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Bible Commentaries

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT


- James

by Manly Luscombe

Practical Christianity

Questions to Discuss on

the General Epistle of James

James - Introductory Matters

Author: James, the brother of Jesus

The most reasonable identity of James seems to be that he was the brother of Jesus. The apostle James, son of Zebedee and brother of John had already been killed in Act_12:1-25 ; James, the father of Apostle Judas and the apostle James “the Less”, the son of Alphaeus are relatively obscure and are not likely candidates. James the brother of Jesus rose to prominence in the early days of the church had a strong connection to Jewish law, and the language parallels that of the words from the Jewish council, Act_15:23-29 . Ref also: Act_12:17 ; Act_15:13-21 ; Act_21:18 . He was called a “pillar of the church” by Paul in Gal_2:9 ; Gal_2:12 and was a prominent leader in settling the controversy in Act_15:1-41 . Tradition also supports this theory.

Some have tried to argue for an even earlier date to make James, the brother of John, the author of this book before he was killed. ( Act_12:2 )

I believe the author is James, the brother of Jesus. He does not identify himself as an apostle. He does simply say he is a servant of Jesus Christ. This is the same way another brother of Jesus, Jude, begins his book.

Date: 44 - 55 (more likely earlier than later - probably 45-48

It was written after the dispersion of Jewish Christians ( Act_8:4 ) and in a period in which the church may have been suffering from distress. So the time frame of writing was most likely between AD44 and AD55. Many believe this letter to be the earliest of the New Testament writings. Paul's first writing was about 52. This book was written about 5 years earlier.

To whom: Christians around the world

James is one of the “general epistles.” The term means that the letter is addressed to a broad audience, as opposed to letters addresses to a specific church, area, or individual. Some older commentaries and books refer to these as the catholic epistles. The word catholic means universal, and is not a reference to the Catholic Church. The other “general epistles” are 1 and 2Pe_1:1-21 ; 2Pe_2:1-22 , 3 John and Jude. They are general epistles because they are not addressed to a specific individual, church or territory.

The letter is addressed to Christians living outside the land of Palestine. The 12 “tribes scattered abroad” could address Jewish Christians who were in many nations of the world. Most believe it is addressed to the “spiritual” Israel, the church, thus Christians who were scattered during the persecution of Saul. See Act_8:1-4 and Act_11:19 .

Purpose: Teaching practical Christianity

The purpose of writing seems to be to bolster a weak Christian’s faith by emphasizing the practical aspects of brotherhood. James stresses our need to receive the word, develop a working knowledge (wisdom), and make application (work). The attitude (meekness), the stamina (endurance), and the goal (salvation) of Christianity all are emphasized to encourage the Christian. It is truly a treatise concerning “faith” and a practical explanation of the pure religion. All Christians should consider it a manual for moving froward from the point of conversion to maturity in Christ.

This book is full of practical advice on topics of how to live the Christian life. Topics like:

1. Prayer

2. The tongue

3. Anger

4. Partiality and prejudice

5. Wealthy vs. poor

6. Wisdom (earthy vs. heavenly)

7. Temptation

8. Faith and works

9. Dealing with doubt

10. And many more

* Most of this introduction is from the study notes of Dan Williams, Winchester, Tennessee.


I. Introduction 1:1

II. Trials and true religion 1:2-27

1. The value of trials 1:2-11

1. The proper attitude toward trials 1:2

2. The end product of trials 1:3-4

3. Help in adopting this attitude 1:5-8

4. The larger view of circumstances 1:9-11

2. The options in trials 1:12-18

1. The ultimate end of trials 1:12

2. The source of temptation 1:13-14

3. The progress of temptation 1:15

4. The goodness of God 1:16-18

3. The proper response to trials 1:19-27

1. The improper response 1:19-20

2. The essential response 1:21

3. The complete response 1:22-25

4. The external behavior 1:26-27

III. Partiality and vital faith 2:1-26

1. The problem of favoritism 2:1-13

1. The negative command 2:1

2. The present improper practice 2:2-4

3. The inconsistency of favoritism 2:5-7

4. The Christian's duty 2:8-9

5. The importance of partiality 2:10-11

6. The implication of our own judgment 2:12

2. The importance of vital faith 2:14-26

1. James' assertion 2:14

2. James' illustration 2:15-16

3. James' restatement of his point 2:17

4. An objection 2:18

5. James' rebuttal 2:19-23

6. James' final argument 2:24-26

IV. Speech and divine Wis_3:1-18

1. Controlling the tongue 3:1-12

1. The negative warning 3:1

2. The reason for the warning 3:2

3. Examples of the danger 3:3-8

4. The uncontrollable nature of the tongue 3:7-8

5. The inconsistency of the tongue 3:9-12

2. Controlling the mind 3:13-18

1. The importance of humility 3:13

2. The importance of graciousness 3:14-16

3. The importance of loving peace 3:17-18

V. Conflicts and humble submission 4:1-17

1. Interpersonal and inner personal tensions 4:1-10

1. The source of conflict 4:1

2. The explanation of the conflict 4:2-3

3. The nature of the choice 4:4-5

4. The resources to choose right 4:6-10

2. Self-exaltation 4:11-12

3. Self-reliance 4:13-17

1. The self-centered person 4:13-16

2. The concluding exhortation 4:17

VI. Money and patient endurance 5:1-18

1. Warnings for the rich 5:1-6

1. The introduction of the problem 5:1

2. The corrosive effect of wealth 5:2-3

3. The misuse of wealth 5:4-6

2. The proper attitude 5:7-12

1. The exhortation to be patient 5:7-9

2. Examples of endurance 5:10-11

3. The evidence of patience 5:12

3. The proper action 5:13-18

1. The way of release 5:13

2. The prescription for help 5:14-16

3. The power of prayer 5:17-18

VII. The way back to living by faith 5:19-20

* The above outline is from “Notes on James, 2007 Edition” by Dr. Thomas L. Constable