first fruits”in the universal redemptive plan of God.
      3. First fruits were the best of the harvest. Therefore, redeemed human beings are the apex of all creation.
      4. Chains of contrasting thoughts:
        1. Desire –temptation –sin –death
        2. God –word of truth –birth –life
    12. James moves to the result of such a godly life.
      1. It is having a controlled tongue.
    13. All too often, it is uncontrolled anger that leads us to speak too quickly and say too much.
      1. While James does not forbid all anger (there is a place for “righteous indignation”), he does prohibit the thoughtless, unrestrained anger that often leads to rash and harmful words.
      2. Therefore, the wise person will be slow to open her mouth and even slower to be angry with others.
    14. Prohibition of unrestrained anger is based on the fact that it does “not produce the righteousness of God”.
      1. Hasty, uncontrolled anger is sin, because it violates the standard of conduct that God demands of His people.
    15. A person who has humbly received God’s Word (“word planted in you”) will not have angry outbursts or any other kind of evil.
      1. “Lay aside”, which is generally used of the “taking off” of a set of clothes, is applied widely in the New Testament to the putting off of old, pre-Christian patterns of behavior (Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:9).
      2. The word, “overflow” is added to emphasize the variety and prevalence of the sins against which Christians have to fight. We live in a world where sin is popular.
      3. We must put away sin and accept/fill our lives with God's Word.
      4. Jesus said the believer is to prepare “good ground” in his heart in order that the “seed” of the word might produce much fruit in it (Matthew 13:18-23).
    16. The Word has not been truly received until it is put into practice.
      1. Hearing the word is, of course, necessary and important, but what James seriously opposes is any hearing of the word that does not lead to doing.
      2. The person who thinks that just knowing the Bible makes one godly is deceiving herself.
      3. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”(Luke 11:28; See also Matthew 7:24-27).
    17. James uses some comparisons to make his point:
      1. The “hearer only”is like someone who considers “his natural face in a mirror”, but quickly forgets what he has seen.
      2. The “doer of the word”, on the other hand, looks into the “perfect law of liberty”(God’s Word) and acts upon (obeys) what he sees.
      3. Compare your life to God's Word –that is the only way we can truly examine ourselves and see ourselves for who we really are.
    18. James concludes this important paragraph (chapter 1) on the practical implications of true Christianity by pointing out some specific ways in which obedience is to be shown.
      1. A properly controlled (“bridled”) tongue can accomplish much good.
      2. A person who fails to control his tongue “deceives his own heart”and all of his religious practices are worthless.
    19. The word “religion”denotes the respecting and worshipping of God.
      1. The true test of any Christian is not the outward ritual of worship, which one can go through unthinkingly and with no commitment, but is obedience at all times.
    20. James then reminds us that religion without the things he mentions is nothing.
      1. Care for orphans and widows is commanded in the Old Testament as a way of imitating God’s own concern for them (Deuteronomy 24:17-19).
      2. Benevolent actions towards those who find themselves helpless in the world is required of God’s people.
      3. Moral purity is another hallmark of pure religion.
        1. This means to avoid thinking and acting in accordance with the value-system of the world.
        2. The believer who lives “in the world”is in constant danger of being “of the world”(See James 4:4; Colossians 2:8, 20; 2 Peter 2:20; 1 John 2:15-17).
    21. The “pure religion”of the “perfect”Christian combines purity of heart with purity of action.

 

Questions to Discuss

  1. From the world’s perspective, do Christians going through trials have reason to rejoice?
  2. How many different words or phrases does James use to refer to God’s Word?
  3. In what ways can we deceive ourselves according to chapter one?
  4. Define “lust,”and describe the progression from temptation to death. Explain the difference between temptation and sin.
  5. What does James point out is the source of evil and the source of good?
  6. Discuss in what sense God never varies, and why (James 1:17)?
  7. What motivates you to serve God? - Fear? Reward? Love?
  8. Explain the connection between God’s Word and the new birth.
  9. Does the Bible teach anger is always sinful? Explain. (See Ephesians 4:26; Psalms 4:4)
  10. According to verse 21, what can God’s Word do for us, and how should we live to receive its benefits?
  11. How will a person speak if her tongue is “bridled”?
  12. What does it mean to “visit”widows and orphans?
  13. What is the “world,”and how do we stay unspotted from it?

