James’ great concern for believers is not “How much of God’s Word do you know.” But rather James’ passion for the church is “How much of God’s Word that you already know are you practicing.” “Be you doers of God’s Word” (James 2:22).
One of the today’s leading OT Bible scholars of our day is Bruce K. Waltke. He tells the story of the time he was in Israel studying OT Hebrew. He and his family were renting an apartment across the hallway from an elderly Jewish couple, both of whom had taught Hebrew in Boston.
We quickly struck up a friendship. He was conversant in modern Hebrew, and I was not. So every day we world read modern Hebrew texts together for an hour or two. There are about 30,000 words in modern Hebrew not found in biblical Hebrew.
But if I came across a word I didn’t know that was also found in the Hebrew Bible, he would say, “Bruce, you ought to know that word.” Then he’d cite the entire chapter in Hebrew until he got to the word he was looking for.
One time I said to this man, now about 75, “I think you could cite the whole book of Psalms in Hebrew from memory.”
“How long would it take?” I asked.
“Would you be willing to chant the text while I followed in my Hebrew Bible?”
“I’d love it.” He said.
So I sat down for two hours and he recited the entire text. He never missed a vowel in the entire book of Psalms.
On another occasion he was taking me through Exodus 21 and 22 from memory to find a word that occurs only three times in the whole Old Testament. I said, “I think you can recite the entire Torah [Genesis to Deuteronomy] from memory.”
He said, “I can.” I didn’t challenge him.
At that time, however, my friend was an atheist. He could recite all the Torah, he could recite all the psalms in the original text, and he didn’t even believe in God.
But as we were leaving Israel and embraced each other, he said to me, “Bruce, I want you to know I’m now no longer a atheist. I am a theist. I believe there is a God.”
“That’s wonderful,” I said. “I could wish you were a Christian, but how did you come to be a theist.”
He said, “I saw God alive in your home.”
That is the kind of Christianity James is commanding. James wants us do God’s Word not just know God’s Word. The book of James has been called the Epistle of Action. James has five chapters, 108 verses with 54 commands. That averages out to one command for every two verses. Before we examine the book, let’s get to know the author.
I. The Biography of James
A. James the Unbeliever (Mt. 13:55; John 7:2-8)
1) According to Mt 13:55, Mary had seven children that she raised by herself for some years. It is believed that Joseph was dead at the time of Jesus’crucifixion since he was not at the cross and therefore Jesus had to comment Mary to John the Beloved disciple. Since Jesus was the oldest and died in his early 30’s then the youngest was still a teen. If Mary was a single mom part of that time Jesus was at home with His six brothers and sisters, then they were poor. Jesus and His siblings were reared in poverty.
2) According to John 7:2-8, Jesus siblings rejected His claim to be the Messiah. So Jesus’ home must have been filled with conflict. None of Jesus’ brother was at the crucifixion when Jesus died. Jesus had to comment His mother to John. James and Jesus probably did not get along.
B. James the Believer (1 Cor 15:7; Acts 1:14)
1) Jesus, after His resurrection (1 Cor 15:7) made a special appearance to James alone and won him to himself. But how? Perhaps the same way the living Jews who crucified Jesus will be converted when He returns. Zachariah 12:10 says when Christ returns and pours out His Holy Spirit, the Jews will mourn for Him and ask “What are these wounds in your hands?” And Christ will answer, “those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends” (13:6). When James saw the wounds in his older brother’s hand in his resurrected body, he was converted.
2) James then led his other brothers to Christ and all of them were together in Acts 1:14.
C. James the Leader (Acts 15; Gal 2:9)
1) In Acts 15 at the big church conference in Jerusalem over the controversy in the church, James the pastor resides. Criswell said pastors and members should not be shocked over controversy in the church. It has been that way from the beginning Sprugeon observed that the Devil never beats a dead horse. When all of the information is presented by both sides, James made the decision.
2) In Galatians 2:9, Paul called James along with Peter and John, a pillar in the church. James grew quickly as a believer and was soon in a key leadership position.
D. James the Martyr in AD 62.
When James publicly refused to repudiate the claims of Jesus as the Messiah, the infuriated High Priest, Annas, forced him to the Temple roof and threw him over and, when he was not killed by the fall, beat him to death with clubs (D. Edmond Hiebert, James. BMH Books, 1992, p. 36). But Annas so enraged the populace of Jerusalem concerning their beloved pastor that they deposed Annas and the governor of Jerusalem after a reign of only three months. Thank God for church members who come to the defense of their mistreated pastors.
E. James the Author of God’s Word
James wants God’s people who are scattered for their faith and are under persecution to go on to spiritual maturity by practicing God’s Word. James gives five tests. Not tests for knowledge, but tests of maturity. In James 1:3, James admonishes believers to let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect or mature and entire, wanting or lacking nothing.
1. The Test of Wisdom (Ch. 1) Problem: Impatience in Trails
2. The Test of Works (Ch. 2) Problem: Not practicing the Truth
3. The Test of Words (Ch. 3) Problem: Not controlling the Tongue
4. The Test of Worldliness (Ch. 4) Problem: Causing Divisions
5. The Test of Wealth (Ch. 5) Problem: Coveting Material Things
In Part 2, we get to know the author: James. James was nicknamed “James the Just” and “Camel Knees.” Do you know why?”