Text: James 1:1; 5:19-20
Introduction: How many of you have ever picked up a book and turned to the last chapter to see if you really want to read it? Or maybe some of you have been halfway through a book and you can’t wait for the ending, so you skip on ahead to the last chapter to satisfy your curiosity. Today, we are going to start a series of messages through the letter of James. We are going to look at the first verse and the last two verses. I believe that this will help us to understand the rest of letter. For the key to understanding the letter of James is in his concluding words. To many James’ last words seem tacked on and not connected to the rest of the letter but I believe that they state the very purpose for which he wrote the letter. Understanding this purpose will help us to apply the many practical lessons in the letter of James concerning our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Expositors of the letter have suggested the following themes: A Living Faith, Tests of a Living Faith, The Book of True Religion, Faith manifested by Good Works, and Faith Under Trail. Well the book of James is certainly about our faith; it is about our beliefs and practices. It is about the many errors that can so easily creep into our lives. Let’s begin by looking at the letter’s salutation or greeting.
I. The letter’s salutation tells us whom the letter is from and to whom the letter is sent.
A. The author:
1. His identity: James the half-brother of Jesus.
a. Apparently the oldest of Jesus’ half brothers (Mt.13:55; Mark 6:3).
b. Apparently did not understand who Jesus was (John 7:1-8)
c. Apparently witnessed the resurrection of his half-brother Jesus (1 Cor. 15:7).
d. Apparently was present with other disciples after Christ’s ascension (Acts 1:14).
e. Apparently became one of the leaders in the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17, 21:18),
f. He gave strong leadership at the Jerusalem council about Gentiles (Acts 15:12-29).
g. He knew Paul after Paul’s conversion (Galatians 1:18-19).
h. He gave Paul the “right hand of fellowship” and supported Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles while he ministered to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (Gal. 2:9).
i. He wrote the letter that bears his name to minister to Jewish Christians.
2. His attitude concerning himself: A servant- doulos – bond slave
3. His belief concerning Jesus- He calls him God. “of God, even the Lord Jesus Christ”
a. Jesus – Joshua – Jehovah Saves – Refers to the saving work of his incarnation.
b. Christ – Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah – The anointed one
c. Lord – Kurios – Carries the weight of Deity when applied to God – 14 times in letter.
B. The recipient: Jewish Christians outside of Jerusalem (called brethren throughout the letter)
C. The greeting: Standard Greek greeting.
It intrigues me that the Apostle to the Hebrews used a simple Greek greeting and the Apostle of the Gentiles used the pattern of the Hebrew greeting
II. The letter’s conclusion is the key to understanding its theme: (James 5:19-20).
In the last two verse of the letter of James, James challenges believers to do exactly what he has been doing throughout his book – confronting others with their errors in the Christian faith. As brethren we have a responsibility to confront one another when we error from the truth. Read the verses.
A. The one who errors from the truth – err- wander: Like as sheep going astray.
1. A brother – James calls the readers “Brethren” 15 times in his letter.
2. A Sinner – Christians can commit terrible sin
3. A Soul – Jesus died for our souls
B. The one who converts the one in error – “convert” to turn back, turn around
All believers have this responsibility – 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Galatians 6:1
C. The desired results:
1. Save a soul from death – 1 Corinthians 11:29-31
2. Hide a multitude of sins.
Psalm 32:1 “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”
Conclusion: Therefore, I conclude that the theme of the letter of James is “Common Errors in the Christian Faith.” Throughout the book I have identified the following errors that we can have in trying to live the Christian faith:
• The error of misunderstanding God’s purposes in the trials of life (James 1:2-16).
• The error of not maintaining Christian attitudes demanded by the new birth (James 1:17-27).
• The error of partiality or not loving your neighbor as yourself (James 2:1-13).
• The error of having a dead faith that is void of good works (James 2:14-26).
• The error of following the wisdom from below and not controlling your tongue (James 3:1-8).
• The error of being a friend of the world and an enemy of God (James 4:1-4).
• The error of responding in pride instead of humility when corrected (James 4:5-17).
• The error of willful disobedience (James 4:17).
• The error of not understanding the end of the ungodly rich (James 5:1-6)
• The error of not being patient with others as we wait for the Lord’s return (James 5:7-12)
• The error of not praying when we inter into affliction as we wait for the Lord’s return (5:13-19).
This letter of James is going to step on our toes. It is going to confront the errors we commit in living out our Christian faith. It is going to expose our hypocrisies. May God grant us the humility to receive its rebukes, to confess our sins, and to live our Christian lives in a way that is pleasing to God and helps to bring others into the Kingdom of God.