 

Lesson 4 –James Chapter 2:1-13 –Partiality

  1. James 2:1-13: Showing favoritism
    1. Jesus is the One who came to break down the barriers of nationality, race, class, and gender and anyone who claims commitment to the “Lord of glory”cannot show partiality. (See Deuteronomy 10:17; Galatians 2:6)
    2. “Partiality”translates a Greek word that means, literally, “receiving the face”.
      1. To “receive the face” is to make judgments and distinctions based on external considerations, such as physical appearance, social status or race.
      2. James shows us the sort of behavior that is incompatible with followers of Christ.
    3. James continues by giving an example about what he is teaching.
      1. Any improper divisions being made among visitors to the assembly are nothing more than a reflection of the improper divisions concealed in the minds of the believers.
      2. The picture is that which is similar to court. Not only have they given themselves the role of judges, but worse, they render their decision according to un-Christian, worldly standards (“gold rings”, “fine apparel”).
      3. With this attitude, the church (that claims the glorious Jesus Christ as its Lord) has become an unjust, partial judge.
    4. James begins his next point on favoritism by pleading with them to “listen, my beloved brethren”.
      1. His point is that the many poor people who embraced the gospel could stand as a powerful testimony to God’s own attitude.
      2. Faithful Christians who are poor, as far as material possessions go, are in fact rich in the sight of God; their inheritance consists of the kingdom which He has “promised to those who love Him” (this includes present as well as future spiritual blessings).
      3. It is from this spiritual point of view, not the material, that Christians should judge others.
    5. James does not say that only poor people are chosen. He reminds his readers that there are many who are poor, and thus, discriminating against them is condemned.
      1. The Christian who does such is honoring those (wealthy unbelievers) who are known to oppress and persecute believers, often hauling poor Christians into court for economic gain.
    6. James is in line with the teaching of Christ as he argues that love for our neighbor, the heart of “the royal law”, forbids the church from discriminating against any who might enter its doors.
      1. On “loving your neighbor” see Leviticus 19:18.
      2. Favoring certain people, whether on the basis of their dress, nationality, social class or race, is a clear violation of the “agape” love to which Jesus calls us (Matthew 7:1-5; Mark 12:29-31; Galatians 5:13-15)
    7. Showing partiality may be considered by many as “not that big of a deal”, but God calls it sin (James 2:9).
      1. The breaking of even one commandment incurs guilt for the law as a whole.
      2. We tend to think that obedience to the “heavier” commandments outweigh any failure to keep the “lighter” requirements of the law of Christ.
      3. James stresses that failure in one point renders a person guilty.
      4. As an example he quotes Exodus 20:13-14 (and Deuteronomy 5:17-18), purposely referencing adultery first and murder second.
    8. Christians should be speaking and acting like those who will be judged according to the law that gives freedom.
      1. All will give an account of their deeds (Matthew 7:15-23; Romans 14:12).
      2. The one who shows no mercy in earthly matters will receive no mercy in spiritual matters.
      3. God requires mercy of His people (Micah 6:8; Matthew 5:7, 6:14-15, 18:21-35).

 Questions to Discuss

  1. What does James say is wrong with showing respect of persons?
  2. Contrast rich and poor people as described by James. Are these things true of all poor or rich people?
  3. What is the royal law? Why is it called “royal”?
  4. Explain how respect of persons violates the royal law.
  5. Describe other problems that can be caused in relationships between people if some show respect of persons.
  6. List some other passages that teach the importance of complete obedience. What lessons should we learn about justifying or continuing sin in our lives?
  7. By what law will we be judged?
  8. Define “mercy,” and discuss how it relates to showing partiality.

