In the previous post, I introduced the Lexham Press James Bundle. This collection provides you with five unique resources for understanding James’ important letter. To show you how well they all work together, I’ve assembled an excerpt from each volume.
We’ll start with John Barry’s James: Simply the Gospel from the Not Your Average Bible Study series. John provides us with suggestions for reading and some questions to consider as we go through James.
This letter was likely circulated and read aloud in front of various church congregations. Reading it aloud helps us to experience it like the original audience would have. As you read, underline what you consider the key words (or points of emphasis) and the words “let,” “now,” “therefore,” “but,” “if” and “like”—these words signal when James is presenting a new idea or contrast. (If you’re using Logos Bible Software, you can use the Highlighting tool for this.) What are the major themes and big ideas?
What are some ways that James wants you to approach life differently?
What are four ideas James presents that, if incorporated into your life, could dramatically change the way you approach others and God? Contemplate those. Ask the Spirit to help you understand how God wants to use those ideas to work in your life.
Next, we’ll look at William Varner’s To Love God and to Love Others: A Devotional Commentary on James. He overviews the spiritual message of the book and provides his own translation.
The Spiritual Message of James
The Letter of James is the New Testament writing par excellence that takes seriously the call to put faith into action. James’ message is that our walk must match our talk! Faith is the guiding force behind all the actions a Christian performs, whether it is the avoidance of partiality or the correct use of the tongue. In everything we do, faith without deeds is dead (Jas 2:17 ESV). All of this behavior gives expression to the perfect “law of liberty,” the law of love (Jas 1:25; 2:12 ESV). Perfection, rightly understood as spiritual wholeness and maturity (Jas 1:3–4), emerges as the heartbeat of the letter’s spirituality. Every perfect gift comes from God, and the perfect law of love becomes the guiding principle of every action. James echoes and expands his Older Brother’s summary of what God expects from us: “love God and love others” (Matt 22:37–40 ESV). That watchword is the title of this commentary. Now let’s see how James works that out more specifically in his letter.
James the Man
James begins his letter in the way that every letter started in the ancient world. It contains three essential items: the sender, the recipients, and a greeting.
James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to the twelve tribes which are in the Diaspora. Greetings! (Jas 1:1)
In this first verse of his letter, James briefly describes himself. Steven Runge’s High Definition Commentary: James includes a creative illustration, showing how James might introduce himself today with a business card.*
Speaking of James’ identity, did you know that his name would more accurately be rendered as “Jacob”? Dr. Varner explains the fascinating history of that name in James: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary.
Finally, if you have a teaching role of any kind, you’ll want to know how to share and apply the message of James—even from the first verse alone. Jeffrey E. Miller has some suggestions in Study, Apply, Share: James.
Preaching Theme: Humility
James was the half brother of Jesus, but he chose not to mention this while introducing himself. Association with important people tends to make us feel important. But by name-dropping and sidling up selectively, we can also exclude others and make them feel less important. Let us avoid self-promotion by the company we keep and extend preferential treatment to everyone.
Preaching Theme: Service
Even though he was an important leader, James claimed to be a servant of God and his Lord, Jesus Christ. Our self-importance can sometimes blind us to God’s authority over us. John Piper reminds us that “Christ does not exist in order to make much of us. We exist in order to make much of him.” Can you point to acts of service you’ve rendered for the Lord?
Order the Lexham Press James Bundle today, and save more than 30%!
*The High Definition Commentary: James is currently in production and will download automatically when it is complete.