Hebrews, James, Peter, John, Jude

Southern Christian University

Lesson On James #1

James A. Turner


Read all the references given and they will help you “to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.”


The book of James is written in very simple language, but it is a very practical book, which gives a lot of instruction about every day Christian living. It is very relevant for us today!


Let us begin our study by asking the question, who is the author of the book? There are three persons who have been considered as potential authors of James. They are the apostle James who was the son of Zebedee and the brother of John (Mathew 10:2), and the apostle James the son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3) and James the Lord’s brother (Matthew 13:54-56; I Corinthians 15:5-8; Galatians 1:18-19). James the son of Zebedee and his brother John along with Peter were the three “Intercircle disciples” (Mark 5:22-24, 5:35-43; Matthew 17:1-2; 26:36-37), and very outstanding leaders among the apostles; but King Herod put James the brother of John to death in about 40 AD (Acts 12:1-2), and it is thought that James was written several years after 40 AD. If this were the case this would rule him out as being the author. James the son of Alphaeus is ruled out because he was not a leader among the apostles. All that is said of him is just that he was an apostle (Mathew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16). So it looks like James the Lord’s brother is the author of this book.


Herod had planned to put Peter to death, but he was released from prison by and angel, and when he was released he went to Mary’s house where disciples were gathered together praying for Peter (Acts 12:3-15). Acts 12:16-17 reads, "But Peter continued knocking:  And when they had opened, they saw him, and were astonished.  But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison.  And he said, Tell these things unto James, and to the brethren.  And he departed, and went into another place."  Well, you see that shows that there was another James who ranked in a place of leadership at the time that James the Son of Zebedee was put to death.  And it is thought that this was James the Lord's brother, and that he was already well recognized as a leader. And in Acts fifteen, when there was the problem of Judaizing teachers trying to bind circumcision upon the Gentile brethren at Antioch of Syria, you remember that Paul and Barnabas took Titus and went to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and elders about the problem.  Nearly all of chapter fifteen of Acts is about whether circumcise and the keeping of the law was to be binding on the Gentiles. Galatians 2:1-10 is a parallel to Acts 15:1-34. Galatians tells us that there were three men, James and Cephas and John who were reputed as pillars in the church at Jerusalem.


At the meeting in Jerusalem it was very probably that it was James the Lord's brother, who summed up the meeting, and he evidently was the writer of that letter to the Gentile brethren.  Acts 15:13 beginning reads, "And after they held their peace, James answered, saying, Brethren, hearken unto me.  Simeon hath rehearsed how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of   them a people for his name.  And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written."   And then he gives his judgment in verse nineteen,  "Wherefore my judgment is, that we trouble not them, that from among the Gentiles are turned to God:  But that we write unto them, that they abstain from the pollution of  idols, and from fornication, and from what is strangled, and from blood."  Verse twenty‑two, "Then it seemed good to the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to choose men out of their company and send them to Antioch."  And they wrote a letter, "The apostles and elders and brethren unto the brethren that are in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings."   Notice the salutation in the book of James.  "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes and the Dispersion, greetings."  This letter in a sense may rank as one of the first New Testament epistle that is recorded here in the latter part of Acts fifteen, because they are writing to those brethren in those Gentile churches telling them that circumcision is not binding, but you are to keep yourselves from “the pollution of idols, and from fornication, and from what is strangled and from blood.”  Another thing while we are here, if James is the author, see greeting of this letter, and that is the way he begins this book.  "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion, greetings."  So instead of stressing the fact that he's an apostle, he just speaks of himself as, “James a servant (slave) of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The brothers of Jesus did not believe on Christ back there a short time before the cross (John 7:1-5). At that time he surely would not have referred to him as the Lord Jesus Christ, but he does now.


The epistle is addressed to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion, which definitely means that it was written especially to Jewish Christians.  Now, the primary reason why I think it is addressed to Jewish Christians, is because James 1:18 reads, "Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." The Jewish people made up the firstfruits of the kingdom of God. The gospel was first preached on Pentecost, preached to Jewish people out of every nation unto heaven.  And remember it was several years, about seven as usually estimated, before the gospel was carried to the Gentile people.  Just before Jesus ascended back to heaven he told the apostles,  "Ye shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8)."  So the gospel was to be preached first to the Jewish people, and then secondly to the Samaritans, “And unto to the uttermost parts of the earth” would be the Gentile people. 