 

Lesson 5 –James Chapter 2:14-26 –Faith and Works

  1.  James 2:14-26 –Generosity and Faith

  1. Verse 13 serves as the connection between these verses and the preceding ones –mercy.
    1. Showing favoritism is what a Christian should not do; instead she should show mercy.
    2. Exhibiting mercy involves charitable deeds, and thus James’transitions to the relationship of works (generosity) and faith.
  2. In order to state the principle James begins with two questions.
    1. The implied answer is, “None at all”.
    2. The second question, “Can faith save him?”is added for clarity; again the implied answer is, “No!”
  3. As James often does, he provides an example for emphasis.
    1. A fellow Christian that is truly in need (has no food or clothing) comes for help; and what does her Christian “friend” do? –says a prayer for that unfortunate person –“Go in peace, be warmed and filled.”
    2. Praying (and sincerely wishing well) for the poor is biblical. However, if we do not provide as we have opportunity and ability (give of our own food and clothing), then our prayers are useless.
    3. All forms of faith that do not have action accompanying them are likewise useless.
  4. In James 2:18-19, he brings up some arguments to his claim.
    1. Some treat faith and works as if they are separate from each other.
    2. His reply is that without good deeds, how is one’s faith shown? It is like having no faith at all.
    3. Then, the opponent is imagined to protest, “I believe there is one God.”
      1. Belief in one God is the basis of Judaism (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and Christianity (Mark 12:28-34; Romans 3:30; Acts 17:22-31).
    4. Surely, believing in God is enough.
    5. It is not! Even the demons believe this truth, and, often in the gospel accounts, they give a fuller confession than many others who claimed to follow Christ (Mark 1:24, 5:7).
    6. Unlike the person who says they believe yet shows no outward deeds, the demons act accordingly –they tremble!
      1. They shutter because they know they are going to hell due to their rebellion.
    7. Those who are not showing any good works should be trembling!
  5. James gives scriptural proof of his argument using strong language that is characteristic of our Lord (Matthew 23:17, 33).
    1. The evidence is that of Abraham who was “accounted as righteous”due to his deed of offering his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19).
    2. Notice James’use of the plural form, “works”. It was not this one act of obedience that showed Abraham’s faith, but many years of obedience.
    3. Abraham showed himself a true friend of God by living out his faith in obedience to Him (Genesis 15:6; Isaiah 41:8).
  6. Faith and actions cannot be separated.
    1. Complete (mature) faith is that which is not only in the mind but is carried out in action.
    2. “Justified”in James 2:24 is not the declaration that a sinner has been forgiven, but rather that one is declared to be a just person.
    3. Just as Abraham was declared to be just (“righteous”), we are too - by our deeds.
  7. A second example is given from the Old Testament, namely, Rahab in Joshua 2.
    1. She had heard about the God of Israel and believed in Him and she acted on this belief by protecting the Hebrew spies.
  8. James concludes by simply stating that faith without works is like a dead body. It is useless.
    1. This kind of faith will not save a person.
    2. “The faith that saves is the faith that obeys.”
  9. Notes to consider concerning faith and works:
    1. Many people believe Paul contradicts James, namely his discussions in Romans 4 and Galatians 3-4.
    2. We must remember as we study the Bible to examine the context and background of the passages.
    3. Paul is against meritorious works of the law (keeping the Sabbath, circumcision, dietary regulations, etc.).
    4. From other passages Paul wrote, we see that he is of the same mind as James when it comes to good deeds (Colossians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:17; 1 Timothy 2:10, 6:18).

 Questions to Discuss

  1. Explain the consequences for the doctrine of salvation by “faith only.”
  2. List some Bible examples of people who had a faith in God but were not saved.
  3. What is important about James’point in 2:19?
  4. How are works and faith related? Is James saying people can be saved without faith?
  5. Discuss the conclusion at which James arrives. In what sense is faith without works dead?
  6. Discuss true, biblical faith. What does it involve? How is it shown in individual lives?
  7. How do you harmonize the teaching of James 2 and passages such as Romans 4:1-5?

