Book of the Week 59: James

Greek Name: IAKOBOU

Human Author: James (who is really named Jacob)          

OT or NT: New Testament

Number of Chapters: 5

Basic Facts

  1. James is the fifty-ninth book of the Bible.

  2. In terms of literary genre, the book of James is classified as an epistle, or letter.

  3. The Greek name for the book of James is IAKOBOU, which means “of Jacob.”

  4. James emphasizes that salvation is by faith, but that faith is something we do as an act of faithfulness toward God demonstrated through action.

  5. James, the author of the epistle that bears his name, is likely the half-brother of Jesus.

Story of the Book

James was specifically written to the portion of the Hebrew people who had been scattered among the nations (James 1:1). James calls his audience to consider it a joy to suffer trials for the sake of Christ (James 1:2-3). He tells his audience to ask God for wisdom, praying in faith that God will give wisdom freely to those who ask Him in order that those who are wise will rejoice in the Lord rather than in worldly riches (James 1:4-11). James warns that those who persevere under trial must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and to keep tight control over his tongue (James 1:12-26). Next, he warns against the sin of showing partiality in the way believers treat one another (James 2:1-10). James argues that faith must always be demonstrated through action in the life of the believer, for faith without works is dead (James 2:11-26). James warns his audience about the dangers of the tongue, warning believers to keep their speech tightly in check, especially for teachers who will be judged more strictly (James 3:1-12). James also encourages believers to seek wisdom that is from above (James 3:13-18), to resist friendship with the world (James 4:1-12), to avoid boasting about the future (James 4:13-17), and to avoid the dangers of worldly riches (James 5:1-6). In contrast, James tells his audience to remain steadfast in faithfulness through persecution (James 5:7-12), and to pray and anoint those who are suffering both physical ailments and those who need forgiveness (James 5:13-18). James closes his letter with a final word of encouragement, saying that anyone who brings a sinner back to repentance has through Christ covered a multitude of sins and produced a harvest of righteousness (James 5:18-20).

Jesus Revealed in James

James reveals God as the one whom, through faith in Christ, provides believers with joy, wisdom, forgiveness, and healing. While the primary focus of James is to address believers and admonishing them to express their faith through good deeds, James does indirectly reveal Jesus as the one who sustains believers in the midst of suffering. James calls believers to consider it pure joy to suffer for the sake of following Jesus (James 1:2-4). He also reveals that God answers prayers for wisdom, and gives wisdom to all without finding fault to those who ask in faith (James 1:5-8). Later, James also says that God shows no partiality, and that believers should also refrain from all partiality as imitators of Christ (James 2:1-7). Finally, James writes that those who have faith in Christ and are suffering should confess their sins and ask for anointing and prayer by the Elders in order to receive forgiveness and healing (James 5: 13-16). Through all these ways in which James reveals Jesus, he never fails to emphasize that faith in Christ must be expressed through action, for faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26).