James is the brother of Jesus but doesn’t mention this ‚Äď only referring to himself as the servant of God; the bond-slave of Jesus Christ.
Although James cared about God’s teaching, he was an unbeliever of Christ for a large part of his life (John 7:5, Mark 3:21).
James believes in Jesus when the risen Christ appears to him (1 Corinthians 15:7). James was profoundly affected and later became leader of the Church in Jerusalem.
The book of James assumes that all readers are followers of Jesus Christ. Of 108 verses, 60 are commands. It is important to remember that Christianity is not moralism ‚Äď James tells Christians how to live in a godly way in light of what we have become in Christ. First we must accept the Saviour, then we can receive advice.
We must look at our brothers and sisters and be able to see qualities of Christ, the refining of godly character. Non-Christians looking in must be able to see this life lived out – to see the action that comes from being loved by God.
The doctrine of joy in trials
Count it only joy when you meet trials and times of testing, rather than looking at it as punishment or the absence of God.
The word ‘meet’ is not sufficient, we will be set upon by trials and they will be sudden and savage. Everybody who wants to live a life in Jesus will be persecuted (2Timothy 12). But we must find God’s purpose within the trial, rather than just praying that he remove it.
Trials might come in God calling us to hard things which might require the laying down of cherished things. Whether these sacrifices of our own desires are sinful or not, God is calling us to sonship and His intent is for us to receive the riches of Christ.
We must count it (the testing of faith) all joy because trials produce endurance/steadfastness. We gain stability in the place of anxiety and confusion. God wants to show us what we’re made of and to trust him in our time of testing. All things work together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
Difference between temptation and trial
Temptation and trial are similar in that they both mean ‘testing’.
Temptation is often associated with overstepping and being indulgent. God sees it as selling ourselves short and settling by not attaining to that which he has purchased for us. We must trust his ways, otherwise we will be left disappointed and bitter.
We are also tempted to doubt, fear and avenge. But His perfect love drives out fear.
There are two shades of testing. Trials test us to prove character and to show us what we’re made of. Temptation aims to disprove and tests us for destruction.
The Devil is the one who tempts us, but he can only do it with our own desires and with a door that we have left open. Do not give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:22).
Temptation can lead to sin and in doing so, will affect our view of God. We must repent and break the barrier that we have created with it.
1 Corinthians 10 ‚Äď God will not tempt us beyond what we can handle. He is sovereign and has control over everything, even the Devil. He does not commit evil but permits it to happen for His purposes.
Evil comes from ourselves and what man has done with his relationship with God. We ushered death into the heart of creation.
We have a will and our will may suggest ideas to us, but if we are in Christ, then our will is under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Tempted in every way but without sin
It was God’s will to lead Jesus into temptation and to test his resolve, but Jesus’ weapon was scripture. The words of God in the hands of his children are powerful.
Jesus experienced temptation to a far greater extent, we give in before it can fully take hold.
Because Jesus was tempted, we have a high priest who can identify with our struggles and walk us through them.
God wants to establish us; He is looking for progress and wants to restore and build us up. We must take action (Job 5:17-18).
Paul is challenging the Corinthians on wanting to have it both ways ‚Äď of wanting to have both God and their idols. This is typical of human nature ‚Äď wanting to have multiple gods ‚Äď but you can’t just switch gods when it‚Äôs convenient; God has a right to us and a right to be our God because He made us and He is the only true God. We are made to worship Him alone ‚Äď that‚Äôs where we find true life, that‚Äôs where life makes sense. Our relationship with God must be exclusive like a marriage ‚Äď God won’t accept other idols, otherwise it means we don’t really love God.
We also can’t use the line of ‚Äúbeing all things to all men‚ÄĚ or trying to be culturally relevant as excuses for idolatry. We may think it‚Äôs harmless but we allow idols to have power over us when we worship them.
Paul goes back to the Exodus of God‚Äôs people to make his point. He says that they did the right ‚ÄúChristian‚ÄĚ rituals ‚Äď once saved by God out of Egypt, they had their own equivalents of baptism and communion ‚Äď and yet God still overthrew them in the wilderness and all but 2 out of 2 million failed to fulfil their destiny, even though they still remained God‚Äôs people and didn’t go back to Egypt. We are foolish if we take that lightly.
Paul says that eternal life is something we need to ‚Äúlay hold‚ÄĚ of. We are saved ‚Äď by grace ‚Äď for a reason; we have a God-given purpose to fulfil. And the hurdle we fall at is tempation.
1. Be ready
Prepare to be tested. Be careful, don’t be cocky, because testing will come. Wake up!
Do not misunderstand or underestimate our enemy. 1 Peter 5:8 ‚Äď our enemy, the devil, wants to destroy us. He is real and he will use anything at all ‚Äď any desire or longing or thing we want ‚Äď as bait to lure us away from God‚Äôs purposes for us.
