Was James Written to Believers?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Marcia, Aug 16, 2008.

  1. Marcia

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    This came up on another thread (can't recall which one, but it wasn't the topic).

    A couple of people said the book of James was written to Jews (I am not sure if they meant believers or not), and at least one person said it was written to both believers and unbelievers.

    I have been under the impression that James was written to believers -- to the "twelve tribes" (James 1.2), which referred to Jewish believers, according to what I've read. James is compared to the wisdom literature of the OT, like Proverbs, and is tied in with the Sermon on the Mount.

    In reading James, I do not for the life of me see how it's written to unbelievers.

    So what do you think? If you think it was not written to believers, what evidence is there for that?
     
  2. canadyjd

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    James seems to be concerned with what authenic faith "looks like", if you will. He addresses those who have confessed Christ, but it is obvious he allows for the possibility that some may not be saved, based on how they are living their lives.

    peace to you:praying:
     
  3. Jim1999

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    The majority attribute the letter to James, the brother of Jesus. He later became the bishop or chief pastor of the church at Jerusalem. James 1:1,2 makes it clear the author is writing to believers, and the book itself, is telling what the Christian life is all about.

    The work-related verses refer to the behaviour of a believer. The 12 tribes is generally a reference to the dispersion of the Jews, but here seems to symbolize all Christians (my opinion). There is nothing in the book to suggest the author is addressing Jews in particular.

    Luther rejected the book altogether and excluded it from the accepted canon....the works related verses were simply rejected by him. He did not see that works are the resulting fruits of grace.

    It was perhaps the earliest letter written. I have a date of AD46 penned in my Bible,,don't know where I got that date. Incidentally, Romans was penned about AD58....comparing the great doctrines of grace and the resulting works of grace.

    It can be an interesting discussion to be sure.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  4. ReformedBaptist

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    For a fuller understanding of Luther's views on James go here.. http://www.ntrmin.org/Luther and the canon 2.htm#a5

    This statement by itself does not bear true. It is true that Luther doubted about the book of James, did not think an Apostle wrote, and chaffed at it. Yet he preached from it and praised it in certain respects. But i do not share Luther's views on James.
     
    #4 ReformedBaptist, Aug 16, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 16, 2008
  5. Havensdad

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    What are the FACTS? I see "opinions", but they are based on peoples pet theologies, not on the content of the letter itself.

    The FACT is, the letter is addressed to the "Twelve tribes". Why do people say these are "believers"? Because they want to. There is nothing in the letter itself, which would make one think that, except there own presuppositions.

    The "Twelve Tribes", does NOT refer to Christians. It refers to Jews, both Christian, and non Christian. Were James to write a letter to Caiaphas (who was certainly not a Christian), he could very well start it "To Caiaphas, my brother, and fellow Jew, of the Twelve Tribes...".

    For those who do not know, early Christians did not draw sharp distinctions between Jews and Christians. When Paul, for example, went to various cities, He would always go to the Synagogue first. They felt no compunctions against going in, and worshiping with the Jews, reading scriptures, etc.

    In fact, James was one of the first epistles written. Most scholars date th book before A.D. 50, which would put it before many of the events in the Book of Acts. Christianity at this time was still spoke of, by and large, as a continuation of Judaism, NOT something distinct from it.

    I defy anyone to find ANY sentence in James, which specifically says it is to Christians, not Jews. This is a perfect example of "Everyone says so" scholarship.
     
  6. JerryL

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    I don't see how verse 1 and 2 makes it clear it was written to Christians. I can see how it is clear it was written to the 12 tribes, which are Jews.
     
  7. Free Gracer

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    James was written to BELIEVERS ONLY

    In every epistle of the New Testament, there was an intended audience the writer was focusing on. My contention is that there is not a single letter in the New Testament that was not written specifically and only to be applied for those who through faith in Christ have been regenerated. When we view the writers' own descriptions of the intended audience of their epistles, we usually meet up with at least 2 categories distinguishing the addressees: location and positional sanctification.

    For instance, the book of Romans was addressed to the saints in Rome (Romans 1:7). 1 Corinthians was written to the church in Corinth, and more specifically to "those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor 1:2). The examples could be multiplied.

    But we are considering the book of James. Why is the knowledge of the intended audience in James important to our study? Lordship Salvation advocates insist that the purpose of James 2:14ff is to give test to the readers of his epistle to confirm or not if they are "truly" saved by considering their works, which they say must accompany faith for ultimate salvation. Was this the intention of James? If it can be shown that James was taking for granted that his intended audience was indeed born-again, would this not be a strike against the Lordship Salvation position? We will now consider the audience of James.

    James 1:1 indicates that his audience was Jewish and scattered abroad:

    James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.

    While offering important information, this passage by itself does not answer the vital question of whether or not James is addressing born-again believers in Christ. To answer this question definitively the oft-repeated phrases "my beloved brethren" and "my brethren" in the epistle require contextual definition.

    The phrase "my beloved brethren" appears three times: James 1:16, 1:19, and 2:5. The first two usages frame verse eighteen, which in turn serves to define "my beloved brethren".

    16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. . . . 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear. . .

