The author of the book of James simply identifies himself as, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1). While there are upwards of six different people named James in the New Testament, we can be rather sure that James the half brother of Jesus is the author of this book (Mark 6:3; Gal. 1:19). First, James was one of the pillars of the church, and held a prominent role in Jerusalem; lacking further specification, early readers would have assumed “James” would have been this James. Second, scholars have examined the sentence structure and words spoken by James in Acts 15:13-21 and that of the epistle and have found striking similarity. Third, due to the contents of this book, it is clear that James was written at an early date, but also by a date when persecution, suffering, and oppression were widespread in the early church. This fits what we know about James, the brother of Christ. Finally, church history has well documented that James the half-brother of Jesus authored this book at an early date.

What do we know about James? During Christ’s ministry on earth, James and Christ’s other half brothers did not believe in Christ (John 7:5). After His resurrection, Christ made a special appearance to James (1 Cor. 15:7), which may have marked the turning point for him. Afterward, we find him in prayer with the believing followers of Christ (Acts 1:14). It is worth noting that nowhere in this letter does James highlight his physical relationship to Christ. Instead, he is content to refer to himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1).


There are many who consider James to be a very early Christian document, perhaps the first book written in the New Testament canon. As already pointed out, by the time James wrote his epistle, Christianity had been established long enough for there to be not only persecution and suffering, but also oppression of some in the church by others in the church. At the same time, James does not refer to the Jerusalem Council (AD 48 or 49). The influx of Gentiles into the church caused some major tension in the early church. However, this tension is absent from the epistle of James. Thus, it was probably written somewhere in the early to mid-40s.


The difference between pure and vain religion.


To expose the myth that the Christian life is not costly, while encouraging true believers to live in close fellowship with the Lord.


The Contribution of James to Redemptive Revelation

James shows how times of testing are good at showing whether our religion is true or false.

  1. True religion comes down from God and is established in the heart by spiritual regeneration (James 1:17). Carnal religion springs from the heart, which brings forth sin, and sin brings forth death (James 1:15).
  2. True religion arises from “the engrafted word,” which saves the soul (James 1:21). Carnal religion proceeds from “the wrath of man” (James 1:20).
  3. True religion, when tested, is patient, constant, and God-glorifying (James 1:2-18). Vain religion wavers, is unstable in everything, and fades away (James 1:2-18).
  4. True religion is faith working by love (James 2:14-26). It keeps itself unspotted from the world (James 1:27), respects not persons (James 2:1-3), bridles the tongue (James 3:5-12), humbles itself before God (James 4:8-10), relies on God (James 4:13-17), and is fervent in prayer (James 5:13-20). On the other hand, vain religion does not work (James 2:4-26), promotes envying (James 3:13-18), lusts (James 4:1-12), and is indulgent (James 5:5).
  5. True religion has its perfect work (James 1:4) and leads to peace (James 3:18) and precious fruits unto the coming again of the Lord (James 5:7). Carnal religion will be judged without mercy (James 2:13), and will fall into condemnation (James 5:12).
  6. True religion saves from death (James 5:20) and will lift the humble believer up (James 4:10). Carnal religion will lead to death (James 5:20) along with the Devil and his hosts (James 4:7).


  1. Address of the Epistle (James 1:1)
  2. The Tests of True Religion (James 1:2-27)
    1. The Benefits of a Tried Faith (James 1:2-8)
    2. Two Tests: Poverty and Temptation (James 1:9-15)
    3. True Religion Distinguished from False (James 1:16-27)
  3. The Demonstration of True Religion (James 2:1-26)
    1. A Case against Favoritism (James 2:1-13)
    2. A Case for True Faith (James 2:14-26)
  4. The Subtlety of Sin (James 3:1-18)
    1. Sin in Speaking (James 3:1-12)
    2. The Sin of Striving (James 3:13-18)
  5. A Call to Humility (James 4:1-17)
    1. The Problem: Pride (James 4:1-3)
    2. Humility before God (James 4:4-10)
    3. Humility regarding Others (James 4:11-12)
    4. Humility regarding the Future (James 4:13-17)
  6. Life in Light of the End (James 5:1-20)
    1. A Warning to the Rich (James 5:1-6)
    2. An Encouragement to Patience (James 5:7-11)
    3. The Value of Prayer (James 5:12-20)

Extracted from: Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible Notes(Beeke, Joel R. 2015. Reformation Heritage Books).

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