So several years before the gospel was at least formerly carried to the Gentile people at the household of Cornelius as recorded in Acts ten. James 1:18, in the American Standard reads, "Of his own will, he brought us forth."  And the King James, doesn't it read, "Of his own will, begat he us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."  It is talking about the new birth.  The word of God is the seed of the kingdom.  And there can be no new spiritual births apart from the teaching of the gospel, (Luke 8:11; Romans 1:16; John 5:24-25). In Romans the eleventh chapter where Paul is talking about how that because of unbelief the Jewish people as a people were broken off and the Gentile people as a wild olive branch were grafted in, he emphasizes the fact that the Jewish people consisted of the firstfruits.  Let us look at that passage, Romans eleven beginning with verse eleven, "I say then, did they stumble. (the Jewish people)  that they might fall?  God forbid:  But by their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if  their fall is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles; how much more of their fullness? But I speak to you that are Gentiles, inasmuch as I am an apostle of the Gentiles, I glorify  mine ministry:  If by any means I may provoke to jealousy them that are my flesh, and may save some of them.  For if the casting away of them is the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?  And if the firstfruit is holy, so is the lump."  So this reference is also referring to the Jewish people as the firstfruits of the kingdom of God, "And if the root is holy, so are the branches.  But if some of the branches were broken off, and thou.  (Gentile people, or to us).  "Being a wild olive, was grafted in among them, and didst become a partaker with them of the root of the fatness of the olive tree; glory not over the branches.  But if thou gloriest, it is not thou that bearest the root, but the root thee."  So the Jewish people were very definitely the firstfruits of the kingdom of God.  And that statement has real meaning.  “He of his own will, begat he us by the word of truth that we should be the kind of firstfruits of his creature 


Now, in regard to the date of the book, there is no way to establish a very definite date for the book of James, but there are two things that need to be considered in regard to the date of the book.  One, James 2:7 shows that the new name had already been given.  He talks about how that the rich, "they blaspheme the honorable name by which ye are called."  And that name, of course, would be Christian.  The new name had been given, in that first Gentile church that we read about in Acts chapter eleven, and we think that was around 40 A.D.  So it would not have been written then before the new name was written. I personally think that the book was written before the problem over circumcision, and that came up in that first Gentile church.  And the apostles, Paul and Barnabas, carried Titus and went to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and elders to determine whether or not circumcision would be binding.  Paul knew that they were false teachers when they came to Antioch,  but the Holy Spirit guided them to go and meet with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem about the matter.  That was about 50 A.D.  Well, I just personally believe that the book was written a short time before the problem over circumcision.


Next, what is the book about?  Do you not think that God could have made all of the books of the New Testament and put them in print and handed them out on Pentecost and not had to have gone through that long period of some fifty or sixty years of different writers writing these epistles of the New Testament?  God could have easily done that, but it shows the great wisdom of God that he did not do such a thing.  If he had written all the New Testament and it had been handed out on Pentecost, it is likely that people would never have learned how to properly use them, but the New Testament epistles were written when they were needed. When problems arose in the churches, an epistle went forth to meet those needs to help solve the problems that were in those churches.  The writer wrote and told them what to do about the problems.  Well, if they were willing to do what they were told to do, then that solved the problems in those churches?  And what does it do for us today?  The same instruction does that for us today.  As we read these epistles and we see the problems that they had and we recognize there are like problems in the church where we attend, we know then what needs to be done to solve those problems.  We surely need to understand and appreciate the great wisdom of God in seeing to it that these epistles went forth at a very appropriate time.


This book, if you give careful attention to it, shows that James is dealing with the weaknesses and problems of these Jewish brethren.  And in another way we might think about it, is that it just has to do with everyday Christian living, but they were coming short in a number of areas, just like most of us come short in a number of areas today. What were some of the problems of these early brethren? Note some of the problems given in James 1:2-5, 1:12-16, 1:24-27, 2:1-12. In James 1:2‑5, we see that they needed instruction and encouragement concerning the matter of how to look on trials and temptations.  From verses thirteen through sixteen, it looks like some of them were saying that God was tempting them.  He admonishes them “be swift to hear and slow to speak, and slow to wrath, for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God  That implies that some of them were too quick‑spoken. James 1:26, "If any among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."  So, it is evident that some were not controlling their tongue. 


Chapter three discusses that in some length, about controlling the tongue.  So that was a very definite need.  Chapter two verses one through twelve shows that they were respecters of persons, showing partiality.  They would give the rich man with a gold ring and fine clothing a comfortable place to sit, but they were being very discourteous in judging the poor man in the wrong way.  They were better hearers of the law than doers of the law.  They were like so many today, they were ready to hear and tell the preacher how glad we are for the lesson, but when it comes to doing we may be very short.  Some of them desired to be teachers with wrong motives.  They wanted to be teachers in order to have a place of prominence, rather than being prepared to be teachers.  They had envy and jealousy among them as shown by 3:13‑18, and they were ready to speak against each other and murmur and complain against each other. Do we have any problems like that today, where brethren want to murmur and complain against one another and ready to speak against or, even come with a little slander?


Chapter 4:1‑10 shows that they were very worldly‑minded.  It shows that they were adulterers and adulteresses as given in the King James Version.  The American Standard Version just says you adulteresses.  "Know ye not the friendship of the world is enmity with God?"  So they were very worldly as shown in those verses.  In chapter 4:13‑17, they were making their plans for the future as though everything depended on themselves and not including God in their plans and saying, “if the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that.”


