Summary: Message #1 in the Book of James series dealing with what is known of James’ background and the opening salutation of his epistle.
A Study of the Book of James
#1 - A Little Man With a Big Message
By Pastor Jim May
This epistle is called "general", because not written to any particular person, as the epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are; nor to any particular churches, as the epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, &c. but to the believing Jews in general, wherever they were. The author of it is James; and whereas there were two of this name, who were the apostles of Christ; some have thought it was written by one, and some by another: some think it was written by James the son of Zebedee, and brother of John, but most likely it was written by James the Son of Alphaeus.
He is often referred to as "the brother", meaning that he was in the same family but not necessarily a sibling. He was probably a cousin of Jesus. He has often been called James "the Less," or James "the Little," and that was probably because he was of a very short man. But like the title of this message says, he was a little man with a big message.
James is mentioned as being one of the original apostles or disciples several times.
Matthew 10:2-4, "Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him."
Mark 3:14-19, "And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: And Simon he surnamed Peter; And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him:"
Luke 6:13-16, "And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor."
James also had a separate interview with Jesus after his resurrection. Paul gave testimony to James’ personal encounter with the risen Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time."
James was also there with the rest of the disciples immediately after Jesus ascended into Heaven. He was with them also in the prayer meeting when the Holy Ghost fell on the Day of Pentecost.
Acts 1:10-14, "And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren."
It is accepted by most Bible scholars that James became the Bishop of the church in Jerusalem. When Peter was set free from the prison by the angel, Peter told them to go and tell James what had happened.
As Bishop of the church, James was in a position to take charge of the meeting of all the disciples when the question arose concerning Gentiles being saved and receiving the baptism in the Holy Ghost. When most of the disciples were arguing that Gentiles who were saved also had to be circumcised to be acceptable, it was James who said in Acts 15:19-20, "Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood."