Time for Another Bible Study – The Book of James
James 1:2 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds
A few months ago I decided to do a study on the book of Habakkuk. I picked a short book, but it was a book that was jam packed with information about God’s people and the frustration of man at the hand of God sometimes.
Lately, I have been reading the book of James. This is another book that is jam packed, FILLED with information. This week I want to introduce the book and then over the next five weeks dissect each chapter and dig deeper into the Word of God.
The history of the James is just as interesting as its content. One can make the argument that this was the first book of the New Testament to be written. Now, those who know me that the only history I enjoy reading about it Christian history. I could not tell you anything about World War 1 or American history (unless it has to do with the First or Second Great Awakenings), but start talking to me about this history of the church and my eyes will shine a little brighter.
One day, remind me to go into detail about the Council of Trent. THAT would make an amazing blog series.
This book was most likely written about 45 AD, right before the Judaistic Controversy. It is written to Jewish Christians who had been scattered throughout the lands because of the persecution that occurred in Jerusalem in connection with the stoning of Stephen in the Book of Acts. Since there is nothing in here about the Jewish Christians getting along with the Gentile Christians, it was most likely written before the influx of Gentile Christians occurred, beginning in 46 AD with Paul’s missionary journeys.
James 2:19 – You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
So now that we know the letter was most likely the first New Testament letter written, we need to determine who wrote it.
Well, duh, Fred….James wrote it.
YOU ARE CORRECT!
But now comes the $100,000 question…which James?
There are 4 different James (Jameses, James’s…whatever) in the Gospels. First is the Apostle James (Mt 10:2, Mk 3:17, Lk 6:14). There is a “James of Alphaeus.” (Mt 10:3, Mk 3:18, Lk 6:15). A third James would be the father of Judas (Lk 6:16), and finally James, brother of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 13:55, Mk, 6:3).
The apostle James would be a logical choice, but there is a small problem. He couldn’t write the book from the grave. King Agrippa had him put to death in 44 AD, supposedly before the letter was written. Both James of Alphaeus and the father of Judas are poor choices because they lacked the recognition as an apostle to have written an authoritative book.
This leaves James, half-brother of Jesus. He has a pretty cool story! During the ministry of Jesus, James thought Jesus was a whackadoodle! John 7:3-5 tells us that even Jesus’ brothers did not believe Him! And Mark 3:21 has them calling Jesus “out of His mind!” He evidently came to faith when Jesus appeared to him after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7).
By 44 AD, James was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Soon after John’s brother (also names James) was killed by Agrippa in 44 AD and Peter was released from prison by an angel of the Lord, Peter called for a report to be given to “James and the brothers” in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17).
By 49-50 AD, James was one of the authorities in the Apostolic Council and gave the final vote that Gentiles should not have to follow the Law of Moses in order to be saved. It was because of James that the church of Jerusalem sent a letter to the churches to say they were saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus (Acts 15:11, 22-29).
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, written about 52 AD, Paul puts James on a level of importance equal with the apostles and said that James, Peter and John were the “reputed pillars” of the church in Jerusalem (Gal 2:9). Paul even referred to Jewish Christians from Jerusalem as “men who came from James” (Gal 2:12).
Galatians 2:12 – For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party.
James earned the name “James the Just” for his piety and righteousness. This title was even used by those who were not Christians!
James died a martyr sometime between 63 and 68 AD.
James 1:1 tells us who this letter is addressed to. It is written to the “twelve tribes scattered abroad.” The Jewish Christians in Jerusalem scattered throughout the lands when the Sanhedrin started persecuting them after the stoning of Stephen. He wrote this letter to any who fled as an encouragement and instruction into their faith.
While there does not seem to be a particular even that caused the writing of the letter, there are many inferences that can be made into the letter for the purpose behind it. Right off the bat, he encourages the Jewish Christians to rejoice during their trials and persecutions. He talked about perseverance and standing firm in the test of faith. He also mentions that the rich were slandering the name of Christ (James 2:6-7) which caused poverty among the persecuted Christians.
He goes on to talk about standing firm in the faith and not falling back into the ways of the world. He addressed numerous sins that they were beginning to revisit.
So overall, this letter was written to instruct, rebuke, correct, and encourage the Jewish Christians with the Word of God so they will remain strong and persevere. He spends much of the letter explaining what living by faith is about.
The letter is really only broken into two parts: the greeting and living by faith.
It is the living by faith section that is the majority of the letter and can be outlined as such:
- Stand firm in trials (1:2-12)
- Face your temptations (1:13-18)
- Hear the Word of God (1:19-27)
- Don’t show favoritism (2:1-13)
- Do deeds that show your faith (2:14-26)
- Tame your tongue (3:1-12)
- Do deeds that come from divine wisdom, not worldly ambition (3:13-5:12)
So over the next 5 weeks, I want to take a chapter a week and study the book of James with you. This is a very important book in the lives of believers and should be, I believe, one of the top 5 books that every believer reads regularly.
James 5:13 – Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray.