James: A Call to Action

The book of James is a direct, straightforward call for believers in Jesus to demonstrate our faith.

Like most “books” in the New Testament, James is actually a letter (epistle) written by the Apostle James, who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem and also the brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55). This James is not to be confused with either of Jesus’ two disciples (James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus). Historical data indicate that James did not believe Jesus was anything more than a mere human, much less the Messiah/Son of God – that is, until Jesus appeared to him after His resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:7). Nothing like a good resurrection to change your theology!

Despite his apostolic role in the early church and his direct, lifelong familial relationship with Jesus, James does not even mention his position or his pedigree, but refers to himself simply as “a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2). His humility notwithstanding, James uncompromisingly speaks with boldness and authority, calling true believers to express their faith through practical means of ministry to others. “Faith without works is dead” (2:26)!

So focused is James’ letter on the “works” of the believer that a few later theologians questioned whether or not the book of James ought to have been canonized (recognized as inspired Scripture). James’ insistence for us to demonstrate our faith by our works should not be seen as a threat to the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. James knew that our works do not save us; however, he also knew that, if we are truly saved, our salvation is proven by our works.

So, what can we learn from James?

  • Jesus loves to reveal Himself to those who are critical, skeptical, and cynical. In fact, Jesus transforms non-believers (like James and Saul/Paul), often entrusting them to build the very kingdom they once sought to disprove.
  • Doctrine without demonstration is worthless.
  • Following Jesus is not merely a matter of personal growth, but of social impact.

As you read the words of James, ask the Holy Spirit how He wants you to demonstrate your faith!

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