Why did James write his letter the Jewish believers? We know it was written to his fellow brethren who were scattered abroad by the opening verses of the letter. Which read, “To the twelve tribes scattered abroad.” This phrase, “twelve tribes” refers to the twelve tribes of Israel and this was another name for the nation of Israel or the Jewish people. In this case specifically to Jewish believers in Christ.
This letter was written to those Jewish believers in Jesus who were scattered as a result of Stephen’s martyrdom. And it was meant to help explain the Christian life in light of persecution. The recipients of this letter were affected by the persecution started by Herod shortly after Stephen’s death. We can read about the harassment and turmoil in the book of Acts chapter twelve. James wrote his letter to emphasize godly behavior and godly living as a result of our faith in Christ. Jesus suffered, bled and died for us, in order that we could spend eternity with Him. Moreover, we are called Christians because we claim to have faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Our salvation means that we believe and accept Jesus as our Savior and as our God, by faith alone. Therefore, we are called His disciples. The Bible tells us here and elsewhere in the New Testament, that with our salvation, we were bought at a price. That price was the Cross of Calvary. This means that our lives no longer belong to us, they belong to Jesus. This is because when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we turn our lives over to Him. And the heart of James’ letter explains, that if we truly have faith in Jesus, and we truly accept Him as our Lord and Savior, and we are truly indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Then our lives should show evidence of our salvation, but why is that? This is because when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, something truly remarkable happens to us. Our spirit which was dead in trespasses and sins is replaced by a new spirit which is alive to God and the things of God. In addition, as the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us, He begins God’s process of spiritual growth in us, working hand in hand with our new spirit.
This process of spiritual growth, which is carried out by God is called “sanctification.” And it’s through the lifelong process of sanctification that we become a new creation in Christ Jesus our Lord! To say that James is speaking about salvation by works is to misunderstand the process of salvation and God’s work in our lives. James does not speak of works based salvation. Rather, James takes on the perspective of looking at the Christian life after accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior. James is speaking of the noticeable changes which occur in the life of every Christian after the process of sanctification as begun. And from the point of view of a stranger looking at our lives after salvation, there should be evidence of our faith in our day to day activities. Especially when undergoing trials, our lives should show evidence of the faith we claim to have in Christ. If we were to look at the everyday life of the Christian there should be enough evidence for everyone to see that they are followers of Jesus. By looking at our own life, people should be able to tell that we love the Lord and that we study His word. Our love for God is another product of our faith which James speaks about in his letter. In other words, our faith produces in us a strong love for God’s word, for the Lord and for the lost. And a natural byproduct of studying God’s word and the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is a change in our character. This change ultimately affects the way we live our lives. And what James explains in his letter is that real faith produces evidence of repentance and a changed life. In other words, if someone were to look at our lives before and after salvation, there should be a positive change in us. James tells us this is the natural result of the love we have for Jesus. A love which is part of the free gift of salvation God has given to us, by His grace, because of our faith in Christ.