Background to the Epistle of James (Author)
Four men are named James in the New Testament
1. James, the father of Judas (not Iscariot), is mentioned twice (see Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13) as the father of one of the twelve disciples, but is otherwise completely unknown.
2. James, the son of Alphaeus (see Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13), elsewhere called James the Less (Mark 15:40), was one of the twelve disciples. Apart from being listed with the other disciples, this James is completely obscure, and it is doubtful that he is the authoritative figure behind the epistle. Some attempts have been made to identify this James with the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19), but this view is difficult to reconcile with the gospel accounts.
3. James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John (see Matt. 4:21; 10:2; 17:1; Mark 3:17; 10:35; 13:3; Luke 9:54; Acts 1:13), was one of Jesus’ intimate disciples, but his martyrdom by A.D. 44 (Acts 12:2) makes it very unlikely that he wrote this epistle.
4. James, the Lord’s brother (see Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3; Gal. 1:19), was one of the “pillars” in the church in Jerusalem (see Acts 12:17; 15:13–21; 21:18; Gal. 2:9, 12). Tradition points to this prominent figure as the author of the epistle, and this best fts the evidence of Scripture.
(Taken and adapted from Talk Thru the Bible by Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Copyright 1983 by Thomas Nelson. Publishers.)
Important topics in James
1. What it means to be a servant of God (1:1)
2. The need for joy in the midst of trials (1:2)
3. How spiritual maturity is produced in our lives (1:2)
4. The way to receive wisdom from God (1:5-7)
5. Maintaining an eternal perspective regarding our station in life (1:9-11)
6. The process of temptation (1:13-15)
7. The character and goodness of God the Father (1:16-18)
8. Be doers of the word, not hearers only (1:22)
9. The defnition of true religion (1:27)
10. Avoiding favoritism (2:1-9)
11. Faith without works is dead (2:14-25)
12. The necessity of controlling the tongue (3:1-12)
13. The nature of heavenly wisdom (3:13-18)
14. Why prayers are sometimes not answered (4:1-3)
15. How to recover from worldliness (4:4-10)
16. The futility of boastful planning (4:13-16)
17. How God views the greedy, unjust rich man (5:1-6)
18. Be patient until the coming of the Lord (5:7-8)
19. Persevere and endure in your present circumstances (5:10-11)
20. Be a person of integrity (5:12)
21. Dealing with life issues: sufering, cheerfulness, sickness (5:13-15)
22. Confess your sins to one another for healing (5:16)
23. The power and availability of fervent prayer (5:16-18)
24. The need to turn sinful brethren back to the truth (5:19-20)
Key verses in James
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will fee from you.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”9
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.