 

Lesson 6 –James Chapter 3:1-18 –The Tongue

  1. James 3:1-18 –Use of the tongue
    1. Many times a day people are tested when it comes to the use of the tongue.
      1. Christians are not exempt from this.
      2. Especially for James’1st century readers, Christians who were facing trials and would be prone to argue about such; the use of their tongues would be one example of their commitment to Christ.
    2. His first point is with an individual who uses their tongue often –the teacher.
      1. Many Christians desire to be teachers or leaders in the church.
      2. James argues that “not many of you (should) become teachers”due to the fact that teachers will “receive the stricter judgment.”
      3. He goes on to remind the reader that “we”(James includes himself) all make mistakes in our speech. (This is the easiest place in which to stumble).
      4. This is reminiscent of Jesus’condemnation of the Jewish teachers (Matthew 23:1-33; Mark 12:40).
      5. All of us will give an account for how we use our tongue (Matthew 12:36, 37); and furthermore, we are responsible for what we know (Luke 12:47-48).
      6. Teachers claim knowledge and are examples for the church.
      7. These should be sobering words for all Christians (since we are all to be teachers of the Word –2 Timothy 2:2).
    3. A series of examples follows in order to stress the importance of how we use our mouths.
      1. The horse is controlled by a bit in its mouth and ships are controlled by a rudder (which were shaped like a tongue in James’day); little things can be very powerful!
      2. The tongue is like a spark that sets a forest ablaze; a spark that originates in hell.
      3. It is hard to think of a sin that does not begin with a word (either spoken or thought).
      4. Generally, man can and does tame many animals; however, no man has the ability or skill to control his/her own tongue perfectly.
      5. The tongue is “unruly”(restless). Usually this is a characteristic of the demons and evil - while peace is characteristic of God and His kingdom.
      6. “Deadly poison”- when we speak evil words, we are producing toxins and they “bring death”rather than lifeto us.
    4. A few more examples are given to drive home the point.
      1. “We”(James is speaking to believers) use our tongues to praise God, but speak evil of (“curse”) other people.
      2. People are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).
        1. During this time, emperors would often set up statues of themselves in the cities. If anyone insulted the statue, they were treated as if they had done so to the king’s face, for the statue was the image of the king.
        2. We insult God Himself when we curse our fellow man.
        3. This is hypocrisy, in which the Christian should have no part.
      3. Two examples from nature (springs of water and fruit trees) point out that opposites (good and bad) cannot come from the same source.
    5. With the implied question, “Who can control his tongue?”in James’previous discussion, he now turns to the answer (which is the same as in James 1:5) –wisdom from above.
      1. A truly wise person is characterized by their good conduct.
      2. This is everyday living in which a person exhibits meekness (humility).
      3. Often, when someone wrongly attacks us we feel the need to defend ourselves which usually results in words we wish we had not spoken.
      4. A person who shows self-control and humility is James’example of a wise individual.
      5. Moses is called meek in Numbers 12:3 where he was unfairly criticized and spoke not a word in his own defense. God defended him.
    6. Envy and self-seeking are the opposite of the example Jesus set forth, opposite of God’s wisdom, and opposite of the Christian.
    7. Thus, one with this mindset who thinks she is doing right (maybe calling her envy “zeal”and her self-ambition “standing for the truth”) is in actuality lying against the truth because such attitudes form groups or parties instead of unity in God’s Word.
    8. This is not the spirit of Christ, but is earthly, even demonic; and it results in disorder and every evil thing (characteristics of demons we saw in James 3:8).
    9. The characteristics of true wisdom from above are similar to Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
      1. Pure –sincerely obeying God’s Word, not having any alternative motives in desiring holiness.
      2. Peaceable –producing peace in the church. (Proverbs 3:13-17; Hebrews 12:11)
      3. Gentle –considerate and non-aggressive/argumentative. (1 Timothy 3:3; Philippians 4:5)
      4. Willing to yield –(submissive); a wise person is willing to be corrected and respond to godly leadership. (1 Peter 5:5; Ephesians 5:21)
      5. Full of mercy/good fruits –referring to generous works as James has already discussed. God is merciful and good, thus, His people must be the same.
      6. Impartial and sincere –also aspects that James has already covered. A truly wise Christian will treat all people the same and exhibit no falseness about them.
    10. Human anger does not produce God’s righteousness (James 1:20), but peacemaking does.
      1. This is what Jesus said in Matthew 5:9.
      2. We are children of God when we act like our Father.

