James is seen to be the most practical and interesting books of the New Testament. My previous book report on Romans, Paul’s message expounded salvation by faith, where James expresses this faith in the way the Christian should live his life. To the Reformers of the Reformation, they saw this as coming dangerously close to a works-based salvation, (Richards 1994:573). “But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22, KJV).
Nelson accepts the view of most scholars that James the half brother of Jesus is the author, as the epistle is somewhat similar to a speech in Acts 15 by James the half brother of Jesus, (Nelsons 1996:453). Richards also subscribes the authorship to James the half brother of Jesus. He goes on to say that James was a prominent leader of the Jerusalem church, a position confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Gal 2:9. He earnt the nickname of ‘the just’ by the early church, (Richards 1994:573). Hayford states that the author identifies himself as simply James, however, the name was very common in it’s day, and that there are at least five of them identified in the New Testament, two being disciples. Tradition ascribes the author to Jesus’ half brother and hence there has been no reason to question this view. (Hayford 1992:437). Elwell points out that the only other contender for authorship was James the son of Zebedee, however, his early martyrdom (A.D. 44; cf. Acts 12:2) probably removes him from consideration.
Still others think that the good, almost literary Greek of the letter, along with the way the author handles the topic of justification (2:14-26), makes it likely that someone toward the end of the first century wrote the letter and ascribed it to James. But this theory is unnecessary and calls into question the honesty of the writer. There is every reason to accept the widespread opinion of the early church that James, the brother of the Lord, wrote this letter, (Elwell 1989 CDROM). Carson has some interesting contradictions, stating that it was written by an anonymous James, as the James of our Lord, would have mentioned his special relationship. Also, could a Galilean Jew, who never left Palestine, with concepts derived from Greek philosophy and religion, compose Greek with such sophisticated allusions? Many say no, (Carson 1992:411). However, I agree with Elwell as with tradition. I would tend to give much weight to the traditionally accepted views, as they are not given lightly.
Elwell concludes that the book was written in the early A.D. 40’s, making it possibly the earliest New Testament book to be written. He goes on to say that the time frame is backed up by references in his writing, ie. the reference to the synagogue as the place of meeting (2:2), and the fact that the sharp debates over the place of the Law in Christianity, so prevalent from the latter 40s on, are not reflected in the letter, (Elwell 1989 CDROM). Hayford gives a broader estimate, between A.D. 48 and A.D. 62. This is based on the time of the church council (Acts 15), and the year he was stoned to death, respectively, (Hayford 1995:437). Nelson also believes it to be among the earliest writings of the New Testament, (A.D. 46-49), based on a number of factors; 1). No mention of Gentile believers. 2). Little verbal agreement with the Synoptic, therefore written before them. 3). He uses the word synagogue for the term “church”, patterned after the Jewish synagogues. 4). Lastly, James does not mention the issues involved in the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, A.D. 49, (Nelsons 1996:455). I would agree with Nelson’s view, as it is based on sound reason and backed up by good evidences from the writings in light of what was happening historically.
The characteristics of true faith. James directs his readers toward Godly living, through fifty-four exhortations over 108 verses. What results is a strong statement of Christian ethics, (Hayford 1995:437). James’ insistence that genuine Christian faith must become evident in works. He opposes strongly the all too common tendency among Christians to rest content, with a half hearted, compromising faith that seeks to have the best of this world and the next, (Carson 1992:418). Faith without works is dead, and faith without works cannot be called faith and is worse than having no faith at all. It must have good fruit as its by-product, (Nelson 1996:453). James new very well, like Paul did that true faith was expressed in obedience. That they are to lead lives that gives justice and credibility to the statement that ‘Jesus is Lord’, (Richards 1992:517). If Paul saw Christ in the heavens establishing our righteousness, James saw Him on earth telling us to be perfect, even as His Father in heaven is perfect. Paul was saying, “take the Gospel in”, James is saying “take it out”, (Mears 1998:604).
I. Address and Greeting (1:1)
II. Trials and Temptation (1:2-18)
III. Putting the Word into Practice (1:19-2:26)
IV. Worldliness in the Church (3:1-4:12)
V. Looking at Life from a Christian Perspective (4:13-5:11)
VI. Concluding Exhortations (5:12-20)
James emphasises two areas of Christian life, personal growth in the spiritual life and sensitivity in personal relationships. He contends that any faith that does not contend with both these attitudes is a dead faith. It challenges those who tend to talk rather than walk their way to heaven, (Hayford 1995:437). James has concerns with libertines, has emphasised a justification before men by works, faith as a genuine fruitful product, thereby being justified in daily proof by behaving like Christ, (Nelson 1996:457). There is great concern that James and Paul are contradicting each other in regards to how a person is justified before God.
This is not the case as there is an important difference in which Paul and James can be appropriately harmonised. James is using the verb dikaioo ‘vindicate before people’; therefore Paul is talking of the declaration of our righteousness and James the demonstration of our righteousness, (Carson 1992:419). James is much like proverbs. He gives many short pithy exhortations, touching on a variety of important subjects to the Christian life. A wonderful book in teaching our people how to live for the Lord, (Richards 1992:517). Ergo (work) relates to the doings of human beings in everyday life, which demonstrates itself to be obedient fulfillment of the divine will, of the law. It applies to every part of the believers life, ie. at work or acts of love, (Brown 1976:1148).
Distinctive Pentecostal Beliefs.
God continues to provide good gifts for His children. As James points out, He is unchanging, unlike the sun, moon, stars and planets who continually change their appearance. As an outstanding example of God’s good gifts, James cites the new, spiritual birth that Christians have experienced (v. 18). This “new birth,” or regeneration, is motivated solely by the will of God; accomplished through the instrument of “the word of truth,” the gospel (cf. 2 Cor. 6:7; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:15), it has as its purpose the bringing into being of “firstfruits,” the first harvest of the fruits produced by God’s eternal plan of redemption, (Elwell 1989 CDROM). James calls himself a bondservant to the Lord Jesus or more to the point slave. This applies to all Christians who acknowledge Jesus as Lord of their lives. Jesus is the object of their faith (2:1), of whose name and by whose power we minister in (4:14-15). He is the divine glory, the presence of God on earth, (Hayford 1995:436).
God makes our trials the instrument of blessing (1:3). Many times our trials bring impatience, but God will give grace so that all things work for His real purpose. Time is nothing with God, so we must remember that patience is more necessary than anything else in our faith life. Christ’s purpose for us is that we shall be perfect and entire, wanting nothing, (Mears 1998:606). There are three main uses of works in the bible. Works of God, works of Christ, and works of man as pertaining to faith. The believer demonstrates the divine character of Christ within him by his good works (Mt 5:16). Good works is therefore the evidence of living faith and appeals to those who think they are saved by faith alone without works, (Douglas 1988:1261).