We now embark on a wonderful journey through the Proverbs of the New Testament, the book of James. Who was this guy? James was the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ and the full brother of Jude who wrote the book of Jude. He is the author of this book which was written around 45 a.d. He became the leader of the church in Jerusalem and had the testimony of being an unusually godly man. He was surnamed "The Just" by his countrymen. It is said that he spent so much time on his knees in prayer that they became hard and calloused like a camel's knees.
According to Josephus and Clement of Rome, James was martyred in 62-63 a.d. The details of his martyrdom, according to Josephus, tell of Ananus, the Jewish High Priest who conspired to rid of James in the transition time of the Roman governors Festus, who died, and the new arriving governor, Albinus. Ananus convened a meeting with the Sadducees, tried and condemned James to death because he refused to renounce the Lord Jesus Christ. They hated James' testimony for Christ so much that they threw him off the temple and beat him to death with clubs. Paul referred to James as a pillar in Galatians 2:9.
Galatians 2:9—And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
The names "James" comes from the Greek word jakobos which is the word for Jacob. He is named after the father of the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. There are other men called by the same name throughout the New Testament.
1. James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John. He and his brother John were nicknamed the "sons of thunder" by the Lord because of their impulsiveness.
Matthew 4:21—And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.
2. James, the son of Alpheus and one of the twelve. Little is known about him.
Matthew 10:3—Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;
James, Jesus' half-brother, was very slow to accept Jesus as the Christ.
John 7:5—For neither did his brethren believe in him.
He was converted by the appearance of the risen Lord. There are folks today who have rejected Christ. Don't give up; keep praying for them.
1 Corinthians 15:7—After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
The book of James is concerned with the outward life of faith that man sees. The focus of the book is on our fruit. Paul was concerned about the inner faith of a man's heart as God sees it. Paul addressed the importance of taking the Gospel IN and James emphasized living the Gospel OUT. James is calling for practical, realistic, genuine Christian living. He is calling for "Faith in Action!" There are over fifty imperatives or commands in this book. James did not suggest, he commanded!
The book of James was one of the last books added to the canon of the New Testament because it was a small book, it was written specifically to Jewish Christians, it lacked doctrinal content, and it was not written by one of the twelve apostles. Martin Luther did not have a lot of use for this book because it contained little doctrinal content which he loved so much. This book, however, is an important manual on practical Christian living. There must be a balance in the Christian life. Doctrine is balanced out by deportment; belief is balanced by behavior. The Christian needs both of these things in his life. In fact, both areas are affected by the other. What you believe will affect your behavior. James was highly influenced by the Sermon on the Mount which emphasized practical Christian living. When you contrast the book of James with the Sermon on the Mount, you see the similarities.
|James and the Sermon on the Mount Contrasted|
|The Topic of the Sermon||James||Matthew|
|7.||Obeying the Word of God||1:22||7:21-27|
|8.||Poor in Spirit||2:5||7:14|
|11.||Works vs. Faith||2:14-16||7:21-23|
|15.||The World & One Master||4:4||6:24|
|18.||The Corruption of Riches||5:2-3||6:19-20|
|19.||Persecution of Prophets||5:10||5:12|
|20.||Blessings from Suffering||5:11||5:10|
The book of James was written to the Christian Jews scattered across the world. These Christians had immense problems. Being Jews, they would be rejected by Gentiles. The fact that they were also Christians meant they would also be rejected by their Jewish countrymen too. James begins the book addressing the issue of patience in suffering and testing.
Some folks have concluded that James and Paul contradicted one another in their teachings on the issue of faith and works.
Ephesians 2:8-9—For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Paul)
James 2:24—Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (James)
There is not a contradiction here because James is dealing with the issue of justification before men and Paul is dealing with justification before God. Paul says, "We are justified by faith." James says, "We are justified for works." Paul is focusing on the root of justification and James is focusing on the fruit of justification. Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone. Paul did stress the importance of "works" in the life of the Christian and James did stress the importance of "faith."
1 Timothy 6:18—That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
Ephesians 2:10—For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
One of the key words of this book is the word "perfect" which is used six times. It is from the Greek word teleios which means "mature." The topic of "maturity" is heavily emphasized in James. We are to be mature in suffering (1:1-20), the study of Scripture (1:13-25), sincerity (2:1-13), the service of Christ (2:14-26), in speech that is sound (3:1-18), in submission to God (4:1-17), in self-sacrifice (5:1-6), in steadfastness (5:7-11), in supplications and prayers (5:12-18), and in spreading the Gospel to the lost (5:19-20). Let me ask, "Are you a spiritually mature Christian?" If not or if you need to make some improvements, then this book should be of great help to you. Let's dig in and find some treasures.