James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting (James 1:1).
Who is James?
The book of James begins with a greeting from the author, James. There is more than one James mentioned in the New Testament. One is James the son of Zebedee and brother to John. There is also James the son of Alphaeus. There is also mention of James, the brother of Jesus. Which James wrote this epistle?
I had though that James, the brother of Jesus wrote this epistle, but I do not know. There is debate about which James wrote the epistle. There is also debate about whether Jesus in-fact had a brother named James. We read about this in Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3, and Galatians 1:19.
Some believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus was a perpetual virgin, therefore, Jesus had no brothers or sisters. However, there are scriptures that indicate otherwise, including those mentioned above.
Though interesting, whether or not the author of James was the actual blood brother of Jesus is of little importance. According to what Jesus taught, “those who do the will of the Father in heaven” are his mother, brother, and sister (Matthew 12:50, Mark 3:35).
This makes me think about the identity of Christians today. Does claiming Jesus make us a Christian, or do we have to submit to the will of the Father in heaven for Jesus to substantiate our claim before God?
What is important is not whether James is the blood brother of Jesus, but the fact that James introduces himself as a “servant of God and of the Lord, Jesus Christ.” James is a servant of Jesus and God. That is the relation that matters.
This brings the idea of the trinity to mind.
What is the nature of Jesus?
I believe that Jesus is both one with God the Father and also distinct with the Father as the Son. This is hard to understand, and I have a difficult time explaining what I believe about the trinity.
We could get into a long discussion about the trinity, but that might become a distraction from the over-all message of this epistle.
For me, the most important thing is that we do not diminish the divine nature of Jesus, and we also do not under-appreciate his suffering and experience as a man.
Who is James addressing this epistle to?
James is addressing the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.” I’m not learned in the historical events. I have some basic understanding of this, but not enough to make mention of it here.
I want to do my best to consider how we might apply the Word to this present day. I love to learn about the history, and knowing what the original authors intended is important. However, I also believe that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16:17).”
Therefore, what I am looking for is understanding the gospel, Christian doctrine, and how we should order our lives as Christians. These are what I expect the Holy Spirit to lead us towards when studying the Bible, not knowledge of no importance that only makes us puffed up in vain understanding without profiting us in the things of the kingdom of heaven. In-fact, such knowledge only distracts and divides—the blood relation of Jesus and James being a prime example.
Presently, who are the twelve tribes? Who is the nation of Israel?
I wrote some notes and read some scriptures about New Jerusalem and areas in which Christians were referred to as Israel in the New Testament, specifically Romans 11. This opened something that I want to dig into further, but I do not want to distract from this present study by going too far off topic.
For now, I think we should consider Israel in terms of God’s people, whether they are currently living for the Lord or not. Presently, even among those professing Jesus, many are “scattered abroad.” In-fact, most are. That’s how I see it anyway.
The people of the Lord, Jesus are scattered among various denominations, false doctrines, and ensnared by present-day idolatry, sorcery, and all the like. However, Jesus is very merciful and patient towards us, and he will save every single one of those who are truly Israel—who are truly his people.
As Jesus taught, those who do the will of the Father which is in heaven are the kinsmen of Jesus Christ. James, the brother of Jesus according to the spirit which Jesus teaches, is a good example of this importance since his relation to the Lord is a topic of debate among Catholics and Protestants of varying denominations. Many are those who “strain out the gnat and swallow the camel (Matthew 23:24).”
Focusing on bloodlines and physical locations is of no importance whatsoever. In-fact, this is dangerous. Claiming kinship with God through Jesus by declaring such with our words while our lives are not in submission to the will of the Father is equally vain and dangerous.
What is the will of the Father?
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40).
What does it mean to truly believe in Jesus? For more on that, take a look at Considering the Resurrection – Part 1 – Defining the Resurrection (Section 1). I plan to continue working on the “Considering the Resurrection” series and hope to publish the next article later this week.
This article is part of a series of Bible studies in the Book of James. Please feel free to share any thoughts and questions. I’d love to see discussions among believers about the Bible! If this was helpful for you, please consider sharing with others. Subscribe if you’d like to receive future posts by email.