    James 1:18 speaks of regeneration, using a term commonly associated with procreation, "brought forth". The “you” implied in the use of the second person plural imperative in both 1:16 and 1:19 is a subset of us or we in verse 1:18. The vocative "my beloved brethren" specifically defines the implied uses of “you” in each verse. In these three verses, James’ use of pronouns, the imperative mood, and vocatives indicates that both we and us include “you”: In other words, we (“you and I”) are beloved brethren, because God, our Father brought us (“you and me”) forth by the word of truth. James does not call the readers beloved brethren because they are fellow Jews, but because they are regenerate brethren in the Lord.

    The third usage of the phrase "my beloved brethren" occurs in the midst of an exhortation against partiality, James 2:1–13. James begins his exhortation:

    My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. (James 2:1)

    The vocative "my brethren" occurs twelve times throughout the epistle. This usage in James 2:1 is followed in the same context with the vocative "my beloved brethren" in 2:5:

    Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

    Clearly, the phrase my brethren is an equivalent to my beloved brethren not only within this specific exhortation, but also within the Epistle of James as a whole.

    Putting these evidences together reveals a complete picture: Those that James addresses in his epistle are born-again Jews scattered abroad, who like James share the same Father. The apostle James not only wrote to eternally secure believers, but his certainty that they possess the greatest of God’s good and perfect gifts (1:17), regeneration by God (1:18) underlies his exhortations to apply the doctrine that they, in fact, do believe.

    In case anyone needs more proof, consider James 4:5:

    Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain,"The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously? (James 4:5)

    which contains a strong rebuke to believers who are not applying the word. It would seem that they have no works, but the Spirit indwells them.

    The problems that James describes in his epistle are problems that apply to his "beloved brethren", people with the indwelling Spirit of God. Again, the various theological models of James need to come to grips with the text, rather than superimposing their theology onto the book.

    Question : Who was the passage in James 2:14ff written for?

    Answer: Born-again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
     
  8. TCGreek

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    To Christians, but a case can be made for Jewish Christians in particular.
     
  9. Amy.G

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    I think it was definitely written to the Jews, but they were believers.

    James starts out by saying that he is a bond servant of Jesus Christ. He doesn't try to convert anyone in his entire letter, so I assume that the recipients were also servants of Christ. Why would he write to unbelieving Jews? He is obviously giving instructions for the church.

    In 2:1, he says "do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality." And then goes on to say how everyone who comes into the assembly should be treated equally because God has chosen those rich in faith (not possessions) to inherit the kingdom which "He promised to those who love Him". This is obviously the gospel that Christ preached to the Jews.

    The whole tone is very Jewish and there is a lot written about the Law, so it seems clear that James wrote it to Jews, but they were believers in Christ.
     
  10. Tom Butler

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    If, in fact, James wrote to believing Jews, does that limit his writing to only those believing Jews, or can it also apply to Gentile believers?

    I tend to think that the truths he wrote are universal truths, applicable to all Christians.
     
  11. Amy.G

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    Absolutely.
     
  12. Havensdad

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    And so, you eliminate anything that could disprove your own skewed theology. By limiting the writings to addressing ONLY truly saved individuals, instead of the entire assemblies made up of believers and unbelievers, which they are actually written to, you take the teeth out of the difficult passages, and you are able to make yourself feel better, by placing everyone in heaven in your mind.

    Verse 2:14 is CLEARLY saying, that a faith that does not produce works, is not a saving faith. An individual that has this dead (or "nothing")faith, is bound for Hell.
     
  13. JerryL

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    What about Romans 4: 3,4 and 5?
     
  14. webdog

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    Free Gracer, TCGreek and Amy nailed it. It is written to the universal church. Inititally it consisted of jews only (hence the 12 tribes of the dispersion), but to claim it is ONLY for jews is ridiculous. We can reject and accept whatever book in the Bible we want to using this approach to Scripture.
     
    #14 webdog, Aug 17, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 17, 2008
  15. Free Gracer

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    Webdog, I appreciate that even though we have some difference of opinions, that you recognized the value of my post.

    Lord bless you,

    Antonio
     
  16. Havensdad

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    Webog,

    Brother, why is the book of James written to believers only, instead of either, Jews (Christians or non Christians), or simply assemblies in a given area, which would include Christians and non Christians, just as it does today?

    Why would the same rules of writing that apply today, not apply then? How can you say, for example, that James 5:1-6 is written to believers?
     
  17. Jarthur001

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    And now for the facts.

    James was written to the Jews. End of story. The timing was before or about the same time, the Gospel was given to the other nations.


    Does this mean we need to read it? Of course not. What was asked was this from the OP...
    Were they Jewish believers? Yes.
     
  18. Jarthur001

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    The book of Romans was written to the Romans.
     
  19. Jarthur001

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    Please show me where this was written to the universal church. It was written to the Jews.

    Most of the OT was written to the Jews as well. This does not mean we cannot read it, nor does it mean we cannot apply truths found there. No one has rejected any book. But we must be aware of the context and setting of each book to understand it.
     
  20. canadyjd

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    Nothing like a healthy dose of reality in any debate.

    Thanks

    peace to you:praying:
     

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