James – Lesson 1

Posted on: September 14, 2015 Written by
James – Lesson 1
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WEEKLY WORD

 

James and Jude: Introduction

 

Penning the Important

At certain times in our lives, Jesus becomes so powerful and intimate to us that we simply have to tell about it.  This is especially true when we see someone struggling with the same sin or situation through which we’ve just come.  One song currently popular with my son’s generation is called “The Words I Would Say.”1 The song’s creator is struggling with how exactly to speak to a friend weighed down by life’s disappointments.  The composer picks up a “pen and a page” in order to spell out those things which he believes to be the focus and ultimate encouragement of life: standing firm in the Lord, not giving up, knowing that God’s hand is on their life, and really understanding about forgiving or putting an offense behind us.

Now, think about someone who heard the truth for a long time but never listened.  It wasn’t until they were an adult that they finally came to understand the truth of Christ and accepted Him.  This might be your story.  Once you truly believed, the excitement of God’s redemptive grace captured your every thought.  The understanding of years missed due to stubbornness was now constantly in the forefront.  The desire to see other believers live life with “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8) became a driving force.  There is a burning desire to proclaim the truth you finally discovered.

Enter James and Jude.  They were brothers (Jude 1).  Not only siblings to one another, they were the half-brothers of Jesus. (There is some controversy among commentators regarding the identity of James and Jude in regards to their relationship with Christ.  We’ll be delving into that later.)

Imagine growing up in the shadow of an absolutely perfect brother.  No, I don’t mean the one that simply gets good grades, or is kind to animals, or plays well with younger children.  This brother never sinned.  He never disobeyed.  He never sought vengeance when wronged.  He never stuck out his tongue behind his mother’s back out of spite.  He never slugged a sibling when angry.  He understood the deeper meanings of the Torah and the things of God.  He always had a gentle word. The list goes on.  Can’t you just imagine Joseph saying to his boys, “Why can’t you just be more like your older brother, Jesus?”

But one glorious day, James and Jude understood and they believed.  Their worlds were never the same.  And the things that the Holy Spirit led them to write reflect who they were, where they’d been and what they’d become – things vital to the church, then and now.  I pray that as we study, we will listen anew to the words these two great men of God were compelled to say.

 

I. DAY ONE

A. Before we delve into the richness of what these two books have for us, let’s do some digging and get an overview.

1. Both James and Jude are considered part of what’s called the General Epistles along with 1 and 2 Peter, and 1, 2 and 3 John because they’re written for a wide audience of believers and the letters were circulated among the early Christians.2  James was written between 45 and 50 AD, one of the first books penned of the New Testament.  Jude was written about 30 years later, sometime after the fall of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 AD.

2. Skim through both books—only 6 chapters in all—and look at the tone of the writing.  Write a short prayer asking God to open your heart to the newness of what He has in store for you through this study.

 

 

II. DAY TWO

A.  There is some controversy regarding the authorship of these two books.  Could James and Jude really be the half-brothers of Jesus?  Did Jesus even have siblings?

1. Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 lighten the mystery.  The Greek word used for “brothers” is “adelphos” which literally means “of the same womb.”3 Adelphos, in this context, would not mean Joseph had children from a previous marriage, nor were the boys cousins of Jesus who were raised close by as some have concluded over the years.4

a. What names are listed in the Matthew and Mark verses?

b. What other relatives are mentioned?

 

2. Read Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 in context, several verses before and after within the chapter as well as Matthew 12:46-49, Mark 3:31-34, and Luke 8:19-21.  One gets the distinct feeling that Jesus’ relatives are not believers at this time.  Read John 7:1-5 where Scripture tells us outright they weren’t.  How did the things Jesus’ brothers say to Him show their unbelief at this point?

 

B. James and Jude seem to be fairly common names.  So, part of the authorship controversy is the question of whether or not there were other men with the names “James” or “Jude” who were more qualified, believed longer, and studied harder who should be considered in the list of possible authors.

1. James has two other namesakes listed in the New Testament.

a. The first and most obvious is James, the son of Zebedee, one of the three “inner circle” Apostles during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Mark 3:17 says Jesus called this James and his brother, John, the “sons of thunder.”  Read Acts 12:2.  This event took place around 44 AD, prior to the persecution that would have dispersed believers throughout the known world (James 1:1).

b. The next James is another apostle, the son of Alphaeus, or “James the Less” (Mark 15:40).  Commentators such as J. Vernon McGee dismiss the possibility of this James being the author because so little is known about him.5  But read Mark 15:40 and 41.  Since one thread of this study deals with relatives, what interesting note is made regarding James the Less in these verses?

 

2. Jude (a form of Judas) shares his name with three other men, none of whom is a good fit for the authorship of the second-to-last book of the Bible. There are Judas Iscariot  (betrayer of Jesus), Judas called Barsabbas (Acts 15:22 – some translations say “surnamed Barsabbas”), and Judas the son of James (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13).

a. Judas Barsabbas translates into “son of Sabbas.”  He is clearly not the Lord’s brother—wrong last name!  Read verses 27 and 32 of Acts 15.  What are some words to describe this man?

b. In John 14:22, how is Judas the son of James identified?