 Questions to Discuss:

  1. Why do teachers receive stricter judgment?
  2. What are some things the Christian needs to do in order to stumble less often in speech?
  3. What are some things our Lord said concerning the use of one’s tongue?
  4. Discuss the illustration of a forest being set on fire by a little spark. How does this relate to gossiping?
  5. Look up some other New Testament passages discussing our speech.
  6. James refers directly to hell and demons in two places in this chapter. (James 3:6, 15) Why? What is the importance of that in connection to his topic?
  7. Is it always wrong to speak evil of others? If not, what type of evil speech is James discussing? Explain.
  8. Can a faithful Christian both gossip or use foul language and sing praises to God or speak of Him to others in an acceptable manner? What does this reflect to others about our religion (James 1:27)?
  9. How is unity encouraged and promoted in the Lord’s church?
  10. How does true wisdom from God show itself in the Christians life?

 

Lesson 7 –James Chapter 4:1-12 –Humility

  1. James 4:1-12 –The origin and solution of pride
    1. The unbridled tongue can cause destruction in the church, which James discusses next.
      1. The description James gives makes us think of worldly people who have no interest in following God, yet James is speaking to Christians.  
      2. The church (then and now) had problems (fights, quarrels, lusts, killings, coveting).
      3. Most likely “murder”in this passage refers to killing with words (which makes us think of “deadly poison”in James 3:8).
      4. James shows his readers (including us today) how God views them.
      5. The origin of all these conflicts is not our love for God but our own desires, which James has already discussed (James 1:14-15).
    2. Such arguing and warring among brethren is fruitless.
      1. “You do not have because you do not ask”–(One can just hear them say, “But I do pray!”) –James’response: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss.”
      2. When the Christian prays with the wrong motives (to “spend it on your pleasures”) she will not receive anything from God.
      3. With such a mindset, a person is not seeking God’s will, but her own.
      4. God’s goal is not to make us happy. His goal is for us to love what He loves.
      5. Our goal should be to find happiness (true joy) in doing God’s will. “Not my will, but Your will be done.”(Luke 22:42)
      6. For the Christian woman crucifixion is before resurrection - just as it was for our Lord (Galatians 5:24).
    3. James calls this type of church what they really are –adulterers!
      1. The term in the Greek is “adulteresses”, not that his readers were all women, but pointing to the bride of Christ, the church (2 Corinthians 11:2).
      2. When we (Christians) claim to follow God, yet live according to our own self-interest, we are spiritual adulterers.
      3. We cannot be married to Christ and seek another lover (Matthew 6:24; 1 John 3:15).
      4. Being a friend of the world is therefore being an enemy of God.
        1. A Christian who befriends the world may believe and even be a “church goer”, but she is still an enemy of God.
    4. James 4:5 states: “Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’?”
      1. There is no known occurrence of this Scripture.
      2. James may be referring to the general sense of Scripture.
      3. In the Greek there is no article, so passages that say “spirit”are difficult to determine. Does “spirit” refer to the Holy Spirit or spirit of man? The context must be the guide in determining this.
      4. From the context (selfish desire warring in the Christian’s heart) it makes sense that James is referring to the fleshy versus spiritual mindset, which is discussed elsewhere (Romans 8:5-11; Galatians 5:15-17).
      5. Certainly the Christian obtains a right spirit when she studies and obeys the Holy Spirit’s Word, thus having the Spirit of God dwelling in her.
      6. Notice the word, “in”found in James 4:1 and James 4:5: Each one of us need to ask, what is “in”me? My desire or God’s? Pleasure-seeking or Spirit-seeking?
    5. Learning about the battle that goes on inside a Christian between the flesh and spirit may cause some to despair.
      1. The Christian who is penitently striving to do God’s will receives grace from God, not condemnation.
      2. James quotes Proverbs 3:34, which Peter quotes as well (1 Peter 5:5).
      3. God gives grace to the person who humbly comes to Him in obedience.
    6. One may ask what such humility looks like. James illustrates that for us.
      1. First, we must “submit to God”–turn from our own way to God’s way.
      2. True repentance is to stop sinning and turn to God, which involves “resisting the devil”–refuse to succumb to his temptations and he will flee (he always does when resisted). See Matthew 4:1-11
      3. James paints a picture that contains Old Testament imagery (offering sacrifices). “Draw near to God”–return to God by putting away our double-mindedness (trying to serve God and the world) and purifying/cleansing our heart (a mind devoted to God alone).
      4. “Lament and mourn and weep”–repentance involves godly sorrow, turning from our sin, and making amends (if possible) for the problems our sin caused (Matthew 3:8).
      5. If this is done, God will “draw near to you”and “lift you up”–He will not leave a penitent soul weeping but will raise us up in His love.
    7. James finishes his section on the use of our words and unity in the church with a final plea that points back to the tongue.
      1. “Do not speak evil of one another”–this is slandering or gossip (which can be words that are untrue as well as true (2 Corinthians 12:20).
      2. Such criticism is divisive (James 3:16) and makes one “speak evil of the law and judge the law”–a person judging others sets themselves over others and becomes a judge over the law (not one under it).
      3. This is done when we do not “love our neighbor as ourselves”and treat them as we would like to be treated (Mark 12:31; Matthew 7:12).
      4. In fact, when we judge others we are placing ourselves in God’s place. James reminds us that “there is one Lawgiver”and we have no right to make ourselves a judge. Refer back to lesson 4 –James 2:1-13 on judging others.

