Have you noticed that chapters in the Bible are a little less straightforward than the chapters in your favorite novels? And there are a good amount of the stories in the Old Testament or Gospels broken up nicely into sections. But once you get to the letters in the New Testament, it’s usually less clear. Some Bible outlines can quickly give you clarity, though! Take James chapter 4, for example.

Reading James 4

There are 17 verses and the NKJV translators added four headings to try and give some clarity. It helps a bit… here’s the breakdown.

Pride Promotes Strife

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”

Humility Cures Worldliness

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Do Not Judge a Brother

11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

Do Not Boast About Tomorrow

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Breaking Down James 4 with Bible Outlines

From the headers provided by the translator, you might think to organize the chapter like this:

  • Pride
  • Humility
  • Judgement
  • Boasting

Seems like James is just talking about lots of dos and don’ts. But would this change if we looked at a different outline? Here’s an outline from the NKJV Open Bible.

NKJV Open Bible Outlines for James

I. The Test of Faith 1:1–18
A. The Purpose of Tests 1:1–12
B. The Source of Temptations 1:13–18
II. The Characteristics of Faith 1:19–5:6
A. Faith Obeys the Word 1:19–27
B. Faith Removes Discrimination 2:1–13
C. Faith Proves Itself by Works 2:14–26
D. Faith Controls the Tongue 3:1–12
E. Faith Produces Wisdom 3:13–18
F. Faith Produces Humility 4:1–12
G. Faith Produces Dependence on God 4:13–5:6

III. The Triumph of Faith 5:7–20
A. Faith Endures Awaiting Christ’s Return 5:7–12
B. Faith Prays for the Afflicted 5:13–18
C. Faith Confronts the Erring Brother 5:19, 20

Bible outlines Open Bible

This outline shows that faith is the primary topic in James’ letter. Then, chapter four is broken into two sections:

  • How faith produces humility
  • How faith produces dependence on God

Take a moment to re-read James 4 with these ideas in mind!

Writing Our Own Bible Outlines

After looking at other outlines, another way to connect the dots of an unruly chapter is to make your own outline. To start, we can use the Open Bible’s suggestion.

I. Faith Produces Humility (4:1-12)
II. Faith Produces Dependence on God (4:13-17)

Before filling this out more, let’s look at some short notes from the Open Bible as well. Here’s what they have to say on this passage:

The strong pulls of worldliness (4:1–12) and wealth (4:13–5:6) create conflicts that are harmful to the growth of faith. The world system is at enmity with God; and the pursuit of its pleasures produces covetousness, envy, fighting, and arrogance (4:1–6). The believer’s only alternative is submission to God out of a humble and repentant spirit. This will produce a transformed attitude toward others as well (4:7–12). This spirit of submission and humility should be applied to any attempts to accrue wealth (4:13–17), especially because wealth can lead to pride, injustice, and selfishness (5:1–6).

Open Bible
Open Bible Olive Tree

I really appreciate this paragraph because it starts broad and gets narrower. At the beginning, we see the two key players in our high-level sections: worldliness and wealth respectively. Let’s use these in our outlines!

I. Faith Produces Humility (4:1-12)
A. The Battle for Faith Against Worldliness (4:1-6)
B. The Best Defense Against Worldliness is Humility (4:7-12)
II. Faith Produces Dependence on God (4:13-17)
A. The Battle for Faith Against Wealth (4:13-14)
B. The Best Defense Against Wealth is Dependence on God (4:15-17)

Your Turn!

Now that you’ve seen my example (which is truly just an example!) why not try it for yourself? Just remember, when writing an outline, every I must have a II and every A must have a B! You can go as detailed or slim as you’d like, but you just have to follow that one rule.

Also, if you liked the outline and notes we used from the Open Bible, it’s available for purchase on our website. It’s an easy way to get a little more insight in your Bible study.

Other Posts on James

James: A Brief Character Study
A Word Study Example in James 2
Finding Godly Wisdom in James 3
Strength to Endure: Journaling on James 5

1 Comment

  1. “Just remember, when writing an outline, every I must have a II and every A must have a B! You can go as detailed or slim as you’d like, but you just have to follow that one rule.”

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