Friday, November 21, 2014

James the just - James 1:1

"James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings." (James 1:1)
Today we begin a new study of the book of James.

James was not an apostle, at least not one of the original twelve apostles, nor is he to be confused with James the brother of Zebedee or James the son of Alphaeus who were both apostles. Rather, he was the brother of Jesus our Christ. It was said of Jesus by an indignant crowd, "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?" (Matthew 13:55-56) We also know that before Jesus' resurrection, James, along with the rest of Jesus' brothers, was an unbeliever. "Therefore His brothers said to Him, 'Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.' For not even His brothers were believing in Him." (John 7:3-5) However, after His resurrection, Jesus personally meat with James and he became a believer. "He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also." (1 Corinthians 15:5-8) Finally, as a believer, he became one of the most promenade men in the church at Jerusalem. "and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship." (Galatians 2:9)

In his life, James was know to be a just and holy man; a man of unimpeachable piety. Still he had his enemies among the Romans and unbelieving Jews. In the end he would be martyred for his faith. However, many Jews would later believe the destruction of Jerusalem was the direct judgment of God upon their nation for the murder of such a righteous and just man. Eusebius wrote of James and the destruction of Jerusalem, "James was so admirable a man and so celebrated among all for his justice, that the more sensible even of the Jews were of the opinion that this was the cause of the siege of Jerusalem, which happened to them immediately after his martyrdom for no other reason than their daring act against him. Josephus, at least, has not hesitated to testify this in his writings, where he says, 'These things happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus, that is called the Christ. For the Jews slew him, although he was a most just man.'" (The Church History of Eusebius, Book 2 Chapter 23 verses 19-20) If the destruction of Jerusalem was due to divine punishment, I would have assumed it was for the death of Jesus, but the fact that many Jews felt it was do to the murder of James shows how many of them held him in high regard for his holiness and exceptional piety.

The letter of James is believed to be one of the earliest written productions of the early church, possibly even earlier than Paul's letter to the Thessalonians. What is interesting is that James expressly addresses it to the Jews who were living scattered throughout the world. James represents the Jewish Christian church of his day that had yet to really reach out to the gentiles. When the argument over circumcision broke out, James stood up to resolve the conflict and a separation of work was determined as Paul later related, "But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised." (Galatians 2:7-9) It would eventually take the destruction of Jerusalem for the Jerusalem church to journey "even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8) That being said, there is nothing particular of James letter that applies only to Jewish believers but rather provides wisdom, comfort, and instruction for all believers, both Jews and Gentiles.

I hope this study will be a blessing to you.

David Robison

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