Practical Godliness - the letter by James

Some notes on practical godliness

Written by James the brother of Christ, from Jerusalem, to the Jews scattered amongst the gentiles. He writes to all Jews.

The book is Jewish in character, seen in the use of such terms as synagogue (2:2),  written to Jews who had yet to learn of the fullness of the mystery of the grace of God, as portrayed in the church: the unfolding of this truth is revealed by Paul.

In essence the book lowers man, demands that pride and lust are done away with and trust is placed entirely in God. Faith is constantly referred to in an open and practical way. If the heart understands faith, the author of this epistle wants to see it. A Christian must pray in faith, he must act in faith, having dependence in Christ, and must display his faith in his obedience to God, using the Word of God as the source of the counsels of God. James assumes the Christian is fully equipped.

Contrary to faith, or waring against it, James highlights two prongs of attack:

(1) lust that leads to sin (this is man controlled), and

(2) boasting which can fall a man.

Lust or evil desire (NIV) James highlights in 1:14 and 1:15 and 4:2 (NIV uses the weak "want" – the Greek epithumeoô = long for, set your heart upon)

James also refers to three laws:

(1) the Law of Moses , which can but condemn (2:10),

(2) the royal law (2:8), that is love,

(3) and the perfect law of liberty (1:25): that is when a person so commanded desires to do the thing commanded, he is at perfect liberty – indeed pleasing himself whilst obeying the command.

The book is highly practical, giving ways to deal with avenues of lust and pride that subverts a man or women: the tongue being the principal medium of sin. It highlights that it is useless to pretend to have an acquaintance with Christ when ones conduct does nothing to demonstrate this profession.

Key verses and words

Be ye doers of the word (1:22)

The book of James is a practical book, taking faith as its key theme, and demanding that a man or women who says he is saved must demonstrate it in his daily walk or actions.


Faith – without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6)

Be doer of the word which means obeying God(1:22, 1:23 )

Patience (5 times) 1:3, 1:4, 5:7, 5:10, 5:11

Control tongue (whole chapter – 3)

Lust to be done away with (1:14, 1:15 and 4:2)

Boast not (3:14, 4:16)

Love (promises to those that love the Lord 1:12, 2:5 & part of law (2:8))

But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me (your) faith without (your) works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (2:18)

But some one will say, Thou hast faith and I have works. Shew me thy faith without works, and I from (the principle of) my works will shew thee my faith. James 218 (DNT)

For if Abraham was justified by (the principle of) works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. Romans 42

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 132 (NKJV)


But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  (1:14)

Keep self unspotted (1:27)

But if you show favouritism (partiality, respect to persons), you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (2:9) (NIV)

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also


…Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?…  4:4

Man is not tempted by God 1:13. His temptations arises out of his own lusts. iHi

Key Actions

Principal action

Be ye doers of the word [Bible] (1:22) – James uses it 2:8, 2:23, 4:5

Paul reasoned from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2), as did Peter to the eunuch (Acts 8)

That we might have hope (Roman 15:4)

That we might have the truth of the Gospel (1 Cor 15:3)

The Bible makes one wise unto salvation (2 Tim 3:15)

The Bible is for Doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16)

Be a Berean Acts 17:10-13 – check the scriptures for proof

The Word is the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)

The Word is more powerful than a two edged sword (Heb 4:12)

Love – to keep His commandments (1 John5:3)

Other actions

Be perfect (1:4, 1:17, 1:25, 2:22, 3:2) – this requires patience

Our way is made perfect by God (Psalm 18:32)

My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9)

Everyone is (will be) presented perfect in Christ (Col 1:28)

Be perfect (complete) 2 Cor 13:11.

