JAMES’ MESSAGE TO US –New Testament   
by Irene Baron

A painted image of James with light brown mustache and beard, public domain imageJames, the youngest son of Joseph, was a half-brother to Jesus. He wrote many books, but there was only one set which was put into the New Testament as the Book of James. It is sandwiched between the Book of Hebrews and 1 Peter.

Walter Elwell and Robert Yarbrough wrote about James in their book, Encountering the New Testament – A Historical and Theological Survey. They wrote that the Epistle of James infers the book’s author as James the half-brother of Jesus. They told how he became a leading pastor of the Jerusalem church and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah. They believed James died in the early 60’s.

In their book, they included information from Martin Luther in 1522. Although Martin Luther called the Epistle “a rather strawing letter,” he included it in the New Testament.  Luther evidently quoted from James often with approval. Elwell and Yarbrough wrote that James deserves the honor of careful study and response.

The author James is called, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. He refused to deny Jesus as Lord. It is estimated by Elwell that James wrote his testimony and book of James  “…between A.D. 30’s and the early A.D. 60’s.” They suggest his intended audience for his writings was the  “…Jewish Christian readers in various far-flung communities where the gospel had gained a foothold.”  He wrote much of his work following the style of the Old Testament, as is witnessed also in his eyewitness testimony about the life of Mary and the birth of Christ.

It may be due to the fact that he was an eye-witness to the birth of the God, Jesus, and to the non-human magnificence of that birth event, that he had a passion for his own faithfulness to the Lord. He lived with Jesus in the same home for a period of time. James knew for a fact that Jesus was born to be the Messiah.

Painting of clean-shaven man with black beret on his head.His exposure to Christ when Jesus was a child had to have influenced him. In his writing, he passed on to early Christians what he knew about Mary and her Son. He was right there when everything was happening. He knew Mary and her story and experienced the miracles which occurred. He was in the middle of Christianity when it began with the miraculous birth of Christ.

By witnessing the birth of Christ and how holy that was as God entered Earth as human, James had to know without a doubt that God existed and that Jesus was the Messiah. He tried to let other Jewish Christians know those facts in his letters to the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.” (James 1:1)  

He encouraged others to know Christ as their salvation and told them to demonstrate their Christian faith in deeds. He told them that love and Christian faith is to be lived out by sharing and helping one another. If you profess your faith in Jesus Christ, you must do something to prove it.

James witnessed how Jesus reacted to others, seeing him care for the poor, visit the sick, and help widows.

The Christian youth which came up with the WWJD logo, “What Would Jesus Do,” were following the urgings of James. He taught that Christians need to find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it. He wrote:

      “…to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4: 17)

We already know that a genuine faith will change a person’s conduct and character. James said the  absence of any change is evidence of what he called a dead faith.

His admonition was:

          19So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
          20for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
         21Therefore, lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with
             meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
         22But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

James said:

          19“…Even the demons believe – and tremble.
          20But do you want to know, O foolish man,
             that faith without works if dead?”
 (James 2: 19-20) 

He went on to reinforce his comments that the faithful must be doers.

With reference to the testing you go through, James said to accept each test with joy.  
With reference to temptations, he wanted everyone to know that temptations are not from God. He wrote:

          13“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’;
              for God cannot be tempted by 
             evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
         14But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” 
(James 1:13-14)

On the other hand, James wrote:

          17“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from
         the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
          18Of His own will He brought us forth by their word of truth, that we might be
          a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”
(James 1:17-18)

Compassionate, he often called others by the term, “brothers,” to include both male and female.

One of the things he was adamant about was profanity. James wrote:

        “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, wither by heaven or by earth or
         with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘No, be a ‘no’,
         lest you fall into judgment.”
  (James 5:12)

In the last section of his book, James left admonitions for Christians. 
        13“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful Let him sing psalms.
      14Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them
         pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 
     15And the prayer of faith will save the sick and the Lord will raise him up.
       And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
     16Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another,
        that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
     17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it
       would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.
    18And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
     20Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,
    let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save 
     a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.   (James 5: 13-19)



Dunn, Paul David.  Schuller, Robert, Executive Editor. The New Possibility Thinkers Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville.1996.

Elwell, Walter A. Yarbrough, Robert W. Encountering the New Testament – A Historical and Theological Survey. Baker Books. Baker Book House.Co. Grand Rapids, MI.49516. 1998.