a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:


Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,

whenever you face trials of many kinds,

because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, 

not lacking anything.”

(James 1:1-4, NIV)

James begins his letter following Jude[1], Peter[2] and Paul’s[3] form of: 1. writer introduction (“James”), 2. writer credentials (“a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”), 3. writers intended audience (“To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations”), and 4. generally some form of greeting (“Greetings.”).  As James addresses his audience as both of “the twelve tribes” (v. 1) and “my brothers and sisters” (v. 2) it can be concluded that James audience is composed of Jewish Christians. John MacArthur confirms that “twelve tribes” is “A common NT title for Jews (cf. Mat. 19:28; Acts 26:7; Rev. 7:4).”.[4] Regarding James’ structure and pacing, Luke T. Johnson notes that “Without any real transition from the greeting, James launches a series of admonitions.  Each takes the form of a second-person (1:2, 16, 19, 21, 22) or third person (1:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 13, 19) imperative.”[5]  Perhaps this quickly paced structure reveals a sense of urgency on the part of James to address his audience.

James 1-1-4 Commentary

James first encourages his audience to “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds,”( v. 2).  Notice that James not only assumes that the “brothers and sisters” (v. 2) in Christ will face trials, but that they will “face trials of many kinds” (v. 2).  Rather than elaborating on the various “kinds” (v. 2) of trials, James instead explains the reasoning behind his exhortation, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:3).  In this way, “trials” (v. 2) and “faith” (v. 3) are the causal factors of “perseverance” (v. 3).  Here James’ teaching seems to correspond with Paul’s teaching that, “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:2-3). While James does not explicitly mention “perseverance” (vv. 3-4) leading to “character” or “hope” (Romans 5:4), James does clearly teach that “perseverance” is needed “so that you may be mature and complete,” (v. 4).  To reinforce this idea James states that this completeness is total; in that, it is “not lacking anything.” (v. 4).  It is with this completeness in mind that the believer can honestly “consider it pure joy…whenever they “face trials of many kinds,” (v. 2).

[1] Jude 1:1-2.

[2] I Peter 1:1, II Peter 1:1.

[3] I Corinthians 1:1-3, II Corinthians 1:1-2, Galatians 1:1-3, Ephesians 1:1-2, Philippians 1:1-2, Colossians 1:1-2, I Thessalonians 1:1, II Thessalonians 1:1-2, I Timothy 1:1-2, II Timothy 1:1-2, Titus 1:1-4, Philemon 1:1-3.

[4] MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. p. 1881. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005.

[5] Johnson, Luke T. Harper’s Bible Commentary. p. 1272. Edited by James L. Mays. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.


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