James 1-5 – An Overview

This is an overview of the book of James paying special attention to the portions of scripture where James addresses them as “my brethren” or “brethren.” A great sermon outline for you preachers and teachers. It’s significant that James chooses to address these believers as brethren. He could have asserted his authority as the brother of the Lord, the pastor of the mother church in Jerusalem, and the one who was used in the gift of wisdom at the first church counsel to settle a division and dispute that had risen (Acts 15:29).

Instead of asserted his authority and position over them he places himself on their level. Those who have been called of God in full time ministry must understand we are taken from among men and have the same weaknesses and frailty of the flesh as everyone else (Hebrews 5:1-2). Therefore, we must relate to those to whom we are ministering on their level.

On the other hand, we must look to those who are ministering to us with reverence and respect. Not that they are better than us or somehow have a more direct connection with God than us but because of their calling and office. “We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour” (Romans 13:7). “No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God” (Hebrews 5:4).

References to My Brethren or Brethren

  1. Trials and testings. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2). We may or rather will experience various trials and testing in this life of faith. When we do fall into a trial or test, we must count it all joy.
  2. Error and deception. “Do not error (be deceived), my beloved brethren” (James 1:16). The devil is a deceiver and has been from the very beginning (Genesis 3:1-7). His efforts of deception are escalating in these last days, to deceive the very elect if possible (Matthew 24:24). It is, therefore, imperative that we “search the scriptures daily whether those things are so” (Acts 17:11). Additional scriptures: 2 Corinthians 4:4-6, 2 Corinthians 11:3-5, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, Galatians 1:6-9, Galatians 3:1-3, 1 John 2:18-27, 1 John 4:1-6.
  3. Listening verses speaking. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). It’s interesting that we have two ears and only one mouth. It would do most of us good if we would listen twice as much as we talk.
    1. Communication. Proverbs 18:13.
    2. Teachable spirit. Proverbs 9:8-9.
    3. Anger. James 1:20; Proverbs 29:11, Ephesians 4:26.
  4. Partiality. “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons” (James 2:1). “For there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:11).
    1. Racial partiality. Moses verses Arron and Miriam (Numbers 12).
    2. Religious snobbery. Acts 10.
    3. Diversity in fellowship. James 2:1-9, 1 Corinthians 11:17-22.
  5. Harkening. “Hearken, my beloved brethren” (James 2:5). This has to do with listening and giving head to what we hear. We must have a attentive and listening ear to the voice of God. We must position ourselves thus when hearing the Word of God preached and proclaimed, when reading and studying His Word, and when listening to voice and leading of the Spirit. Additional scriptures: Matthew 25:29, John 7:17, Hebrews 3:7-13.
  6. Works verses faith. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him” (James 2:14).
    1. Context. James 2:14-26
    2. James verses Paul. Paul claimed we are saved by faith alone apart from works and here James seems to claim the opposite. They weren’t contradicting each other but rather were back to back fighting opposite foes.
    3. John Calvin. “It is faith alone that saves but faith that saves is not alone.”
  7. Teachers. “My brethren, be not many masters (teachers), knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1). He was not saying we shouldn’t have teachers. God has given teachers to the church “for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). James is saying we must take our responsibility as teachers seriously. We will one day give an account for what we teach, therefore, as teachers we must “”Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

    “Greater Condemnation” or judgement not only refers to being held to a higher standard for what we teach but also the scrutiny of men. Men will critique and criticize every thing we say and teach. When we take on the mantle of a teacher we must be prepared to be judged and condemned by man. Not every voice will be encouraging. Many voices will be discouraging rather than uplifting.

  8. The use of the tongue. In addressing the misuse of the tongue and what comes out of our mouths James writes, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10).
    1. Offense. James 3:2.
    2. Untamed tongue. James 3:3-8.
    3. Blessing and cursing. James 3:9-10, Ephesians 4:29.
    4. Source. James 3:11-12, Luke 6:45.
  9. Speaking evil of one another. “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge” (James 4:11). Additional scriptures: Matthew 7:1-3, Romans 14:4, 10-12.
  10. The Coming of the Lord. “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5:7-8).
    1. The return of the Lord is nigh! “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11).
    2. The end time harvest is nigh! “Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month” (Joel 2:23). The former rain is what germinates the seed and the latter rain is what brings in the harvest. The farmer waits patiently for the harvest to come in, but Joel tell us that there’s coming a time when the former and the latter rain will both come in the first or same month. From the time the seed is planted to the time the harvest comes in will take place all at once. Praise the Lord!
  11. Don’t hold grudges. “Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door” (James 5:9). Never hold a grudge! All bitterness must be eradicated from our lives (Hebrews 12:15; Colossains 3:13; Ephesians 4:31-32).
  12. Endurance in affliction. “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience” (James 5:10). If we’ll be patient the Lord will bring us through every time of affliction with overcoming victory (James 5:11 and Job 42:10).
  13. Swear not. “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation” (James 5:12). Be a man of your word! If you say something, do it. If you make a promise, keep your promise. Simply, do what you say.
  14. Converting the sinner. “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
    1. The backslider or the lost. Matthew 18:3, Acts 3:26.
    2. The wayward. Matthew 9:36-39, Luke 15:1-32.
    3. Doctrinal error. Acts 20:29-30, 2 John 7-11, Romans 16:17.

With over 40 years of church planting and ministry experience, and doctorate degrees in apologetics, theology, and church development, Dr. Linton’s passion is to equip, encourage and strengthen pastors and their churches. Watch his latest messages on YouTube.