The writer of the book of James wasn’t that James (the son of Zebedee) who was killed by Herod if we read the Book of Acts and in chapter 12. Initially, James wasn’t one of the disciples of our Lord Jesus when He started the ministry. He wasn’t one of the twelve called by Jesus when He went around picking members of His discipleship program. James was a Jew and more importantly, what brought him close was the fact that he was a stepbrother to Jesus. Of course Joseph was his father by reason of his marriage to Mary, his mother. Joseph and Mary had more children after the miraculous birth of our Lord Jesus – they had Joseph, Judas, Simon and James.
This James was never a follower of Jesus at the onset of His earthly ministry.
The turnaround in James did not come until Jesus was raised from the dead. That morning when He appeared to Mary, He instructed that the disciples should be made aware of this fact and not only His disciples, he specifically instructed that they should also tell His stepbrother James. He was tagged as the brother of Jesus in distinguishing him from the other James mentioned among the twelve. He became converted, joined himself to the twelve, became prominent and a VIP who eventually wrote the Book of James.
We are careful to mention here that his Book was written well before the Epistles of Paul were written. If we read the Book of Acts and in Chapter 15, the Book of James had been written and this part of Acts was a debate and a dispute about this Book of James on the topic of whether the Gentiles should be allowed to be a part of the Church or not. Obviously the gentiles were responding positively to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, yet some of the Jews who were conversant with the Book of James felt it was almost impossible because they were not Jews. They had not come to the understanding that the death, burial and resurrection that was accomplished, enveloped “all”, Jews and Gentiles inclusive.
Because the Book of James predominantly addressed the Jews, a lot of what was written did not accommodate the Gentile race. They were not aware through their understanding of the Book of James that God had purposed that there was going to be a coalition, never seen or heard before, that the Jews and the Gentiles (because of Jesus) would form a body called the Body of Christ or the Church.
Most of his writing bordered on the doctrine of the Old Testament which was mainly works, culture, rituals, ceremonies and legalism as opposed to the doctrine of the New Testament which centered around the Grace of God, righteousness and justification.
In his Book, you will not come across the words Gentiles, Holy Spirit, Doctrine, and the so many teachings we were introduced to in the Epistles of Paul. This was one of the reasons why the Gentiles found it almost impossible to be part of the newly formed Body of Christ. At the resurrection, there was no more Jews, Gentiles or any racial barrier, Jesus died and was raised from the dead for the whole of humanity.
Many felt and thought that Jesus was coming back so soon that they ignorantly associated their many trials, persecution and tribulations to the second coming of our Lord Jesus. John puts this succinctly when he said, “For God so loved the WORLD, that He gave His only begotten, and that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life”. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus was not just for the Jews but was for all.
Many Jews who responded to the Gospel never knew they were going to be caught in a mix-up – the Gentiles were also responding to the message of the Gospel from another Apostle, separate from James. Apparently, God had nurtured up a new Apostle (Acts 9) who would take the information about the Gospel to the Gentiles knowing that the twelve wouldn’t venture into the arena of the Gentiles.
Now the Gentiles have received Jesus as their Lord and Savior but they were burdened by the writings of James who felt they had to combine the works of the Law with their salvation to be truly saved. Of course many of the Gentiles felt this was not achievable because failure on one part of the law meant failure in all. They would be back to the “all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God” kind of mentality.
Something has to be done.
The idea was for Paul (messenger to the Gentiles) to travel back to Jerusalem and to the council to trash out the issues concerning the Gentiles becoming Jews before their Salvation can be approved. He came to the council and met up with Peter, this James (writer of the Book of James) and John. We know the end of the story or we can refer to Acts 15 and Galatians 1 & 2. The Gentiles were finally accepted and the Body of Christ became a combination of all who would accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Now we have the Body of Christ – a combination of the Gentiles and the Jews, the early books like the Book of James wouldn’t be sufficient for doctrine, reproof, correction and teaching so we ought to look to books that are all encompassing. As stated earlier, the Book of James was predominantly written to Jews in the diaspora and a lack of understanding when it comes to the Old Testament code of practice wouldn’t help.
At this point, we see the difference between the two Apostles (James and Paul). James wouldn’t have been able to write more than what he wrote because as a Jew all he knew was the Old Testament and part of what Jesus said and taught. Although there is a lot we can learn morally from this book of James, we ought to know that there are doctrines, which we need to learn that would eventually change our minds and bring about the change that God expects of us.
To Paul, a dispensation of the Gospel was committed to him, and woe to him if he did not preach it (1Cor 9:16, 17). Though, as he speaks, it was even against his will, yet he must preach it. Jesus was revealed in him for this very purpose, that he might preach/teach Him among the Gentile/Heathen (Gal 1:16). His commission from God was “Rise and Stand upon thy feet, for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and those things in which I will appear unto thee.” The ministry of Paul should then be profitable to Christians discerning rightly because his ministry was thus one stage in the Divine process of laying out the plans/purposes of God.
After God defined his office, immediately he refuses to confer with flesh and blood – refuses to go up to Jerusalem to them that were Apostles before him. He was not to get himself sanctioned there or by them, because before his commission, the twelve had all authority. The Apostles were nothing to him and his ministry; they had not cast the lot to elect him as one of them and therefore were not in the right place to send him forth.
Not only was Paul’s Apostleship and mission independent of Jerusalem and of the twelve, but the gospel, which he preached, was also devoid of Jerusalem and he didn’t learn from them or with them. He once mentioned that he did not get his gospel from man neither was he taught by man, but by revelation of Jesus Christ.
To know the mind of the Spirit, one would need to understand the letters of this Apostle. Jesus said he could not say some things to His disciples but advised on the office of the Holy Spirit for the message to the Church. If we are saved today, it will be because we have yielded to this Gospel, which the Apostle presented when he wrote to the Church at Rome (Romans 2:16).
If there were a CHURCH today in the world, it would have been formed by the Holy Spirit through the letters of this martyr APOSTLE PAUL, because he holds a distinguished place in the Church. He introduces Himself as Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an Apostle and separated unto the Gospel of God.
To understand God and His purpose for the Church is to understand the Epistles of Paul.