Information Related to "Profiles of Faith: James: Half Brother of Jesus"
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The Good News Magazine

January/February 2003 Issue

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Faith and Works

Martin Luther, initiator of the Protestant Reformation and founder of the Lutheran Church, described James' letter as an "epistle of straw."His characterization was far from accurate.On the contrary,James' is an epistle of great depth.

Anyone who carefully studies James 2 can plainly see that James teaches that Christian faith is more than mere good thoughts. He demands that a Christian believer prove his faith by his actions.

Some scholars think Luther judged James' letter inferior to Paul's epistles because-in Luther's view-Paul taught faith without works:"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law"(Romans 3:28).Luther's misguided assumption was that Paul was enlightened on the subject of faith and saw no need for works while James was not enlightened because he advocated the need for works.

Luther failed to see that Paul never contradicted James. How could he? They both followed Jesus Christ's teachings in exactly the same way, as we can see when we put together the scriptures on the topic to better understand it.

Let's understand how Paul and James thought alike on the subject of faith and works. Paul understood that salvation is a gift from God and not something we can earn by our efforts.Yet he also knew that faith is proven- demonstrated to be genuine-by our works. Notice how he put it in Ephesians 2:8-10:"For by grace you have been saved through faith,and that not of yourselves;it is the gift of God,not of works,lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

In fact, Paul said almost the same thing as James when he wrote,"For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doersof the law will be justified" (Romans 2:13; compare James 1:22-25).

Paul was on the same page with James, especially on the vastly misunderstood subject of faith and works. Both apostles taught that a disciple's faith is proven and perfected by his works.


The End of the World: What Does the Bible Say?

Half Brother of Jesus

by Jerold Aust

While James grew up in the same house with Jesus in Nazareth, he was miles apart from Jesus' thinking for the early part of his life.

James did not grow up a believer (John 7:5). Though Jesus and James had the same mother, Jesus was the son not of Joseph, as James was, but of God the Father Himself-a fact that wouldn't fully sink into James'mind for years. It wasn't until Jesus' resurrection and His appearance to James and the disciples that James finally really understood who his half brother was.

After Jesus' instructions recorded in Acts 1:4, James accompanied the apostles, the women who had followed Jesus, his mother and his brothers to the upper room, where they prayed and waited patiently for the gift of the Holy Spirit (jer). James was present when God sent the Holy Spirit to the small group, at which point the New Testament Church was born (Acts 1:14; 2:1).

From Jesus' resurrection on, James gave himself entirely to God and soon became an important figure in the early Church. His role was so important that Peter told others to report to James of his miraculous release from prison (Acts 12:17; Galatians 1:19). He apparently became the overseeing pastor of the Jerusalem church, because in Acts 15:13-21 we see him making the final declaration during this early ministerial conference.

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Keywords: epistle of James James, book of early church good works faith patience godly wisdom God's law liberty freedom 


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