James 1 outline notes used for Matt Slick’s Bible Study. The chapter deals with trials, wisdom, and the necessity of behavior in a godly way.
James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
James introduces himself, states to who the epistle was written, and then gives a greeting.
James is addressing the 12 tribes who are dispersed abroad. Most scholars I’ve checked say that James was martyred around 62 A.D., So the authorship will have to be before that, probably between A.D. 45 and 50. (Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude. 1st ed. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005.)
The record of the birth of Jacob’s sons is found in Genesis 29:32 to 35:18. Jacob had 12 sons through four different women.
The 12 tribes of Israel (Gen. 49:1-28) were Judah, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Ephraim, Benjamin, Manasseh.
But that is 13
This is because Levi did not receive territory but was a tribe dedicated to the work of the temple and worship of God.
This James apparently was not a believer at first but later came to trust in Christ after Jesus appeared to people (1 Cor. 15:7)
Jude mentions James as well. Jude 1, “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.”
This implies either that Jude was a literal brother or that the term is used figuratively.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
James tells us how to deal with trials. In this verse, were to have joy
It appears that the trial spoken of are revealed later, poverty, as is mentioned in James 1:9-11.
knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
During our trials, we must know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
It is God who is testing us or allowing us to be tested.
This is for his glory and our betterment.
We must recognize and accept the sovereignty of God, who allows trials to come upon us.
It is through these trials that we find our faith tested, and when we are patient and keep her eyes on our Lord, our faith is rewarded and strengthened.
Trials show us two things: God and ourselves
It shows God’s sovereignty and what we are made of.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Wisdom is the proper use of knowledge.
Those who are already true believers in God.
Mormons use James 1:5 to justify praying about the truth of the book of Mormon. This is a misapplication of that text.
We are to seek wisdom, but it is not the goal. Instead, our relationship with Christ is the ultimate goal.
1 Corinthians 1:9, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
David asked to be in the presence of the Lord. Psalm 27:4, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple.”
Solomon asked for wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-14). Yet Solomon fell into idolatry (1 Kings 11:4–8).
But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
Faith is only as good as you put it in.
If you have faith in the true living God, then if you ask according to his will, the believer should not doubt that it will be accomplished.
1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
Because our faith is in the true and living God, we should not be tossed around by every wind of doctrine.
Ephesians 4:14, “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.”
However, if we are out of the will of God are in sin, their prayers are hindered, as will be the answers.
1 Peter 3:7, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,
being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
It is a contemptuous phrase “that man” when coupled with how he ought not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
The reason is that he is double-minded and unstable.
The only other mention of being double-minded is found in James 4:8. It is, incidentally, the Greek word δίψυχος dípsuchos.
To be double-minded is to be hypocritical. It is to say one thing and do another. So, don’t profess faith in God and then live in contradiction to that faith.
But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position;
and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation because like flowering grass, he will pass away.
Possibly by being seen by God as being equal to the poor and knowing that he will pass away, just like the poor. “You can’t take it with you.”
For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
It was often the case that the wealthy exploited the poor. How then were the poor to handle this?
Glory in his high position of being a Christian.
Not coveting another’s wealth.
Not hating the rich.
Be satisfied where you are – though you can try and improve your situation.
James says that both the rich and the poor will die like the grass and face judgment. They are equal in this. But in the meantime, keep your eyes on the Lord. Trust Him, and don’t be double-minded.
In James 2:2 and 4:13, he mentions rich Christians.
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Trials are usually very difficult and associated with pain, suffering, and sometimes doubt.
But we are blessed when we persevere through trials because it increases our faith and it glorifies God.
From the Christian perspective of trusting God’s sovereignty in our lives, we can rejoice that God is in control – even when things are difficult. See Eph. 1:11, where God works all things after the counsel of His will.
Those who fail the test don’t have their eyes on Christ.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
The temptation is in the context of not being very well off. Being poor could provide the basis by which people could complain, cheat or steal to get ahead without seeking the will of God.
They could easily say that they are tempted by their circumstances and even blame God for it. But this is inexcusable.
If God allows it, it is for a reason.
Our temptations and trials show us both God and ourselves.
God in His sovereignty – look for what He is teaching us in the trial.
Ourselves in our strength or weakness as it relates to faith in God’s will.
What would you do if you found yourself destitute, without a home, and without an income? Would you steal? Would you lie?
Temptation can be external and internal.
External temptation is something offered but does not actually tempt the individual.
Psalm 106:13–14, “They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, 14 But craved intensely in the wilderness, And tempted God in the desert.”
Internal temptation is something offered that does affect the individual.
Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
1 Cor. 15:56, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;”
Each believer must take responsibility for his own sin.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
That which is good comes from God.
If believers fall, they should never blame God. They must understand that goodness comes from God, and He s always working according to His goodness – even when things are difficult.
Think of the eternal benefit of glorifying God through trials versus the temporal benefit of being delivered from a trial.
Father of Lights
1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”
God is transcendent (beyond our reasoning) and immutable (unchanging).
This deals with the immutability of God. He does not change.
Malachi 3:6, “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.”
