Structure of James

We begin our study of the letter from James by looking at the structure of the letter. First, we expect the author to state his name and rank. “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1). Which James is the author of this letter? We read about James the apostle being killed by Herod in Acts 12, so we cannot believe he is the author. The other notable James in the scriptures is James, the brother of Jesus, who had notable influence in the early church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; Galatians 2:9). What is amazing is that James does not refer to himself in his rank as “the brother of Jesus.”  James just calls himself a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. But James was an important person in the early church and as a brother of Jesus. The recipients are described as “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” This letter is written to the Jewish Christians who were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire. This seems to be a reference to the Christians who had to flee Jerusalem in the persecution ignited by the Jews and led by Saul. “On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:2). “Those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the message to no one except Jews” (Acts 11:19). James’ salutation is a simple, “Greetings.” A section of thanksgiving is missing, but I do not think this is unusual simply because James is writing to such a broad audience. Therefore, verses 2-3 should give us an indication about the purpose of James’ letter.

Theme: Faith

“My brothers, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (1:2-3). At first reading, we would probably think that James is going to spend this letter talking about trials. But as we read the letter we see that James is going to talk about faith. James is going to talk about the character of faith and the purpose of faith in our lives. The first half of chapter 1 is about the testing of faith.

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