Practical instructions from James: notes on practical Christianity Part A

Notes on Practical Christianity Part A


The book of James was 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 some terms such as ‘synagogue’ (2:2). It was 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. The heart might understand 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, there is nothing else to add to Scripture: Scripture is the final word and must be acted upon.

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 epithumia (ἐπιθυμίας) = 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, (2) 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 where lust and pride subvert a person: the tongue being the principle median sin. It highlights that it is useless to pretend to have an acquaintance with Christ when ones conduct does nothing to demonstrate his profession.

Key verses and words

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (1:22)

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

Key Principles

  • 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 (Leviticus 10:10). By works faith is made perfect.
    • Wisdom that is from above is first pure (3:17)
  • Man must control the tongue for it can do great damage – 3:10
  • Man must glorify God
    • For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 3:16
    • 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)
  • Prayer can accomplish much: The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16
  • We are waiting for the Lord – this needs patients 57. – See also 1 Thessalonians 4:16

Key actions

  • Faith – without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6)[1]
  • Doer of word (1:22, 1:23 )
  • Patience (5 times) 1:3, 1:4, 5:7, 5:10, 5:11
  • Control tongue (whole chapter – 3)
  • Deal with lust (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))
  • Show Love: ‘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 someone 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 2:18 (DNT)
    • For if Abraham was justified by (the principle of) works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. Romans 4:2
    • 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 13:2 (NKJV)

Key Warnings

  • 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 (2:26)
    • …Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?…  4:4
    • Man is not tempted by God 1:13. A person’s temptations arises out of his or her own lusts.

Principle actions

Be ye doers of the word (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 live the truth of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3)

Use the scripture for:

  • Doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • To make wise unto salvation (2 Tim 3:15)
  • Be a Berea and check all against scripture (Acts 17:10-13)
  • Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)
  • More powerful than a two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12)

Read the Bible every day – a person who is a doer of the word, ever hungers for more of the word to base his or her life on. Read, meditate, and do the word – always ask after reading a passage – how can I practically act upon the passage/text that I have read? How should I change my life to reflect the passage/text?

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 Corinthians 12:9)
  • Everyone presented perfect in Christ (Colossians 1:28)
  • Be perfect (complete) 2 Corinthians 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 (Hebrews 6:12) waiting for the inheritance (heaven)
  • 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 (1:6)

  • For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Colossians 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
  • Do 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 Thessalonians 4)

Key Blessings

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

  • We have reserved for us a place in heaven (Isaiah 62:3)
  • We have an incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9:25) – not 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 Timothy 4:8)
    • Crown of life – James, also Rev 2:10
    • Crown of glory that fadeth not away (1 Peter 5:4)
    • A crown that cannot be taken (Rev 3:11)

Practical applications

  • 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.(1:27)
    • We must abide in Him – that is love and obey God
    • 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)
    • Submit to God (4:7)
  • 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
  • Confess you faults one to another (5:16) – don’t boast (4:16)
  • Let him pray 5:13
    • In faith (5:15a)
    • … The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (5:16 KVJ)
  • Be merciful – requires faith and patience – (2:13)
  • 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)
  • Always plan for the coming of the Lord, for who knows what will happen tomorrow (4:13). Say “if the Lord wills”
  • 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.

Practical Questions

  1. How have you lived in the world? You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your …James 5:5?
    1. Does your conduct show your faith?
    2. Does your conduct show you abide in Christ?
    3. Does your conduct demonstrate obedience to God?
    4. Does you conduct show no evidence of price or lust or greed
  2. Do you pray today?
  3. Did you read the Scripture today and applied to your life?
  4. What have you done today that shows by your actions that you have faith
  5. Have you bridled the tongue today?

[1] But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6


David L Simon (First delivered in 2004 GBC, amended, updated and edited 2014)
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