James, who wrote the New Testament book of “James,” is the eldest son of Joseph and Mary. He is the half-brother of Jesus, who was born of Mary. He has three other brothers — Joses, Simon, and Judas (Jude) — and at least two sisters, whose names are never mentioned. Throughout his early life and until the resurrection of Jesus, James is not a believer in Jesus as Messiah. When Jesus appears to James and others after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5,7), James becomes a believer. As the then-eldest brother, James may have played an important role in the conversion of his other brothers, because he and his brothers are with the apostles and others in the upper room after the ascension of Jesus.
James quickly becomes a leader in the church of Jerusalem. By the time Paul returns after his conversion and three years in Damascus, James has received the title of apostle (Galatians 1:19), and is one of only two leaders Paul mentions meeting with on his brief visit to Jerusalem (the other being Peter). After several periods of persecution, during which many Jewish converts are scattered, James writes a letter to encourage these converts. Several years later, he presides over the Jerusalem council (Acts 15). Then years later he, along with the elders, receives Paul upon his return from his third missionary tour (Acts 21:18). Tradition has it that James was martyred in a.d. 62 just after the death of the Roman governor Festus, who is mentioned in Acts 24:27–26:32.
1. Salvation is possible for anyone.
James was an unbelieving skeptic. He spent years around Jesus and still wasn’t convinced. It was only after a visit from the resurrected Jesus that he believed. How many people like James do you have in your life — in your family, at work, or in your neighborhood? No one is beyond salvation. Follow James’s advice, and show by your good works that your faith is real. Then pray that the Spirit of Jesus will convict your unbelieving family, friends, and workmates.
2. Humility is the mark of a true spiritual leader.
Jesus said, “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). James didn’t demand to be a leader because he was the Lord’s half-brother. James’s life reminds you that leadership in the church is earned. Your commitment to Jesus as His servant is what gives your life and ministry credibility and respect.
3. True Christian faith is active.
James exhorted his readers, which includes you today, to live out their faith with their actions. Your claim to be a Christian is not valid unless your life produces works of obedient service that validate your words. If you have doubts about the validity of your faith, look at the book of James and the series of tests by which you can measure the genuineness of your faith.
Question: Who is someone in your family or circle of friends that doesn’t trust Jesus? What can you do to help overcome their skepticism?
Read more about people in the Old and New Testament in my book, 10 Minutes to Knowing the Men and Women of the Bible.