When you study the Book of James, you are learning rich theological truths and practical applications to go with those truths. Read through the entire Book of James in one sitting before starting to really study it. During your initial reading, note any repeated themes or ideas. Notice the themes of faith and works, wisdom, impartiality and justice.
Understanding the Context
The Book of James is a New Testament epistle. It is a letter written by James, the brother of Jesus, most likely to the Jewish Christians outside of Palestine. Understanding that this letter was written by someone who knew Jesus personally to people who were already Christians should inform your understanding and reading of this letter. James had firsthand knowledge of Jesus and his teachings and was writing to a group of professing believers.
Understanding the Purpose
Since the Book of James was written to believers, the primary purpose of this letter was not to bring about belief. Instead, it was intended to address issues of partiality and inactive faith in the churches to whom it was written. As you study James, note that James was not advocating that followers do good works as a means of boosting their faith. Instead, he was reminding his readers what their lives, as followers of Jesus, should look like.
The Structure of James
James wastes no time jumping into the practical parts of living out the Christian faith. He writes a short salutation, and then dives into how to survive the trials of life that befall believers. While studying James, take note of how much practicality James packs into such a short book. There is little to distract you from James' main points. So study with your focus on action, as James is a book of the Bible that is meant to be applied.
Applications from the Book
Keeping in mind James' original audience, consider how this letter would have applied to them as they dealt with factions in the church and believers living in worldliness. You can then begin to draw applications for yourself, or other believers today, in light of the original intent of the letter. After you read and study the Book of James, you should understand real-life lessons regarding the importance of suffering, taming your tongue, gaining wisdom through the daily trials of life and avoiding partiality.
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