Part 2 – When and to Whom Was James Written?
This is part 2 of a 15 part Bible Study on the book of James .
Compiled and written by Norma Becker – a true woman of God and God’s word.
*The Index, with links, to all 15 parts is at the bottom of each page.
When and to Whom Was James Written?
James 1: 1-4
When Was it Written?
There are indications that the book was written very early and could be one of the earliest of all the New Testament writings. Theologians say it has a distinctive Jewish nature so it was probably written when the church was still predominantly Jewish. No reference is made to the controversy over Gentile circumcision. The Greek term “synagogue” is used to designate the meeting place of the church.
To Whom Was it Written?
The epistle is addressed to ‘the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.’ Although this is indefinite, it helps to tell us something about the recipients. The expression ‘twelve tribes’ clearly identifies the readers as Jews. As well as being Jewish they are assumed to be Christians. The geographical locations are not identified – they are just scattered.
It has been suggested that they were the believers who were forced to leave Jerusalem during the persecution that followed Stephen’s death.
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1).
“Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch” (Acts 11:19).
It is reasonable to assume that James, the leading elder of the Jerusalem church, would feel responsible for these former ‘parishioners’ and attempt to instruct them like he would have done if they were still under his care. You can tell by what he says that he is aware of their circumstances and characteristics.
The letter was written to exhort the early believers to Christian maturity and holiness of life. It also holds very true today. James told his readers how to achieve spiritual maturity through a confident stand, compassionate service, careful speech, contrite submission and concerned sharing. He dealt with every area of a Christian’s life: what he is, what he does, what he says, what he feels and what he has.
James shows how Christian faith and Christian love should be expressed in several actual situations. The main theme is: real faith produces genuine works or another way of putting it is: the person who has genuinely found the way, walks in it. He is not preaching salvation by works, but salvation that is accompanied by works. Faith is the root…works are the fruit.
If James’ main point is how to be spiritually mature, lets see how we are to respond under trials and temptations….
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by he wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:2-8).
Do you ever look at trials as punishment? Do you think some do? All too often trials bring on groanings and complaints. This response doesn’t show Christian maturity. It only makes matters worse. Trials are not to be seen as tribulations but as tests. A test is given to see if a student can pass, not pass out. One who brings the right attitude to the trial, who understands the advantage of the trial, and who knows where to obtain assistance in the trial will certainly pass the test.
Can You Face Trials With Pure Joy?
James is writing to Jews – particularly to those who had been scattered from their places of security and had fallen into fierce persecution under the Roman emperor Claudius. So he begins by addressing the problems of troubles:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds….”
He doesn’t say ‘if’ but ‘whenever’ you face them. Most people are joyful when they escape the trials. He wants joy in the midst of trials.
He also doesn’t say be joyful ‘for’ the trials but ‘in’ the trials. Don’t pretend to be happy when we face the pain of trials, but have a positive outlook because of what trials can produce in our lives… “because the testing or your faith develops perseverance.”
Maybe we should define what we mean by faith: trust, belief, hope. Faith is the attitude where we give up all reliance on our own efforts and turn everything over to God.
Concerning a trial you have had, what pressures did it bring on your faith? In trials, what does God want to do to our faith? He wants it to grow; our faith is proved; He wants to stretch us spiritually; He wants us to learn endurance and perseverance; He allows circumstances that can teach us something significant.
What Can we Learn From Trials?
“Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1: 3).
What are some other words for perseverance? Endurance, patience, steadfastness, fortitude, persistence….
Can you remember a verse in Romans that talks about perseverance?
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3).
The testing of our faith develops perseverance. What does that mean for us? A Christian must have staying power and this can be developed only in the face of opposition.
“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).
What does it mean, “perseverance must finish its work?” If perseverance is to ‘finish its work,’ faith must not falter or give up. Perseverance or steadfastness will produce the by-products of maturity and spiritual fulfillment. It will provide the atmosphere in which other virtues can grow. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
This is the theme of this epistle. James’ main point was to show how to achieve spiritual maturity. Trials can be faced with joy because when faith is added, perseverance results. When perseverance goes full term it will develop a thoroughly mature Christian who lacks nothing. We will be all that God wants us to be. That’s all well and good but it is still difficult to see how trials can be welcomed with an attitude of joy. Where do you go for help to understand this paradox.
Part 3: How to Welcome Trials with an Attitude of Joy?
Index of James Bible Study
Part 1 Who is James?
Part 2 When and to Whom Was James Written?
Part 3 How to Welcome Trials with an Attitude of Joy?
Part 4 What Does ‘Tempt’ Mean?
Part 5 What is the Key to Responding to Trials?
Part 6 Those with True Religion Should Serve
Part 7 Expression of the Character and Will of God Himself
Part 8 Spiritual Maturity
Part 9 Spiritual Maturity continued…
Part 10 What Causes Fights and Quarrels Among You?
Part 11 Is This How We Are To Be?
Part 12 What About My Plans?
Part 13 Let God be the Judge
Part 14 The Power of Prayer & Praise
Part 15 Summary and last part