James, the Little Brother of Jesus
The Bible provides a pretty clear picture of James, the little brother of Jesus. He is first seen as a critic, second he’s converted, third he’s caring, and finally, he’s courageous.
Listen to his first words in James 1:1 – James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.
Over the next 12 weeks, we will work through one of the most quoted books in the entire Bible. It’s filled with famous phrases and quotations that often make their way into Christian conversation:
- Faith produces steadfastness.
- God cannot be tempted.
- Every good and perfect gift comes from above.
- Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.
- Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.
- Even the demons believe—and shudder!
- Faith apart from works is dead.
- Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
On the other hand, James is also full of passages that have left Christians scratching their heads. Does James have it in for rich people? What is the point of anointing a sick person with oil? Does James teach that if you just have enough faith, God will always heal? Then there are even larger and more pointed questions. Why doesn’t James talk very much about the cross? Does he understand the gospel the same way the rest of the New Testament writers do? And isn’t he disagreeing with Paul in chapter 2 about the relationship between faith, works, and salvation?
These are all important questions, and in the course of this sermon series, we’ll address all of them. It helps, however, to realize that the primary message driving James’s letter is that Christians’ faith in the gospel should work itself out in a life of obedience. As he says in James 1:22, believers in Jesus should not just hear the word and believe it, but they should also do what it says.
The gospel of Jesus—which James understands deeply and affirms completely—results in a new life of obedience when a person believes. That’s James’s message, and as we come to understand that, his book will be a stirring exhortation to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called.
You may be asking “Why should we study James?” Why not one of Paul’s letters? Why not something more practical? Actually, there are two primary reasons we’re going to be working through this text.
- We want to see the relationship between faith and works. Can I be a Christian and not do the things Jesus says? Must I do the things Jesus says in order to be a Christian? James, more than any other NT writer helps us here.
- We want to see the impact of our faith in two primary areas: our neighbors and the nations.
May our study of James lead us to a faith that’s demonstrated by our works and works that lead others to faith in Jesus.
This post corresponds with Pastor Jacob's September 10, 2017 sermon from James 1:1 entitled "Just Like Jesus."