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Hidden Gems [1-15-23]

January 15, 2023

James 1

"Hidden Gems"

Satan wants people to believe the wrong things about God and do the things that aren't pleasing to God. So many of the New Testament letters address these very issues. The point is to keep Christians anchored in right belief and practice.

Most of these letters have a targeted audience, dealing with specific issues. That's why we would never expect a single letter to cover all the important issues Christians face.

For example, in our series on Thessalonians, we saw how, in 1 Thess-alonians, Paul talked about the return of Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians included a corrective because some in the church quit contributing because they thought Jesus was going to return at any moment. Paul's letters ran the gamut from practical advice to deep theology.

James is no different. James gives us theology. His theology of suffering is profound. He explores sin and temptation and human depravity. He explores the wickedness of demonic evil. Remember, Jesus was James' brother. In his spiritual transformation, James delves into an exhaustive theology of Christ. He uses the word kurios eleven times. Jesus is "Lord" to James. In fact, James calls him the "Lord of Glory." Jesus is his brother and he is more than his brother. Jesus is the source of truth and light. Jesus is the One who directs us in the God-honoring choices we make.

Not only does James give us a strong theology of Christ - a Christology - he also sustains a strong theology. He uses Theos, the name for God, seventeen times. God is Creator, the source of right behavior, the object of worship, the Ruler of the Universe, the enemy of sin and cultural corruption, the judge of all, and the One who receives repentant sinners. Plus, running through James is theology of law and grace and faith and wisdom and prayer.

On top of all that, James sees the church as a group of people who love each other. He calls them beloved. He talks about the church being a fellowship of rich and poor. All lives matter. Their greatest asset is their faith. All needs are met in the church. They need to be careful about how they speak to each other and about each other. They must work toward unity. And they must be in constant prayer for one another.

As we saw last week, Martin Luther was wrong in his criticism of James' theology. James addressed things Paul didn't need to address. Paul and James were complementary leaders in the church. They both had well-developed theologies, for different, not oppositional, purposes.

In Galatians 5:6, Paul says, it is "faith expressing itself through love" that counts before God; so James, "Faith without works is dead." They are not oppositional. They are complementarian. When Paul writes about justification through faith alone to the Galatians and Romans, he is combating the tendency to rely solely on obedience to the law for salvation. James is combating an underemphasis on works. Some in the church thought all you have to do is believe the right things…doesn't matter what you do or don't do. Therefore, James brings works back into the conversation.

As we've explored, Paul basically does that in Galatians 5:22-23:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."

In other words, the way we live our lives gives evidence to our faith.

With all that in mind, let's look at James 1:1-18:

"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:


Testing of Your Faith

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we

should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."

What's the first thing you notice? In the opening sentence, James does not identify himself as a leader of the church. He doesn't say he is the brother of the Messiah. In an expression of the desired balance between faith and works, he is a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not about James. It is about a bigger claim and cause.

Then, beginning with verse three, we find one of the hidden gems in James. Running through verse twelve, we have an allusion to the Beatitudes of Jesus. In fact, verse twelve uses the same formulaic language, "Blessed is the man who remain steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."

These verses reflect the theme of the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes have to do with attitude. Jesus said, those who are in my Kingdom are:

  • Poor in spirit

  • Mourning

  • Meek

  • Hungering and thirsting after righteousness

  • Merciful

  • Pure in heart

  • Peacemakers

  • Enduring persecution

  • Holding firm when antagonized by evil people

  • Rejoice always

  • Are exceedingly glad

Here's where James is going with this beautiful connection to the Beatitudes. The devil wants nothing more than for people to have religion, not faith. He wants to make people comfortable with the thought that all you have to do is believe certain things, and you're on your way to heaven. James is essential to countering that lie of the devil. "Faith without works is dead." And where does dead faith end up? Certainly not in heaven.

Listen to how James ends his letter:

"My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and

someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."

- James 5:19-20

The word translated "wandering" literally means delusion. The Greek word, planos, means "wandering, roving, misleading, leading into error, a vagabond, 'tramp', imposter; corrupter, deceiver." In other words, we are tricked by the devil into fooling ourselves to think that all we have to do is agree to a certain set of tenets in order to be saved. It's like people I've known over the years who liked the idea of God and Jesus, but they lived like everybody else. We are different. "Faith without works is dead." If your faith is not producing what Scripture defines as "good works," are you a totally devoted follower of Jesus Christ?

Like the Beatitudes of Matthew's gospel and the Fruit of the Spirit of Galatians, James is giving us a way to tell if we are truly walking with Christ or are in error. And the test is very simple. Here's something you might want to write down:



Are you with me on that? James embraces faith and action. Correct belief and correct behavior. He weds a personal relationship with Jesus Christ to a desire to make choices and living a life honoring that relationship. Both are absolutely essential to the gospel.

Here's another way to put it. James is concerned about the genuineness of people's faith. So he gives them ways to measure it.

We all need to ask ourselves, "How genuine is my faith?"

And so James gives us a series of tests.

Test #1:


Again, verse 2 and following - "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." God gives us faith so we

can face any and all things without wavering. Do you have that in your life?

It is the desire of James' heart…as it is for every pastor…to see the people of the church have such perseverance. Do you remember Jesus' parable of

seed sown? Some seed was sown on rocky ground. When tribulation came;

when trial came, represented by the scorching sun, it dried up. Why? Because there was no root. When going through a trial, do you want to come out strong and victorious? Do you want to persevere? That's what the person with real faith does. If someone wavers and wanders, was their faith true? Perseverance is a sign of saving faith. That's the first test James reveals.

Test #2:


"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one." A glaring example of weak or false faith is not accepting responsibility for your sin. "The devil made me do it." "They were so mean, what was I supposed to do?" "I couldn't help myself." "I was unfairly enticed." People can come up

with wondrously broken and misleading excuses.

What did Eve say when confronted with her sin? The serpent made me do it. What did Adam say when confronted with his sin? The woman you gave

me made me do it. Blame. Joshua 7:19 says, “My son, give glory to the

Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” True faith accepts responsibility for sin.

Test #3:


The last section of James 1 {verses nineteen through twenty-seven} deals with that. It all falls under the heading, "Hearing and Doing the Word." Remember, as James says, if you're hearers only, you're doing what? Right…deceiving yourself. That's where we'll pick things up next week.

In the meantime:


To the Glory of God Alone

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