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James 1 - Twelve Dispersed Tribes

INTRODUCTION: Stephen was one of the seven men approved by the apostles to serve as a deacon in the assembly of believers at Jerusalem. After he was martyred by unconverted Jews for his outspoken belief in Christ, violent persecution dispersed many believers away from Jerusalem, but they carried the gospel with them. I selected just a few brief passages from Acts that demonstrate the spread of the gospel to Jews, Samaritans, and even to Gentiles during the time of the apostles. However, the letter from James was specifically to Jews who had become followers of Christ.

NOTE: Bible passages are from the New Heart English Bible (NHEB).

A - ACTS DESCRIBES THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL REACHING BEYOND JERUSALEM

Acts 7 "54 Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 and said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" 57 But they shouted out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed at him with one accord. 58 They threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They stoned Stephen as he called out, saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" 60 He kneeled down, and shouted out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" When he had said this, he fell asleep."

Acts 8 "14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; 16 for as yet he had fallen on none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit."

Acts 10 "34 And Peter opened his mouth and said, "Truly I perceive that God does not show favoritism; 35 but in every nation he who fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him. 36 The word which he sent to the sons of Israel, proclaiming good news of peace by Jesus Christ - he is Lord of all - 37 that spoken word you yourselves know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; 38 even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses of everything he did both in the countryside of Judea, and in Jerusalem; whom they also killed, hanging him on a tree. 40 God raised him up the third day, and gave him to be revealed, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen before by God, to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to proclaim to the people and to testify that this is he who is appointed by God as the Judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him, that through his name everyone who believes in him will receive remission of sins." 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word. 45 They of the circumcision who believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was also poured out on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in other languages and magnifying God. Then Peter answered, 47 "Can any man forbid the water, that these who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we should not be baptized?" 48 He commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay some days."

COMMENTS: It was my intent to select above only portions of Acts to show that initially the apostles remained in Jerusalem when the violent persecution first followed Stephen's death, while that violence scattered abroad many believers. Then in time, the Samaritans, who were looked down upon by Jews because they had intermarried with Gentiles, received the gospel, and subsequently were approved by Peter and John. Finally, The Lord directly worked in Peter to open his heart to participate in the sharing of the gospel with Gentiles for their salvation. Later, back in Jerusalem, Peter made it clear that he had been instructed by the Lord to accept Gentiles coming to faith in Christ without the requirement of circumcision. I did not herein include that rather lengthy passage about the meeting in Jerusalem, recorded in Acts chapter 11, which resulted in the Jews who were there, giving glory to God for also granting Gentiles repentance to life, without circumcision.


B - A LETTER TO THE DISPERSED TWELVE TRIBES

James 1 "1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are in the Diaspora: Greetings. 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let that man not think that he will receive anything from the Lord. 8 He is a double - minded man, unstable in all his ways."

COMMENTS: James wrote this letter to be shared among those from the twelve tribes of Israel who had been dispersed: but the text does not indicate how or when it was distributed; nor does it identify which of the men named James wrote the letter. The first intended recipients would have been familiar with the author, but the readers of today would need sources other than the letter itself to reach a conclusion about his identity. As James opened his letter, he identified himself to be a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. He addressed his readers as brothers, indicating he was communicating to Jews who also had believed on Jesus as their Lord and Savior. So, as other believers over the years have the opportunity to read this letter, they should consider that temptations can bring joy if we learn to patiently endure as we resist and turn away. We need to remember that the Lord will supply that which we actually need in this present world; and we should honor him by rejecting what the world system offers contrary to his will for us. When we need wisdom to make decisions, we should pray to the Lord in faith, believing that he will answer by his grace. James wrote that the one who wavers in faith as he prays should not expect such a prayer to be answered. Jesus explained a parable to his apostles, with the fourth segment regarding the important way the seed of the Word of God should affect the heart of those who firmly believe in him, to bring forth fruit with patience.

