BibleProject New Testament Series - Lesson 26

James - BibleProject

In this lesson, you will gain an understanding of the Book of James, a powerful work that combines the wisdom of Jesus' teachings and the Book of Proverbs. You will learn about James' background and his role as the leader of the Jerusalem Church, which faced challenges such as poverty and persecution. The structure of the book consists of twelve short teachings, exploring themes like faith and works, the power of words, wealth and poverty, and the importance of wisdom and wholeness. Ultimately, James calls on followers of Jesus to live in accordance with the "Perfect Torah of Freedom" – the command to love God and love your neighbor.

Taught by a Team
Taught by a Team
BibleProject New Testament Series
Lesson 26
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James - BibleProject

BP150-26: The Book of James

I. Background and Context of James

A. James' Name and Identity

B. James as Leader of the Jerusalem Church

C. Challenges Faced by the Jerusalem Church

II. Structure and Literary Features of James

A. Combination of Letter and Wisdom Literature

B. Influences from Jesus' Teachings and the Book of Proverbs

C. 12 Short Teachings in Chapters 2-5

III. Themes and Message of James

A. Faith and Works

B. Power of Words

C. Wealth, Poverty, and Social Status

D. Wisdom and Wholeness

E. The Perfect Torah of Freedom

  • You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the literary design, purpose, themes, and messages of each book in the New Testament, including the four Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, epistles of Paul, general epistles, and the book of Revelation.
  • You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the book of Matthew 1-13 through this lesson, including the literary design of the book, the flow of thought in each chapter, and the key themes and events. The lesson highlights the importance of Jesus' role in bringing God's kingdom to earth and inviting his disciples into a new way of life.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the Gospel book of Matthew through an overview of the first 13 chapters. You will learn how Matthew presents Jesus as the king who brings God's kingdom to earth, and how his disciples are invited to participate in this new way of life through his death and resurrection. You will also discover the central theme of the kingdom of God in Matthew, its relationship with the Church, and the call to discipleship and obedience.
  • Gain insight into the book of Mark's literary design and flow of thought, as well as Jesus' role as Israel's Messiah, inaugurating God's kingdom through his suffering, death, and resurrection.
  • By studying the Gospel of Luke, you will gain knowledge of the authorship, purpose, themes, and literary features of the Gospel, as well as a deep understanding of Luke 1-2, which narrates the miraculous births of John the Baptist and Jesus and provides models of faith and obedience. You will discover how Luke emphasizes the universality of God's love and the role of the Holy Spirit in empowering Jesus and his followers.
  • Luke's Gospel portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of God's promises told in the Old Testament, bringing the good news of God's kingdom to the poor, teaching his disciples about prayer, trust, and generosity, continuing his mission to the poor and social outsiders, celebrating God's mercy for the lost and the tragic resistance of Israel's leaders, and ultimately dying on the cross as an embodiment of God's love and mercy.
  • In the Gospel of John, the first half of the book tells stories of Jesus performing miraculous signs that lead to controversy, culminating in the raising of Lazarus and his rejection by Israel's leaders, all of which prepare us to understand Jesus as the Messiah, teacher of Israel, and Son of God who offers a new quality of life through belief in Him.
  • You will gain insights into Jesus' ministry and teachings, including the seven signs of Jesus' public ministry and his private ministry, which include the washing of the disciples' feet, farewell discourse, and high priestly prayer.
  • This lesson provides comprehensive insight into the introduction and context of the book of Acts, the early church in Jerusalem, and the gospel going to the Gentiles.
  • You will learn about the book of Acts, covering chapters 13-28, which includes Paul's missionary journeys, the Jerusalem Council, and his journey to Rome, and learn about the debates and decisions made by the apostles and elders, as well as gain insights into Paul's ministry and travels.
  • In Paul's Letter to the Romans, he explains how the gospel reveals God's righteousness, creates a new humanity fulfilling God's promise to Israel, and unifies the church, with chapters one through four laying the foundation for understanding the rest of the letter, which emphasizes that all humanity is hopelessly trapped in sin and needs to be rescued through faith in Jesus.
  • In Paul's letter to the Romans, he explores the idea that all humanity is trapped in sin and needs to be rescued through Jesus' death and resurrection, and that being in the family of Abraham means being a part of a new humanity that God is creating through Jesus and the Spirit, with the purpose of rescuing and renewing all of creation.
  • Explore 1 Corinthians to gain insights into complex problems faced by the church and how Paul responds through the gospel. Learn about unity, sexual integrity, love, worship order, and the resurrection as the foundation of hope in the future. Understand the gospel's application to all aspects of life.
