J A M E S

AT-A-GLANCE

Chapters 1:1-18

Perseverance: The Path to Maturity and Life

Chapters 1:19-2:25

Faith Without Works is Dead

Chapters 3:1-18

Taming the Tongue

Chapters 4:1-5:11

Humility: Avoiding the Path to Death

Chapters 5:12-5:20

Final Exhortations

QUICK FACTS

Author: James, the half-brother of Jesus

Original Readers: Jewish Christian refugees, scattered in and beyond Judea

Date Written: c. AD 44

Written From: Jerusalem

Key Verse: 1:2-4; 1:22

Major Themes: Perseverance, Faith and Works, Speech, Rich and Poor

DISCOVER THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF JAMES

HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE INDUCTIVELY

OBSERVE

What does the text say?

There’s no better way to understand the literary context than carefully observing what is said.

INTERPRET

 What does the text mean?

In light of both the literary and historical context, what was the original intended meaning of this passage?

APPLY

How do I apply what the text means?

In order for us to grow and mature more into Christ’s likeness, we must apply the truths we discover in our lives.

Chapter 1:1-18 Perseverance: the Path to Maturity and Life

OBSERVE

  • 1:2-4 What is the reason James wants his readers to consider difficult times a joy?
  • 1:4 How does God want to help the readers in their circumstances?
  • 1:9-11 What simile does James use to describe the rich?
  • 1:12 What does James identify as the pathway to life?
  • 1:13-15 What does James identify as the pathway to death?
  • 1:13-18 List the details of the two birthing analogies that James uses.

INTERPRET

  • 1:2-4 What does James’ mean by a believer being made “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” What (or who) would that person look like?
  • Knowing the details of the historical situation of the original readers, why would James start his letter with each of the themes or ideas you just observed? Why might they need to be reminded of each one of these things?

APPLY

  • 1:5, 9-11, 16-18 Where do I primarily look for help in difficult circumstances?
  • What would help me to consider difficult times a joy?

IS IT WRONG TO BE RICH?

In this video, we examine the reasons why James and other New Testament authors tend to speak harshly towards the wealthy and what the Bible would have us understand about money, regardless of the amount in our bank account.

Chapter 1:19-2:25 Faith Without Works is Dead

OBSERVE

  • 1:22-24 To what does James compare someone who listens to the word but does not do what it says?
  • 1:26-27 What does true religion involve?
  • 2:1 Who does James say should not show favoritism?
  • 2:5-7 What are the rich among the original readers doing?
  • 2:8-13 How does James describe the law in these verses?
  • 2:14-16 What are the 3 questions James asks?
  • 2:20-26 Which two Old Testament people does James use as examples to prove that faith without deeds is dead?

INTERPRET

  • 1:26-27 What kinds of activities do you imagine this church thought were very godly or extra spiritual?
  • 2:5-7 Are the rich people described here Christians? Why or why not?
  • 2:8-13 Why does James seem to have such a positive view of the law?
  • 2:14-26 Why is this lengthy discussion necessary? What does it suggest about the original readers?

* HELPFUL NOTES

1:26-27 James is not using “religion” here in a negative sense, as a synonym for legalism. Instead, its meaning here is similar to “godliness” or “spirituality.”

APPLY

  • 1:26-27 What kinds of actions do you or your Christian community typically celebrate as “good Christian behavior.” Do you think James would agree with you?
  • 2:14-26 What are your thoughts and feelings about what James says about faith and works here? Do you see evidence of both faith and works in your own life?

Chapter 3:1-18 Taming Your Tongue

OBSERVE

  • 3:1-12 Go through these verses and list everything James says that is related to speech and/or the tongue: warnings, metaphors, commands, etc.
  • 3:13-18 How does James describe the two kinds of “wisdom”?

INTERPRET

  • 3:3-6 What is the meaning each of the metaphors used in this paragraph to describe the tongue?
  • 3:1-12 Why might the original readers need to be reminded to tame their tongue?
  • 3:13-18 How would responding to situations with “the wisdom from above” help the original readers?

APPLY

  • 3:1-12 Can you think of examples from your life which demonstrate the power of the tongue for good and for evil? 
  • 3:1-12 Think through your day today. What direction did your tongue turn your whole body and soul?

JUSTIFIED BY FAITH ALONE?

The message of James’ letter is challenging, especially his apparent contradiction of Paul’s teaching on justification by faith and not works of the law (Rom 3:28). Here we explore whether or not James and Paul fundamentally disagree on the basis of our justification.

Chapter 4:1-5:11 Humility: Avoiding the Path to Death

OBSERVE

  • 4:1-3 What reason does James give for the original readers not receiving what they ask from God?
  • 4:7-10 List the commands James gives in these verses
  • 4:11-12 What does James say about judging?
  • 4:13-16 What is the difference between what people are saying and what James says they should say?
  • 5:1-6 What have the rich done? What have they not done?
  • 5:7-11 Notice the repeated word “patience.” What is said about it?

INTERPRET

  • 4:1-3 What might be going on in the hearts of the original readers while they are asking God for things? What kinds of things do you think they might be asking for?
  • 4:7-10 Why does James give these commands? Do his statements here contradict what he says about judging in 4:11-12? Why or why not?
  • 4:11-12 What does it mean to judge the law? Why is that wrong?
  • 4:13-16 Why does James think it’s wrong for the original readers to say what they are saying? What does it reveal about their hearts? 
  • 5:1-6 Why is what the rich people have and have not done so serious to God? 
  • 5:7-11 Why do the original readers need to be patient?

  * HELPFUL NOTES

4:2 The original readers are probably not literally killing each other. James is simply communicating the seriousness of fights, quarrels, and anger, not unlike Jesus did in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:21-26).

4:11-12 To help interpret these verses, look up what the law says about how to treat your neighbor in Leviticus 19:16 and 19:18.

THE ALLEGORY OF SARAH & HAGAR

What is an allegory? An allegory is a story that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning. It is a full extended metaphor in a form of a story, where every part of the story is symbolic and has a deeper meaning.

* We must be careful not to allegorize Scriptures that were never intended to be an allegory. In the Bible, the authors will specify when they are using an allegory.

APPLY

  • 4:1-3 Are your prayers being answered? What are you praying for? What are the motivations for those prayers?
  • 4:7-10 Is calling out sin in someone’s else’s life a form of judgment? Why or why not?
  • 4:13-16 Have you submitted your plans for the future to God?
  • 5:7-11 Do you struggle with patience in difficult circumstances?

Chapter 5:12-20 Final Exhortations

OBSERVE

  • 5:12 Look up what Jesus says in Matthew 5:34-37. How is what James says here similar?
  • 5:13-18 What does James say about prayer?
  • 5:19-20 What can help the original readers avoid the path to death?

INTERPRET

  • 5:12 Why would saying anything beyond a simple “yes” or “no” be condemned?
  • 5:13-18 How could prayer help the original readers in their difficult situation?
  • 5:19-20 Why does James end the letter in this abrupt way?

APPLY

  • 5:19-20 Do you have a community of people walking with you, helping to keep you on God’s path to life?

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