MONDAY, NOVEMBER 27
SCRIPTURE: JAMES 1
Today we are going to start our journey through the Book of James. Though there were several important men named James in the New Testament, most scholars believe this James was a half brother to Jesus. Jesus and James would have had the same mom but different dads.
Another interesting thing about this book is it very well may have been the first book written in what has become the New Testament. If that is true, and I believe it is, this letter would have predated every other book written in the New Testament including Mark which was undoubtedly the first Gospel written.
Because James was the first book written that means his audience would have been almost entirely Christians who had been raised as Jews and would still have been very Jewish and would have had a very Jewish view of how to live the Christian life. Those early Christians really struggled with how they should live in grace.
That may be one of the reasons James is so very blunt in this letter. Part of the bluntness comes from writing in short, pithy statements not unlike the Book of Proverbs. Part of the bluntness comes from just being very forthright about how they were to live as Christ followers.
At the end of verse 1, you will find that James was writing to believers in the Dispersion or Diaspora. Primarily these would have been Jewish people who were living in Jerusalem when they were saved. Many of those first believers were forced to leave Jerusalem when the first wave of persecution swept through. (Acts 8)
The word dispersion or Diaspora carries the idea of scattering seed. In other words, although it was persecution that caused them to leave Jerusalem, the good thing is those early believers sowed seeds of the Gospel in the places they moved to. In fact, this dispersion actually helped them fulfill Jesus’ command in Acts 1:8 to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the outermost parts of the earth. If it were not for the persecution, those early believers would not have been so prone to move away and take the Gospel with them.
In this first chapter, James deals with three main themes: trials, temptations, and truth. Because Satan opposes us and the world is against us, trials are a very real part of the Christian life. (1 Peter 4:12) Indeed the more we strive to live the Christian life, the greater the trials will be. But as verses 3-4 teach, there are really good things that come out of what trials create in the lives of Christ followers.
The second theme, temptation, begins in verse 13. James makes two incredibly important points. One, God cannot be tempted to do evil. Two, God tempts no one to do evil. The source of temptation is actually our own desire (v. 14). It is important to remember here that temptation is not sin. It is not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted yet He was without sin. It is when we continue to consider the temptation that we prone to act on the temptation. It is that acting on temptation that is sin.
Finally, beginning with verse 22 we encounter the section on truth. The truth is we must not just be hearers of the Word but doers also. If we hear and don’t do, we have deceived ourselves. If we hear and do, we are acting on truth. And it is that truth that brings glory to God.