Introduction to James
The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.
The Book of James is classified with 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, and Jude as "catholic" or "general" epistles because they are not addressed to a particular individual or church. It is a book that has been -- and continues to be -- beset by controversy. In early church history it was one of the last books accepted into the canon of Scripture. However, after it was accepted by the early church councils there was no challenge to the epistle until the time of the Reformation.
Martin Luther did not value James as highly as the works of other New
writers. His opinion has been widely quoted:
In sum: the gospels and the first epistle of St. John, St. Paul's epistles, especially those to the Romans, Galatians and Ephesians, and St. Peter's first epistle, are the books which show Christ to you. They teach everything you need to know for your salvation, even if you were never to see or hear any other teaching. In comparison with these the epistle of James is an epistle full of straw, because it contains nothing evangelical.
He also commented on this letter:
I think highly of the epistle of James, and regard it as valuable although it was rejected in early days. It does not expound human doctrines, but lays much emphasis on God's law. Yet to give my own opinion, without prejudice to that of anyone else, I do not hold it to be of apostolic authorship.
Luther's views appear to be a result of the seeming disparity between James and Paul on the question of justification.
We can appreciate the battle in which Luther was engaged in defending the biblical teaching of justification by faith which caused him to fail to appreciate the emphasis of James.
The position of Bible-believing Christians since the decision of the early church councils has been that James is indeed part of the inspired Word of God. Our study will demonstrate that it does manifest the characteristics that we expect of God's Word and is in perfect harmony with the rest of Scripture.
The place to begin is with the opening verses which give us the
to the letter. Three matters of importance are dealt with in the first
I. The Writer
II. The Recipients
The immediate cause of this scattering was probably the persecution that occurred after the martyrdom of Stephen (cf. Acts 8:1; 11:19), James now writes to them as the head of the home church in Jerusalem.
He writes with authority, using 54 imperatives in the 108 verses of the letter. It is the most Jewish of all the New Testament letters. It is clear from the letter that these Jews are professing believers.
III. The Greeting
The thrust of James' letter is that faith must be alive and working, He does not concentrate on the doctrinal content of faith, but is concerned with the ethical demands of faith.
The key verse which clearly expresses this theme is 2:17: "Faith, if
no works, is dead." Evidently there was a laxness among these Jews in
the area of living their faith. James writes firmly to correct this error.
writer noted: "As long as there are professed Christians who are prone to
profession and practice, the message of James will continue to be
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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.