“Introduction to the general epistle of James”
There is no way to know with certainty who wrote the letter ascribed to “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1), but it is reasonable to believe that it was “James, the Lord’s brother” (Matthew 13:55; Galatians 1:19). Of the three prominent men spoken of in the New Testament that bore this name, one was the Apostle James (the brother of John), and he was martyred well before this letter was written (Acts 12:2). James the son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3) was also an Apostle so he would have likely introduced himself as such. James, the half-brother of Jesus, was a “pillar” (Galatians 2:9) in the church at Jerusalem, and a significant contributor at the Jerusalem Council of Acts chapter 15.
This letter was written “To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad” (1:1). This could be a literal reference to the ethnic Jews of the dispersion who were scattered about the Roman Empire, but more likely is a figurative allusion to God’s chosen people, much like when Paul referred to Christians as “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). There are some particularly Jewish references, such as to their “synagogues” (2:2), and to Old Testament characters (2:21, 24; 5:10), but the author appeals to converted believers in a general fashion and his exhortations are not aimed at any particular ethnicity but are universal in nature. The author wrote to encourage Christians, many of which were likely Jewish, to live faithfully in the midst of trials, temptations and persecutions.
This letter has been called “the Gospel of Common Sense” by some and “the Proverbs of the New Testament” by others because of the seemingly disconnected, sage bits of wisdom and moral directives. Two prominent themes of the epistle are the appropriate usage of “the tongue” (our mouths or our words), and the importance of having an active, working, obedient faith. From this exquisite letter we learn that we must prove ourselves to be “doers of the word and not merely hearers” if we want to please God and be blessed (James 1:22, 25). We must love our neighbor as ourselves in order to fulfill the “royal law” (James 2:8). If we can learn to control what we say we will be “perfect” or “complete” (James 3:2). “Friendship with the world is hostility toward God,” but if we “resist the devil he will flee from” us (James 4:7). If we serve the Lord with patience He will deal with us in compassion and mercy (James 5:10-11). Of course, prayer helps a lot (James 5:16)!!!
Please read James 1:1-4 for tomorrow.
Have a wonderful day!
- Louie Taylor