James - A Unique New Testament Epistle

A Bible student, John Martin, has this to say in his foreword on study notes about the book of James:-

“The epistle of James is one of the earliest writings of the New Testament. It contains no mention of Gentiles in or out of the Ecclesia, but is addressed to the ‘12 tribes of the Diaspora’ (dispersed Jews). Although written in precise Greek, it is strongly Hebraistic in its tone; abrupt, powerful, and full of the colourful language that enriches the writings of Moses and the prophets. As for the author, he has been described as ‘a Jew who never ceased being a Jew’, although he became a Christian. James is a Grecized form of Jacob. Like Jacob of old, James offers his fatherly advice to the 12 tribes who are scattered abroad.”

The epistle is unique in the New Testament as it is aimed at a dual audience: 1) The whole Jewish nation; 2) the newly emerging group of Jewish Christians. Yet its teaching and lessons apply to both Jews and Gentiles for all time.

“Born Again”

James touches on a number of first principles but we take just one example, being born again. In John 3 Jesus declared to all who wish to please God, “You must be born again.” John 3:3 AV: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…” and v.5: “Except a man be born (again) of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

So we have to start a new life; have re-birth, if we are to be in the kingdom of God. James says the same in chapter 1:18, speaking to baptized believers, he writes (NIV) “He (God) chose to give us birth (a new birth) through the word of truth.” It is belief of the truth which causes men and women to be baptized – to be born again by total immersion in water, and then rise to a new life in Christ, with all their past sins ‘washed away’ (book of Acts).


In chapter 1 we read that to have our faith tested by trials and tribulations is a good thing, because it develops “patience,” or endurance and fortitude in our characters, so making us better people.

Chapter 3 – the Tongue

This chapter points out the disasters caused by evil gossip. Ch.3:6: ‘The tongue is a fire – a world of iniquity…’ etc.

Chapter 4 – Greed versus Humility

The early verses of this chapter paint in some of the worst excesses of uncontrolled human nature – war, greed, murder, adultery; and it also warns against friendship with a world that has no time for God. The remedy is in verses 7-11, - to repent in humility, to “humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.”

The Wisdom from Above

In chapter 3:13 this is first described as “showing a good way of life, with works, and with meekness of wisdom.” Much charity work today is done chiefly for self-glory. It should be done quietly, unobtrusively.

James continues to say that “the wisdom from above is first pure.” Purity of doctrine is vital, BUT IT IS NOT THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS. It must be followed in a “peaceable” manner (not with arrogance) … it must be “gentle,” “easy to be entreated” (approachable), “full of mercy and good fruits,” “without partiality” (not giving some special treatment in the brotherhood, whilst ignoring others) … and “without hypocrisy.” “and the fruit of righteousness is sown in PEACE of them that make peace.”

For baptized believers, this is the aim. (It is a high standard.)

…to sow fruits of righteousness, such as “love, joy, faithfulness,” (Galatians 5) and to sow these fruits in peace, and in a peaceable way.

Bro David Webb (UK)

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