Well, we better not take further time to talk about what the book is about, let us start now with the reading and discussion of the book.  Please feel free to have a part in the discussion of the text. "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ."  Now, do you see how that would be so very appropriate if this is James the Lord's brother, not to emphasize the fact that he is an apostle, but just a bondservant of God and to the Lord Jesus Christ.  "To the twelve tribes, which are the Dispersions, greetings."  The book shows that it is not written to unbelievers but to believers.  If you have a magic marker, I would encourage you to mark these references as to how he refers to those he's writing to.  In verse two,  "Counted it all joy, my brethren."  And I have highlighted my brethren.  Verse nine, "But let the brother."  And verse nineteen, "Ye know this my beloved brethren."  Chapter two and verse one, "My brethren."  Verse fourteen, "What doth it prophet my brethren?"  Verse fifteen, "If a brother."  And chapter three verse one, "Be not many of you teachers, my brethren."  And verse ten, "Out of the same mouth cometh forth blessings and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be." STUDENT:  Verse twelve on three also.    BROTHER TURNER:  Okay.  Verse twelve.  Right, I missed that one.  Let me get that one.  "Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives?  Or a vine, figs?  Neither can salt water yield sweet."  And I may have skipped others, so if you see others call my attention to it.  Chapter four and verse eleven, "Speak not one against another, brethren.  He that speaketh against your brother."   And again a brother.  "Or judgeth his brother, speaketh  against the law."  Chapter five and verse seven, "Be patient therefore, brethren unto the coming of the Lord."  Chapter five verse twelve, "But above all things, my brethren, swear not."  Verse nineteen, "My brethren, if one of you err from the truth, and one convert him."  So how does he refer to those that he is writing?  As “my brethren,” and “my beloved brethren.” So the whole tenor of the book is directed to those that are Christians. Note again the address “to the twelve tribes which are of the Dispersion, and greeting.” He is referring to the twelve tribes in a spiritual sense and not to fleshly Israel.  Fleshly Israel had already been rejected.  It was no longer the Israel of God.  And that is one of the things that many people get mixed up about today.  They do not distinguish between spiritual Israel and fleshly Israel, but fleshly Israel, God had rejected.  You remember how Jesus said, “Your house is left unto you desolate (Matthew 23:37-38).”  Yes, Jesus left that house!


Spiritual Israel today consists of every person who has obeyed Christ, whether Jew or Gentile. In Romans 2:28‑29 Paul says, "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh.  But he is a Jew who is one inwardly.  And circumcision is of the heart, and not of the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."  So in a spiritual sense every Christian today is a Jew, the chosen of God.  A Jew is not a part of the Israel of God today unless he or she, has obeyed the gospel. Galatians 3:26-28 reads, "We are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Far as many of you have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There can be neither Jew nor Greek, nor bond, nor free, male or female, for we are all one man in Christ Jesus.  And if Christ, then Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise."  What does Luke say about what happened when Saul led the persecution against the church? Acts 8:4, "That they were all scattered abroad."  And they did what?  They went everywhere doing what?  Preaching the word.  And so the early Jewish Christians were scattered abroad.  “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into manifold temptations."  Does that seem like a peculiar statement to you?  Do you rejoice when you have many temptations or trials? Several of the newer versions say trials instead of temptations.  There is a difference between trials, and real temptation. Temptation is spoken of beginning with verse thirteen.  “But counted it all joy,” do we still need that admonition today?  What are we inclined to do when we are tested and tried? STUDENT:  Blame God. BROTHER TURNER:  Yes, complain about it, and say, why did this have to happen to me?


Verse three, "knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience, and let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing."  The King James Version says diver's trials, and some of the newer versions read various trials, and that is what it is talking about, the trials that come to test a person.  And when these trials come, what is going to happen?  There are two things that can happen.  What are they, when real trials come?  STUDENT:  If we give in to them ‑‑ BROTHER TURNER:  If we give in to them, then what?  A person becomes weaker, right?  If he stands the test, what?  He becomes stronger, and that is what James is talking about.  He is saying endure the test so that you will be a stronger person.  "Knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience."  Now, patience in the New Testament is quite different from what many people think about in regard to patience.  Patience in the New Testament is referring to what?  There are three words that give the meaning of what patience is as given in the New Testament:  endurance, perseverance, and steadfastness.  Either one of those words would give us a clearer understanding than the word patience as given in  the King James and the American Standard Version. However, the American Standard Version has a footnote in which says, or trials.  The New American Standard Version reads,  “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”  Think of how Paul was under so many trials, but he endured them.  He was steadfast, he persevered (II Corinthians 11:23-33; II Timothy 4:6-8). 


Verse five, "But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."  So James affirms that God can and will give us wisdom if we ask him, and this reads, "And upbraideth not."  The New Revised Version, "Without reproach."  In other words, God is not going to reproach us or upbraid us for asking for wisdom.  He is pleased when we ask him for wisdom, but he emphasized how that if we ask him for wisdom, if we want to receive it, we better ask in faith nothing doubting.  What are the two primary ways that we can receive wisdom then?  Verse five tells us one way, that we can receive wisdom by asking God for wisdom. Now, this verse is speaking primarily about spiritual wisdom.  In chapter three he discusses that wisdom that belongs to the world and the wisdom from above.  In James three and verse seventeen, "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, and without hypocrisy." Another way that we gain wisdom is by studying the word of the Lord, right?  The word of the Lord instructs in the way of true wisdom.  So the two primary ways to receive wisdom are by studying and obeying all of the instruction the Lord has given us in the New Testament and by asking God for wisdom.


Verse six, "But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting. For he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed.  Let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord; a double minded man is unstable in all of his ways."  Chapter four shows that there were those among these Jewish Christians who were double minded.  James chapter four and verse eight, "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.  Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.  Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep:  Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall exalt you."  There were those that were double minded.  Jesus talked about the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “no man can serve two masters for he will either love the one and hate the other, or else he will hold the one and despise the other.  Ye cannot serve God and mammon,” So a double minded person wants to hold on to the Lord with one hand and the devil with the other, and he is unstable in all his ways, as James put it.  It won't do him any good to ask, as long as he's in that condition, he needs to repent and ask God in faith Verse seven, "For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.  A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” 


Verse nine, “But let the brother of low degree glory in his high state."  Why?  He is a child of God!  He could not be any richer.  A person cannot be any richer than to just be a faithful child of God (Romans 8:16-17).  "And the rich, in that he is made low:  Because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.  For the sun arises with the scorching wind, and withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth:  So also shall the rich man fade away in his goings." There is no security in material riches, and the rich man that obeys the gospel and understands the situation, he is going to have a different attitude entirely on life.  Paul told Timothy to tell the rich in this world when he was at Ephesus, "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up for themselves a good foundation against the time to come (I Timothy 6:17-19)."  So Timothy was to instruct the rich at Ephesus to take their riches, and us to bless others that they do good, ready to distribute to the needs of others and communicate.  The word share is used instead of communicate in several of the newer translations. 


Verse twelve, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation:  For when he hath been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love him."  Jesus said, "Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are ye, when men shall reproach you, and persecute  you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my namesake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad:  For great is your reward in heaven:  For so persecuted they the prophets that were before you (Matthew 5:10-11)."  So blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he hath been approved ‑‑ or when he had been put to the test and he passes the test, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love him.  Do you remember how that Paul said to Timothy, “I am already being offered, but the time of my departure is come. I have fought a good fight.  I have finished the course.  I have kept the faith.  Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord shall give to them that love him.  Not to me only, but all them that have loved his appearing (II Timothy 4:6-8)  So the Lord has promised to give each person that stands the test a crown of life.


Verse thirteen. There is a difference between trials and temptation through the lust of the flesh.  "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God:  For God cannot be tempted with evil, for he himself tempted no man, but each man is tempted when he is drawn by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, bearth sin: and the sin, when it is full grown, bringeth forth death  It looks like some were ready to accuse God back there as putting the temptation before them, but James says that God is not tempted with evil and he doesn't tempt any man.  And not only that, we have that wonderful promise in I Corinthians ten and thirteen.  "There hath no temptation taken you, such as is common to man:  For God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that which ye are able.  But will with the temptation give a way of escape."  That promise is not given to those who have not obeyed the gospel, but that is a wonderful promise to every child of God, and God knows what each person is able to endure, and he will not allow Satan to tempt a Christian in a way that he or she cannot endure the temptation, and he will always give a way of escape.  It is our responsibility to look for the way of escape and take it.  The only way of escape for Joseph was to leave his coat in Potifer’s wife’s hand and flee (Genesis 39:6-12).  And sometimes that may be the case with us, but God provides a way.  Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them unto me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch  them out of my Father's hand  (John 10:27-28)."  Now, those who teach that false doctrine of, once a child of God always a child of God, that is a favorite passage for some of them; but it is a favorite passage for me too, I just want to use it right.  As long as a child of God hears and follows Christ, the devil does not have the power to snatch them out of Christ's hand, and out of God's hand. There is real conditional security in Christ.


So James is saying do not accuse God of tempting you, and do not be guilty of saying, the temptation was just too much and I could not bear it.  It may be that you did not bear it, but if you did not bear it, it was because you were enticed and drawn away by your own lusting and lust bears an offspring.  "But each man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  Then the lust when it hath conceived, beareth sin and the sin, when it is full grown, bringeth forth death."  So sin begins where with every person?  It begins in the heart, and it is no wonder Solomon a long time ago said, “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life  (Proverbs 4:23).”  So if a man controls his thinking he can control his life, so do not blame God, lust bears an offspring, and that offspring is sin.  "And sin, when it is full grown, bringeth forth death."  What kind of death is he talking about?  He is talking about spiritual death. Death in the scriptures is a separation, and one is separated from God when he goes the way of sin.  Isaiah said, "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that he cannot save;   neither his ear heavy that he cannot hear:  But your sins and your iniquities have separated between you and your God,  and your iniquities have hid his face from you, that he will  not hear you (Isaiah 59:1-2)  So sin when it is finished or full grown separates one from God.  "Be not deceived, my beloved brethren."  Do not think you can go the way of sin and not be separated from God! If you give way to your lust, you are going to be a sinner, and if you continue that way, you will be separated from God.  And remember he's writing to brethren, he is not writing to alien sinners in this passage.  So a child of God can be separated from God because of sin.  If he gives way to his lust and doesn't repent and turn again, he will be separated from God. Romans 6:23 reads, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  


