(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
Well, I would entitle James, “A Portrait of the Life of Faith.” James is so incredibly intent on demonstrating that true faith is demonstrated by how you live, that of 108 verses in James, there are almost 60 commands. That's a command for every like verse and three quarters; it's pretty amazing. And that is a very, very important part of this gospel thread to understand that the gospel, belief in the gospel, is not just a transaction of your brain, but it really is a move of your heart that just completely alters the way that you live your life. You live the gospel.
But James is so command heavy that some have questioned if there's any gospel in James at all; in fact, some have questioned if James should even be included in the canon of Scripture. James applies faith to trials, to poverty, to riches, to our talk, to worldliness, to wisdom, to sickness, to conflict, to prejudice, to prayer. It’s a very thorough look at how is your life transformed in all the places where people live by your belief in the gospel, by true biblical faith?
Now here's the rub, James never mentions the cross, James never mentions the resurrection, and only mentions the name of Jesus twice. Now, before you say, “Forget it, James is out!” The gospel is in every chapter of James. Let me do this tour for you really quick.
James 1, we see a God who is at work in the life of a believer; a God who even, in our trials, in our darkest moments, is maturing us. In James 1, we see God as a generous giver of wisdom. In James 1, we realize that every good gift comes from above; we see this active, loving, giving, generous Lord.
James 2, we see God's particular love for the poor and that this God makes Himself a friend of those who believe.
The theme of James 3 is that true wisdom is a gift from above, that God graciously gives fools wisdom; what an argument for His grace!
Chapter 4, God gives grace to the humble. And chapter 4, we see God giving grace upon grace, upon grace, upon grace. He gives more grace.
Chapter 5, we learn that the Lord is compassionate and merciful and answers prayer.
Now, when you look in between the commands in James, you see the gospel, literally, in every chapter. You see the grace of God operating in every chapter. You see God present and active in the lives of His children in every chapter. God who comes near, breaks down the alienation of sinners between Him, and becomes a friend of us. Imagine a sinner standing before a holy God and that God declares him to be a friend. What a greater argument for the gospel than that! What a huge miracle!
Yes, James is intent on adding to our understanding of the gospel by saying, “You live it!” Faith is lived; faith is not just a mental assent. But in the midst of that, James keeps returning again and again, our hope is the generosity and the grace and the activity of our Lord. Our faith is in Him; and without Him, all of those commands would simply mean nothing!