  • In 2 Corinthians, you will learn about Paul's efforts to reconcile with the Corinthians, address their forgotten generosity, and confront the "super apostles" who undermine his authority, revealing the paradox of the cross and its implications for a transformed life.
  • You will gain an understanding of the background, context, and content of Galatians, including the false teaching that prompted Paul's letter, his defense of his gospel and authority, the role of the law in God's promise to Abraham, and the importance of living by the Spirit and bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Gain insights into the book of Ephesians, which emphasizes the creation of unified, ethnically diverse communities through devotion to Jesus and each other.
  • This lesson on Philippians will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of its background, authorship, themes, literary features, detailed analysis of each chapter, and significance in Christian theology and impact on the church.
  • By studying Colossians, you will gain understanding of the book's authorship, background, and theological themes such as Christology, spiritual maturity, and the new humanity in Christ and how to practically apply the teachings of Colossians to the church and daily life.
  • By studying this lesson on the book of 1 Thessalonians, you will gain understanding of its background, themes, purpose, literary features, and application. You will learn about the historical and cultural relevance of the book and its personal and spiritual significance for us today.
  • You will gain an understanding of the background, purpose, and themes of 2 Thessalonians, as well as an in-depth exegesis of the text. The application of the book to historical and cultural contexts, as well as its relevance for today, is also explored.
  • This lesson provides comprehensive insights into the book of 1 Timothy, including its background, themes, and significance in the New Testament, such as its contribution to understanding church leadership and worship, the historical context of the early church, and its application for modern church life.
  • In 2 Timothy, Paul writes to Timothy from prison, urging him to stay strong in the face of persecution and to confront corrupt teachers who are causing problems in the church in Ephesus.
  • This lesson on the book of Titus provides a comprehensive understanding of its background, authorship, purpose, structure, themes, and significance, enabling you to appreciate its contributions to the New Testament, its impact on the original audience, and its relevance to the Church today.
  • Gain insights into Paul's letter to Philemon about forgiveness and reconciliation with his runaway slave, challenging assumptions about social justice and inequality, and highlighting Paul's commitment to pastoral care and reconciliation.
  • This lesson on Hebrews covers the authorship, purpose, literary genre, Christology, eschatology, and theology of the book, providing insights into Jesus as the Son of God, High Priest, and Perfect Sacrifice, the concept of Rest, Warning Passages, and the Superiority of Christ and the New Covenant, the Importance of Faith and Obedience, and the Perseverance of the Saints.
  • In the Book of James, you will explore the wisdom of Jesus' teachings and the Book of Proverbs, examining themes such as faith and works, the power of words, wealth, poverty, and wisdom, ultimately learning to live according to the "Perfect Torah of Freedom."
  • Through participating in this lesson, you will learn about 1 Peter, including information on its authorship and date, recipients and purpose, theological themes, literary features, and application. The lesson covers the book's historical and cultural context, as well as its contemporary relevance, and provides insights into how it speaks to topics such as suffering and glory, holiness and ethics, and Christology and salvation.
  • You will gain understanding of the book of 2 Peter, including its authorship, date, and literary context, as well as its theological themes, interpretation, and application. By studying 2 Peter, you will learn about false teachers and their destruction, the day of the Lord, the second coming of Christ, the certainty of God's promises, and the importance of godly living in contemporary Christian life.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the letters of John, including their historical and cultural context, authorship, purpose, literary features, themes, and messages, as well as their significance in the New Testament.
  • The book of Jude emphasizes the importance of contending for the Christian faith and exposes corrupt teachers, using both biblical and non-biblical Jewish texts as examples, ultimately highlighting that obedience to Jesus is the true indicator of genuine belief.
  • You will gain a deeper understanding of the book of Revelation, including its historical and literary context, authorship, purpose, and genre, as well as its structure, themes, and images. Additionally, you will be introduced to different interpretive approaches and learn how to apply the book to your personal life, the church, and culture.
  • This lesson provides an understanding of the book of Revelation, including its structure, content, symbolism, interpretive approaches, message, and relevance, helping you to gain insight into the nature of God, the victory of Christ, the role of the church, and the end of history.

