A key thing to note immediately is that the author of this letter is not James, the brother of John and one of the Twelve, but James the brother of Jesus. Despite initially having been sceptical about the claims of Jesus when He began His ministry-John 7 v 5-he appears as one of the small group of early believers who met to wait for the Holy Spirit to be revealed-Acts 1 v 14-and from then on it becomes clear that James has become the leader of the church in Jerusalem- Acts 15 v 4-21. We don't know how this came about, although there is a clue in 1 Corinthians 15 v 7, where Paul writes about the resurrected Christ appearing to James. The letter of James has had its fair share of opponents over the years, notably Martin Luther, who condemned it as 'an epistle of straw' and stuck it right at the back of his Bible! James is straight-talking and believed that faith could only be demonstrated by action. You will find much which challenges you as we study this book of the Bible. James addresses his missive to the Jews who lived outside Palestine. For example, one of the greatest concentrations lived in Syria, where the Gospel was first preached to the Gentiles- in Antioch by Paul- and where followers of Jesus were first called Christians. 10,000 Jews were massacred in Damascus at one time. In this letter, James never suggests to his readers that being a Christian would in any way be easy. In fact, I don't think you read that anywhere in the New Testament. It may have become that for us in the developed first world, but, as an Indian preacher said to me, the persecuted Christian is the norm: we in the UK are abnormal! James urges his readers to be prepared for trials. All kinds of experiences have come and will come to us, but they are not intended to make us fall, we are to defeat them in the power of the Holy Spirit and through that, to become stronger and more able to stand.
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