James identifies himself as “a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). There are three men named James in the New Testament.
- James, the son of Alphaeus, also an apostle of Christ (Matthew 10:3), but we know nothing else about him. There is nothing that would lead us to conclude he wrote the book.
- James, the brother of John and son of Zebedee, a fisherman who became an apostle of Christ (Mark 1:19-20; 3:17). He was put to death by Herod in 44 AD (Acts 12:1-2). This does not exclude him from being the author, but presents a very narrow time span for writing (between Acts 8:4 and Acts 12:1).
- James, the half-brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3) would become a prominent leader in the early church (Galatians 1:19; 2:9; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 12:17; 15:13, 19). It would seem he had both the opportunity to write and the influence with the brotherhood to be the author. It is commonly believed that he was the writer.
The writer’s focus is on the spiritual growth and maturity of his readers. We need to become “…perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (1:4). He identifies multiple attitudes and actions which will result in growth. Consider:
- Ask God for wisdom (1:5-6)
- Be ready to endure and overcome trials (1:2-3, 12)
- Be aware of the tempter and his methods (1:14-16)
- Be thankful for God’s blessings (:1-17-18)
- Exercise self-control (1:19-21)
- Put God’s word into practice (1:22-27)
That’s just chapter 1! You get the point—it is a very practical book. Chapter by chapter, James outlines how we are to humbly show ourselves as faithful servants of God.
As I outline the book, I believe there primary focus is on what active faith will produce in our lives. Consider an outline of the epistle of James:
1:1-12 …… The Testing Of Your Faith
1:13-18 ….. The Source Of Temptation
1:19-27 ….. Active Faith Obeys The Word
2:1-13 …… Active Faith Removes Discrimination
2:14-26 ….. Active Faith Proves Itself By Works
3:13-18 ….. Active Faith Produces Wisdom
4:1-12 …… Active Faith Produces Humility
4:13-5:6 …. Active Faith Produces Dependence On God
5:7-12 …… Endure The Waiting For Christ’s Return
5:13-18 ….. Your Spiritual Conduct Shows Your Faith
5:19-20 ….. Have Care For The Erring Brother
Next time, we’ll look at 1 & 2 Peter.