James: Practical Discipleship

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (6:35)

Peter Paul Reubens, 'Saint James the Less' (1610-1612),
Peter Paul Reubens, 'Saint James the Less' (1610-1612), oil on panel, 107x82.5 cm., Museo Nacional del Prado, Spain

James was a practical man. He had seen hypocrisy -- in himself, in the Pharisees, in everyday Christians -- and he would have none of it! His letter to the early Christian churches is practical and convicting. He talks about heart Christianity worked out in actions. He discusses love and then insists that Christian love can't just speak compassionate words to the hungry -- love must feed them.

James was Jesus' brother, growing up in the same household. During Jesus' ministry, James had been a skeptic. After Christ's resurrection, however, he believed and became the lead pastor of the Church at Jerusalem, helping to set the tone for the emerging Christian movement.

Martin Luther called James' Letter "a right strawy epistle" since it didn't present salvation by grace as clearly as in Paul's letters. But many have found it to be "a right convicting epistle." James has a way of slicing through all our rationalizations and defenses, and speaking to our hearts with power. James' Letter speaks to building Christian character.

Over the course of this brief letter, James discusses key themes to help disciples mature in the faith:

  • Standing firm during trials and temptations,
  • Living out the Christian faith in practical ways rather than just studying or hearing it,
  • Loving selflessly,
  • Taming the tongue,
  • Humbling oneself before God,
  • Trusting in God rather than in wealth, and
  • Exercising patience.

He concludes these traits of a disciple with a call to praying with faith. I suspect both you and I need to come back to these and let the Lord continue to work on us.

I invite you to study the Letter of James with me over the next 8 weeks.

Dr. Ralph F. Wilson I hope you'll join me in this Bible study. I've been a pastor since 1976. Beginning in 1996 I've been conducting Internet Bible studies. Today I find great joy in teaching people all over the world from every denomination and faith tradition -- even those with no faith background at all. You're welcome to learn more about me and what I believe, if you like. I taught James online in 1999 and 2005. I have revised it slightly in 2022. It is a wonderful letter! -- Dr. Ralph F. Wilson, Director

Here's how we'll study together.

  • Each Saturday I'll e-mail you the lesson for the week. Then you'll read the Bible passage and use my notes to help you understand it better.
  • If you sign up for the "daily questions" version, on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday you'll receive a question from that week's lesson to think about and answer. This is designed as a "total immersion" approach to Bible study, since I believe God wants to use these lessons to work real and permanent change in your life. (You can opt out of the daily questions if you like, however, and just receive the weekly lessons with all the questions each Saturday.) You'll be thinking about these passages constantly over these weeks -- long enough for God to work his Word into your life and lifestyle.
  • You can respond to the discussion questions using the Joyful Heart Bible Study Forum -- and read others' answers to reinforce your own understanding.
  • With each lesson is a link to a 25- to 40-minute audio teaching with me reading the lesson. Some who learn better from hearing than from reading really appreciate this.
  • Then on Saturday, I'll send you the next week's lesson.
  • You can download and reprint free Participant Handouts if you're leading a class or small group.
James: Practical Discipleship, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Available in paperback, Kindle, and PDF formats.

Here's the outline:

  1. Experiencing Joy in Trials (1:1-18)
  2. Hearing and Practicing the Word (1:18-27)
  3. Forsaking Favoritism for Love (2:1-13)
  4. Energizing Your Faith by Works (2:14-26)
  5. Attaining Tongue-Taming Wisdom (3:1-18)
  6. Submitting Yourself to God (4:1-12)
  7. Learning Patience in an Instant Age (4:13-5:12)
  8. Praying the Prayer of Faith (5:13-20)

"This study really shook me and goaded me into going into the right ways of doing things." -- Sunil, India

"A letter that can seem so harsh, yet truly has a gentle and loving message." -- Deb, USA

 "Ignited a hunger and thirst after right living."  Margaret, Nigeria

 "I've made more mistakes in my walk with Christ since taking this lesson, or else I've been walking in sin for quite a long time and hadn't noticed." -- Bob, USA

 "To call myself a Christian I need to have active faith that gives rise of acts of kindness, love and generosity as Jesus Himself did when He walked on earth." -- France

"I thought that some questions were simple when I first read them, but then I realized they required deep thought, which was great!" -- Carl, Ontario, Canada

 "A great in-depth study that got to the meat of the matter." -- Linda, Illinois

"Thank you so much for this lessons. As a pastor they are not only helpful to use in teaching but also has really made me to reflect on my personal life." -- Pastor Gladys, Kenya

Sign up now!

To sign up, start by clicking on your e-mail frequency preference:

You'll receive your first lesson the Friday after you sign up. There is no cost to participate in the study, though donations are encouraged so we can create more studies and reach more people.

We respect your privacy and never sell, rent, or loan our lists. Please don't subscribe your friends; let them decide for themselves.

Please don't sign up for more than one of my Bible studies at one time. There's no penalty, but each of them is pretty intensive. If you try to do too many studies at the same time without adequate reflection, you'll miss out on God speaking to you.

Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.