Summary: This is one tough book that we all need to be confronted by.
1. Swindoll, “Haven’t you come across the writing of a particular individual you’d love to spend an evening with? One of those people in my life is James. He is practical. He is insightful. He is also gusty, honest, and sincere to the core. He’s a rare find today…Someday we will be able to sit down and talk with James. When we do, it will be great to tell how much we appreciated what he wrote.”
2. This is certainly one of the most challenging letters in the N.T., before were done you’ll feel like James has been reading you mail or looking through your keyhole!
3. The Introduction.
James 1:1 (NKJV)
1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.
I. First, we have the Signature.
James – when we write a letter we put our name at the end of it, but in Paul’s day they put their name at the beginning of it.
A. His Identity.
English form of Jacob, and the name of three men of the NT. See Jacob. 1. James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John (Matt. 4:21; 10:2; Mark 1:19; 3:17; Luke 5:10). As one of the 12 disciples (Acts 1:13), he, with Peter and John, formed Jesus’ innermost circle of associates. These three were present when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), witnessed the transfiguration (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28), and were summoned by Christ for support during His agony in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-37; Mark 14:32-34).
Perhaps because of James’ and John’s fiery fanaticism, evidenced as they sought to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritan village refusing to receive Jesus and the disciples (Luke 9:52-54), Jesus called the brothers “Boanerges” or “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). James’ zeal was revealed in a more selfish manner as he and John (their mother, on their behalf, in Matt. 20:20-21) sought special positions of honor for the time of Christ’s glory (Mark 10:35-40). They were promised, however, only a share in His suffering. James was the first of the 12 to be martyred (Acts 12:2). His execution (about A.D. 44), by order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea, was part of a larger persecution in which Peter was arrested (Acts 12:1-3).
2. James, the son of Alphaeus, one of the 12 disciples (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). He is not distinguished by name in any occasion reported in the Gospels or Acts. He may be “James the younger,” whose mother, Mary, was among the women at Jesus’ crucifixion and tomb (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1; Luke 24:10). In John 19:25, this Mary is called the wife of Cleophas, perhaps to be identified with Alphaeus. See Cleophas; Mary.
3. James, the brother of Jesus. Bible students debate the precise meaning of “the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19). Possibilities are the literal brother or stepbrother, a cousin, or intimate friend and associate. The literal meaning is to be preferred.
During the Lord’s ministry, the brothers of Jesus (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3; 1 Cor. 9:5) were not believers (John 7:3-5; cp. Matt. 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21). Paul specifically mentioned a resurrection appearance by Jesus to James (1 Cor. 15:7). After the resurrection and ascension, the brothers are said to have been with the Twelve and the other believers in Jerusalem (Acts 1:14).
Paul, seeking out Peter in Jerusalem after his conversion, reported, “I didn’t see any of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19 HCSB). In time, James assumed the leadership of the Jerusalem church, originally held by Peter. Evidently, such was achieved not through a power struggle but by James’ constancy with the church while Peter and other apostles traveled. In a Jerusalem conference called regarding Paul’s Gentile mission, James presided as spokesman for the Jerusalem church (Acts 15). See Apostolic Council.
James perceived that his calling was to the “circumcised,” that is, the Jews (Gal. 2:9), and he is portrayed as loyal to Jewish tradition. He was, however, unwilling to make the law normative for all responding to God’s new action in Christ. The death of James reportedly was at the order of the high priest Ananus and was either by stoning (according to Flavius Josephus, first-century historian of the Jews) or by being cast down from the temple tower (after Hegesippus, early Christian writer, quoted by the third-century Christian historian Eusebius). These accounts of James’s death (about A.D. 66), are not confirmed in the NT.” Joseph E. Glaze [Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary]
The James who wrote this is the half brother of Jesus Christ; they both had the same mother, not the same Father. Jesus was virgin born. We have a greater privilege then James did in that we are Christ’s spiritual brothers and sisters (Mt. 12:46-50/Heb. 2:11). But then so was James…