James 1 Commentary

Practical Christian Wisdom from the New Testament Book of James

A Letter of Practical Christian Wisdom

Introduction (1:1)

Verse 1: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings” (James 1:1 NIV). 

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1 NIV) tells us that the writer of this letter was James, a younger half-brother of Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 13:55). Once a bonafide skeptic (Mark 3:21) of the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14) of his Older Brother, James had now been transformed to become His ardent supporter, humbling himself not only as a “servant [Greek, doulos, slave] of God” (1:1 NIV), but equally, a bond servant by choice of Jesus, who he now admits to be the Jewish Messiah and his master. James’ choice of calling himself a “servant of God” (1:1 NIV) is consistent with the teachings of Christ. “Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me” (John 12:26 NIV). We are servants of the Lord with the benefit of God directing our choices in life. Remember, we are not here to figure out how to use God, but how He can use us. This epistle or letter was addressed to the “twelve tribes scattered among the nations”  (1:1 NIV), since the Early Church was originally Jewish converts returning to their homes from the Acts 2 Pentecost, as well as, to the converted Jewish brothers and sisters “scattered among the nations” (1:1 NIV) by the persecutions of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 8:1). NT scholars date this epistle as sometime before 62 AD, when James was martyred by King Herod (Acts 12:2). The Romans did not destroy Jerusalem and the Temple until 70 AD. “Greetings” (1:1 NIV) is the expected salutation, since this is a letter. 

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James 4 Commentary

Practical Christian Wisdom from the New Testament Book of James

Warning Against Worldliness (James 4:1-12) 

Verse 1: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1 NIV). 

The Epistle of James was simply a letter from a first century apostle, yet it is a profound statement of divine truth concerning the very nature of ALL human conflict. James reasonably addresses “fights and quarrels” (James 4:1 NIV) within the church. James asks the question, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” (4:1 NIV), then he gives the answer, “Don’t they come from your desires [Greek, hēdonē, pleasures] that battle within you?” (4:1 NIV). Notice that James places the blame for war on “desires that battle within you” (4:1 NIV). The same Greek word for “desires” (4:1 NIV), Jesus used to explain why some respond to the Word of God and others don’t. “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures [Greek, hēdonē], and they do not mature” (Luke 8:14 NIV). Again, neither James nor Jesus claimed sin to be the reason for war, conflict, or not receiving the truth of the Word of God. Instead, the simple “desires that battle within you” (James 4:1 NIV) are sufficient to cause us to go to war or neglect God’s truth. In other words, we do not sin because we are sinners, but we commit sin because we allow the desires that battle within us to master and control us. “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24 NIV). Observation: The solution to not sinning is not merely possessing the Holy Spirit, but allowing the Holy Spirit to direct us, i.e., walking in the Spirit (Romans 8). 

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James 5 Commentary

Practical Christian Wisdom from the New Testament Book of James

Warning to the Rich (5:1-6)  

Verse 1: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you” (James 5:1 NIV). 

Is James condemning all rich people? No, as we read previously, he is condemning all those who are seeking to accumulate wealth irrespective of God or man. He describes whom he condemns — “you [who] boast in your arrogant schemes” (James 4:16 NIV). Why should they “weep and wail” (5:1 NIV)? He answers, “because of the misery that is coming on you” (5:1 NIV). To what misery does James refer? Jesus described the misery of more than one rich person, possibly because riches are associated with someone who has been blessed. The rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) illustrates how a homeless beggar goes to his reward in Abraham’s bosom, and a rich man descends from his luxury into the fiery torment of Hades, both defying what many would expect as their outcomes. The moral of their story is not to seek the outward evidence of wealth as a signpost to Heaven, and not to reject the evidence of poverty, as a certainty of Hell. Both must pay heed to the claims of Scripture, without the benefit of miraculous events, to find their way to Heaven. “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31 NIV). The rich fool and his storehouse (Luke 12:13-21) shows us how foolish it is to place our confidence in earthly riches, as a sign of prosperity, happiness, and security. “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry” (12:19 NIV). God terminates the rich fool’s life with the epitaph, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (12:21 NIV). 

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Help My Unbelief

A Brief Commentary on Mark 9:1-29

Especially Addressing the Plea, “Help Me Overcome My Unbelief,” or Overcoming Our Jadedness

Verse 1

“And He said to them, Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power” (9:1 NIV).

The “Some Who Are Standing Here Will Not Taste Death Before They See That the Kingdom of God Has Come With Power” Conundrum
 To whom did Jesus address this statement? The answer is found in the previous chapter. “Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34 NIV). So, He addressed “the crowd” and “His disciples.” If He only addressed His disciples, then the complication would arise, which disciples? What event would some disciples see that the other disciples would not? But, this is not the case, since evidently “the crowd” (9:1 NIV) was being informed of a future event to be viewed by these “disciples,” as well.

If physical death (“not taste death”) was implied in Christ’s statement, then when would His disciples “see that the kingdom of God has come with power” (9:1 NIV)? Evidently, Christ was referring to the disciples’ witnessing His Resurrection, to which He referred only earlier in the same discourse (Mark 8:31). Both His Death and certainly His Resurrection were unexpected by His disciples at that time. And, Christ’s defeat of death through the “power of His Resurrection” (Philippians 3:10 NIV) transcends any expectation of a mortal mind. “And who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4 NIV).

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Why God Answers Prayer

Even the most humanistic, atheistic believe in prayer, at least in empowerment through appeal to the highest power to which they have any confidence — themselves. Probably just me, but in this 21st century, post-Christian America, I rarely hear the world around me curse in the name of God, like I used to hear. Jesus’ name, to them, is more an exclamation. More likely, the f-word escapes from the lips, when appeal is made to accomplish the innermost desires. But, prayer is essentially an appeal for something to be done by someone who is in a position to do something about it. Any wonder the professed godly don’t much pray? No confidence anything will happen. Make the prayer vague to ensure the lack of answer will not confound any profession of religion. Make the petition quick to affirm to others the duty to pray was performed. 

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