Today we begin a series of sermons on the Letter of James.
A letter of 5 chapters which would have been read to a congregation in its entirety when they gathered in their homes or buildings.
James identifies himself at the beginning of the letter. This is different from us as we usually sign off at the end of a letter.
Which James? There are 3 men with the name James in the New Testament.
2 were apostles and the other was a half brother to the Lord Jesus. Most Bible commentators believe it was written by Jesus half brother. Reading through the life of the Lord Jesus we find that he had brothers and sisters and they did not believe in him.
In Mark chapter 3 when Jesus family heard that he was so busy that he wasn’t able to eat “they went to take charge of him for they said,”He is out of his mind.’In Mark chapter 6 we are told people were saying, “Isn’t this Mary’s son the brother of James and Joseph Judas and Simon. Aren’t his sisters here with us?” Jesus came from a large family by today’s standards. Even though they lived with Jesus they did not believe in Him. John tells us in Chapter 7 “For even his own brothers did not believe in Him.’
After Jesus resurrection from the dead, Acts 1 tells us that the apostles met in a room and we are told that Mary the mother of Jesus was there, “with his brothers.’ The resurrection of their older brother changed their thinking about Jesus. A brother he may have been but now he is the Lord and Messiah.
In 1 Corinthians 15 the Apostle Paul says that the risen Lord Jesus appeared to James then to all the apostles. It is possible there was a special appearance of Jesus to his brothers. This would explain the change in their thinking about their brother.
The only mention of Jesus brothers after this is of James. He is mentioned a number of times in Acts and Paul’s letters.
In Acts 15 it is James who addresses the gathering of Christians at Jerusalem. He speaks as the leader of the church and tells them that Gentiles (non Jewish people) can share the same inheritance as the Jews. In the letter to the Galatians Paul tells us that he met James, the Lord’s brother in Jerusalem and was given the right hand of fellowship especially in their missionary work among the Gentiles.
James letter is a very practical letter with instructions on how to live God’s way in God’s world. In the trials of life and with the challenges of materialism James is a very relevant letter for us today. I hope you enjoy and are challenged by the words of James as we learn from him over the next few weeks.