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April 27, 1999

In Search of Authentic Religion

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Introduction to James
Because of the literary style of the Epistle of James, we group this New Testament letter with the poetic books in the Scriptures. Located near the end of the Bible, this epistle is small—only five chapters, to be exact—but it packs a powerful punch.
Exactly which man named James wrote the letter is an interesting question. The name James is a rich biblical name. Although there were a number of men by that name in the New Testament, only two were prominent. One, the brother of John and a son of Zebedee, was one of Christ’s twelve disciples (Acts 1:12-14). The other was the half brother of Jesus, another one of Mary’s sons (Matthew 13:55). We believe that it was the latter of the two who penned this practical, hands-on, instructional book.
James apparently was not a believer during the time of Jesus’ ministry (John 7:5). Imagine that. He grew up in the same household as Jesus yet chose not to believe. Somewhere along the way, however, James crossed over in his faith. In the Book of Acts, he appears as a part of a group of believers in the upper room (Acts 1:14). And then, toward the end of the New Testament (Galatians 2:9), Paul refers to James as a pillar of influence in the local church.
James’s life is a profile of the development of a Christian leader. He began as a nonbeliever, full of doubt, questions, and skepticism. He became a member of the community of faith, then he arose as a leading member who ultimately became a pillar of faith. Charles Swindoll’s teaching on the Book of James pinpoints a few reasons we can learn from James’s life:
● We should never give up on God’s ability to convert our skeptical families and friends.
● It takes time for us to progress into leadership, regardless of our family ties.
● One of the toughest battles we all have is fighting tradition and legalism. (This was a hard one for James, who mentions it frequently throughout his short letter.)
● Sometimes it is easier to serve God than it is to serve members of our own families.
Like the other biblical wisdom literature, the Book of James is a gold mine of insights into the world of work. It’s not a book for casual believers, but serious followers of Christ will find in it much fodder for reflection and spiritual development.

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