Verse seventeen, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from  the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning."  We serve an unchangeable God!  God said, I change not, and “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.”  So we can depend on God.  He is the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning.  "Of his own will, he begat us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.  Ye know this, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to  speak, slow to wrath., for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.  Wherefore putting away all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls."  What usually happens when we get stirred up and give an answer very quickly?  We usually find that we have said the wrong thing, right?  So James admonishes, be swift to hear, slow to speak.  Solomon talks about how that the righteous man studieth to answer, but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.  That is very similar to be swift to hear, slow to speak.  The footnote in my Bible says the inborn word.  The word of God is supposed to be in a Christians’ heart, to lead and direct him. And if he lets it lead and direct him, it will continue to keep him in a safe condition.


Verse twenty two, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves."  This verse implies that some were deceiving themselves or deluding themselves by just being hearers of the word?  Has God never pronounced a blessing on those who just hear?  Do you know of any passage that pronounces a blessing on just hearing?  It is not just the hearer, but the one who hears and does that is blessed.  "For if any one is a hearer of the word, and not a  doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in  the mirror:  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way,  and straightway forgeteth what manner of man he was."  That must be the reason why most of us look in the mirror so much.  Then he says, "But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of  liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth, but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing."  Paul may have been thinking about this passage when in Romans 2:13 he said, “It is not the hearers of the law but the doers of the law that shall be justified.”  What law is he referring to as the perfect law, the law of liberty?  Very definitely he is referring to the law of Christ (I Corinthians 13:8-12).


In II Corinthians chapter three the law of Moses is spoken of as, “an administration of death, written and engraven on stones,” and in Galatians five, Paul is talking about those Judaizers that were leading some of the Galatians back under the law.  And he said, “For freedom did Christ set us free, stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage  And so the New Testament is very definitely the perfect law, the law of liberty.  Under the law of Christ a man is completely freed from sin.  The Old Testament promised life on the basis of, “he that doeth them shall live in them (Leviticus 18:5),” but it also said, "Cursed is every one that  continueth not in all things which were written in the book of the law to do them (Deuteronomy 27:26)."  So no one was justified by the law, it gave the promise of life on the basis of perfection in keeping it, but under the law of Christ, sins are forgiven completely.  When a person obeys the gospel, all of his or her, past sins are completely forgiven, and when a Christian continues to walk in the light, the blood of Christ continues to cleanse him.  If he learns that he has sinned and repents and asks God for forgiveness, he receives forgiveness (I John 1:7-9), so it is a law of liberty.  It frees us from sin, and from the power and desire of sin, if we follow it closely.


Another passage.  This is a passage that you need to remember I Corinthians 13:8-12 which is about spiritual gifts.  In this reference Paul tells them that the miraculous spiritual gifts are going to be done away with, when all the law of Christ has been given. "Love never faileth:  but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it   shall be done away."  All those were miraculous gifts of the Spirit. " For we know in part, and we prophecy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away."   Paul and the other apostles did not receive all of God’s revelation at one time.  He is saying that when the New Testament is completed, the miraculous gifts will cease. Now, there are many preachers who want to say that verse ten is talking about Christ, but that would reflect even on the apostle Paul with his background of education, and much more for the Spirit to speak of Christ as that. It is talking about that when the New Testament is completed, the miraculous gifts would be done away with.  So the law of Christ is the perfect law, the law of liberty. If it was talking about Christ would it not read, when he who is perfect is come.


Verse twenty six, "If any man thinketh himself to be religious, while he bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth  his heart, this man's religion is vain."  Now, he has already said that man who is a hearer and not a doer, that he deceives himself or he deludes himself.  And here he says that if a man does not control his tongue, “that this man's religion is vain  "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their  affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."   If we had plenty of time, I would like for us to turn back and read some Old Testament passages, which indicate very strongly that it has  always been pure religion before God, for a man to live right and to be ready to help those that are in need.  To visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction is not talking about just making a social visit, although that may be included, but it's talking about taking care of their needs.  "And to keep oneself unspotted from the world."  

Chapter Two

Another weakness of these brethren was their showing partiality.  They were ready to say to a rich man that came in dressed in fine clothes and a gold ring on or maybe gold ringed, as some of the newer versions read, they were ready to give him a good place to sit, but the poor man, they were very discourteous to him.  "My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory with respect of persons. For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a man in vile clothing, and you have regard to him that weareth the fine clothing, and say, Sit thou here in a good place; and you say to the poor man, Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool. Do ye not make distinction among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?"  They judged that well‑dressed man with the gold ring as being better than that poor man that had on the vile or dirty clothes. 


