These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!
I’m fascinated (but not fully surprised) that James 2:2 uses the word “synagogue” (Greek: sunagōgē):
1My brothers show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of glory. 2For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly [sunagoge/synagogue], and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in…
I’m hoping to write a brief article (and share here) later today or tomorrow on this. But I think there are some implications to consider. For instance, synagogue is used as a building and an assembly of people. This is much like the modern concept of “church” – sometimes we refer to a building (because that’s primarily where the group gathers), sometimes a group of people. School seems to have the same concept: can be used for a group (think a “school” of fish) or a building that houses the group.
It also shows James’ strong Jewish bent to use synagogue over ekklesia (the word used for church elsewhere in the NT). And it shows how the lines aren’t so strong between the synagogue and the NT church. There is overlap in how they both function. Jesus works within the synagogue, but doesn’t seem to try to recreate a new synagogue either. He just doesn’t seem to care that much about structure or methods–just wants to get to the heart. I think the same today could be said of traditional church structures. We do a house church network structure (as Matt knows). But this should cause us to pause lest we think our methods are more “God-blessed” or inherently biblical than more traditional methods of church. I’ll try to develop what I’m saying about this more in an article. Pray I can write it soon and with power and clarity and truth and grace!
how profound that the brother of Jesus firstly refers to himself as “servant/slave” of Jesus (1:1)! What an added evidence that Jesus really is the Risen Lord (brothers who were initially skeptical of him now worship and see Him as their Master alongside God)
I appreciate that He’s writing to exiles who were going through a tumultuous time, which paints (it seems) much of the exhortations: rejoice in tribulation…ask for wisdom…stand firm in the faith…
I read through all of James this morning out loud with Samuel (I don’t think he got it…but he is only 2 LOL).
Doing that was helpful to see the book as a whole and help understand some of the specific sections.
What I see as an overarching theme is that James is writing to Jewish Christians who were scattered and in difficult circumstances. In turn, he addresses the major temptations we deal with in difficult circumstances:
- not praising God in trials (James 1)
- lacking wisdom (James 1)
- not wanting to obey God’s word when it’s hard (James 1)
- showing favoritism to the rich and not wanting to be as generous, so you can (re-)gain a certain socioeconomic level, I presume (James 2)
- becoming quick to speak and criticize others (James 3)
- trying to establish yourself as important via your words, and not your actions and life (James 3)
- being contentious with others (James 4)
- wanting to be rich (James 5)
- prayerlessness (James 5)
Maybe that’s an overstatement to say the backdrop is WHY he wrote all these things. I’m sure other reasons could have been there, and of course the Lord oversaw the whole letter in HIs own deliberate way to ensure it is surely God’s Word. BUT… the backdrop does provide some plausible reasons why they may have been struggling in some areas that James addresses (note he doesn’t excuse their sin, even if there may have been some reason for it)
That is a really cool idea to read it out loud. I imagine that was how the groups of Christians read it when it was first written.
James 3:13-16 stood out to me:
“13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
I like how James shows the seriousness of the more subtle sins like envy or selfishness, and how they lead to very serious sins and the “demonic” even. Sin gives birth to more sin.
Conversely, following Jesus gives birth to good things like wisdom and humility. We can tell where we are by the fruit that is being produced in us.
My prayer this week has been a verse I never paid as much attn to before… always so focused on 1:19 I missed the amazing verses after. Anyhow, my prayer has been 1:21 “May I put away the filth and wickedness in me and receive the implanted word for it’s the only way Lord”
Amazed with the strong warnings to the rich in this book ie 1:10-12; 5:1-6. I think especially living in America in the land of luxury and wealth as believers we need to heed these warnings when we have so much and tend to store up in our barns in luxury and self indulgence. Let us keep the perspective that this life is temporary and we will wither like the grass and to live with open hands.