A Lesson Concerning Service
James begins his address by referring to himself as a "bond-servant of God and of Jesus Christ." The example of the bond-servant is taken from Exodus 21: 1-6. A close meditation will show us the right to be set free, the reason to serve, the road to the sufferings, and the reminder of the scars. The bond-servant served without a will of his own for his ear had been bored through with an awl, signifying to all who saw him, that he was constantly attentive to the voice of his master. His was a lowly service but also a loving service.
In James epistle, he deals with service to the widows (1:27), for the child who has within him the implanted Word will thus emulate the character of the Father. He will serve the weak (2:5) without distinction, for this was the character of the Master (Luke 4:18). He will serve those that are wanting without delay (2:15). He will serve the wayward (5:19) with diligence, for it was the character of the Shepherd to "go after that which is lost until he find it" (Luke 15:4).
A Lesson Concerning Separation
The clean animal in the Old Testament had to chew the cud (a picture of meditation) and divide the hoof (a picture of a separated walk). James has shown us the one who meditates, looking intently into the perfect law of liberty. He then shows us the person who keeps himself undefiled from the world (1:22-27). The believer is in the world and will have dealings with it, but must not be defiled in his relationships with the pleasure world, the political world, the matrimonial world, the religious world, or the business world. He must ask, "Will it be a weight or a wing? Will it lift me up or bring me down?" He deals further with separation from the world in ch 4:4. In ch 2:24, Abraham, who lived in the fear of God and in separation from the world, is called the Friend of God. He who loves the world is the enemy of God (4:4).
A Lesson Concerning Strife
James deals with control in our Christian life (3:1-12). Inch 3:13-18, he deals with conflict in church life. Study the passage to see the Cause of the Conflict, the Chaos brought about by the Conflict, the Cure for the Conflict, and the Call for Calm.
The conflict in 4:1-4 is more of a conflict within the bosom rather than the conflict within the body of believers as in 3:1-12. In the latter passage they want things in order that they may be spent upon their strong desires. It is the sin of consumerism.
A Lesson Concerning Submission
In 4:7 he tells them to submit their persons to God. In 4:13-17, they are to submit their plans to God. James has referred to himself as a bond-servant, and his readers are likewise enjoined to be characterized by consecration to God, His will, and His Word.
A Lesson Concerning Our Substance
James Epistle is a lesson in true discipleship. His readers are to live as creatures of eternity and not of time. They are not to lay up treasure on earth where moth and rust corrupt but in Heaven. He tells his readers that the riches are fleeting (1:9-11). In 1:26-27 and 2:15-16, they are for fellowship, for sharing, for use and not for abuse. In 4:13 -17, James does not decry commerce nor does he decry planning, but he does decry planning without taking God into account.
The passage in 5:16 is addressed to the godless businessmen who are an illustration of the truth that "the love of money is a root of every evil"(JND margin), for they are guilty of materialism, misappropriation, and murder.
A Lesson Concerning the Spirit
"Think ye that the Scriptures speak in vain? Does the Spirit which has taken His abode in us desire enviously?" This is JNDs translation. If indeed this is the sense, then James is again alluding to a major doctrine without developing it. The doctrine is that of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God is not the source of their strife, their envy their jealousies. Compare Galatians 5:16 - 26 where the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit are contrasted as in James 3:14-18.
A Lesson Concerning Satan
In 4:7, we see the great spiritual warfare between God and the Devil. The Christian is told to submit (hupotasso - a military term meaning to arrange under) to God but he is told to resist (anthistemi -another military term meaning to set in opposition, to oppose) the Devil. The believer is a part of Gods great army which is arrayed against the forces of evil.
The Christian is told to get the victory over the flesh, not by resisting but by fleeing, (I Tim 6:11,2 Tim 2:22, I Pet 2:11). He is told to overcome the world by "not loving it" (I John 2:15-17). He is told to get the victory over the Devil by resisting Him for He is a defeated foe. The Lord showed how He is to be resisted by the Word of God. When confronted with the Scriptures, Satan departed from Him for a season (Luke 4:1-13).
The Psalmist knew of this experience when he penned the words, "By the Words of Thy lips, I have kept me from the power of the Destroyer" (Ps 17:4). All three enemies of the believer are presented in James 3:17- 4:8.
A Lesson Concerning Our Speech
James Epistle is very similar, as has been mentioned, in its topics to the Book of Proverbs. His lessons are simple and pointed. They do not require comment but need only to be read together (1:19, 1:26,and 4:11). In his major section on our speech, 3:1-12, he presents us with an opportunity to meditate on the propensity to teach (1-2), the power of the tongue (3-4), and the pictures of the tongue (5-12).
A Lesson Concerning Sickness
The most difficult passage in the epistle is 5:13-15. The modern "prosperity Gospel" teaches that it is a sin to be poor and a sin to be sick. This is not what James is dealing with. A reading of Philippians 2:25, 2 Timothy 4:20, 2 Corinthians 12:7, and I Timothy 5:23 will be sufficient to show that physical ailments should never be considered as always a consequence of sins committed. However, it seems that in this passage, the sick person has sinned and is being dealt with physically mentally, and emotionally because of that sin. Thus, in a repentant attitude, he calls for the government of the assembly, makes confession, is treated medicinally with the oil, and is prayed over fervently by righteously living men and is restored to health by the prayer of faith.
With God there is not a prohibition of medicinal means, but there may be a prescription of that means. Here it is not the "gift of healing" which existed in the in-fancy days of the church, but the "prayer of faith" which will save the sick.
May we encourage the reader to study the different words for "anointing" in the New Testament, as well as the two words for "sick" in this passage.
A Lesson Concerning Shepherding
Fellowship is fragile. There will ever be among those who belong to the Lord some who, for various reasons, backslide. Their affections for the Lord have cooled. They may have been overtaken in a fault as in Galatians 6:1. There is a great need for those with shepherds hearts to take the example of the Chief Shepherd and "go after that which lost until He find it." He which turns the sinning saint back from the error of his way will prevent even greater sins from taking place. He who "mends the broken net," must remember to deal not just with symptoms but with the cause of the problem. The death may refer to a premature home call, for there is sin unto death (I John 16-17). It may refer to the plight of the pleasure lover of I Timothy 5:6.
Another preacher exhorted his audience to "Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds" (Prov 27:23). The sinning shepherds of Israel, among other sins, were admonished thus: "neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost."
Among Gods people there is a great need of those who will "lift up their eyes and look on the fields that are white already for harvest" (John 4:35). How great also is the need for those who will feed, tend, and care for those who have been redeemed!