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An Introduction to the Epistle of James
About the Epistle of James:
When you think of the Book of James in the New Testament, who comes to mind? One of the two Apostles named James, or James the half brother of Jesus? If you said the half brother of Jesus, you hit the mark! James, the son of Mary, half brother of Jesus is whom this epistle (letter) is commonly attributed to1. Many contemporary scholars believe that James wrote his epistle some time between A.D. 37-682, most likely during the Roman Emperor Nero's persecution of the Christian Church2. With this in mind, it is immediately obvious why he began his epistle with a call to persevere during times of hardship and persecution.
Who is this letter written to?
Chapter one is written to Christians whom were scattered due to the persecution that was taking place throughout the Roman Empire. It may have been specifically written with Christians of Jewish origin in mind. Although the content of this epistle applies to the entirety of the Christian Church, I believe that the statement in verse one, generally refers to the 12 tribes of Israel. "To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion3", likely means that he intended the Hebrew Christians to be the primary audience. James likely knew that his letter would be circulated among all Christians regardless of their ethnic background. Having been inspired by the Holy Spirit, James was aware that the Jewish Christians were receiving a double dose of persecution. James himself would have known first hand of the trials that come with being a Jewish believer, and being the brother of the messiah would have made life even more difficult. Not only were they being persecuted by the gentiles (IE: Romans) for their Christianity, but they would have also been shunned and persecuted by the Jewish population for leaving the Jewish faith. It would have been very challenging to avoid backsliding. Can you imagine not only being hunted down by the government for your beliefs, but also being disowned by your family and friends? It would have been very discouraging.
Your in the fight.
As we dive into the letter of James, I think that there is something that we need to be aware of in our everyday lives. As James will later elaborate on, and we will discuss in more detail, trials and temptations are to be considered a blessing. A blessing? Trials lead to a stronger more robust faith. It's easy to see God at work in our everyday lives when things are going well. What about when things are not going so smoothly? Your health deteriorates, you lose your job, your significant other dumps you, there are a ton of things that can go wrong in life. That's one of the consequences of living in a fallen creation. Think though, what if your back is against the wall, but somehow you manage to come through life's trials just a little worse for wear? Stop for a moment. Dig deep. We have all faced circumstances that at the time seemed insurmountable. A show stopper. You know what I'm talking about. We have all been there. Remember that time in your life, now where are you today? You came out on the other side of the situation. How did it work itself out? God had his hand in it, and without being able to have experienced it, you would have never had the opportunity to witness God at work in your life.
Your on the spiritual radar. Do you ever feel tempted? Be honest, everyone battles temptation of some type. You may run the gauntlet of the flesh with everything from greed, selfishness, laziness, dishonesty, lust and the list goes on. We should expect to feel tempted, it's part of being a sinner. Have you noticed though, that some days are more difficult then others, constantly battling sinful thoughts and desires? I will not tell you that it is a good thing, because temptation is not of God, it's of the DEVIL. When your under spiritual attack, at least Satan feels threatened by you, so you must be doing something right. The true danger is when you no longer feel tempted. You have become complacent to your temptation, or have given into it. Then Satan has you right where he wants you.
How often do you read the Bible?
Daily, more then 30 minutes a day.
Just the introduction..
This is just the introduction to my thoughts on the book of James. Please keep an eye out for my continuing articles on this fascinating (albeit short) book of the New Testament.
The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible Companion. Indianapolis, Kirkbride Bible Co. Inc., 1989. Print.
The Epistle of James: “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
Further reading: Messianic Jews, Jewish Christians.