2. “Special case” syndrome
We so often make exceptions for ourselves, saying that we can handle certain temptations that others can’t, or that our circumstances excuse us from not giving into temptation because it is just to hard for us.
But obedience to God is always hard and any temptation we face is one common to man.
3. Hold fast to Scripture
This is the antidote to the devil‚Äôs lies, because when we give into temptation it means that we are believing the false promises of Satan and the false picture of the future that he presents.
The devil casts doubt on God in our minds and makes us distrust Him ‚Äď so we need to beat the devil‚Äôs promises with God‚Äôs promises.
Whenever we sin, we are effectively saying that we don’t trust God, but we need to know that God is faithful and that the one who is trustworthy is the one who hung on a cross for our sake.
4. God is in control
You are not ‚Äúgiving God a break‚ÄĚ when you give into temptation ‚Äď that is nonsense!
God allows the temptation to happen ‚Äď He knows how much we can handle and He always provides the grace we need to endure it.
God does not tempt us, He tests us ‚Äď to strengthen us. The devil tempts us to destroy us.
God cares so much about us ‚Äď He is our good Father.
5. It will end
The testing won’t go on forever ‚Äď God always has an escape (literally ‚Äúoutcome‚ÄĚ) ready for us at the right time.
The way to endure is to remember that God has an outcome prepared, that there is an end in sight.
Sometimes we think we can’t go on any more, but God gives us the grace to just get through one day at a time.
Jesus endured every temptation and endured the cross, and yet He really was abandoned ‚Äď for our sake, and so that we can endure and reign in life with Him, never being forsaken.
The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth, addressing (amongst other things) the issue that sex and marriage is somehow ‚Äúunspiritual‚ÄĚ, Paul rebukes the idea. This is relevant to us today because this thinking is still prevalent in modern Christianity ‚Äď that somehow marriage, sex and physical pleasure is ‚Äúwrong‚ÄĚ and unspiritual and shouldn‚Äôt be enjoyed. However, everything created by God is good (Genesis 1) and is to be enjoyed as long as we enjoy it as a gift from God rather than as a god itself. Also, Paul teaches that to forbid marriage is demonic teaching (1 Tim. 4).
Paul does have a place for singleness though. He agrees to an extent with the Corinthians that singleness is good, but for completely different reasons.
For those who are married ‚Äď it is important that they hear this message because they are part of the Body of Christ, and need to know what the Bible teaches about singleness.
Paul‚Äôs message to all is this: let each person lead the life he is in, the life God has called him to. We don‚Äôt necessarily need to change our situation in order to live for God, or alter our conditions in order to be more spiritual ‚Äď we can be pleasing to God, glorifying and worshipping Him in our current circumstances (marital state, job, etc). Think about the example of Joseph ‚Äď He served and glorified God when he was a slave, a prisoner, etc.
Why honour singleness?
1. Practical reasons (it‚Äôs a gift)
v.7 ‚Äď it is a gift from God, a blessing ‚Äď as is marriage.
The context of Paul‚Äôs letter – ‚Äėin view of the present distress‚Äô (v.26) – it made singleness a wise option.
Singleness is not a command from Paul, but a suggestion motivated by genuine compassion (v.25, v.40).
It does not mean that you will never be tempted, or that you will love every moment, or that you won‚Äôt struggle with loneliness ‚Äď but God does give grace for every season, and He always knows what He is doing with our lives.
Singleness is a precious season where it gets to be just you and God ‚Äď He cherishes that time He has with you.
It is not permanent.
It is a gift to be used for the Church. You are to use your gift (whether singleness or marriage) as a way of blessing the Body.
2. Spiritual/eternal reasons:
In the Old Testament, the emphasis was on marriage and child-bearing to maintain a legacy and be fruitful. Jesus changed all that ‚Äď we now leave an eternal/spiritual legacy.
Isaiah 53 ‚Äď Jesus is fruitful and has spiritual offspring, despite being single.
The spiritual family we are a part of is greater than any physical family.
Isaiah 56 ‚Äď we have a name better than sons or daughters.
Sexual freedom is supposed to bring liberty but instead it enslaves and controls people. We think that somehow our physical bodies are disconnected from the spiritual. We think that what we do with our bodies doesn‚Äôt affect us but it does. Jesus was a physical man after the resurrection and is now still a physical man.
The sexual act creates a union, we become one flesh. It is created to take place in a marriage relationship. Marriage itself is a foretaste of something greater, it points to our union with Christ, we are his bride. Also, sex points to something better, something greater. God created sex to point to the joy we‚Äôll experience in eternity with him. Knowing God is profound union, sex is a picture of that.
We should flee from sexual immorality and deal ruthlessly with temptation