top of page

Getting to Know the Bible: James Overview

Peace & Blessings Beloved,

TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.

Today we are going to visit our Getting to Know the Bible Series. In this series, our goal is to come to a comprehensive understanding of each book of the bible. At this point of the series we're going to focus on James. But before we get to James 1, I want to ensure we have a baseline understanding of the book of James. This way we can have a full appreciation for the exquisiteness of the entire book, as well as each individual chapter.

And so, in that spirit, see below for a comprehensive overview of the book of James, as we prepare to behold and discern James, beginning with James 1 in our next installment of this series.

Book Type: General Epistle; the twentieth book of the New Testament; the fifty-ninth book of the Bible.

Authors: James, the half-brother of Jesus

Date of Writing: ~A.D. 49-62

Audience: Jewish Christians (12 Tribes)

Theme: Instruction; Encouragement

Original Language: Greek

Genre: Letter

Purpose of Writing: Sometimes called the Proverbs of the New Testament, the book of James practically and faithfully reminds Christians how to live. From perseverance to true faith to controlling one's tongue, submitting to God's will, and having patience, this book aids readers in living authentically and wisely for Christ. Many have claimed that James and the apostle Paul differed on the question of faith versus works, but in reality the spiritual fruit that James talks about simply demonstrates the true faith of which Paul wrote. Their writings are complementary rather than contradictory. Possibly one of the earliest of the New Testament writings (A.D. 40-50), the book is believed to have been written by Jesus' brother James (Gal. 1:19).

Summary: The Book of James outlines the faith walk through genuine religion (1:1-27), genuine faith (2:1-3:12) and genuine wisdom (3:13-5:20). This book contains a remarkable parallel to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. James begins in the first chapter by describing the overall traits of the faith walk. In chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3 he discusses social justice and a discourse on faith in action. He then compares and contrasts the difference between worldly and godly wisdom and asks us to turn away from evil and draw close to God.

James then gives a rebuke to the rich who hoard and those who are self-reliant. Finally, he ends with encouragement to believers to be patient in suffering, praying and caring for one another and bolstering our faith through fellowship.

Overview: The five chapters of James address many smaller teaching sections, which can be grouped in many different ways. However, five key themes can be identified. The first theme involves enduring trials (James 1:1–18). James teaches his readers to endure trials with joy (James 1:2–4), asking God for wisdom (James 1:5–8), with the right perspective (James 1:9–11). Believers must also understand the power of temptation (James 1:12–15) and be thankful for God's goodness (James 1:16–18).

The second section focuses on living out God's truth (James 1:19–2:26). This includes handling anger well (James 1:19-21), being actual doers of God's words (James 1:22–27), not showing favoritism (James 2:1–13), and showing faith by righteous actions (James 2:14–26).

The third section focuses on wisdom and controlling one's words (James 3). The tongue is said to be powerful, yet also dangerous (James 3:1–12). James also distinguishes between heavenly and human wisdom (James 3:13–18).

The fourth section emphasizes humility (chapter 4). Many live opposed to the Lord as His enemy (James 4:1–6). In contrast, believers are to draw near to God and humble themselves before Him so they may be lifted up (James 4:7–17).

The fifth section emphasizes patience and prayer (James 5). James speaks against rich oppressors (James 5:1–6), extols patience (James 5:7–12), encourages faithful prayer (James 5:13–18), and teaches the need to show love to those in error (James 5:19–20).

Application: James is a challenge to faithful followers of Jesus Christ to not just talk the talk, but to walk the walk. He focuses on the truths of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount and motivates us to act upon what He taught.

James also puts to rest the idea that one can become a Christian and yet continue living in sin, exhibiting no fruit of righteousness. Such a faith, James declares, is shared by the demons who believe and tremble (James 2:19). Yet such a faith cannot save because it is not verified by the works that always accompany true saving faith (Ephesians 2:10). Good works are not the cause of salvation, but they are the result of it.

Key Verses (ESV):

James 1:2-3: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

James 1:19: My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

James 2:17-18: In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

James 3:5: Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

James 5:16b: The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

*Note: The book of James looks a bit like the Old Testament book of Proverbs dressed up in New Testament clothes. Its consistent focus on practical action in the life of faith is reminiscent of the Wisdom Literature in the Old Testament, encouraging God’s people to act like God’s people. The pages of James are filled with direct commands to pursue a life of holiness. He makes no excuses for those who do not measure up. In the mind of this early church leader, Christians evidence their faith by walking in certain ways and not others. For James, a faith that does not produce real life change is a faith that is worthless (James 2:17).

I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.

May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.

Love you much.

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!

-Humble Servant

P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation.

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page