James was possibly the first New Testament book written, probably penned in the very late 40’s AD. It is generally accepted that the book was written by James, the leader of the Jerusalem Church, also known as James the brother of Jesus.
From the very first, some people objected to having James in the New Testament. Martin Luther pushed for its exclusion (as well as some other books) because he thought it crossed some Protestant doctrines. However, history shows that God intends for James to be included in sacred Scripture.
Perhaps some of the controversary around the book can be ended if people are willing to accept the book for what it is, and not try to force it to be something it is not. We get a quick look at what it is by looking at the first verse: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.”
James was the leader of the Jerusalem church, but was not one of the original apostles. His letter shows that he is a strong, experienced leader whose purpose is to guide Jewish Christians about how to live as Christians in various countries and cultures. He accomplishes his purpose.
The book of James was written about two decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus. During that time, the majority of Christians were Jews. Since Peter converted Cornelius, efforts had been made to convert more non-Jews, but the majority were still Jews. The Jews in Israel and throughout the world tried to separate themselves from other people groups through their synagogues, religious rituals, and attitudes.
The leader of the church in Jerusalem was James, and he could see how church life in Jerusalem had changed from the first years of explosive growth and excitement. Two decades later, his church was showing the effects of economic persecution from the Jewish leaders, and his members were still abandoning the city for strange new communities. The very nature of Christian communities was quickly changing.
How would a local church community change when most of the members had no concept of good behavior as set forth in the Old Testament? Who would have authority and knowledge to lead each congregation? How would Christians co-exist with non-Christian Jews in a Roman society where Jews had special privileges from the government? How would local churches relate to other local churches?
That was certainly a time when all church leaders would have to rely on guidance from Holy Spirit. In many ways, the early Church was a social experiment that had never been tried before. Christian leaders were intent on building communities that crossed national boundaries, local religions, ethnic groups, and cultural borders. And they were trying to do this in a climate where the Roman Empire was intent on establishing worship of the Roman Emperor, to the point of suppressing anything that opposed that goal.
From personal experience, James knew an essential element of building a church community was eliminating “respect barriers” based on economic factors. Poor people were equally valued in God’s eyes as rich people, and that same standard had to apply in local churches. Juxtaposed with that standard was the equally important fact that wealthier Christians needed to help poor people both inside and outside of the church. What a challenge!
Rather than proposing a large number of rules to follow, James extolled the importance of exhibiting virtues like humility, generosity, wisdom, consistency. Community was not going to happen because of rules, but because of Godly hearts.
James – Andy Axewell
Jude – Zachary Leasau
Peter – Peter Fuselier
Last Deacon – Bruce Dubose
Barnabas – Bob Hess
King Solomon – Todd Terry