Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Introduction to the Book of James

In February 2012 I began preaching through the book of James. When I started I knew that I would be challenged by the content of the letter but not to the level that I have been. James, the author, wrote this letter to show us how we are to live out our faith (that is the title I chose for the sermon series on this book).  I believe that if we put James’ teaching into practice, the church today will look more like the church during the time of the apostles. Reading the book of Acts and seeing how God moved will excite you to see those things take place in your church today. God did mighty things in them and will do the same in us. All He asks is pure devotion and obedience to Him and we can learn much of that from this book.

I will post the outline from each sermon bi-monthly, Lord willing. I also will add a link to the audio or video that was recorded of that sermon. I welcome all comments/questions that you may have. I believe they will help each of us grow in sanctification and the knowledge of God.

Too often we read a portion of Scripture without knowing the details of who wrote it, why they wrote it, where they wrote it, to whom did they write and the circumstances of their writing. This gives valuable information to understanding the letter more clearly. So this post will be the introduction and give background on this wonderful epistle (letter).

The author of this letter is James, who is believed to be Jesus’ half-brother (half-brother because they have the same mom but different dad’s - see Matthew 13:55). I find it exciting that we have a book in the Bible that was written by a family member of Christ. In what had to be heart breaking for Jesus is that James did not believe that that his half-brother was the Messiah (John 7:5) until after He had been crucified (Acts 1:14; I Corinthians 15:7). How many of us are living with the knowledge that our families don’t believe in us? This is just another way that Christ can sympathize with and care for us.

Eusebius tells us that James was a devout Jew that never let a razor touch his hair, never drank wine or ate meat. This plays an important role in the content of this letter. Because of the way he lived his life he was called James the Just and James the Righteous.

After his conversion James gained a prominent role in the early church. In Acts 15 we see that he was leading the Jerusalem Counsel. This counsel was important because they debated whether one had to be circumcised to be saved; am importation of an important Jewish custom into the new covenant, a custom that James would have fully understood because of his understanding of the law. We also see in Galatians 2:9-12 the leadership role James continued to play in the church.

It is believed that he died in A.D. 62. The Jewish elite asked him to recant his faith and wouldn't  A stark contrast to his denials of his brother as the Messiah before James’ conversion. Church history tells us that he was beaten then thrown from the pinnacle of the temple. This was to mock Christ. Remember in Matthew 4:5-7 Satan tempted Christ by telling Him that if he was to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple that angels would save Him. Being a slave of Christ cost James his life.

I enjoy word clouds. They give a good picture of what the author is trying to convey to us. The bigger the word the more often it is used. This is the word cloud for James' epistle.

These words stand out to me: God, Lord, faith, man, brethren and works. James' focus first and foremost is God and our faith in Him. Next is our fellow man. Throughout the epistle James teaches us how we are to relate to each other. Then our works. James 1:22 is the key to the letter. We must be a people of faith that puts that faith into action. If we don't then our faith is dead (James 2:17).

So I invite you to go on this journey with me through the book of James and learn how we are to live out our faith. Again, please leave comments or questions so that we can sharpen each other’s faith (Proverbs 27:17).