 Questions to Discuss:

  1. Discuss the “pleasures that war in your members”. From where do these originate?
  2. Can a Christian go to worship regularly and still be an enemy of God? How?
  3. What does the world think when they see Christians “fighting”and at “war”with one another?
  4. Discuss what being an adulterer means. What did God do with His first wife (Israel) who was an adulterer?
  5. Read Romans 8:1-17. Discuss the importance of allowing the Spirit to rule our lives instead of allowing our flesh (desires) to rule.
  6. How do we allow the Spirit to guide us? Many religious individuals today think of the Spirit as some force that overpowers you, sometimes at surprise, causing the person to speak incoherent words, jump around, etc. Is this based in Scripture? Is a person who never studies God’s Word going to have the Spirit in them?
  7. What is one of the “good and perfect gifts”that comes from God (mentioned in chapter 4)?
  8. Discuss the “plan of salvation”James explains in verses 7 –10.
  9. The Christian life is where we find true joy. At what times should our joy be turned into mourning?
  10. Why is humility stressed so often in the Scriptures as a characteristic of God’s people?
  11. What is the problem with gossip? Does it really matter if it is true or not?
  12. When we say something about another person (that we would not say to their face), but include, “Bless his/her heart”, does that make it alright to say?
  13. What are we really doing to the Lord’s body (of which we are a part) when we gossip/slander/criticize our brother or sister in Christ?
  14. Discuss the greatest command. (John 13:34, 35; Romans 12:10, 13:8; 1 John 3:23)

 