Note: God’s gifts, no matter how difficult they can sometimes be, are always better than the compromises presented by the devil.
In the exercise of His will, He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
God brought us forth from his eternal decree in the Trinitarian communion.
Word of truth
Jesus is the Word made flesh. John 1:1, 14, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’“
Colossians 1:16, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.”
First Fruits were the first portions of a harvest
Exodus 23:16, “Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in the fruit of your labors from the field.”
Exodus 34:26, “You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the Lord your God….”
Romans 8:23, “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”
1 Corinthians 15:20, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.”
Revelation 14:4, “These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.”
This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;
for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
James is relating what you believe with what you do. Orthodoxy (proper belief) leads to orthopraxy (proper actions). James is extremely practical, and he says to speak slowly, not with anger, because it does not accomplish the righteousness of God.
Verb, ὀργίζω, orgízō. Noun, ὀργή, orgḗ. The noun form occurs 36 times in the N.T.
Anger is not automatically a sin.
Jesus got angry at the malice and wickedness of the hypocritical religious leaders of Israel. Mark 3:5, “After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.”
The phrase “anger of the Lord” occurs 35 times in the New American Standard Bible, and they are all in the Old Testament. 32:14; Deut. 29:27; Judges 10:7, etc.
Exodus 4:14, “Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses, and He said, “Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. Moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.”
Judges 10:7, “The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the sons of Ammon.”
Our anger is good when…
It is against unrighteousness, hypocrisy, sin, hindering others from coming to Christ, the promotion of ungodliness and society, etc.
Our anger is bad when…
It is to satisfy our emotions, to injure another without cause, etc.
Colossians 4:5–6, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
2 Timothy 2:24–26, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
1 Peter 3:15, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;”
Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility, receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
The word filthiness occurs only here in the New Testament. It is ῥυπαρία rhuparía.
The word wickedness is κακία kakía. It occurs 11 times in the New Testament and is rendered as “trouble” in Matthew 6:34; evil in Romans 1:29; malice in 1 Cor. 5:8, etc.
James tells us to put aside filthiness and wickedness and replace them with humility, the humility with which we receive the word of God.
To receive the word of God is to humble yourself before God and trust that what he says is true. This takes faith and determination to hold the faith in that word.
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
Don’t just listen to the word of God, obey the word of God. After all, you are no longer your own. You have been purchased.
Acts 20:28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
You have died with Christ
Romans 6:8, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,”
You are indwelt by the Lord God
John 14:23, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.’“
Because of this, you are to seek the things above, not below.
Colossians 3:1–5, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”
We must be very wary of our own hypocrisy. How many profess to love Christ, but don’t behave as though that is true.
1 John 2:4, “The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
We must ask ourselves if we behave in a manner consistent with our profession.
Luke 9:23, “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
Matthew 10:38, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;
for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
Our relationship with Christ and our relationship to what we are to do before Him, must not be a temporary mental acknowledgment that is easily forgotten. Unlike the man in the mirror who sees himself and then quickly forgets when he walks away, we must remember who we are in Christ. We are to remember what God has done and what he is doing in us.
This is why Colossians 3:1-5 (previous page, 22.4) says what it says.
Also, notice the tenses in these two verses. In verse 22, he speaks about the person who looks in the mirror but then says once he leaves, he “has immediately forgotten.” This is the aorist middle, which means past tense action that a person does upon himself. In other words, he has voluntarily abandoned the truth and responsibility set before him.
But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
James contrasts looking in the mirror and forgetting and not doing with looking at the law and remembering and doing.
Law of Liberty
The gospel is the law of liberty. It sets us free from the requirements of the law by which people sought to justify themselves before God.
John 8:32, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Romans 8:15, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’”
2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
Galatians 5:1, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.
Thinks himself to be religious
Religious is θρῆσκος thrḗskos. It occurs only here in the entire N.T. It means “the diligent performer of divinely ascribed duties of outward service to God.”1
because of the word “religious” dealing with external behavior, James speaks about the internal, his own heart. After all, Jesus says that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” (Matt. 12:34).
So, James is drawing a distinction between the outward proclamation and the inward reality. We must not be hypocritical by showing proper outward actions while internally we are in sin.
The evidence of the internal problem is found, in this instance, in speech. But, it can also be found in other areas, and the lust of our hearts, holding onto resentment, coveting, etc.
In this kind of hypocrisy, such a person deceives himself, and his outward profession of religiosity is worthless.
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Notice that this is in the sight of God the Father.
In Greek, it is literally ‘the God and Father.’ This deals with the Granville Sharp rule, which states that when there is a definite article “the” followed by two nouns that are joined with the word “and,” then the two words refer to the same thing.
For example, Titus 2:13, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,”
If we want to be “religious,” then let’s do it by visiting orphans and widows… And prisoners… And those who are in need… In hospitals… Neighbors who need lawns mowed… etc.
And in this, we are to keep ourselves pure, unstained but the defilements of the world. This is not easy to do because there are so many temptations that we face materially, financially, visually, personally, etc.
Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
For more information on James 1, please go to https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/Jam/Jam_001.cfm?a=1147001
1↑ Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000.
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