Verse, "Hearken, my beloved brethren, Did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him?"  What people, as a group, are more ready to hear the gospel, poor people or rich people?  The answer is the poor people.  We are not trying in any way to exclude the rich, because some of them obey,  but there is a stronger appeal to the poor people.  I Corinthians 1:26 reads, “For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called"But ye have dishonored the poor man."  Imagine their saying to him, stand over there, or sit here under my footstool.  "Do not the rich oppress you, and themselves drag you before the judgment seats?"  Jesus spoke out against the scribes and the Pharisees and how that they were even ready to devour widows' houses, and these rich men were ready to drag these Jewish brethren before the judgment seat and defraud them.  They were still doing it when this book was written. 


Verse eight, "Howbeit if you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well."  The passage that is quoted there is from Leviticus 19:18.  Jesus stated essentially the same command in Matthew 7:12, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye also unto them:  For this is the law and the prophets."   And when Jesus was asked the question by the lawyer in Matthew 22:35 beginning, "Which is the great commandment,"  what did Jesus reply?  What was the reply of Jesus?  STUDENT:  Love his neighbor as himself. BROTHER TURNER:  Yes he said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy  strength, and the second is likened unto it.  Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two, hang all the law and the prophets  We cannot be faithful to God without going the way of love.  There are many passages that stress that. "But if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin.. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all."   In other words, he is a law violator if he just breaks one law.  A man does not have to commit rape, or murder, or even do a lot of stealing in order to be a violator of the law. All he has got to do is just to violate the law in one area, and so that's the point that he is making here. The Old Testament and the New Testament say, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” If you break that commandment, then you're guilty as a lawbreaker. 


Verse eleven, "For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill."  Of course, he is referring to the ten commandments here.  "Now if thou dost not commit adultery, but killest, thou art become a transgressor of the law.  So speak ye, and so do, as men that are judged by the law of liberty."  And, again, that is the New Testament, and the law of liberty carries with it compassion and mercy, right?  And if we were judged on the basis of just strict justice, where would we all be?  We would all be condemned.  So under the New Testament, our spiritual standing does not turn on whether or not we have kept perfectly the law, but whether or not we are still striving to do right, and when we sin, whether or not we are willing to repent and confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness.  Verse twelve, "So speak ye, and so do, as men that are judged by the law of liberty."  Now if we want God's grace and mercy to take care of us, then we must show grace, or unmerited favor and mercy toward others is the point of the   passage.  "For judgment is without mercy, to them that hath showed no mercy; and mercy glorieth against judgment."  So James is saying if you do not show mercy, then you better do a little thinking, right?  Judgment will be without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy.  If we do not receive mercy in that day, we will be condemned! So in order for the Lord to be merciful to us in that day, we must show mercy in this life, and  “mercy glorieth against judgment  So all of us need to show grace and mercy and forgiveness to others. Jesus said, "For if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses."  All of us need to learn how to forgive.  And whether a person has really turned and said I repent, we ought not to have that hard‑hearted attitude toward him, but always the attitude we want you to change and do right.  Jesus said, "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother sins, rebuke him; if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times in a day and turns and says I repent, forgive him.(Luke 17:3-4)."  So that is to be our attitude, and we need to try to encourage the brother who has done wrong to repent, but if he does not repent, we still should not have that hard attitude toward him. So “mercy glorieth against judgment  Remember God does not want any man to be lost in a devil's hell. He wants to show mercy to all, but we must meet God's terms for that mercy.  There are boundaries to the love and the mercy and the grace of God.                      


Verse fourteen shows another problem ‑‑ or at least emphasizes again that there were those who were hearers and not doers.  "What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say that he hath faith, but have not works?  Can that faith save him?"  The King James says, "Can faith save him?"  Meaning faith alone.  The American Standard emphasizes, "Can that faith?"  The man who just believes and does not have any works, "Can that faith save him?"  Well, that is a rhetorical question, and that kind of faith cannot save any man.  "If a brother or sister be naked, and lack of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body; what doth it profit?"  So faith that does not work James says is an empty, unprofitable and worthless faith.  "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead in itself."  Will a dead faith save anyone? Now, a person must have adequate faith.  Hebrews 11:6 reads, "For without faith it is impossible to please God.  For he that cometh to God must believe that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."  Saving faith is always active faith.  “ Yea, a man will say, Thou hast faith, and I have works."  Some were evidently saying one man can be  saved just on the basis of him having so much faith, and another man will be saved on the basis of him having so many good works.  James is saying both are necessary.  "Yea, a man may  say, Thou hast faith, and I have works:  Show me thy faith apart from thy works, and I by my works will show thee my faith."  So James is saying a man's works testify of his faith.  If no works, then no real faith, right?  That is what it amounts to, no works, no real faith.  "Thou believest that God is one."  The largest percentage of the people in our American society would say that there is one God. 


