II JAMES 28
Roy Osborne 2006
SUMMARY OF THE BOOK OF JAMES
The book of James is not a missionary treatise, as are most of the works of Paul. He is not trying to convert his readers to Jesus Christ, nor is he teaching about faith in Christ as a means of justification. He assumes that his readers are already converts, and he is warning them that to be Christians they must be in constant battle with their carnal selves. This book is the strongest argument against those who teach that once you are saved you cannot be lost.
James says the battle between the earth-man and the spiritual-man is a constant, and he attempts to give his readers the tools with which to overcome. This makes the book of James extremely important to those of us who try to be Christians in this pagan world. As we have said earlier, the theme of the book is “Temptation”, i.e., the battle between what the earth-man wants and what the spiritual-man knows is right.
Recognizing our natural weakness, James says, “Lacking wisdom…ask God”. In other words, spend a lot of time in prayer. The face of the enemy in this battle is our own self-interest and selfishness. The spokesman for our self-interest is the tongue. James warns us against trying to be teachers of what is right, and spouting our interpretation of truth. He is urging us to listen, as it were, to the Psalmist, who said, “Be still, and know that I am God”. The tongue has a tendency to speak those things which satisfy our own self-righteousness, and this is not the righteousness of God.
In this connection, James warns against judging our brothers. He says one who judges, judges the law. In chapter two, verse eight, he has defined the “Royal Law” as, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Those who thus love do not also harshly judge the object of their love. So, to judge is to violate the “Royal Law”.
Toward the end of the book, the writer points to riches as the external force working against us in the temptation problem. This represents all earthly possessions which cause our selfish instincts to oppress others and compete, instead of love our fellowman. So, riches and self-interest are the enemy, while God’s wisdom and love are the positive forces we must rely on in the constant battle with temptation.
In all of this, James says that your faith is the key. Do you really believe in, and want God’s way of righteousness, or do you want your own? He says if you really have faith in God’s way it will show in your life. But if it doesn’t show, by a change in your behavior, especially toward others, then obviously it is a useless and dead faith. Faith that does not change you from self-interest to serving God, and your fellowman will never win the battle for your soul.
In the final verses of the book, James identifies three times when the earth-man is most dangerous. The first of these is when you are in trouble. Often the tendency is to say, “Why me, Lord?” This assumes that God caused the trouble, or that He has abandoned you. James views trouble as the result of the evil world, and our own self-centeredness. His solution, no matter what the trouble, is prayer. Don’t forget to turn to the spiritual-man for help and comfort. Then, even if the trouble continues, it is a part of the temporal world, and your hope is eternal.
The second time the earth-man is in ascendency, is when you are successful, and happy. At such times we tend to forget that all earth blessings will soon rust and pass away. The author urges us to sing praises. No matter how successful you may be, your greatest blessing is that you belong to the King. Don’t forget that in times of happiness and joy. Then, the joy and peace will continue long after the earthly pleasures fade.
The final thing James mentions is when you are ill. In times of sickness we can become so consumed with the needs of the earth-man that we pay little or no attention to the spiritual-man, but this is when we need him most. Our physical life is temporary and inevitably fades in time. The greatest comfort for the ill is the health of the spiritual-man. So James says to call for the most spiritual people you know to surround you and pray for you.
The writer of this book, as an elder in a local church, is well aware of the constant struggles of those who try to live the Christian life. The world, since Adam, is an unfriendly place for those whose citizenship is in another place. In this book the author wishes to keep his readers aware of the constant problem, and to alert them to the need for constant vigilance and dependence on the Father for help and strength. To assume that we have it made, once we are in the right church, and have done all the right rituals, is a deadly mistake. Such self-assurance is what opens us to all the wiles of the evil one. James says, “Resist”! That is the only way to make the devil flee from you.
(This is the last essay on the book of James. I have tried to make it a kind of summary of this very important book. Next week, the Lord willing, we will begin a study in the books of First and Second Peter, and I look forward to it. We will again find some very interesting and important concepts to expand, and to help us in our Christian walk.)