 

 

III. DAY THREE

A. Controversy aside, for the purposes of this study we will side with the Biblical evidence that indicates James and Jude were the half-brothers of Jesus. But as we learned over the last two days, neither brother followed Jesus in faith during Christ’s earthly ministry.  The Bible doesn’t tell us when exactly they changed, we only know they did.

1. Read Acts 1:14.  Who is listed among the believers gathered in the upper room?

2. Paul, another believer who came late to Jesus, gives us a little more information in I Corinthians 15:3-9.  What does he say about James?  What does he say about himself?

 

B. When we give our lives to Christ, He can do great things through us.  James was no exception. Using Galatians 2:9 and Acts 15:1-31, give a description of the man James had become?

 

 

IV. DAYS FOUR AND FIVE

A. When we look at the concept that James and Jude grew up in the same house as Jesus, and yet didn’t understand who He was for years and years, how do you think these men felt when they realized their half-brother was the Messiah?

1. How does II Corinthians 4:3-4 describe the condition of James and Jude prior to their conversion?

2. Read I Corinthians 1:18-31 and II Corinthians 3:4-6.  How might these two men identify with these passages?  How do they impact your life today?

 

B. Read Jude verses 1& 2, and James 1:1.

1. Now that they were believers, how did they refer to themselves regarding Jesus?  Why do you think they used this terminology?

2. What are some words that could describe how you feel regarding your position in Christ?

 

C. James and Jude were half-brothers of Jesus by birth.  We are siblings of Jesus through adoption.  Meditate on Ephesians 1:3-14, reflecting on the awesome decision of God to not only allow us fellowship with Him, but to be related to Him.

1. Describe what it was like before you knew Jesus, or a time when you doubted in your faith (James 1:6).

2. How were you like His unbelieving brothers?  How has knowing Christ changed you as He changed them?

 

CONCLUSION

James and Jude were raised in the same household, under the same rules, the same teaching, the same family game nights—it’s fun to imagine, isn’t it? As we study over the next few weeks, we’ll see similarities in how they write and how they think—similarities to each other and to the teaching of Jesus.  After all, He heard the same stories and played the same games they did.

Like we talked about in the introduction, these brothers were writing from their hearts, out of their experiences, penning powerful words from the mind of God for believers everywhere, for believers of all time. What is it God wants you to share?  Lets pray together that He shows us every week a new “simple truth” He wants us to embrace and then give to others.

 

[Author’s note: I’m using the New American Standard Bible for the study on James unless otherwise noted.]

 

Endnotes:

1. Sidewalk Prophets, “The Words I Would Say,” These Simple Truths, 2009, Word Entertainment LLC. Lyrics used by permission from the publisher.

Three in the morning, and I’m still awake
So I picked up a pen and a page
And I started writing just what I’d say
If we were face to face
I’d tell you just what you mean to me
Tell you these simple truths

Chorus
Be strong in the Lord
And never give up hope
You’re gonna do great things
I already know God’s got His hand on You
So don’t live life in fear
Forgive and forget
But don’t forget why you’re here
Take your time and pray
These are the words I would say

Last time we spoke you said you were hurting
And I felt your pain in my heart
I want to tell you that I keep on praying
Love will find you where you are
I know ’cause I’ve already been there
So please hear these simple truths

Chorus

Say from one simple life to another
I will say come find peace in the Father
Be strong in the Lord
And never give up hope

You’re gonna do great things I already know
God’s got His hand on You
So don’t live life in fear
Forgive and forget
But don’t forget why you’re here
Take your time and pray
And thank God for each day
His love will find a way
These are the words I would say

2Charles C. Ryrie, “Introductory Notes to James,” Ryrie Study Bible, (NASB, Moody Press: Chicago, 1995).

3Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (1889), http://www.blueletterbible.org/

4 Matthew Henry,“Introduction to James,” Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Complete and Unabridged in 6 Volumes  (Hendrickson Publisher, 1991).

5J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible With J. Vernon McGee, vol.5 (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982),624.

 

 

©2015 Thrive.

 

 



About the author

Dee Dawson is a journalist by training, a former newspaper feature writer by trade, and a home school mom of nearly two decades by choice – a job which recently came to an end due to the successful graduation of her second and last child. She attends Calvary Bible Church where she’s been involved in the music department as pianist for more than 25 years. As part of her involvement in her church’s women’s ministries, she developed and taught a 9-week class on writing called “Inscribe.” She’s written Bible study guides for children on Daniel and Acts to accompany adult studies taught at Calvary Bible. She’s also written two other Bible studies for Thrive’s Weekly Word: one on Esther, and one on James and Jude. Her engineer husband, Mark, has been her main editor and biggest fan for 25 years. They live in Bakersfield, Calif. USA.

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