The Epistle Of James Essay, Research Paper
The Epistle of James
James is the first of a group of letters addressed to Christians in general, rather than to a particular church. It is an extremely practical letter about the Christian life. The letter was written early, but the exact date is unknown. We know little of how the letter came to be written, or whom it was sent to. We are not even sure who the author was. Of the various personages in the New Testament bearing this name, the James mentioned by Paul in Galatians 2, 9 as one of the pillars of the church in Palestine well meets the requirements for the authorship of this epistle. Paul designates him, not as one of the Twelve, but as the brother of the Lord. The risen Christ made a significant appearance to him. James was the administrator of the Jerusalem community, and for this reason played a leading role in the apostolic Council. He was the adviser of Paul on the latter’s arrival in Jerusalem after the third missionary journey. He is probably to be identified as one of the relatives of Jesus who did not believe in him during the ministry. Though not all scholars are satisfied that James, leader of the Jerusalem community, is the author, it must be conceded that the epistle is datable before 62 AD, when according to Josephus, James was executed in Jerusalem. Scholars who do not admit James of Jerusalem as the author of the epistle select a date for it toward the end of the first century.
James 2, verses 14-26 read: “My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save one, has it? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and no food for the day, and you say to them ‘Good-bye and good luck! Keep warm and well fed,’ but do not meet their bodily needs, what good is that? So it is with the faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless.” The verses talk about faith and actions. Faith that stops at words is not faith at all. In fact we can tell whether someone’s faith is real by how they behave. Faith is proved, and develops as we act on it. One example of real faith is the story of Rahab. Joshua sent out two spies to Jericho. When the two reached Jericho they went into the house of a harlot named Rahab, where they lodged. The king of Jericho received a report that some Israelites had come there that night to spy out the land. The king sent Rahab this order “Put out the visitors who have entered your house, for they have come to spy out the entire land.” Rahab had already taken the two men and hidden them. She replied to the king, “True the men you speak of came to me, but I did not know where they came from. At dark, when it was time for the gate to be shut, they left, and I do not know where they went. You will have to pursue them immediately to overtake them.” The King’s men rode off to try to find the spies. Rahab told the spies to go up into the hill country and hide there for three days, until the king’s men return; then you may proceed on your way.
Rahab is a very good example of not only speaking the faith but also showing it. She did not have to hide the spies. If the king had found them, herself and her family would have been killed. Rahab risked her life for her belief. God accepted Rahab not because she said she believed him, but because she proved it by what she did. How many people do you know would do this today?
Another example of outstanding faith in God is Abraham. Abraham had so much faith in God that he was willing to sacrifice his own son Isaac. When God called to Abraham and told him to offer his son Isaac as a holocaust, Abraham did not even think twice about it. The next morning Abraham took Isaac to the place God had indicated. Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He then put Isaac upon the wood. When Abraham was about to slaughter his son the Lord’s messenger called to Abraham saying, “Do not lay your hand on the boy, I know how devoted you are to God since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.” This incident shows extreme devotion. Especially since Sarah, Abraham’s wife could not bear children for the majority of her life. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. After waiting all this time for a son, Abraham still did not question when God asked him to sacrifice his son.
If salvation is God’s free gift, what does it matter how we live? In James’ mind there is no question–it matters a great deal. Genuine faith in Christ always spills over into the rest of life. It affects our basic attitude to ourselves, to other people, and to life in general. There should be no discrepancy between belief and action. James reminds us of the need for genuinely Christian standards and values in every area of life.