Lesson 8 –James Chapter 4:13-5:6 –The Wealthy

  1. James 4:13-17 –How to use what God has blessed us with
    1. James begins his final discussion on testing; here the testing is through wealth.
      1. It seems he addresses the wealthy Christian first (he does not call them “rich”) and the wealthy non-Christian person next (whom he calls “rich” in James 5:1-6).
      2. The wealthy person has a greater responsibility than the poor.
    2. Wealthy Christians who do not remember the uncertainty of the future and who try to control the future are rebuked.
      1. They have possessions to trade and plan to travel in order to buy, sell, and make money. These are normal business plans for any merchant.
      2. That is the problem: they are just like every other businessman. They have forgotten God’s plans.
      3. James reminds them that life is short (with words that sound familiar to Old Testament passages, Job 7:7; Psalms 39:5-6).
      4. They should be remembering the Lord in their plans as Jesus Himself taught (Luke 12:16-21).
        1. Compare the “we will”in verse 13 to “Lord’s will”in verse 15.
        2. James is not teaching that we need to always say, “If the Lord wills”before every plan; but we need to have that mindset with respect to how we use our time and materials.
      5. They are arrogant as they make plans that God did not make and boast in their ability to control their own life.
        1. This “pride of life”is a form of loving the world (1 John 2:16).
      6. These Christians know what they need to do. They know they need to humbly submit to God and share their wealth with the truly unfortunate and poor of the world.
        1. They may not be thieves or murders; nonetheless they are ignoring God’s Word - and that is sin just the same.
  2. James 5:1-6 –The consequences of the greedy rich
    1. James speaks of the wealthy who are outside the church, and how they are both failing the test of having wealth and taking advantage of the poor Christian.
      1. Notice he begins with the same, “Come now”as in James 4:13, which means “Now listen”.
      2. This is important as James begins with condemnation instead of an appeal.
    2. James’teaching here is reminiscent of the Lord’s (Luke 16:19-31; 18:25).
      1. These rich are the exact opposite of what Christians are; their judgment is just as sure as the Christian’s reward.
      2. Their “weep”and “howl”is not the same as the “lament”, “mourn”, and “weep”of James 4:9.
        1. The rich should cry because of their coming doom while the latter cry is in repentance avoiding that doom.
      3. He describes their wealth from the perspective of the future: “corrupted”, “moth-eaten”, “corroded”, as Jesus did (Matthew 6:19-21).
      4. Their hoarding up riches on earth will cause them to be cast into hell fire, like the rich man in Luke 16:19-21.
      5. The “last days”either refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Matthew 24:1-34) or a reference to the fact that we are in the last days that Jesus initiated (Hebrews 1:1-2) - the end can come at any time.
        1. Either meaning points out the futility of “heaping up treasure”.
        2. The Christian should be storing up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20).
    3. Besides not giving as they have prospered, they have greedily kept back wages from their workers.
      1. This is addressed in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:13); and the Judge over all hears the cry of the oppressed.
      2. The “Lord of Sabaoth” in Hebrew means “Lord of Hosts” as in Isaiah 5:9. The Almighty hears and acts!
      3. They have lived in fineries and feasting (“day of slaughter” – as in killing the fatted calf for a feast), but the underlying implication is God’s day of slaughter over His enemies (Isaiah 30:33; 34:5-8).
      4. They have “condemned” (which in the Greek involves the courts) and “murdered” the just.
        1. The picture is of the rich through lawsuits taking away what little money the poor did have and thus, bringing on starvation and death.
      5. The poor have no power to oppose their oppressors.
      6. Judgment belongs to the God of justice and He will not delay (Revelation 6:10).

 Questions to Discuss:

  1. What should we remember as we make life’s plans? Read and discuss Proverbs 27:1.
  2. Considering some of the things Jesus said about the rich, is it harder to be a wealthy Christian? Why or why not?
  3. Why do the wealthy have a greater responsibility?
  4. Considering the statement, “the Lord’s will”, how do we know His will? How should that affect our plans?
  5. Discuss the sin James describes in 4:17.
  6. Why does James address the rich non-Christian? See 5:6.
  7. Discuss the characteristics of these rich individuals. How are they (should be) different from that of the Christian?
  8. How does God view these people?

 

