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Understanding the Epistle of James II

We continue in our study as we introduce the writer of the Book of James. From our last article, we understood that the Epistle was written by the stepbrother of Jesus who became a Christian when he discovered that Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of God as promised. He became the eldest son of Mary after the death of Jesus, as he had no choice but to acquiesce to the call of God. We also discovered that he was immediately engrafted into the league of the disciples and was referred to as, James, the brother of our Lord Jesus.

James was one of the three disciples Apostle Paul met when he went to Jerusalem to settle a dispute that came up when a sect of the Jews who had become believers, were found saying that coupled with accepting Christ into ones life as Lord and Savior, there is also a need to keep the Law. Some were found to have said that there was a need for circumcision once there is a cross over from Judaism to Christianity. Unknown to the great Apostle Paul, they were having the same problem at the Church in Jerusalem.

One of the very first Epistles written in the New Testament is this book of James; we are not sure if the Book was written before Paul’s meeting with the Council in Jerusalem consisting of Peter, James and John. Paul mentioned this in the Book of Galatians when he said that he went to Jerusalem to meet with the “who-is-who” of this New Gospel (Galatians 2). This further proves that the Book of Galatians was written after the deliberation in Acts 15 or the Jerusalem Council episode. Paul had a lot to say about this particular meeting, as you will discover when you read Galatians in chapters 1 and 2. Galatians was the first Epistle written by Paul as a harbinger of Grace, so there is no reason to doubt that no one had written on the doctrine of Grace.

Peter in his submission to his listeners at the meeting, had helped them to understand how God had appeared to him in the Cornelius saga, commanding and asking him not to call that which God had called clean, unclean. This singular experience had helped Peter to understand that the good Lord had planned to extend Salvation to the Gentiles. Peter concluded that there was no reason to place a “burden on the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we were able to bear. We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

As the meeting continued, the atmosphere became quiet and guess what, it was the turn of James to say his side of the story (Acts 15: 14–20). He concluded that they should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. The reason was that these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.

He conceded, hence the decision to allow Paul and Barnabas extend the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles, Galatians 2:7 – 9. Therefore, when you read things like FAITH without WORKS is dead in the Book of James, know that the Book had been written before the Apostle Paul spelt and wrote out the Doctrine of Grace. Peter had confirmed this in his Epistle (you can read about that in his Second Epistle and in Chapter 3).

Who were His audience?

There was no mention of the word Gentile all through the book. History had it that he clearly spelt out that he was writing to the twelve tribes of Israel scattered all over the world. The reason they all gathered from various countries on the Day of Pentecost. They were described as Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia, Judaea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya (near Cyrene), Rome, Cretans and Arabians. They were called the DIASPORIANS, JEWS who lived abroad in many countries. Many were saved on this day (close to about 3000) and the idea was for them to take the message of the Gospel back to their various cities of residence.

To these ones, the Book of James was addressed. Nothing could have been more encouraging than to hear from the brother of Jesus at a time when they were going through a plethora of trials, afflictions and troubles. Their troubles were described as the “various forms of troubles”.

At such a time, doctrine was not what they needed (the reason why this book has no doctrinal teaching added to it); they needed to hear words of comfort and encouragement as they grappled with the so many pains and trials they were going through. They suffered things like betrayal not only from their friends and relatives but also from their brothers and parents. The name CHRISTIANITY was synonymous to being OSTRACISED and often some of these Christians were kicked out of the family settings, being treated as though they were dead. What could be more encouraging than to hear from the brother of Jesus?

The fact that there is no doctrinal truth in this book does not mean we cannot learn from James. Please remember that not all scripture is doctrine; not all scripture is for reproof and not all of scripture is for correction. Some part of scripture we can learn from as we are going to discover in this book.

Some scholars have likened this book to the Book of Proverbs. This book addresses so many things, for example, what we can do as Christians when we fall into trials and pains like these Jews did. Ours might not be that dreadful, for some it could, but there is a lot we can learn from this book that will help us become better Christians fortified with good character and candor.

David said, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous…”

In closing, we will not forget to quote from Charles Haddon Spurgeon who said, “He who has tasted a sour apple will have the more relish for a sweet one; your present want will make future prosperity all the sweeter. The dog in the kennel barks at the fleas; the hunting dog does not even know they are there. If there are no adversaries, you may fear that there will be no success. In any labor to which we set our hand, if we take too much notice of the difficulties, we shall be hindered in it.”

Keep it right here and be Refreshed!

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