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Introduction to James

Theme & Key Text

Theme: True faith produces good works.

1:3,4,25,27; 2:18,20,22,26; 3:17,18; 4:6-11,17; 5:7-9,12,15,17-20

Key Text: James 2:17,18

James 2:17,18�Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

The Writer of the Epistle of James

James 1:1 "James a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…" Servant: "a bond man; in subjection; a voluntary slave" (Only the will of God will be performed.)

This simple signature tells us the writer was well known to his readers and needed not lengthy introduction. He was a man highly esteemed among them, one who stood in a position of recognized spiritual authority, and one whom they were obliged to obey. There are four men named James' who lived around the NT era, but "James the Brother of the Lord" stands as the most probable writer of this epistle.

James the son of Zebedee & brother of John.

This man was the most prominent "James" in the gospels. He was one of the "sons of thunder," originally a fisherman with John (his brother), along with Peter and Andrew. He became a disciple of Jesus, He was one of the three inner disciples and was later martyred by Herod Agrippa I, as recorded in Acts 12:2 (A.D. 44). There is not much chance that this James could have written this letter before he was killed, and there is no tradition arguing that he did.

James the son of Alphaeus, another disciple.

Very little is known about this James, the brother of Matthew (Levi). He was another disciple of our Lord, but again, there is no hint that he is the one who wrote this epistle. Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13

James the father of Judas the disciple

(Judas Thaddaeus). This man is even more obscure. Not a likely candidate

James the brother of Jude & half-brother of our Lord.

Also known as James the Less, This James appears to be the writer of the epistle of James. He is not so identified, but much about his character is revealed that is in keeping with what is known about him. This choice is also in keeping with tradition which tells us that he remained in Jerusalem and that Peter, James, & John chose James, the brother of Jesus to be the pastor of the Jerusalem church after the ascension of Christ (cf. Clement of Alexandria). The fact that he does not so identify himself (as our Lord's brother) may be an indication of his humility, but it also reveals the standing and personal authority he had over his readers. He was a man well known and highly esteemed in the new Christian community. "James, a servant of God and of Jesus Christ" was sufficient identification for them

James is first introduced in Matthew 13:55 as one of our Lord's brethren. John 7:5 relates the sad fact that even as late as six months before the crucifixion (the feast of tabernacles), James was still an unbeliever.

I Cor. 15:7 tells us that in the midst of the resurrection appearances of Christ, "He was seen of James." A little later, a number of people are recorded as meeting for prayer with the apostles in the upper room, as they awaited Pentecost; among them were "Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brethren."

In Gal. 1:18-19 Paul is describing the events of his life following his three years in Arabia after his conversion; at this time he spent two weeks with Peter in Jerusalem and also met another important church leader, "James the Lord's brother." By the time of Acts 12:17 James was evidently already a leader in the Jerusalem church, for Peter, released from prison, asks that the news be reported to James. In Acts 15:13 James is the one presiding at the great council of Jerusalem which met to decide the important question of the relationship of Christianity to the Mosaic law; his leadership role is evident.

In Gal. 2:9 Paul refers to him as a "pillar" of the church�equal to Peter and John. So far James has come from his unbelief! The remaining references to James (Gal. 2:12-13 & Acts 21:18-19) reveal his zeal for the Mosaic law. He was evidently in firm agreement with the decision of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:13-19), but he was also careful to keep peace between the Gentile believers and the more "legalistic" Jewish Christians (verse 20). Perhaps he himself (as Peter, cf. Gal. 2:11) carried this matter too far; this does not minimize his standing as an apostle, however (Gal. 1:19). (Note: At least four other men beside the original 11 have apostolic status: Matthias [Acts 1:26], Barnabas [Acts 14:4, 14], Paul, and James.) He was "nicknamed" "James the Just" because of his recognized piety, and was said to have "knees like those of camels" because of his much time spent in prayer. Josephus records that James was martyred during an uprising against Christians while Ananus was high priest in 62 A.D.

He was elected to the oversight of the churches of Jerusalem; and was the writer of the Epistle ascribed to James At the age of ninety-four he was beat and stoned by the Jews; and finally had his brains dashed out with a fuller's club.

Details of James the Less' martyrdom are found in the writings of Josephus, Eusebius, and Jerome. When Festus, the governor of Judea, died, Nero replaced him with Albinus. About the same time, Herod Agrippa II replaced the Jewish high priest Joseph with Ananus. After Festus died and before Albinus had arrived in Judea to replace him, the new high priest decided to pressure James the Less to deny that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God. Ananus was taking advantage of a lapse in leadership at the end of Festus' reign. Similar circumstances at the end of Pilate's reign over Judea led to the stoning of Saint Stephen.

The Jewish high priest asked James to stand on the Temple wall and speak against Jesus to the crowds which had gathered in preparation for the Passover. James instead spoke in favor of Jesus as the Christ; many heard him and many were converted. So the Jewish religious leaders threw James down from the Temple wall. Yet he did not die from the fall, so they began to stone him. Still he did not die from the stoning, so a man took a fuller club (used to beat out clothing) and clubbed him to death. In this way died James the Less, one of Twelve Apostles and the leader of the Church at Jerusalem for 30 years.

The Purpose of Writing

Address all Believers

"To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad." 1:1

To the brethren--including the entire church of Jewish Christians.

1:1; 1:16; 2:1,5,14; 3:1; 4:11; 5:7,9,10,19

Encourage Perfection in Christian Character

The epistle of James is a manual of instructions for holy living and a practical guide to Christian life and conduct. As a guidebook for true religion, James gives a pattern showing the characteristics of true faith.

Warn of Vices

In encouraging the perfection of Christian character, James warns of many vices: fatalism, fanaticism, formalism, favoritism, falsehood, fierce spirit, foul talk and evil speaking, and fearlessness and boasting to name a few.

Fatalism, which threw its sins on God

James 1:13�Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God…

Fanaticism, which, under the cloak of religious Zeal, was tearing Jerusalem in pieces.

Many men do not have real convictions of their own and they try to live up to the standards of others and find themselves frustrated.

James 1:20�For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

Formalism consists in washings and outward ceremonies.

Whereas he reminds them that true religion consists in active love and purity.

James 1:27�Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Favoritism - Respect of persons. James 2:1-18

Falsehood, which had made words and oaths play-things (3:2-12)

Fierce spirit, Friendship with the world. Partisanship

If you're under the influence of a strong false view, fierce, unkind and contemptuous spirit, "ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts." Attempting or pretending to defend true religion, and to boast of your works or success in silencing an enemy; is not pure religion, nor true wisdom, and to profess either without giving God the full Glory is to lie against the truth.

James 3:14�But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.

Foul Talk or Evil Speaking

James 4:11�Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

Fearlessness and Boasting

James 4:16�But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

Instruct in Patience

The great lesson which he teaches them as Christians is patience, and the ground of their patience is that the coming of the Lord is drawing nigh. We need to have full Revelation of God's Word that we may understand God's Eternal Purpose. Patience…

in trial (1:2)

n good works (1:22-25)

under provocation (3:17)

though treated with fraud (5:4)

under oppression (5:7)

under persecution (5:10)

James 5:7-9�Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

The book of James is not merely informative but inspirational, as well.

The object of the writer is to inspire men to enforce the practical duties of the Christian life. In James 1:2-12 James gives five urgent requirements of faith and in so doing he illustrates faith's spiritual vitality. WE NEED FAITH; without it we will die. In order for faith to remain true and alive it must be added to. Faith can only be added to as it is exercised. Faith is to always be in action, not just in motion doing something, but doing the Will of God.

Textual Outline

Chapter 1 � Practical instruction on Christian living

Chapter 2 � Show no partiality vs. 1-13 � "Faith without works is dead" vs. 14-26

Chapter 3 � The power of the tongue � Earthly wisdom vs. heavenly wisdom

Chapter 4 � The friend of the world is the enemy of God

Chapter 5 � Corrupted rich men � Be patient � More practical instruction on Christian living

The whole book of James is dealing with practical everyday living according to the Word of God. When he begins and ends the book, he deals with several points briefly, but in the main body of the book/letter, he singles out several important issues and takes some time to deal with them individually.