Notes for James Study
“Knowledge is but the messenger that calls you to wisdom, but it is not wisdom.”
~ Ardriana Cahill
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8)
Saved by faith, but what then? What has changed in our lives?
Why is it that in 1:3, James indicates only one result of trials: perseverance (patience)?
If we develop perseverance, what will be the outcome?
Read 1 Cor. 10:13. What is the believer’s responsibility during a trial?
Consider the illustration of riding in a car through an automated car wash. If you stay inside, you just come out the other end in a clean car. But if you panic and try to get out, you get wet, soapy and probably injured by the equipment. Your car gets wet inside and the open door gets damaged, maybe even torn off. Clearly patience during a car wash pays off. It’s the same during trials.
Present the drama skit to illustrate salvation vs. sanctification and the outcome of patience during trials. One person holds a cross and represents Jesus. Another holds a fork and represents trials. The leader depicts salvation by faith in Jesus’ completed work, and then different ways to deal with trials during the period of sanctification. The leader illustrates how patience and a consistent focus on Jesus gives helps the believer endure the trial. In contrast, the leader illustrates how becoming involved in the trial and becoming focused on self defeats the Lord’s work and prevents Christian growth (i.e. sanctification).
James tells us that we will need wisdom to endure trials (1:5). What is wisdom? Where do we get it?
Knowledge is information. It is passive; it has neither purpose or outcome. Wisdom is understanding what can be accomplished with knowledge. It is active; it has both purpose and outcome. Wisdom implies doing. James tells us that wisdom from God will lead us to the works that will guide us through trials. James admonishes us to endure trials with perseverance; to do the things that lead us to God; and avoid doing the things that will entangle us in the vary trials we seek to escape.
In some ways, James has given us a survival manual for the believer’s life on earth. He presents an important subset of God’s commands to believer’s. But all of God’s commands are valuable. Taken together, they describe a life that will, in fact, endure every trial and will make us “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (Jas 1:5)
In 1:13-18, James helped us find the right attitude toward God, Who is the giver of all good. He explained that God is not the source of our problems; we are!
“We pray for safety instead of purity because we do not see impurity as dangerous.” (George M. Stulac)
But in reality, it is exactly the opposite. Impurity is the problem. It moves us away from God, who is the only source of the good we need to counter the evil of our trials.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Mt 5:8)
Purity brings us closer to God, and therefore, closer to the source of all good.
1 Cor. 10:13 tells us that God has provided a “way of escape” for us in every trial. This “way” is not out of the trial, but through it; “so that you can stand up under it.”
We must be listening, rather than talking, if we hope to understand the situation and find the “way” that God has provided. We must be praying, rather than talking, if we hope to receive the wisdom to use our knowledge to endure the trial. Wisdom comes to those who seek it. The true wisdom we need in the face of trials must lead us to good, therefore, it comes only from God.
We may respond to trials by complaining about them and becoming angry over them. James advised his readers to remain silent and calm and to listen submissively to the Word of God (v. 23). (Constable)
Anger, which we all justify as being “righteous” at the time, is always exactly the wrong response to trials. Anger defeats wisdom and drives us away from God. It is the product of self pity and self-pity drives us deeper into the very trial we seek to escape. As soon as we have engaged ourselves with the trial, we have lost. We have become part of the world and its filthy ways.
The Word of God, however, will save us, or spare us, this kind of failure. James uses the phrase “save your souls” in this passage. The word translated “souls” by the NKJV, is ???? [psuche], from which we get the words psyche and psychology. It is translated “soul” 58 times in the NT, and “life” 40 times. Here the better translation would be “life.”
“Some interpreters have understood the phrase “which is able to save your souls” to imply that the souls of James’ readers still needed to experience salvation from eternal damnation. Since his readers were Christians (vv. 1-2) some interpreters believe that when a believer sins he loses his salvation and needs saving again. However the words James used and the context make clear that this is not what he meant. “Save your lives” or “save your selves” (Gr. psychas) is a better translation…).” (Constable)
Doing the Word of God in v 22, means persevering in God’s will. The illustration of an imperfect mirror is used to show the error and futility of self-focus. By contrast God’s “law” or will, is presented as giving freedom.
Paul explains this way, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1).
The law is freeing because it points us towards God and His perfect will for us. By contrast, the evil in the world and its trials, enslaves us.
We see clearly here that James considered perseverance to mean a quiet endurance. Complaining, especially out of anger, leads to deeper sin. It is better to occupy the time you might have spent complaining by doing works that honor God, such as helping those in need. This moves you closer to God, and away from the evil of the world.
Read Micah 6:6-8
What pleases God?
Faith leads to salvation and a new birth.
Works of righteousness lead to sanctification and a new life apart from the world.
When facing trail, James tells us to seek the wisdom of God in using our knowledge of His Word to find the best way to survive the trial and grow closer to God.
God’s will for us is always and only for good. The trial didn’t come from God, and there is nothing in the trial that will bring us closer to God. Rather, in God’s Word we find the “way of escape” by which we will endure the trial in the best possible way. This brings us closer to God and prepares us for the next trial.
“The person whose religious experience is genuine will put spiritual truth into practice, and his life will be marked by love for others and holiness before God.” (Donald W. Burdick)
The Bible ultimately depicts life as a spiritual battle between good and evil. That’s what life is, and that’s all life is. Whenever we make choices that lead us towards God and His will, we deny evil the opportunity to enslave us.
Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” (Jn 6:63)
Paul explained this in terms of a raging war. “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I ??delight in the law of God according to ??the inward man. But ??I see another law in ??my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (Rom. 7:21-23)
From the heavenly perspective, this principle is very clear: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16)
Use the Word of God to move towards God at every opportunity, and especially in the face of trials.
This is true wisdom.