James is considered by most scholars to be the earliest New Testament book (AD 44-48). Written by the half-brother of Jesus, James was a leader in the church at Jerusalem.
The theme of the book of James is Authentic Christianity. His main concern is showing that real faith produces real change. He wants his readers to understand how the gospel they believed for salvation continues to work in their lives now through faith. James wants every reader to understand this question: what does the life of a Christian look like?
One of the dangers of reading James is unhelpful introspection. There are many points that James will convict in a particular area of our lives, be that partiality or the tongue. The tendency is to think, “Man, I’ve got to work harder at my speech!” However, this is the wrong approach. James is predicated on real faith as the starting point for authentic Christianity. So, when we hit a point of conviction about our lives, the response should rather be, “Where is my faith misplaced?”
James and the Bible
James is meant to be read as a part of the Bible’s greater framework. That is to say that one should never read James and forget what the rest of the New Testament has to say about grace. The truth about James is that an authentic life comes from someone who has been radically saved by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is not to say that James does not present a fully formed understanding of the gospel. He does. In fact, this Sunday (3/16) we will talk about the thesis of the book of James which is indeed the gospel. However, there are a few passages that are difficult to understand (2:14-26) unless we read them in light of the entire Bible.
Outline of James
The key to understanding the book of James is in fact chapter one. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, James unpacks Authentic Christianity by highlighting a number of characteristics, all of which he introduces in chapter one. After introducing these characteristics in chapter one, James goes on to develop these themes in the rest of the book.
In light of the priority of chapter one, here is the preaching schedule for the book of James. I hope each of you will join us this week and invite a friend!
16-Mar – Authentic Christianity – James 1:19-27
23-Mar – Redeeming the Tongue – James 3:1-12
30-Mar – Response to Suffering – James 1:2-4; 5:13-20
6-Apr – Real Wisdom – James 1:5-8; 3:13-18
13-Apr – Rejection of Partiality – James 1:9-11; 2:1-13
20-Apr – Easter: Real Faith – James 2:14-26
27-Apr – Rejection of Worldliness – James 1:16-18; 4:1-12