The New Testament is our divinely inspired commentary on the Old Testament. When studying a passage, it’s often helpful to see how other biblical authors understood it. Here is James’ use of the Old Testament in his letter.
Sometimes we act as if finding God’s will is a version of the old 3-shell con game: where a marble is hidden under one shell and the con man moves them rapidly around the table and you have to guess which shell contains the marble. No matter which shell you pick you are always wrong. I would argue that the problem is not God hiding his will. The problem is the way we are looking for it.
James 5:12-20 is one of the most controversial passages in the book. Are we praying for one who is physically ill or one whose faith is weak?
In James 5:7-12, James begins concluding his letter with practical advice on how to get through the suffering of this life.
In James 4:13-5:6, James warns against the arrogant use of time, talent and wealth. James makes a deeper point than “let’s hear ‘if the Lord wills’ more often.” Notice his emphasis on boasting in your arrogance and knowing the right thing and not doing it.
In 4:11-12, James again confronts his readers with living what they believe. James warns not to judge others as if I have some moral superiority, when the gospel tells us we all need the same grace.
Fights and quarrels among believers are symptoms of a deeper problem of leaning on earthly wisdom rather than seeking God’s wisdom.
Operating with earthly wisdom comes easy and naturally to us. We have to seek God to gain godly wisdom. How, then, do we gain it?
Since Bible teachers presume to explain the word of God to others, James warns them to seriously consider the responsibility before seeking the job.
James 2:21-26 is the second half of the “problem” passage where it appears that the Apostles James and Paul disagree about how we are justified. The key to resolving the apparent contradiction is context. James and Paul are addressing two different questions.
James and Paul appear to contradict each other because they use the same vocabulary: faith, works and justification. Plus they both appeal to Abraham. But they use the same language in very different contexts to address different problems and answer different questions.
Judging by external appearance is at the heart of James 2:1-13. But James is not concerned with whether we are nice to people or not. James is raising a more profound question: how are you looking at the world?
God has identified the real problem in our lives and the only solution. But we easily deceive ourselves. The real issue is how are you going to respond to this message? Are you willing to hear God out?
The poor believer will be exalted. The rich unbeliever will be humiliated. It may seem the other way around right now, but if you understand the gospel, it should change your perspective.
Why would the God I’m counting on to me from my sin put me in a position where my faith is under fire? Is James serious about being joyful in the midst of hardships?