Evidently, there were those that reasoned on the basis of their believing in God that they would be saved.  But James says, “Thou doest well, the demons also believe and shutter.  Think of the times recorded in the gospel books where the demons acknowledge that Jesus was the Christ, and asked why have you come to torment us before time?  It brought trembling to them, and so on the basis, if it just requires an intellectual faith, even the demons and/or the devils will be saved.  Do you think that those demons who believed and shuttered are going to be saved? "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren."  The King James, does not it say dead?  So faith without works is empty, and  worthless. "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar?"  Now, he is not saying that Abraham was saved by works only.  Be sure and see that.  "Thou seest that faith wrought with his works and by works was faith made perfect?  And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness:  And he was called the Friend of God."  The first part of that quotation is Genesis 15:6.  And the latter part he is quoting part of two passages ‑‑ And the latter part he is called a Friend of God is Isaiah 61:8, if I'm reading my references right.  STUDENT:  It's forty‑one. BROTHER TURNER:  Yes, It is forty‑one and eight. 


Now, are you familiar with the context of Genesis 15:6?  God called Abram while he was still in the Ur of the Chaldees and told him, “Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and thy father's house, and go into the land that I will show thee.-------  And I will bless thee, and through thy seed shall all families of the earth be blessed.  Abraham went from the Ur of the Chaldees to Haran, and after his father died, God called him and told him to go on into the land of Canaan.  And he had been in the land of Canaan ten years and he still did not have a single son, not even by the handmaid. "After these things the word of Jehovah came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield, and  thy exceeding great reward.  And Abram said, O Lord Jehovah, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and he that shall be possessor of my house is Eliezer of Dasmascus."  A servant that evidently was born in his house.  So Abram had decided that that promise was going to be fulfilled some other way.  His wife had been barren all those years, and he had been in the land for ten years.  "And Abram said,  Behold, to me thou hast given no seed:  and, lo, one born in  my house. (Eliezer) Is mine heir.  And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This man shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.  And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and number the stars, if thou be able to number them:  and he said unto hem, So shall thy seed be."


Verse six is the passage that  is quoted three times in the New Testament.  It is a very significant passage.  "And he believed in Jehovah; and he reckoned it to him for  righteousness."  Think of the great faith of Abraham.  He did not have a single child and he was eighty‑five at this time, and his wife would have been what?  About seventy‑five, but he believed God that his seed would be innumerable. God said, “number” Do you think you could number all the stars?  The stars are still innumerable and that means that he would have so many descendants that they could not be counted.  So his faith was imputed to him for righteousness.  And when was Abraham called to offer up his son Isaac?  Many years later.  Ishmael was about seventeen when Isaac was weaned. And at this time Isaac is a young man, so it was probably thirty or more years later when he offered up Isaac.


Turn to Genesis chapter twenty‑two.  Genesis 22:1, "And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham:  and he said, Here am I.  And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."  And God had said to him as recorded in Genesis 21:8ff,You listen to your wife.  “Cast out the handmaiden and her son, for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. “ Here God tells him to take that son and offer him as a  burnt offering.  "And Abraham rose early in the morning." And if I was not so lazy, I would still prepare a lesson on Scenes Early In The Morning.  There are a number of statements where men of God rose up early in the morning to do what God had instructed them to do.  "And Abraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and he clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him."  It was a three days' journey to the place.  What do you suppose he told Sarah when he left that morning?  "On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.  And Abraham said unto his young men,  Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and we will worship, and come again to you.  And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son, and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.  And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father:  And he said, Here am I, my son.  And he said, Behold the fire and the wood:  But where is the lamb for a burnt offering?  And Abraham said, God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, My son:  so they went both of them together.  And they came to the place which God had told him of, and Abraham built the altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.  And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.  And the angel of  Jehovah called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham:  And he said, Here am I.  And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: For now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.  And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns:  And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son." So it was many years after Genesis 15:6 before this thing of works that James refers to, but James joins the two together, and said by works his faith was made perfect, emphasizing again that saving faith is always active faith.


Back to James chapter two.  I think I have questions about how Paul emphasized in Romans chapter four that Abraham was saved by faith and not by works.  But James says he is saved by works.  Is there an outright contradiction between Paul in Romans chapter four and James here in chapter two?  Some count it that way.  Now, if this was an outright contradiction, this would make God the author of confusion, to say one thing in one place and contradict it in another, and Paul affirms that God is not the author of confusion in II Corinthians14:33.  Paul is talking to brethren who thought that they would be saved by works of the law, or works of merit that, “he that doeth them shall live in them.” Look at Romans 3:25, “whom God set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood to show his righteousness because of the passing over of sins done aforetime in the forbearance of God.  For showing I say of his righteousness at this present season that he might be himself be just and the justifier of him that have faith in Jesus.  Where then is the glory?  It is excluded.  By what manner of law?  Of works.  No, but by the law of faith.  We reckon therefore that a man is justified by  faith apart from the works of the law."   He is talking about works of the Old Testament law or works of merit, and regardless of how many works a man has, he is not going to have enough good works to save him (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5; Romans 6:23). If he is saved, he is going to have to be saved by that proper faith in God and doing what God has instructed him to do. 