Lesson 9 –Chapter 5:7-20 –Patient Endurance

  1. James 5:7-12 –Be patient and persistent
    1. As James has discussed the oppression by the rich, he now addresses what the Christians can do about it.
      1. There are really only two ways in which people can react to circumstances: take matters into their own hands or humbly submit to God’s wisdom.
        1. We know which one James is proposing.
      2. As usual, he gives an example: the farmer is an excellent illustration of one who must patiently wait for something.
        1. In Palestine, the farmer had to wait for the autumn rains and spring rains to see the harvest to fruition.
      3. James tells them to exhibit patience and “establish their hearts”.
        1. A heart that trusts and waits on the Lord is “established”.
      4. “The coming of the Lord is at hand,”(he mentions twice) is a phrase that appears often in the Old and New Testament.
        1. As mentioned earlier (James 5:3), its meaning can be that of the destruction of Jerusalem, which would bring an end to the Jewish persecutors (God is often described as coming this way when a nation was going to be brought low –see Isaiah 13:6; Joel 1:15, 2:1).
        2. The other possible meaning is that of the Lord’s coming at the end of time (Many Christians in the 1st century thought the Lord would return in their lifetime. This is often stated as the “day of the Lord”–see 2 Peter 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:2).
      5. For Christians today, we need to maintain patience as well, since the world is steeped in sin, and we long for the day that the faithful will dwell in His presence.
    2. Through these trials it is important to remember that Christians do not need to “grumble against one another”.
      1. This would be disobedience to God as James has already discussed (James 4:11-12).
      2. We should not put ourselves in the place of the real Judge, who is “standing at the door”.
      3. James uses the prophets and Job as examples of patience and endurance.
        1. These men (especially Old Testament prophets) were persecuted by powerful and wealthy individuals; but now their names are remembered on earth and they have their reward - while the people who abused them are forgotten and reviled.
      4. A reminder for Christians: God never said the Christian life was easy, but He did say He would help us through the trials (1 Corinthians 10:13; Revelation 2:10).
      5. Even during the hardest of times the Lord does not forget His people, showing us compassion and mercy, as we mature in the faith and invest in that heavenly home (Psalms 103:8).
    3. James quotes Jesus’words in Matthew 5:33-37 pointing out that “above all”Christians should not swear by any oath (this ties in with the use of one’s tongue).
      1. Oaths themselves are not wrong, but giving an oath divides speech into two parts: (1) sworn statements which must be true and (2) normal talk which may or may not be true.
      2. Christians should remember that God hears all words and we will give an account for our words (Matthew 12:36), therefore all our speech should be honest and open.
  2. James 5:13-20 –Concluding remarks
    1. Christian sufferers (first group): Instead of saying oaths (swearing) when under pressure, Christians ought to pray and sing.
    2. Sick Christians (second group) should “call for elders of the church”.
      1. During this miraculous age, some had the ability to heal (those on whom the apostles had laid their hands); and it would make sense that the elders in the church would have some miraculous gifts/abilities (1 Corinthians 12:9).
      2. The oil possibly has medicinal benefits, although the question arises why it would be needed if miraculous healing were involved. Probably used more out of custom.
      3. The “prayer of faith”is to be done “in the name of the Lord”(James 1:6, 7).
        1. As he says in the next verse: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”(James 5:16).
      4. The statement,“And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven”, seems out of place in discussing the physically sick unless we consider it with the next verse, in which James points out that Christians should be a people that confess their sins to each other and ask for prayer in time of need.
        1. It is possible that James is making a connection between some sins causing physical sickness.
        2. In that case, the sin should be taken care of before physical health can be restored.
      5. James uses the example of Elijah to show that a human just like us prayed with faith and it was answered accordingly.
        1. Like all believers, Elijah was not extraordinary; but he (and we) served an extraordinary God!
    3. James closes by pointing out the need to gently restore an erring Christian.
      1. This refers to a Christian’s serious departure from the faith.
      2. The spiritual are to “bring them back”with a loving disposition (Galatians 6:1).
      3. Doing this saves them from spiritual death and their sins are forgiven by our merciful God (1 John 5:16-17; Jude 1:22-23; Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8).

 Questions to Discuss:

  1. Why is patience such a stressed virtue in the Scriptures?
  2. What are some practical ways Christians can exhibit patience today.
  3. How is grumbling (complaining) against others a lack of patience?
  4. Discuss the ways in which the “Judge is standing at the door”for us today.
  5. Why are those who endure counted as blessed?
  6. Discuss the characteristics of God mentioned in verse 11.
  7. Why should Christians not swear oaths (especially during times of trials or suffering)?
  8. What should be our response to various circumstances of life?
  9. How does the end of James compare to the beginning of the book? (See 1:2-8 and 5:7, 8, 15)

      10. What does 5:16 teach us about fellowship among Christians?

      11. Why is it important to bring back the erring ones? Read and discuss Hebrews 10:26-29.

The Gospel of Christ

This material is copyrighted by The Gospel of Christ and its authors.  This information is free to use in its entirety without further consent, however, modifications should not be made without contacting mail@thegospelofchrist.com for permission.  Any and all images contained herein are believed to be free for all distribution and content.