The epistle is not intended to be a primer on Christian theology but a mosaic of admonitions on how to order one's life in keeping with a professed faith in God. Belief in the existence of a God who enters into the experiences of people according to his wisdom and grace is assumed. God demands recognition and requires accountability on the part of humankind. He makes himself available and responds to the sincere appeals of the believer offered in prayer. He hallows the adverse experiences of life and ensures peace and goodwill among people who walk before him in humble faith.
The Messiah has come in the person of Jesus. Through him a believer is enabled to relate to the law with new power and unaccustomed freedom. Although man was created in the image of God, he has fallen into sin and permits the incubation of sin when he yields to his lower impulses despite his understanding of God's will. God, however, provides a new quality of life for those who conquer sin.
This epistle lends itself to the Wesleyan focus on holiness of life because of its preoccupation with conduct. Adam Clarke sees this perspective where he comments, “Be then, to the Lord, what He required His sacrifices to be; let your whole heart, your body, soul and spirit, be sanctified to the Lord of Hosts, that He may fill you with all His fulness” (Clarke, 6:760).
The Wesleyan emphasis on conversion is found in “the word planted in you” (1:21). Clarke interprets James' definition of pure religion in this light: “Religion is of such a nature that no man can learn it but by experience; he who does not feel the doctrine of God to be the power of God to the salvation of his soul, can neither teach religion, nor act according to its dictates, because he is an unconverted, unrenewed man” (Clarke, 6:765).
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