Be patient (1:3 5:7) produced by faith, wait for the coming of the Lord

Don’t be lazy but be patient (Heb 6:12) waiting for the inheritance

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (1:21)

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105 (KJV)

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (1:16)

For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; :10and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Col 2:9-10

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; (1:19)

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (1:21)

Keep himself unspotted from the world (1:27)

Show faith with works (2:18)

Walk wisely, be of good conduct

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. (3:13)

Therefore submit to God. (4:7a)

Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (4:7b)

Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Ephesians 6:11

Humble yourselves 4:10

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17

For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,"
Says the Lord.
'But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word. Isaiah 66:2

:11Do not speak evil of one another, brethren.. (4:11)

Wait for the Lord (5:7b) – patiently (5:8)

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:25-26

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, Philippians 3:20 (See also 1 Thess 4)

Key Blessings

A crown of life is promised him that loveth the Lord (1:12)

1.     A place in heaven (Isaiah 62:3)

2.     An incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9:25) – the choice is an earthly corruptible crown or an everlasting crown in heaven. Paul knew there was a crown laid up for him – a crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:8)

3.     A crown of life – James, also Rev 2:10

4.     A crown of glory that fadeth not away (1 Peter 5:4)

5.     A crown that cannot be taken (Rev 3:11)

Practical applications

1.      Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

2.      (1:27)

3.      Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (4:8).

4.      Submit to God (4:7)

5.     Abide in Christ (John 15)

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. John 8:31

Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning…1 John 2:24

6.      Pray always (let him pray 5:13), Luke 18:1, 21:36 (Pray always) as Paul did (2 Thess 1:11)

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 1 John 5:14

7.      Be without wrath or doubting (1 Timothy 2:8)

8.     Have faith (5:15a)

9.      … The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (5:16KVJ)

10.  Pray for our leaders and people in authority (2 Timothy 2:1)

11.  Confess you faults one to another (5:16) – don’t boast (4:16)

12.  Be merciful – requires faith and patience - 2:13

13.  Be careful what you say and how you say it. The tongue must be controlled (3:10), we should not speak evil of one another (4:11)

14.  Always plan for the coming of the Lord, for who knows what will happen tomorrow (4:13), therefore always say "if the Lord wills".

15.  Be careful who your friends are – friendship with the world is enmity with God – if you cannot pray with that "friend" then they cannot be such a friend – 4:4.

16.  Read the Bible everyday – a person who is a doer of the word, ever hungers for more of the word to act upon. Read, meditate, and do the word – always ask after reading a passage – who can I practically act upon the passage/text that I have read. How should I change my life to reflect the passage/text.



Faith is the essence of a Christian life, evidenced by the walk of that person. The works one does - not out of an attempt to be saved, but out of reverence and submission to Christ – glorifies God (Lev 10:10). By works faith is made perfect.

For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 3:16

Wisdom that is from above is first pure (3:17)

Elijah was a man just like us, and had every weakness as we do, yet his effective fervent prayer stopped the rain for 3 years! (5:17)

Man must control the tongue for it can do great damage - 3:10

Man must glorify God

By good conduct (a good life NIV) a person can show his works are done in meekness of wisdom – the hallmark of a Christian (3:13)

Be sober, watch and pray (1 Peter 4:7)

If one brother or sister turns a fellow believer from his errant ways, he has prevented an entire cascade of sin, because a sin of one does not effect only one, but many (5:20)

And if one member suffers (in the congregation) all the members (of the congregation) suffer with it; or if one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Corinthians 12:26 (NKJV)

Prayer can accomplish much.

Incense of the Saints in heaven Rev 5:8

Continue steadfastly Romans 12:12

Will save the sick (James 5:15)

Can avail much – be effective (James 5:16) – see also Daniel, Nehemiah etc

Be regular – morning, midday and evening David prayed (Psm 55:17)

For those who spitefully use you (Matt 5:44) – Also see Matt 6:5 etc

We are waiting for the Lord – this needs patients 5:7. – See also 1 Thess 4:16


Practical Questions

1.      How have you lived up to now?

2.      You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; ?ames 55

3.      Do you pray?

4.      Did you read the Scripture today? Have you acted upon the Word today?

5.      What have you done today that shows by your actions that you have faith

6.      Have you bridled the tongue today?



Verses with out book title is James, NKJV unless otherwise stated. All other Scripture is referenced by Book (NKJV).

David L Simon
CCC (in two parts) and GB  (Oct 2004)
\James\James – practical godliness