The Book of James: This is a life and death matter.

Class Outline:


Wednesday March 1, 2023

Title: The Book of James: This is a life and death matter.


The opening of James’ letter, his prologue, is in two sections. The first is our proper attitude towards suffering itself, and the second is our attitude towards God in these sufferings.


The first section of the prologue, vv. 2-11, tells us that we should face our trials with joy because they will, if we have quality faith, will produce endurance in us. The result of endurance, James promises, is maturity and satisfaction of life.


The second section deals with our attitude towards God during our times of trial.


The idea that all Christians do love God is a fiction.


Jesus exhorted His disciples to love Him. He said that if anyone loved Him, they would keep His commandments and that the Father and He would build their house with him.


Loving Christ can only happen when you discover Him. You have to see Him as He is and know Him for what He’s done and love Him for who He is. If you do, you will want to do what He asks of you, even in enduring through the difficulty of trials.


The alternative that James offers is blaming God in your trials. We know that this is not a foreign concept to the human race and, sadly, not foreign among Christians either.


James has all trials in view, but he is very quickly moving his use of the term to a more narrow view of temptation to evil.


James likes to use “death” as a term for the results of sin and evil, even in Christians.



JAM 1:21

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 gospel saved you. The Word of God implanted is the only thing that is going to save your life, meaning life in time - this life now. And God means for us to live eternal life abundantly in this life on earth. That death is the end of sinful conduct is stated in God’s wisdom literature repeatedly.


PRO 10:27

The fear of the Lord prolongs life,

But the years of the wicked will be shortened.


PRO 11:19

He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life,

And he who pursues evil will bring about his own death.


PRO 12:28

In the way of righteousness is life,

And in its pathway there is no death.


PRO 13:1

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,

To turn aside from the snares of death.


PRO 19:16

He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul,

But he who is careless of conduct will die.


This is truly the purpose of the Book of James, but under the umbrella of suffering.


JAM 1:13-15

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. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.


Similar to agricultural analogies used by Christ and by Paul (thorns, bad soil, good soil, fruit, etc.) James is using an analogy of childbearing.


All Satan’s efforts to lead people into evil, and all of the world’s seductions, would have no effect on a person at all unless he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. This is clearly shown in the fact that some people greatly desire a thing while others have no care for that very same thing.


Our temptations always come from a source of darkness.


We must remember always that God tempts no one. That temptation you feel is from the flesh, from the world, and from Satan. Those are the only possible sources. Knowing this helps us greatly. Do you really want something that comes from the pit of filth?



James’ childbearing analogy:

Desire is the egg (potential mother).

Human will united with desire is conception.

The child is sin.

If the child matures he brings death.


Death is the mature child of sinful lust. This point is reaffirmed at the end of the letter.


JAM 5:19-20

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.


His last line matches his prologue, which tells you the theme of the letter - let us Christians live and not die.


We should understand that when James means “live” he means now. There is no time to lose. It is an extremely serious consideration for all believers. And if this warning of death doesn’t straighten what is crooked, then remember that we will all be judged at the judgment seat of Christ.


[I decided to start with death and then look at life, the opposite of what James did.]


God always gives life. Death, the result of temptation and desire run amok, is not from God but from us. He warned us at the beginning what would happen if we ate.



So James tells them, “Don’t be deceived” - God hasn’t tempted you. He made you His first fruits.


JAM 1:16-18

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 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. 18 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.


We must not miss the connection of the phrase “brought us forth” in this context. The Greek word is the same one used in vs. 15 for bringing forth sin.


James’ theme of death.


Sin brings forth death (1:15).



James’ theme of “save” is the experience of this life.


God brought us forth by the word of truth (first fruits; 1:18).


God gives the Word to obey to save our earthly lives (1:21).



JAM 1:21-25

Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness [brings forth death], in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls [“save your lives”]. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 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; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 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 clearly sees the new birth as a gift. God brought us forth, or bore us as His children. James also clearly sees that sinful desire met with human will matures into death if this gift of life we’ve received from God is not lived by obedience to what the life-Giver tells us to do. It’s fairly simple. So then, faith without works (living the life) results in a sterile, unfruitful, joyless life that James describes as death.


[I skipped a verse on purpose. I wanted to end with it.]


JAM 1:12

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.


The life that James is discussing is one of victory, conquering sin and God’s foes, and living a blessed life. I may be that James has in mind a future crown in heaven, but everything he is writing about in this letter is for the here and now. It is more likely that James promises us that if we endure under trial with the joy that comes from trusting our Father and who He has made us to be, that we will live like spiritual kings during our earthly walk.


This crown of life, to be worn in time, is akin to what Christ described as abundant life.


JOH 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”


Abundantly is to live like Christ did, and there is a lot of good work to do when you are about your Father’s business.