Summary: Introductory sermon in a series on the Book of James.
If there is one thing we learned in the last five weeks as we spent some time going back to the basics of our faith, it is that our faith in Jesus is not just about what happens to me some day when my life here on earth ends. Living as a disciple of Jesus, as the ambassador for His kingdom, requires that my relationship with Jesus impacts every area of my life right here and now.
Perhaps there is no book of the Bible that illustrates that fact better than the book of James. So we’re going to take some time over the next few months to see what we can learn from his letter about how to become more mature disciples of Jesus.
This morning we’ll begin that journey by looking at just the opening verse of James letter and using it as our starting point for a look at the background of this very practical book of Scripture:
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
(James 1:1 ESV)
Sometimes, I think we forget that, other than the gospels and Acts, most of the other books of the New Testament were originally letters that were written by godly men, as directed by the Holy Spirit, to specific audiences. So understanding the background of both the author and his audience is crucial if we are going to make a proper application of what is contained in those letters.
This morning’s message is going to be one of those rare times that I’m going to be long on information and short on application. But hopefully the time we spend today will be very profitable in helping us to make personal application as we proceed through the book over the next few months.
Let’s begin by seeing if we can’t identify…
The author identifies himself as James, a very common name. In fact, in Greek, his name is actually a form of the name Jacob. There are four men in the New Testament who bear this name. Although we can’t be totally certain that the author is not another James who isn’t mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, that seems quite unlikely.
Four men named James in the New Testament:
1) James the son of Alphaeus
and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot,
(Luke 6:15 ESV)
He is also referred to as James the younger in Mark 15:40.
2) James the father of Judas
and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
(Luke 6:16 ESV)
Little is known of either of these first two men. One is an obscure apostle, mentioned only in the list of apostles and the other is the father of an obscure apostle. So it is extremely unlikely that anything written by either of them would have ever made it into the canon of the Bible.
3) James the son of Zebedee and brother of John
And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.
(Mark 1:19 ESV)
Although James is an important figure in the gospels, he had a very limited role in the early church, probably due to his early death at the hands of Herod in the spring of 44 AD: