FROM THE PASTOR'S STUDY
Prerequisites for Understanding James
by Darrel Cline
:In order to understand James we must understand five factors that generate understanding.
- I. The Theological factor: Distinguishing James from Paul.
- A. The setting behind Paul's letter to the Galatians and his message to them.
- 1. Written primarily to Gentiles.
- a. Used to the libertinism of impersonal polytheism.
- b. Aware of the dead-end of self-centered liberty.
- c. Basically ignorant of law-oriented religion.
- 2. Written to stop the movement from grace to legalism.
- a. Everyone knows behavior must change before life can result.
- b. Changes must conform to an external standard.
- c. Changes must have a power source.
- B. The setting behind James' letter to the dispersed Jews and his message to them.
- 1. Written exclusively to Jews.
- a. Used to legal religion.
- b. Aware that law is a dead-end.
- c. Ignorant of libertinism as a world view.
- 2. Written to stop the movement from grace to libertinism.
- a. Salvation is by grace apart from works.
- b. Law had been set aside as a means to life.
- c. Freedom was misconstrued to mean license.
- II. The Historical factor: the Events Behind the Message.
- A. The time frame: Acts 2 - 10.
- B. The event frame:
- 1. The death of Ananias and Sapphira.
- 2. The self-induced poverty for others' sakes.
- 3. The ostracism by the majority culture.
- 4. The suffering of physical deprivation.
- III.The Literary factor: James' Structure in His Message.
- A. General appeal for correct theology in face of trials: 1:1-27 & 5:7-20.
- B. Specific confrontation of poverty-generated "security" issues: 2:1-26.
- C. Specific confrontation of ostracism-generated "status" issues: 3:1-18.
- D. Specific confrontation of conflict-generated "gratification" issues: 4:1-5:6.
- IV. The Subject factor: James' Basic Subject. "How to properly respond to trials"
- V. The Complement factor: James' Basic Claim. "The only proper response is determined believing"