This summary or outline of the book of James is extracted (with all permissions) from ‘The Bible Brief’ An overall summary of all 66 books & epistles that make up the Christian Bible.
It is an outline only of the short book or Epistle of James in the New Testament, recording as it does the main points in this short letter which was written by Jesus brother James, who was 1 of at least 4 brothers the others being Jude, Simon & Joses.
When James was Written: Around A.D. 45-48
Who wrote James: James (brother of Jesus)
People & Places of interest: Christ; James; Elijah
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3. knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (Ch.1:2-3)
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Ch.1:22)
“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (Ch.2:17)
“So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!” (Ch.3:5)
The Messianic Link: The Judge standing at the door (James 5:9)
James Summary: This book is written not to an individual church, but to Christians in general.
It begins by emphasizing the trials and temptations that will come, and the importance of ‘putting aside’ the old self, and adopting the new.
Chapter 2 gives teaching on the importance of not showing favouritism amongst certain members of the church; as well as emphasizing that faith without works is a dead faith.
Chapter 3 onwards instructs on Christian behaviour in regard to speech, avoiding jealousy, immorality and the misuse of wealth; especially the crime of withholding wages from the workers.
The book finishes with an exhortation to pray for the sick, and to confess their sins to one another.
Notes & Quotes:
The great reformer Martin Luther referred to this letter as ‘The epistle of straw,’ because he could not reconcile it with the Apostle Pauls teachings on salvation by faith alone.
The book of James seems to fly in the face of this doctrine, when he says that ‘faith without works is dead’ (Ch.2:26); the whole letter seems to emphasise this point, much to the detriment of ‘Pauls gospel.’
Many commentators say James advocates salvation or acceptance by God is not by Grace only – but also as a result of good works!
However, this is not the case, and is easily reconciled by considering that although Salvation is indeed by Grace and faith alone – according to a reading of the full Gospel in proper context – good works can be regarded as the outward sign of a living faith – though not necessarily evidence of it.
Does James Contradict Paul?
The Epistle of James highlights the need to practice your faith by living a proper life as a reflection of your inward beliefs. His appeal to the masses – Faith without works is dead! Exhorts believers to practice what they preach and to live out their Faith as a proper example to others.
This has nothing to do with salvation as such, and so does not contradict the Apostle Paul’s message to the Ephesians of salvation by Grace alone – and not works.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2: 8-10)
Unfortunately I have witness over the years many times when this ‘Gospel of Grace’ message is mixed up with the Old Testament Law in many churches that otherwise preach a good gospel message.
The Gospel of Grace mixed with the letter of the O.T Law produces a ‘mongrel gospel’ that will save no-one and condemn many along the way.
Paul warn Christians about mixing Grace with the Law and indeed refers to ‘The Law’; or the ten commandments as that ‘Ministry of death’ ( 2 Cor: 3: 7-9)
These are sobering teachings from the master himself warning about mixing Grace with Law for the New Testament Christian.
James himself would of course know this and so he does not preach against Grace as such, but rather to let everyone know by your general behavior and ‘works’ that you are indeed a follower of Jesus
James In a Nutshell:
The Epistle of James highlights the need to practice your faith by living a proper life as a reflection of your inward beliefs. His appeal to the masses – Faith without works is dead! Exhorts believers to practice what they preach and to live out their Faith accordingly.