The Letter of James. Part 3: Faith.

Posted: Fri. Feb, 28 2020

 

Recap of part 2

The letter of James addresses the subject of practical Christianity.

The subject of practical Christianity answers the following question:

After we have been justified forever by God, and given eternal life as well as other amazing permanent blessings, all by grace through faith…..

HOW ARE WE TO LIVE?

This is what the letter of James is all about.  It has nothing to say about eternal salvation by grace through faith.

James 1:1

James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

We begin by recapping a few facts about the letter as a whole.

First, of all the letters in the New Testament, the letter of James is the most saturated with the teachings of Jesus, particularly from the Gospel of Matthew.

Second, the author of the letter of James was the half-brother of Jesus.  He was called the Just, and he was a younger brother of Jesus.

He  became a well-known figure in the early Jewish church.  The mere mention of his first name would have been sufficient for the saints to know who was writing to them.  His name carried great authority.

Third, when was this letter written?

We can say with a great deal of confidence that the letter of James was written sometime between 44 AD and 48 AD.

Fourth, who was the original audience for this letter and what were their circumstances?

The original audience consisted of Jews from the 12 Tribes of Israel who were dispersed abroad (= outside of Jerusalem).

James 1:1

James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

 The book of Galatians states that James was an apostle to the Jews (GAL 2:7-9)

Jewish Christians were dispersed abroad after the stoning of Stephen in ACT 7:59.  This occurred in 34 AD, 10 -14 years before the letter of James was written. 

They fled Jerusalem and were dispersed to Judea and Samaria, then Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch (ACT 11:19).

James wrote the letter of James to these Jewish Christians who were dispersed abroad because of the persecution that occurred in connection with the death of Stephen.

James wrote to encourage them in the midst of their suffering and difficulties, and to exhort them to speak and act in a righteous manner.

He reminds them that God’s righteous judgment is coming (JAM 5:7-11).

And he exhorts them to be obedient to the Lord in the midst of their trials (JAM 1:2-4, 12).

 

The role that faith plays in the letter of James

We will now examine the role that faith plays in the letter of James.

James 1:1-4
James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

2 Consider [count in KJV]  it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Here in verse 3, faith is mentioned for the first time.  Here we first learn about the role that faith will play throughout the letter.

 

The context for faith

In order to identify the role that faith plays in this passage, we will next examine the context.. 

We begin in verse 2:

"Consider or count it all joy when you encounter various trials"

The Greek verb for “consider” is

hegeomai

Literally, hegeomai means to lead the way or go first.

Here it is used metaphorically to mean to lead out before the mind.

In other words, to think to be such and such; to esteem or count as something.

 

Trials

Here in verse 2, hegeomai  means to direct the mind to think of trials  and adversities as joy.

To see adversity not as the natural man sees it - something to be avoided - , but rather as God sees it.  To see His hand behind it and to trust that He has a purpose for it , such that it will end up being a joyful thing.

Or as Romans 8 puts it, to know that God is working all things together for our good.

The Greek word for “trials” in verse 2 is

peirasmos

It means a putting to the test.  When God is the agent, peirasmos is for the purpose of proving or validating someone, never for the purpose of causing him to fall.

It means trials with a beneficial purpose and effect.

God brings His people through adversity and affliction in order to validate their faith and strengthen their confidence in Him.

This is the prelude to verse 3:

3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

 

Testing

In verse 3 , testing is the Greek verb

dokimion

It means testing to prove the genuineness of something. 

This word dokimion is found in one other New Testament passage, and it appears alongside the word peirasmos:

1 Peter 1:3-9
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials [peirasmos]

, 7 so that the proof [dokimion]  of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

As an aside, verses 4- 9 deal with the assurance of salvation for believers.

Your faith in the Lord is put under pressure by adversity. It is tested and found to be genuine.

JAM 1:3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

The reason that this assembly can regard trials as joy in verse 2 is because they know something in verse 3!

What do they know?

The testing of their faith produces endurance.

This is a statement of fact.  The Greek verb for “produces” is in the indicative mood - the mood of reality or fact.

In other words, the outcome is not in doubt.

Their faith will get tried or tested and that trial will produce endurance.  Endurance is the capacity to remain under pressure for a period of time.

When your faith in God’s promises is tested and approved, you will be able to withstand adversity and sorrow with confidence that the Lord will deliver you through it.

And when that happens, you will find that He has made you perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

1 Peter 5:6-11
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

James 1:2 Consider [count in KJV]  it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

Faith

What is faith?

Faith is taking God at His word.  So it is tightly bound up with God’s word, and in particular what God has promised.

To believe is to be convinced. To be fully assured on the basis of the reliability of the one trusted.

An excellent description of faith is found in Romans 4, which describes the faith of Abraham:

ROM 4:18-21
18 In hope against hope he [Abraham]  believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, "SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE." 19 Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.

Faith is being fully assured that what God has promised, He is also able to perform.

 

Faith in Christ for eternal life

This definition of faith holds when someone believes the gospel and receives eternal life. God promises eternal life, and He is able to provide it.

John 3:16
16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 

EPH 2:8-10
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

GAL 2:16
16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

 

Faith for our life now

This definition of faith - being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform- also holds for a Christian who, after he is justified, continues to be fully assured that what God has promised, He is able also to perform.

After we are saved, we walk by faith not by sight.

GAL 2:20
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

ROM 1:16-17
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."

So faith has a role in our salvation, And faith has a role in our lives after salvation.

Same faith.  Different role. Same faith.  Different promises.

 Same Lord and Savior.  Different things to be saved from.

Same faith, but for a different purpose.

The first purpose is eternal salvation.

The second purpose, as James puts it, is to be made perfect and complete.  Or as Paul puts it, to be transformed into the image and likeness of Christ.

 

Faith in James

What is the role of faith in the letter of James?

James deals with the second purpose - that the saints may be made perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Faith in James plays a role in the lives of the saints after they receive eternal salvation.

The letter of James does not address faith in the gospel for eternal  salvation.

James never mentions faith in Christ for eternal salvation in this letter.

In fact, he never mentions anything about eternal salvation or eternal life at all.

He never mentions the gospel, or the cross, or the blood of Christ, or the resurrection.   

 

James 1:1-4
James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

One more thing:  James is addressing the group as a whole.  “you” and “your” are plural in the Greek.

This means that the people will encounter various trials together. The faith of the group will be tested.  And the result will be that the group of believers will be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Contrast this with verses 5-12 which address individual men - singular in the Greek.

James is not dealing with faith in Christ for eternal life. He is dealing with faith being tested in our lives now, here on earth.

In the letter of James, the result of tested faith  is not eternal life for a believer.

Rather, it is the perfect and complete assembly of believers during this life.

 

In His grip,

Pastor John

If you found this helpful, please pass it on!  Post it on Facebook, or tweet about it!

 

April 2020
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2930311 Wed2 Thu3 Fri4 Sat
5 Sun6 Mon7 Tue8 Wed9 Thu10 Fri11 Sat
12 Sun13 Mon14 Tue15 Wed16 Thu17 Fri18 Sat
19 Sun20 Mon21 Tue22 Wed23 Thu24 Fri25 Sat
26 Sun27 Mon28 Tue29 Wed30 Thu12