Introduction to James

On Sunday, October 6th, we began our walk through the Epistle of James.  This is a very practical and in-your-face letter to the early church.  When we consider possible authors there are three poSeries on James Fall 2019 1 (2)ssible men named James in the New Testament.  There is James, the son of Zebedee and the brother of the Apostle John. He was one of the earliest Christian martyrs (Acts 12). His early martyrdom removes him as an option as an author.  There is James, the son of Alphaeus. He is the least well-know of the men named James. It would be highly improbable that this James could simply state his name and people would know who he was. This leaves the best and most practical answer.  The author of James is none other than Jesus’ half-brother the son of Mary and Joseph. 

During Jesus’ lifetime, James was not a believer. The Gospel of John reads, “Even His brothers did not believe” (7:5).  However, it seems as if a visit from the resurrected Jesus completely changed James’ life (1 Corinthians 15:7). In fact, the Apostle Paul called Peters, John and James “pillars” of the church (Galatians 2:9).   Throughout the Book of Acts, we see James acting as an elder of the church and a primary leader of the Jerusalem church. During the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, we see James speaking as one in authority for the church. Certainly, he was a pillar of the church. 

James must have been a very interesting person.  In some ways, he reminds me of John the Baptist. One of our early Church Fathers, Eusebius writes this about James: “James, the brother of our Lord, who, as there were many of this name, was surnamed the Just by all from the days of our Lord until now, received the government of the church with the apostles. He drank neither wine nor strong drink and abstained from animal food.  A razor never came upon his head; he never anointed himself with oil and never used a bath. He never wore woolen but only fine garments. He was in the habit of entering into the temple alone and was often found upon his bended knees asking for the forgiveness of the people. So that his knees became hard like a camel’s knees” [1] James was martyred in AD 62.  

The Epistle of James is an extremely powerful and vivid portrayal of a Christian’s duty to live an active life of faith. James will teach us about suffering, character, the power of our words, overcoming sin, and wisdom to name a few.  As you read James, you will begin to see practical ways to live a holy life in front of your family and friends in order to make much of Jesus and to be salt and light in a very dark and gloomy world. He will use vivid illustrations and powerful commands.  The letter has 108 verses and within those verses, James writes 50 imperatives. 

The letter of James also comes under scrutiny.  As you read this letter, the name Jesus and Christ are rarely if ever used.  There is no mention of the resurrection and nothing on our tenet of salvation through faith alone in Jesus Christ.  In fact, the great Reformer, Martin Luther did not believe James should be considered a part of the cannon of the New Testament.  Luther called James, “an epistle of straw.” I for one, enjoy this book so much. It is both a challenging book and an absolutely beautiful treatise on faith and the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself.

Enjoy this journey through James. I’ve called this series, “Be About It.”  Stated simply, let’s stop talking about faith and let’s be about it. This week we will look at the importance of overcoming sin in your life.  Join us as we observe the Lord’s Supper and learn how to be an overcomer.

 

 

[1] “Explore the Book Volume 6” J.Sidlow Baxter