After we do what we are bidden to do we are still unprofitable servants, (Luke 17:7-10) and it is still by the mercy and grace of God that he will be saved. "Or is God the God of Jews only?"  See, there were those that were trying to cling on to the Old Testament teachings.  And, evidently, they thought that they could be saved by their works.  "Is God  the God of Jews only?  Is he not a God of the Gentiles also?  Yea, of the Gentiles also.  If so be that God is one.  And he shall justify the circumcision (Jews)by faith. and the uncircumcision  (Gentiles) through faith.  Do we then make the law of non‑effect through faith? God forbid, nay we establish the law."  "What then  shall we say that Abraham our forefather has found according to the flesh?  For if Abraham was justified by works he hath whereof to glory but not toward God.  For what saith the scripture and Abraham believed God and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness."  What passage is he quoting in verse three that Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness.  The same passage that James is quoting, Genesis 15:6, "Now to him that worketh the reward is not reckoned as of grace but as of death.  But to him that worketh not but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness.  Even as David also pronounced his blessings upon the man unto whom God reckoned his righteousness apart from works, saying blessed are they  whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not reckon sin."   Well, I wish that we had time to go into detail on that passage, but if you will turn and read from where that passage is taken, Psalms thirty‑two beginning with verse one and continue reading you will find that before David repented and asked God to forgive him, he was wasting away.  And he confessed his sins, and God forgave him.  And that is the person that he is talking about.  “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not reckon sin,” is the man who repents and asks God for forgiveness, but God was holding sin against him until he repented.  So Paul is emphasizing that a man is not saved by works of merit. 


Going back to chapter two Paul has already stated, “for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.”  So he is already emphasized very plainly that one must be a doer of the law in order to be saved.  And so there's no contradiction at all between the two passages. You just have to get the context.  James is writing to those who are saying that they can be saved by faith only.  And James has emphasized that faith must be coupled with works.  And there are many passages in the epistles of Paul where he emphasized like Ephesians 2:8 beginning, "For by grace are ye saved through faith,  and not of yourselves.  It is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast."  In other words, no man can do such works of merit that he will be saved by works only.  Then he says, “we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.”  So God has prepared that we should walk in good works.  What about the man who refuses to walk in good works?  He is not taken care of, is he?  Is it Titus 3:5, "Not by works done in righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy hath he saved us, by the washing of  regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit."  So no man is going to be saved just on the basis of works, but his faith must be active.  In Philippians chapter two Paul said, “as ye always obeyed in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling  And he further tells them to “do all things without murmurings and questioning,” meaning do all the things that God has commanded you without any murmuring and questioning.  If God said do it, do it, and so there is no contradiction.  You just have to look  at the context to see that on the one hand Paul is talking to those that thought they would be saved by works of merit, and James is talking to those who thought that they would be  saved by faith only.  But both of them emphasize that both are necessary, that faith and works are necessary.  So you see that James says that when Abraham offered up Isaac by his works, his faith was made perfect.  "Ye see that works a man is justified and not only by faith."  Instead of the Bible teaching the doctrine of saved by faith only, it reads here: “and not by faith alone,” I believe the King James reads.  This one reads, not only by faith.


Verse twenty five, "And in like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and  sent them out another way?"  What do you remember about Rahab and what she did? She is the one that received the spies and sent them out another way  when the people of Israel were ready to take the city of   Jericho, Joshua chapter two.  It shows very plainly that she believed.  She had heard concerning that God was going to give the people of Israel the land of Canaan.  The people of Jericho had heard what they had done to the Egyptians.  They had heard how that they had put down the king's of the Amorites.  She believed, and therefore she was ready to receive the spies and send them out another  way.  Let us turn to Joshua chapter two beginning with verse one, "And Joshua the son of Nun sent out from Shittim two men  to spy secretly, saying, Go and view the land, in Jericho.  And they went, and came into the house of the harlot, whose  name was Rahab, and lay there.  And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither of the children of Israel to search out the land.  And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab."   Well, we better stop on that, but please read Joshua 2:1‑20.  And then you ought to take time to read from how that when they took Jericho, they made that agreement that she was to have the scarlet cord out the window marking the house and all the members of her household would be saved,  Joshua chapter six beginning with verse twenty‑two.  Evidently, her house didn't fall when the walls fell down.  And they sent those two men in to get Rahab and her family, Joshua six beginning with verse twenty‑two. 


Rahab is  mentioned three times in the New Testament, this passage, and in Matthew 1:5, she is in the lineage of Christ, and then Hebrews eleven where the writer says by faith she received the spies and sent them out another way.  So, again, her faith was active.  “And in like manner was not  also Rahab the harlot justified by works in that she received the messengers and sent them out another way.”  "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead."  So faith apart from works is a vain, empty, worthless religion.  Is that still a problem in the church today?  I am afraid it is still a problem in the church today, and we need to recognize the importance of our faith being active.  And as Paul said to the Philippians, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling  He did not mean that they could come up with their own religion, save themselves by their own bootstraps, but that you do what the Lord has commanded.  Do not murmur against or do not question anything that he has said.  Do all things without murmuring and questioning that you may be harmless and blameless in the midst of a crooked generation.