Luke 8 "11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the road are those who hear, then the devil comes, and takes away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are they who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; but these have no root, who believe for a while, then fall away in time of temptation. 14 That which fell among the thorns, these are those who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 That in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it tightly, and bring forth fruit with patience."


C - TRUE FAITH LIFTS UP THE HUMBLE, AND HUMBLES THE PROUD

James 1 "9 But let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his high position; 10 and the rich, in that he is made humble, because like the flower in the grass, he will pass away. 11 For the sun arises with the scorching wind, and withers the grass, and the flower in it falls, and the beauty of its appearance perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in his pursuits. 12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which he promised to those who love him."

COMMENTS: Those who are in Christ have been given a high position that is not based on their standing in the present life. The humble are elevated and the rich are made humble before the Lord through the equalizing effect of grace upon those made in the image of God, who belong to the Lord for eternity. Those with supposed high position in the world need to remember that such glory is like the flower which blooms beautifully, but after a time it withers and passes away. The pleasure and delight to be experienced by believers whether humble or exalted on earth, should come from being lifted up by the Lord in ways not to be fully realized in this present world. So, the author returned to the theme of being blessed by enduring temptation: for when the time comes there will be an everlasting crown of life given as promised to those who have been approved by their demonstrated love of Christ.


D - MAN IS TEMPTED AND ENTICED AWAY FROM GOD BY HIS OWN LUST

James 1 "13 Let no man say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, nor turning shadow. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures."

COMMENTS: The author cautions believers to avoid saying at any time that temptation has come from the Lord, because that would be attributing to our faultless and totally righteous God an element of evil. Each person is tempted by the lust within them which has enticed; and if sin follows the enticement, sin can continue to grow to the point of bringing death. We should not allow ourselves to be deceived so as not to realize that every good and perfect gift comes from God. He is the Father of light and life, and in him there can be no vacillation, or even a slight shadow made by turning from his way. It was of His own will that he brought the first responsive readers of the letter from James to himself, and many others have followed since that early time period.


E - UNCONTROLLED ANGER IS NOT RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE GOD

James 1 "19 This you know, my beloved brothers. But let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he sees himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect Law of freedom, and continues, not being a hearer who forgets, but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious while he does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this man's religion is worthless. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

COMMENTS: The author says that even though they knew: he reminded his beloved brothers to be openly ready to hear, not too quick to speak, and not easily made angry. The anger within man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. Therefore, those who hear and accept the Word of God should consciously put away all manner of disgustingly foul behavior and wickedness, and instead receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to save our souls. When that Word of God has been placed within you, make use in your daily manner of living, the changes it has made. If you only say that you have received the Word of God, but there is no change in the way you live before the Lord, you are deceiving yourself. We now have in Christ the perfect law of freedom, and following after guidance from the Word will bring blessings. It is important to have careful control of the things you say to others, and especially what you may say about ANOTHER PERSON. An important part of living for God is to serve Him by serving others in ways that you are able to help them when they have needs. We Demonstrate THAT WE honor our God and Father by remaining unstained by the world which is no longer our true home.

- - - REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER - - -

Lord Jesus, I ask that you strengthen my faith so that my prayers will be guided by what I have read in your Word; and that I will be careful not to waver in my trust of your perfect will regarding any request I bring before you. Help me Lord, to think of myself and of other believers as having our greatest reward in your grace that has been freely given, and not in the possession of any of the many different levels of society that can affect each person's self - esteem. I believe that all people should realize they need to be humble before an almighty God. I admit my weakness in the flesh that makes me subject to selfish or lustful desires that draw me away from my Savior. I offer my praise that you Lord Jesus have taken such sins upon yourself in my place, to allow me to draw closer to you. I praise you Lord because through your Word and your Holy Spirit within me, I have resorces to resist those times when I would otherwise display unnecessary and harmful anger. Amen.

Published 7 March 2020