The Book of James
Introduction: James is one of the so-called General Epistles and was written by a man named James (Jas. 1: 1). There are at least three men mentioned in the New Testament by the name of James. When the process of elimination is used, the son of Mary and Joseph and brother in the flesh of Jesus appears to be the author (Matt. 13: 55). (The author of James is not James the son of Zebedee because this apostle was killed by Herod before the book of James was written and he is not the James, the son of Alphaeus because that James was an apostle, Matt. 4: 21, Acts 12: ,1, 2; Matt. 10: 2-4, Jas. 1: 1, see the Pulpit Commentary, Introduction to James, for more detail.)
I. Some facts about James.
A. The Epistle is addressed to "the twelve tribes which are of the dispersion" (1: 1). These people were evidently Jews who were Christians (notice some of the vocabulary words in James, 2: 2, "synagogue," ASV; 2: 8-12, references to "the law" and also numerous allusions to well known Jewish characters, 2: 21, 25, 5: 10, 11, 17). Notwithstanding the obvious Jewish influence, James emphasized the "perfect law of liberty" (Jas. 1: 25).
B. The Epistle is known for being replete with simple but practical teaching.
a. Consider the teaching in James 2: 1-13 regarding respect of persons.
C. The Epistle addresses trials, sin, and being "doers of the word" in chapter one. Emphasis is placed on "pure religion" and how to avoid "vain religion" (1: 22-27). In chapter two, saving faith is presented. The tongue is the main subject of chapter three. James challenges the worldly, stresses humility, and teaches dependence on God in chapter four. Chapter five addresses the rich, prayer, and those who "err from the truth."
11. One reason some reject James.
A. James is found in many of the uncial and in more than 200 of the cursive manuscripts of antiquity. The chief reason some refuse to recognize James as authentic is because of James' teaching that faith alone (inactive faith) will not save (2: 14-26). For the most part, those who claim that the Epistle of James lacks canonicity also believe in salvation by "faith only." "The demons believe, and tremble," said James, but they do not obey; hence, they are not saved (2: 19-26).
B. Another reason some reject the Epistle of James is because of the alleged contradiction between James 2: 14-26 and Romans 4: 1-8.
III. The Epistle of James is one of the richest epistles in the New Testament.
A. It should be carefully studied and applied. The rejection of James on the part of some religionists is a classic example of how some had rather have their human creeds than the word of God (cp. Matt. 15: 1-20, see Mark 7: 9).
Conclusion: It is in the Book of James that we find one of the most graphic descriptions of the sequential development and stages of sin: James 1: 13-17. In view of the serious nature of the teaching of James, it is to be expected that James would close his Epistle by teaching on how to "save a soul from death" (Jas. 5: 19, 20). (To consider a study between Romans 4: 1-8 and James 2: 14-26, click on "Justification, Paul and James.").