James Chapter 1
James 1:1 ESV
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.
The writer of this letter is believed to be James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, and one of the ‘pillars’ in the early Christian church. (Matt. 13:55; Acts 1:13; 12:17; Gal. 1:19; 2:9) However, although related to the Lord Jesus and a principal leader of the Jerusalem church (along with Peter and John), James refers to himself as a ‘servant’ (Gk, doulos) of God and of the Lord Jesus: i.e., as no more than a hired servant or bondservant of the Father and the Son. By linking the Father and the Son, James is demonstrating his belief in the equality of Father and Son.
The Lord’s servant, James, is writing principally to believers of Jewish background. Because of persecution, these believers had been scattered abroad (cf. Acts 2:5; 8:1).
Asking God in Faith
James 1:2 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
These Jewish believers had been enduring much persecution for the sake of Christ’s name. However, in his opening remarks to them, James tells them to rejoice in these sore trials and afflictions.
As the apostle Peter said, we are to rejoice in that we are counted worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ’s name. We are to rejoice in that God is fulfilling his purposes for us—even through our trials. Whatever the nature of our sufferings, we ought not to lose hope, and we should never despair. God is working out our salvation—even through these very things that trouble us, try us, and test our faith and endurance to the very limit (cf. v.12; see also Matt. 5:10-12; 1 Pet. 1:6,7; 4:12-16).
Perhaps we are enduring persecution because of our faith in Christ. On the other hand, perhaps we are being tempted severely to sin against the Lord. Whatever the nature of our adversity, God is faithful. He will not permit us to be tempted beyond our ability to endure it. On every occasion, the Lord will provide us with a way of escape, or he will sustain us in the midst of the trials. Our God is able—and willing—to deliver us. In all our trials, we ought to rejoice, and keep on rejoicing. We ought to keep on trusting the Lord; casting all our heavy burdens upon him. (Isa. 43:1-4; 1 Cor. 10:13; Rev. 2:10; 1 Pet. 5:7)
James 1:3 ESV
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
We have come to understand that the testing—or proving—of our faith develops perseverance. The more our faith is put to the test, the more we are driven to depend on the Lord. We cannot hope to stand in our own strength. In the strength of the Lord, however, we will certainly be upheld. (2 Chron. 20:20; Ps. 28:7-8; Isa. 40:29-31)
This testing of our faith produces perseverance. Perseverance (KJV, patience) is that constancy, that endurance, that steadfastness of will and character that causes a person to hold fast to his faith—no matter how intensely he suffers. It is that state of mind by which a person commits himself wholly to the Lord, and determines with all his heart to continue following the Lord—regardless of the difficulties. (Rom. 5:3-4; 2 Thess. 1:4; Heb. 12:1-3)
Nothing shall turn him aside from the way of faith and righteousness. Through every trial, tribulation, sorrow, pain and grief, he perseveres in the faith. God is the strength of his arm. The Lord God Almighty enables him to stand. The indwelling Holy Spirit imparts to him God’s ever-enduring grace and mercy.
Therefore, whenever we suffer, we ought to bear patiently with our tribulations. God is moulding our character with his powerful—but gentle—hands. (2 Cor. 4:17-18; Heb. 10:36)
James 1:4 ESV
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Perseverance—or patience—however, must run its course. We cannot develop this characteristic overnight. Rather, we produce it by degrees through the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification and through the constant trying or proving of our faith. These trials are not designed to make us lose heart or become discouraged. On the contrary, God has designed these trials so that—by leaning ever more on him—we will experience ever more of his mighty love for us. We will experience in our own lives something of God’s almighty power to sustain us through every difficulty. (Ps. 37:7; Gal. 6:9; Heb. 6:12)
Therefore, we must let perseverance finish the work that God has begun in us. We should not allow our afflictions to weary or discourage us. Nor should we yield to temptation. Giving way to temptation leads to a weakening of our character, and a lessening of our usefulness.
Standing firm—by God’s grace—strengthens our character, and increases our usefulness. By allowing perseverance to complete its work in our lives, we will become mature in the faith; and—in every respect—complete. (Gal. 5:22; James. 5:7-8,10-11)
[Excerpt from Expository Notes: James (chapter 1, verses 1-4). To read or download the full version of these Notes, click on the NT Commentaries menu tab above.]