All Scriptures cited are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV)
Personally, I have always found myself intrigued with the Epistle of James, mainly as in my opinion he seeks to advance a Christianity that bears witness in action, which is a staggering call to us Christians to wake up from our complacent lifestyles of piety and treatment of faith as mere intellectual ascent. Here I would like to picture James as one who draws a circle that starts and ends with the call to persevere in Christ in spite of overwhelming temptation to which he initiates with his introduction as the Lord’s servant and as a brother in Christ who is in some way also going through the same plight of his audience to which he referred to in this chapter as his brothers.
James a bondservant of Christ
Verse 1 Shows James stating his office as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” here James puts forward to whose authority he is speaking from but also implying that it is not of his own accord that he is writing to his audience, but of his Lord Jesus Christ, while at the same time implicitly shows his Jewish roots by speaking of the “twelve tribes in the Dispersion” to which he is writing to and later on in the passage he would refer to as his brothers (v.16).
The call to steadfast perseverance (Verses 2-19)
Verses 2-10 eems to show that the audience of James’ letter are undergoing trials of to which the author has yet to make mention of explicitly but however his wording seems to imply that trials does not come from outside the community but from within as he makes mention of things that ought to be present in the community of believers such as: joy (v.2), steadfastness (v.3), wisdom (v.5), faith (v.6) and humility (v.9-10).
- A call to both poor and the rich chiefly
- Perseverance has its prize!
- God is no tempter
The need to reclaim our identity in Christ (16-27)
Verses 16-18 gives me the impression that James again veers away from his train of thought in order to re-orient his audience to their identity in Christ to which he starts by affirming his love for them as a servant of Christ (v.1) who refers to his audience as brothers in Christ (v.16) putting emphasis on their kinship under Christ. But it doesn’t end in their kinship as James introduced himself in the beginning of the chapter as a ‘servant’ of Christ therefore he is not merely speaking to them as a brother but also as a co-servant as his affinity with them is not only in terms of his Jewish heritage, identity in Christ but more importantly in his work in the body of Christ. It is then followed with James pointing towards God as the one who gives them gifts, again that points towards the theme of goodness and perfection (v.17) that James has initiated in verse 3 of this chapter only this time he points towards God as the source and the gifts as a common grace that God who is constant and how is at work in their lives to which James reminds his audience of their identity as Christians that is they are – sanctified by God’s word of truth and that they the first fruits of God’s creation (v.18).
- The ethical implication of Christian identity
- Action as a means of receiving the Word and living our identity
- Completing the circle