James : Apostle of Practical Christianity
TITLE : Introducing James
TOPIC/LESSON : James: Apostle of Practical Christianity – Introduction
TEXT : Selected Scriptures
THRUST : The purpose of this lesson is for the student to have an overview on James: the man and the message.
· Who among you have read the book of James?
· What important lesson did you get from the book?
· What impression did you have about the book and the man who wrote it?
· This series doesn’t introduce the kind of man who is an ivory tower theologian. James is a man of action.
· He takes his faith out into the marketplace. He is both a man of the city and a contemplative man of prayer. He combines a humble, prayerful, lifestyle with a dynamic, authoritative leadership style.
· Although the Scripture contain only a few fleeting references to James the man, his writings let us look deeply into the heart, mind and godly lifestyle of one of the most respected leaders in the first century church.
· While many modern books include as many as 40 to 50,000 words, you can read James’ 2,300 words in 20 minutes. Five forceful chapters, at least 20 questions, and 50 to 60 specific instructions that require personal action.
· The closer we study this man and his message, the more we realize how practical and how timeless are the truth he teaches.
1. The Man
1.1. His Family Background
· What can we now about James’ family background and his relationship with Jesus?
· James was a half brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, perhaps nearest in age to Jesus (Mark 6:3, Galatians 1:19).
· James had unusual opportunities because he lived under the same roof as Jesus. For almost 30 years they are on the same table, worked on the same woodshop, and worshipped together every Sabbath. Once a year, James traveled with Jesus to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.
· James looked up to Jesus being the eldest in the family as any younger brother does. Especially, as it is generally, believed, that their father, Joseph died before Jesus was very old (Joseph was not mentioned in Mark 6:3). Hence, we can say that James enjoyed a close, dependent relationship with Jesus during his boyhood.
· How did Jesus’ family, including James, regard Jesus’ true identity as the Messiah and Son of God?
· Mark 3:20-21
· Mark 3:33-35
· Mark 6:1-4
· John 7:1-5
· From the various accounts in the gospels, it can be observed that James together with other family members did not believe that Jesus was the Jewish people’s long-awaited Messiah. They were present when Jesus was teaching and performing miracles, but they were not convinced that Jesus was the Son of God. James did not accept Him as His personal Savior.
· It must have thrown the family into confusion often. We can speculate that there were many family discussions and disagreements over Jesus during boyhood and adulthood.
· What special encounter with Jesus did James experience?
· 1 Corinthians 15:7
· James’ pilgrimage toward faith could have begun as he watched those unforgettable events in the last week of Jesus’ life. We do not know exactly the details when or how James came to believe in Jesus. Probably he did not come to faith until after Jesus’ death. But by the time the apostles, the women, and Mary gathered in the upper room to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, James had accepted his brother as his own savior.
· Paul’s comment about the Lord’s brothers taking their wives with them to visit the churches suggests that James was married (1 Corinthians 9:5).
· How many of you live in a family who are unbelievers? Share your experience in the way they view your Christian faith?
· What lessons can we learn from the story of Jesus and James in reading our family members into a personal relationship with Christ?
1.2 His Life
· James life begins in relative obscurity. Growing up in the same home as Jesus, following his older brother around Galilee, and even during his leadership of the church in Jerusalem, James remains in the background. Although he becomes a recognized leader, he keeps a low profile.
· Traditional sources such as Eusebius (one of the church fathers who lived from 270 to 340 A.D.) relate that James was appointed as the first bishop of Jerusalem by the Lord Jesus and the apostles.
· He became known as a pillar of the church in Jerusalem, and preside over the Jerusalem council (Acts 15).
· When Peter miraculously release from prison, he instructed John Mark’s household to be sure to report this to James (Acts 12:16-17). Peter understood James’ influential position.
· Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, recognized James’ leadership by visiting him and reporting his missionary work among the Gentiles (Acts 21:17-19)
1.3 His Character
· One of the main sources of information on James was Hegesippus, a Christian who lived in Palestine and wrote his Memoirs between 174 and 189 A.D.
· According to Hegesippus, James was known as “James the Just” because of his devotion to the Law of Moises. He lived under a Nazirite vow, not drinking strong drink, not eating meat, and refusing to cut his hair.
· Jewish believers appreciated James’ respect for their traditional way of life. They admitted his ability to combine reverence for the Law of Moses with obedience to Jesus Christ.
· Hegesippus also depicted James as man of prayer. He wrote that James’ knees became calloused as a camel’s knees because of so much time spend in prayer.
· What important lesson can you learn from James’ character and leadership?
2. His Message
· Most evangelical scholars agree that James wrote the epistle that bears his name around 40 to 50 A.D.
· James special concern for Jewish converts to Christianity is seen in his letter, which he addresses to the Jews of the Dispersion. These were Christian Jews who were scattered by persecution or as a result of difficult circumstances (cf. Acts 8:1).
· The epistle of James addresses the relationships and experiences of life and eloquently captures the practicality of a man whose heart burned to see the Christian faith transform the daily lives of all professing Christians
3. His Mastyrdom
· According to tradition, some scribes and Pharisees threw him off the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, then stoned and clubbed him to death. As he lies dying, James, the Apostle of Practical Christianity, prays.: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” James dies about 62 A.D.
· James saw a perfect life demonstrated as he grew up with his half-brother, Jesus, in Nazareth.
· That experience of the Living God at close hand must have a strong factor in his later emphasis on practiced Christian living.
· How would you evaluate your Christian faith? Do you think there is a proper balance in your life between Biblical knowledge and practice?
· “A man for all seasons, this James embraced a faith that is equally at home in the first century and twentieth. He is Jewish in culture but universal in compassion – a man of great authority but characterized also by deep humility. His grasp of Jewish religion is thorough, but his insight into fundamental Christian truth is profound. He has been called a man of volcanic energy.” (For Valentine)
This man and his message deserve our full attention. This series is a character study about a man who called his own brother “Lord.”
James: Apostle of Practical Christianity by Robert P. Lighter and Bernard Thrompson.
This Bible Study material was prepared by Ramil Dizon Leader of Professional Cellgroup Ministry of Grace Bible Church.