BP150-26 - James

The letter of James, or at least that's his name in English. If you look in the Greek, you will see that his name is Jacobus, which translates his Hebrew name, Yaakov. And that's why most ancient and modern translations render his name as Jacob. That's what we're going to call him in this video. Now, there are many. Jacob's in the New Testament. Two of them belong to Jesus, his inner circle of the 12 disciples. But this letter comes from Jacob, who was the half-brother of Jesus himself. Now, we learned this Jacob story from the Book of Acts and from Paul's letters. After Peter moved on from Jerusalem to go start new churches. Jesus, his half-brother, Jacob, rose to prominence as a leader in the Mother Church in Jerusalem. It was made up mostly of messianic or Christian Jews. This was the first Christian community ever, and we know that it fell on hard times during the 20 years that Jacob was its leader. There was a famine that led to great poverty in the region, and these messianic Jews were being persecuted by Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. But through it all, Jacob was known as a pillar of the Jerusalem Church. He was also known as a peacemaker who led with wisdom and courage until he was tragically murdered. And in this book, we have the legacy of Jacob's teaching and wisdom condensed into a short and very powerful work. The book begins like a letter. He greets all the messianic Jews who were living outside the land of Israel. But this does not read like one of Paul's letters, where he addresses specific problems in one local church. Rather, this book is a summary of Jacob's sage wisdom for any and every community of Jesus, and his followers. And Jacob's goal isn't to teach new theological information. Rather, he wants to get into your business and challenge how you live. Jacob's wisdom has been heavily influenced by two sources. The first is Jesus's teaching about life in the Kingdom of God, especially the Sermon on the Mount, which is constantly echoing and quoting in the book. The second key influence is the Biblical wisdom book of Proverbs, especially the poems and Proverbs one through nine. Jacob literally grew up with Jesus and with the Book of Proverbs. And so now his own teaching sounds like them. It's stamped by their language and imagery. The book consists of short, challenging wisdom, speeches that are full of metaphors, and easy-to-memorize one-liners. And in essence, Jacob is calling the messianic community to become truly wise by living, according to Jesus's summary of the Torah, to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. The body of the book is in chapters two through five, which consist of 12 short teachings that call God's people to wholehearted devotion to the way of Jesus. And altogether they don't develop one main idea in a linear way. Each teaching kind of stands alone and concludes with a catchy one-liner. But all of these teachings are connected through key repeated words and themes. That's really cool. At the opening of the book's body, there are two teachings First, about favoritism and love. Jacob exposes how we tend to show favor to people who can benefit us, and we neglect people who can't, usually because they're needy. Jacob says this is the opposite of love as Jesus defined it. He goes on to show what genuine faith does and does not look like. So if someone says that they have faith in God but neglects people who are needy or poor, this person's faith is dead. He says their actions betray what they say they believe, and genuine faith always results in obedience to Jesus' teachings. Now, scattered throughout the body of the book, we find three different places where Jacob develops Jesus, his own teaching about our words. So with the same mouth, we unleash pain upon people and then go offer praise to God. So messed up. And also we judge people and then go talk badly about them behind their backs. And we also all tend to distort the truth to our own advantage. How we talk about people opens up a window into our hearts and our core values. Our words tell the real truth about our character. Jacob also believes that God's kingdom community, as Jesus taught about it, is the kind of place where the divisions created by wealth and social status are dismantled. So he warns first about the arrogance that wealth can create and people who believe it will be around forever. He says to know your wealth will one day rot just like you. In contrast, God's people are to live with patience and hope for Jesus's return to set all things right. And this should inspire a life, a faith-filled prayer. Now, in this part of the book, all of these teachings are so powerful and there's way more than we have time for in this video. But seriously, read all of them. And slowly. Now, placed in front of these 12 wise teachings is the introductory chapter. It's a flowing stream of wise teachings and one-liners, and they're designed, to sum up the main ideas of the entire book. This chapter actually introduces you to all the keywords. Some themes that you're going to meet are in chapters two through five. Jacob opens by saying that he knows from personal experience life is hard. He was martyred after all. Not long after writing this letter. But he believes that life's trials and hardships are actually paradoxical gifts that can produce endurance and shape our character. God can do amazing work inside of us in the midst of suffering and help us become perfect and complete. Now that we're perfect, it's really important for Jacob. He repeats it seven times in the book in biblical Hebrew and in Greek. This word refers to wholeness. It means living a completely integrated life where your actions are always consistent with the values and beliefs that you've received from Jesus. Jacob knows that most of us actually live as fractured people with big inconsistencies in our character. We are all more compromised than we want to admit. However, God is on a mission to restore fractured people, to make them whole. And it begins with wisdom. The ability to see my hardships through a new perspective. God will generously give this kind of wisdom to people who ask for it in faith without doubting God's character. And when we realize our humble and frail place before God, we are forced to choose between anxiety or trust. And true wisdom means choosing to believe that God is good, despite my circumstances. So if it's poverty that's forcing you into hard times in life, Jacob says, try and view it as a gift that forces you to trust in God alone. And besides, wealth is fleeting. It's all going to pass away like wildflowers in the summer heat. And so when we do fall into hard times, don't accuse God. Rather, let your circumstances teach you what Jesus taught about God's character, that the Father is generous, that he's there to meet us in our pain and that he's trustworthy. It's this God who, through Jesus, has given us a new birth to become new kinds of humans who can face their suffering with total trust in the Father, just like Jesus did. And this new humanity is something we discover when we not only listen to God's Word but do what it says. Jacob calls God's Word here the perfect Torah of freedom. He's referring here to the greatest command of the Torah, as passed on to us through Jesus, that He freed us to love God and love our neighbor. And Jacob shows practically what that kind of love looks like. It means speaking to others in a kind and loving way. It means serving the poor, and it means living with wholehearted devotion to God alone. Now you can see how this opening chapter contains all the keywords and ideas explored more deeply in the 12 teachings of chapters two through five. Jacob immersed himself in the wisdom of Jesus and of the Proverbs, and He's given us a great gift in this book of his own wisdom. This is a beautifully crafted punch in the gut for those who want to follow Jesus. And that is what the Book of James or Jacob is all about.